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Meet kids who break gender stereotypes, boundaries

Ardisa Pradhita

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Thu, April 5, 2018  /  07:57 am
Meet kids who break gender stereotypes, boundaries

Do what you love: Kainoe “Noe” Ontoseno Soemardjan becomes the only Indonesian representative at the Young Ballet Association in Singapore, after years of sheer hard work. (JP/Ardisa Pradhita)

Society often stereotypes children based on gender.

Some activities are for boys and some for girls, according to societal norms, but two teenagers — Kainoe “Noe” Ontoseno Soemardjan and Aisha “Icha” Ranianda — could not care less about society’s gender-based stereotyping and have decided to pursue their dreams and hobbies no matter what others say.

Noe, who is a 13-year-old boy, has been training to be a ballet dancer — considered by many to be a “girly activity” — since he was six years old, while 14-year-old Icha has been an ardent wall climber since 2015, which many perceive as manly.

Fortunately for Noe and Icha, their parents are very supportive of their hobbies.

“I often watched a lot of ballet videos and Noe always joined me. I was surprised one day when he imitated some of the dance moves. I asked him if he wanted to take a ballet course and he said yes,” Noe’s mother, Meutia Chaerani, said.

Meutia added that although society perceived ballet to be girly and soft, it was actually more challenging, saying that it also provided Noe with the strength training he needed.

Read also: Fight for gender equality starts at home

“[Ballet] trains core muscle and also improves flexibility, strength and power. Noe has also learned how to actively participate in a team before every performance. I consider ballet to be a good educational activity for him,” Meutia said.

Noe has turned out to be a talented ballet dancer. 

He will be attending the Malaysian Grand Prix international championship this year and has been selected as the first Indonesian to join the prestigious Ballet Associate’s Course, which is supported by the government 
of Singapore.

Unfortunately, Meutia and Noe still face challenges despite their success. 

Noe is often bullied by his peers, while other parents also question why Meutia is allowing her son to practice ballet in the first place.

“My husband and I counter these problems by telling people that it is completely normal for a boy to do ballet,” Meutia said.

This is a glimpse of Aisha Ranianda, or Icha while doing what she
loves the most. Wall climbing has been a big part of her life since she was just a kid.This is a glimpse of Aisha Ranianda, or Icha while doing what she loves the most. Wall climbing has been a big part of her life since she was just a kid. (Courtesy of Aisha Ranianda's family/-)

Icha fell in love with wall climbing after she experienced it at an early age.

“At first, I accompanied my dad who is also into rock climbing. It occurred to me that I also enjoyed the activity and wanted to focus more on it,” Icha said.

Icha’s mom, Dian Mila, soon realized that her daughter was born to climb walls.

“She took part in her first wall climbing competition when she was still an elementary school student. Watching her compete against people who are older than her makes me proud,” Dian said.

Gender stereotypes in the Indonesian community are not stopping her from supporting Icha.

“I think it is practically common and acceptable for girls to do wall climbing. As long as they love doing it, then that will not be a problem,” Dian said.

Furthermore, Icha often gets teased by her peers about her hobby, which she has gotten used to. Now, she just responds to it casually.

“My friends often call me names like ‘tree climber’, but I just answer them with a laugh. I’m confident in my ability as a wall climber because not a lot of girls can do it,” she said.

***

The writer is an intern at The Jakarta Post.

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