Alia is a 22-year-old writer and editor at Vice Indonesia who previously lived in Seattle, USA and is now based in Jakarta, Indonesia.
What’s your relationship with your mother like?
Distant. I left home once I turned 13 to study abroad, and spent the next 8 years away from my parents. My mother and I stopped being close once I hit pre-teens, but afterwards there was definitely more physical and psychological distance. I also grew to believe in different spiritual and political values, which causes a lot of friction between us.
Can you tell us a bit about your style? Who/what is your biggest influence?
My style changes every year. My 10 tattoos inevitably shape my physical look, but I dress pretty “clean”. I like solid colors. Pants. I like to wear whatever I can dance in. I stand tall with my posture straight and chin up. I move loud and assertive, I’ve been told.
How is your style different or similar to your mom’s expectations?
After she found out that my left arm is covered in tattoos, she asked me to wear the hijab to cover up completely. When I was younger, she would tell me how it was a personal choice. It changed when there’s now suddenly something to be embarrassed of.
How do these expectations fit into the larger context of her living/having lived in Indonesia?
I think I’m my mother’s nightmare. If she could do it all over again, I’m sure she’s done things very differently with me.
How do these societal/personal expectations affect your identity and behaviour?
I’ve cried multiple times because I’ve felt like some people couldn’t see past how I look. When you look like me, people are going to look. Family members will whisper about you at gatherings. These experiences have given me a thicker skin. People judge me because of my fuck-you attitude, but I have this fuck-you attitude because people judge me.
Do you think your style would be different if you lived in a Western country (where it’s presumably more tolerant and accepting)? Why?
I lived in a Western country for close to 5 years and I generally felt more comfortable with my style and my body there. There was more respect for personal space, but also a general acceptance and appreciation for different styles and shapes where I used to live.
If you are living/have lived in a Western country, how has this experience affect the way you dress and/or present yourself?
When I moved back to Jakarta last April, I basically had to buy a whole new wardrobe.
Is there a perception of femininity that you hope could change in Indonesian society?
My body modifications (tattoos, piercings) and lifestyle choices (having sex) are not indications of how “rusak” I am. In fact, the rusak/baik-baik dichotomy is not a real thing. That’s a patriarchal imagination that people of all genders have internalized as part of their socialization.