Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ridding prejudices.

It started about six years ago, that I used to constantly be mistaken for Indonesian domestic worker. At that time I used to get so offended when other domestic workers approached me to ask if I was working nearby. I suppose I must have internalised what everyone was implicitly saying around me -- that because these women do unwanted, 'dirty', work, they are by extension symbolically polluting themselves.

Nasty prejudices right? I think so too.

The fact that I had a domestic worker in my home for years didn't do much to change this mindset. I even tried to wear clothes that subconsciously differentiated me from the people that I looked so similar to. And yes, I look so incredibly Javanese because both sets of grandparents come from East Java.

This year I had a complete turnaround in outlook when I did my research. Things turned out to be so favourable and so many Indonesians (officials and domestic workers) helped me so readily, and so much based on my appearance. Can't deny that seeing someone that looks like you helps in creating trust, because you assume that person has a similar background to you.

Now I realise it was arrogant of me to not want to be mistaken for a domestic worker. Now I'm proud when someone says I look Javanese or Indonesian (mistaken nationalities don't bother me, haha.). The women I met during the course of my fieldwork are some of the most determined, talented and yet humble people I've ever met, and I respect them immensely.


orange streaks said...

Hmm I think in my case the prejudice isn't about them doing 'dirty' work, but of them being somewhat from a 'lower class' because they do menial household chores for a living, which is supposedly due to them being uneducated / backward. That's why I wouldn't like being mistaken for a maid (not that I ever do, not by strangers anyway; my sister says off-hand that I look like a maid when I dress a certain way to clean the house pre-raya). Of course, we now know it's all a matter of accessibility to education and circumstances. If I had been born in Java instead of Singapore, to poor peasant parents instead of teachers, I could be the one working as a maid (or domestic helper, as you call it) too.

Sya said...

The fact that your sister (and many others) use that as a disapproval of the way you dress shows how pervasive the discourse of doing menial work (this is what I mean when I say 'dirty')= poor = uneducated.

Why do we not like being mistaken for being poor, or uneducated?


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