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Intan Paramaditha: Can't be silenced

A. Kurniawan Ulung
A. Kurniawan Ulung

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Thu, January 4, 2018 | 09:03 am
Intan Paramaditha: Can't be silenced

Feminist author Intan Paramaditha was born in Bandung, West Java, and grew up in Jakarta, but she doesn’t feel at home in either of the cities. (JP/A. Kurniawan Ulung)

Feminist author Intan Paramaditha was born in Bandung, West Java, and grew up in Jakarta, but she doesn’t feel at home in either of the cities. 

“My home might be New York because I lived there for almost a decade,” the 37-year-old, who now lives in Australia where she lectures at Macquarie University, said.      

Intan feels she has lived like a gypsy, traveling around the world for the last 12 years, wandering from one city to another. 

She stopped by Jakarta in December to release her new fictional horror novel,Gentayangan: Pilih Sendiri Petualangan Sepatu Merahmu (The Wandering: Choose Your Own Red Shoes Adventure). 

Gentayangan is about a woman bored with her life because at the age of 28, she has yet to travel abroad. Coming from a simple family, she’s jealous of her friends who have earned scholarships to study abroad or those who can travel because of their rich parents. 

The woman then meets a devil who falls in love with her. Aware that she yearns to travel, he offers her a pair of cursed red shoes. If she wears them, she can roam the earth. However, the consequence is that she will be unable to stop. 

Like her previous books, Sihir Perempuan (Black Magic Woman) and Kumpulan Budak Setan (The Devil’s Slaves Club), Gentayangan is a horror story that raises gender, sexuality, social and political issues. 

“For me, horror is about a reality that is disrupted,” she said. “I always try to write stories with a feminist perspective because for me, feminism is an effort to break down patriarchy.”    

Her short story, Goyang Penasaran (Obsessive Twist), which is part of Kumpulan Budak Setan, was a form of protest to the 2008 Pornography Law.

“That law disappointed me because it is very normative and discriminates against women,” she said.

The conflict between singer-turned-politician Rhoma Irama and dangdut singer Inul Daratista with her goyang ngebor (drilling moves) was one of the factors that urged lawmakers to immediately ratify the Pornography Law, 
she said.    

Intan was irked by what she saw as a rampant obsession with sexuality from 1998 to 2008 in Indonesia. She was glad to find that since the start of the Reform Era, the women’s movement in Indonesia had grown stronger and more visible. 

During the New Order, women were silenced, as seen in the stigmatization of the Indonesian Women’s Movement (Gerwani), which was associated with the now-defunct Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).  

According to her observations, gender discrimination remains entrenched in society because people still hold patriarchal values and interpret religious teachings in a way that puts women in an inferior position to men. 

“I know there are women artists who work in communities in which they have to confront patriarchal people and dominant norms that tend to be sexist,” she said.  

Intan first learned about feminism and other critical theories while studying at the University of Indonesia’s (UI) English literature department, where her thesis was supervised by feminist activist Melani Budianta.    

Growing up with a conservative father, she wrote a short story, Sejak Porselen Berpipi Merah itu Pecah (Since that red-checked porcelain is cracked) when she was 25. 

Intan said what was most problematic about her father at that time was his patriarchal paradigm that positioned a woman as a fragile human being that must be sexually protected.    

“This kind of patriarchal view has limited what women can do,” she said. 

Intan is now raising a 14-year-old daughter. She teaches her that being disobedient is fine if disobedience is defined as thinking critically. 

“We teach her to question everything. Arguing is good as long as you have strong ground,” she said.