K-Pop Cult Fandoms


Every year, I fly back to Indonesia to visit my family. One person that I always try to avoid is my maternal grandmother. When we see each other, we’d exclaim with happiness and joyous greetings, but then she takes my hands and pulls away, scanning every little it of my face, body and posture. The usual remarks are “you’ve become fatter”, or “you seem to be a lot darker than the last time you were here”. When I turned 18, the criticism became even more severe, and she decided to take my physical appearance into her own hands by forcing me to “lulur” – or do an intense body scrub session to “scrub all the dirt and darkness away”, and suggesting ways to style my hijab (head scarf) to make my face look smaller.

At this point, I had just blankly nodded along so that I could be left alone, but then her judgements and criticism reflected on my “lack of femininity”. She would tell me that “as a girl, you should frown less”, or “you’re a girl so you should talk more softly”. These remarks would often end in claims that “boys will never like you if you continue doing this”, which angered me, because all of a sudden, I was put in a place where I had to somehow impress or please a man by not adhering to female stereotypes. What was even more frustrating, was that she would make these claims when we’re alone.
One day, my mum cast me aside and asked why I was so blatantly trying to avoid my grandmother, and when I told her about all things that she had said to me, my mum simply shrugged and said that I was over-exaggerating everything and that I was taking it too personally. I then realised that my mum was also falling into the same pattern of criticising my femininity.

She told me that as a girl, my room should always be clean, which I challenged by saying that I must be a boy then because I get to fuck up my room whenever I want. She replied by saying that of course if I was a male, I still had to make my room cleaner, but “it just makes sense because girls are always expected to be cleaner that boys”. She’s also told me that “as a girl, you should be wearing more pink”, and to wear makeup to hide my acne scarring, even if I’m just going to the shops down the road. This made me upset because I realised that I had not one else to turn to in my family to reassure me that I was okay as who I am. The confidence about my body and self-esteem just diminished and I just felt like pure shit. I didn’t understand the need to nit pick at everything that I do, but then I just realised; it’s just the culture.

Indonesian culture idolises “feminine” females, which is reflected in their mass media and culture. Every protagonist in the dramas have long, luscious hair and is physically weak and shy. Every advertisement for skincare claims that they can whiten your skin by 50 shades. These blatant suggestions are contributing to unrealistic ideals that hurt women in a way that dictates everything from how we look, to how we behave, all to impress men with our “assertive femininity”. The emphasise on our gender, bounds who we are and what we can potentially become. We can always take shit from men, but being degraded by women hurts a lot more.