Katy is a 21-year-old writer and architecture student at the University of Indonesia who recently moved to Queensland, Australia.
What’s your relationship with your mother like?
Strained. We’ve never really known each other because we never tell each other anything. It’s hard to have a normal conversation without it turning ugly. In recent years, though, I find that we’re both really into skincare. I think that’s our first and only shared interest. I guess we care for one another, but I’m still not sure if I could call it love. Maybe I would know one day once I fit better into her idea of what a good person is.
Can you tell us a bit about your style? Who/what is your biggest influence?
My style is all over the place. I definitely love layering different textures and prints. I almost always top every outfit with a jacket, mostly because I have too many. Also, maybe it’s corny, but I love when my outfit and makeup match. My biggest influences are Tank Girl and Angelina Jolie’s character in Hackers (1995).
How is your style different or similar to your mom’s expectations?
My mom is a strict Moslem and that’s how my siblings and I were brought up. Although she doesn’t force me or my sister to wear hijab, she does prefer us to cover up and wear ‘normal clothes’ and natural makeup. My makeup and overall style have always been on the loud side, so it’s always been the start of 90% of our arguments since the beginning of time. She has said a lot of hurtful things about the way I dress, to the point where it doesn’t faze me anymore.
How do these expectations fit into the larger context of her living/having lived in Indonesia?
It’s honestly a bit strange to see her getting upset about these things, because she used to experiment a lot with her hair and clothes back in her 20s/early 30s. I remember a period of time where my mom dyed her gray hairs purple and I thought that was really cool. I’m assuming that a lot of the anger concerning the way I dress comes from her trying to maintain her own image in front of friends and colleagues. I guess she’s starting to realize as she gets older that in this country, people talk. Maybe other people’s expectations are what’s shaping her expectations of me, and when I don’t fulfill them she somehow takes it as a failure on her part.
How do these societal/personal expectations affect your identity and behaviour?
I literally think that nobody’s words can hurt me anymore because I’ve heard it all from my own mother. So on the bright side, it’s sort of amazing because I don’t take shit from anyone. I’m very expressive but I’m definitely a totally different person at home. It’s like my personalities all get suctioned into a little ziplock bag until the next time I get out the door.
Do you think your style would be different if you lived in a Western country (where it’s presumably more tolerant and accepting)? Why?
Depends on how my mother is like in this scenario. Ironically, if she’s more laid back about everything, my style would probably be way more toned down—because there’s nothing to rebel against! If she’s the same person, then my style would probably be the same or even bolder. That’s kinda fucked if you think about it.
Is there a perception of femininity that you hope could change in Indonesian society?
Femininity in Indonesia is so closely bound up with submission. I think resistance can be feminine. Being loud can be feminine. Not giving a fuck can be feminine too.