“There is no word for selfishness in the Javanese language. Happy language where that word has never penetrated.” Raden Ajeng Kartini, August 15, 1902.
Javanese Princess Raden Ajeng Kartini loved and respected her mother, father and husband and was proud of her culture and heritage and of the female role of mother.
Professor of English Janice Fiamengo of Canada writes:
“Kartini’s eloquent tribute to women and her acknowledgement of the importance of the family as the basis of a healthy society are an inspiration.”
The professor contrasts this with the contemporary situation in Western countries:
“If our feminist leaders today celebrated family, acknowledged fathers, and stressed women’s special capacities to mother their children, we would be much better off than we are.
Kartini’s vision is an attractive one and certainly a safer basis for social reform than anything offered by modern feminism.
Feminists in the West, except for a few, are not much interested in motherhood or infant care.
Most are interested in weakening the family (which they see as oppressive) and in excluding men from the family and from society generally. Their issues are not really womens’ issues; their issues are anti-male propaganda and activism.
Programs and practices that help mothers are purely positive and few men object to them, so there is nothing to be gained by feminists.”
I agree with the Professor.
Modern feminism, twisted by dark hatred of men, terrifies me.
But Kartini was a product of the enlightenment. She was not like modern feminists. She was better.
Her own words in her letters to European friends prove how different she was to so many contemporary feminists.
A. KARTINI DID NOT SEE HERSELF OR OTHER WOMEN AS VICTIMS.
“The modern girl is proud and independent: happy and self-reliant, she lightly and alertly steps on her way through life, full of enthusiasm and warm feeling; working not only for her own well-being and happiness, but for the greater good of humanity as a whole.” 25 May, 1899.
“My father has been so affectionate to me; he takes my hand between his two hands tenderly, and puts his arm around me so lovingly, as though he would protect me from some impending danger. Through everything I feel his immeasurable love, and it makes me very happy …….” August, 1900.
“The education of woman has always been an important factor in civilization.” October 11, 1901.
“……. the highest and most sacred glory of woman is motherhood.” September 2nd, 1902.
“If the child that I carry under my heart is a girl, what shall I wish for her? I shall wish that she may live a rich full life, and that she may complete the work that her mother has begun. She shall never be compelled to do anything abhorrent to her deepest feelings. What she does must be of her own free will. She shall have a mother who will watch over the welfare of her inmost being, and a father who will never force her in anything. It will make no difference to him if his daughter remains unmarried her whole life long; what will count with him will be that she shall always keep her esteem and affection for us. He has shown that he respects women, and that we are one in thought, by his desire to trust his daughter wholly to me.” June 28th, 1904.
B. KARTINI DID NOT DEMONISE OR ATTACK MEN
“We are not giving battle to men, but to old moss-grown edicts and conventions that are not worthy of the Javanese of the future.” 1900
C. SHE WAS COMMITTED TO GENDER EQUALITY
“To love, there must first be respect ……….” November 6, 1899.
“I should teach my children, boys and girls, to regard one another as equal human beings and give them always the same education; of course following the natural disposition of each.” 23 August, 1900
“I shall not go on with our great work as a woman alone! A noble man will be at my side to help me.” August, 1903.
D. DESPITE HER NOBLE BIRTH, SHE WAS HUMBLE
“I and my people are one.” February 1st, 1903.
“I have said all along that I would not allow my foot to be kissed. I could never allow anyone to do that. I want a place in their hearts, not outward forms.” August 25th, 1903.
E. KARTINI WAS A WOMAN’S RIGHTS PIONEER WHO RESPECTED FAMILY AND TRADITION.
“I long to be free, to be able to stand alone, to study, not to be subject to any one, and, above all, never never to be obliged to marry.” 25 May, 1899.
“…….the calling of woman is marriage …….. the highest happiness for a woman is, and shall be centuries after us, a harmonious union with the man of her choice.” 23 August, 1900
“Our grandfather in the past brought up the sons of other nobles. …….. So you see there is nothing new under the sun; our idea which is called startlingly new, is old, inherited from our grandfather. Our plan of education — our spirit, has descended from him. Grandfather was a pioneer; we are only carrying on his work — they were good people, both grandfather and grandmother.” January 27th, 1903.
“The freedom of women is inevitable; it is coming, but we cannot hasten it.” August Ist 1903.
F. SHE RESPECTED HER PARENTS
“I cannot thank my parents enough for the free upbringing they have given me.” November 6, 1899
“I wish that I could tell you what Mamma has been to us all these long years, what she still is. ……. We owe her a world full of love and gratitude; we are so thankful that we are going away from Mamma in peace, in the service of that Good that she herself knows and understands.” July 12, 1902.
G. SHE RESPECTED THE FEMALE ROLE OF MOTHER AND THAT RESPECT DEFINED HER PIONEERING EFFORTS
“……. who can do most for the elevation of the moral standard of mankind? The woman, the mother ……. it is at the breast of woman, that man receives his earliest nourishment. The child learns there first, to feel, to think, and to speak. And the earliest education of all foreshadows the whole after life.” 1900
H. SHE RESPECTED BOTH HERITAGE AND PROGRESS
“The evening song a Javanese sings to his family and to his neighbours tells of love, heroic deeds and glittering pageantry; of beauty and of wisdom; of mighty men and women, princes and princesses of the long ago. It is that loveliest hour when the Javanese, tired from the hard day’s work, seeks rest in song, dreaming all his cares away, wholly lost in the shining far-away past, whither his song leads him. “The Javanese are a people who live in the past,” a young friend of ours says rightly. “They are lost in the blissful dreams of their eternal sleep.” That is true, but we are alive, we must live; and life always goes forward.” August 20th, 1902.
I. SHE UNDERSTOOD THAT MEN AND WOMEN NEED EACH OTHER
“…… we are meant to live with and for humanity.” August, 1901.
“……. my new home ……. A home where, praise God, there is peace and love everywhere, and we are all happy with and through one another.” December 11th, 1903 (after her marriage)
“I have planned to be a pioneer in the struggle for the rights and freedom of the Javanese woman. I am now the wife of a man whose support gives me strength in my efforts to reach the ideal which is always before my eyes. I have now both personal happiness and also my work for my ideal.” April l0th, 1904.
To restore our own badly damaged culture, westerners could learn from Indonesia, just as Kartini learnt from the west.
This enlightened woman’s vision of equality and freedom could help the world now.
Professor Fiamengo writes that Kartini should inspire us all to remember “that love and cooperation between men and women, and love for children, is the true basis of all social progress.”
Or, as the Princess herself wrote on the 23rd of August, 1900:
“Love begets love.”
Geoff Fox, March 21, 2018, Australia.
Kartini quotes are from the 1920 translation by Agnes Louise Symmers