Yoko Ono and the issue of woman’s power and identity have again become a global conversation thanks to Peter Jackson’s “The Beatles: Get Back” documentary, currently streaming on Disney+, just in a time when many Indonesian women are still struggling not only to find their own voices but also to survive and fight against discrimination and harassment against them.
Series of recent incidents have pointed to reality that women in Indonesia are still being discriminated almost anytime and anywhere, and always in danger of being sexually harassed regardless of their education, jobs and activities.
The whole tragedy surrounding the suicide case of Novia Widyasari Rahayu, for instance, highlights multiple problems of discrimination and violence a woman in Indonesia is facing. Despite being a victim, she’s the one who ended up committing suicide, while the police officer, who raped and impregnated her, could have walked away as if nothing had happened if not for social media which exploded with protests and anger.
Novia is hardly alone. Series of sexual crimes against students within pesantren (Islamic Boarding School) as well as churches across the country have revealed how fragile the nation’s teens from sexual violence in even places considered as the safest and holiest for them.
Further read Rapists Are Everywhere
Data from the National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan), show that the number of violence against women continues to rise from year to year, with 4,500 reported cases from January to October alone, or twice as many as the same period last year.
Meanwhile, a number of male activists who claim to be a defender of human rights are the ones who suppressed and physically and mentally harassed their female counterparts. As written by Puteri Aliya for Omong-Omong Media recently, these self-claimed human rights defenders – not some random criminals out there – are the first and foremost enemies of women as they cunningly hide behind their activism and noble goals to carry out their discriminatory, misogynist and dirty mindset and agenda.
As news and stories about the depressing fate of Indonesia’s women continue to surface these days, watching Yoko Ono flexing her muscle within a room full of male geniuses of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr in Jackson’s three-part, nearly-eight-hour documentary chronicling the 1969 Let It Be writing and recording sessions and also lead to the band’s final public gig in the legendary roof-top performance in London was like a fresh air and so inspiring.
While most of the time Yoko, Lennon’s lover and soon-to-be wife, was just sitting there without making any comments on whatever activities the band members were doing, let alone saying something about song-writing process and only occasionally either knitting or reading, her presence in the room is itself a symbol of resistance against stereotyping of a woman partnering popular and smart men. She’s sitting there with her own terms.
Yoko refused to show off and make any disruption during the process but she refused as well to be left home, choosing to be with her partner even as he was doing his job. It’s like a taboo 50 years ago and it is still heresy today. And this is The Beatles, the greatest band in the history of music at the height of their power after releasing successive revolutionary albums from “Help!”, “Rubber Soul”, “Revolver”, to “Sergeant Pepper Lonely Heart Club Band” and “Magical Mystery Tour” and “the White Album” from 1965 to 1968, creating songs and anthems, such as “Yesterday”, “Ticket to Ride”, “Norwegian Wood”, “In My life”, or “Eleanor Rigby”. These songs are immortal and still sung by millions until today. Lennon even dare to make the infamous claim a few years before that his band was more popular than Jesus after learning that even on Sunday people flocked to the band’s concerts rather leaving churches empty.
Beside resulting in album “Let It Be”, rooftop show and writing some song materials later used for “Abbey Road”, the aftermath of the 1969 Let it Be session was the breakup of the band, and subsequent scapegoating of Yoko for the band breakup. For the following 50 years or so Yoko was accused by general public, fans and even the media to have interference with the band’s businesses, while poisoning, infatuating and taking away Lennon from The Beatles, resulting in its breakup.
So, for the last half a century she has to live with the accusation by millions across the globe that she caused the destruction of the greatest band of all time and world’s most beloved band just because she and one of its members were in love, becoming an equal partner of Lennon, and taking part in all of his activities.
A new seemingly misogynistic and discriminative phrase, ‘Yoko Effect’, was even invented to describe a situation when a man allows his relationship with a woman to consume his life, making this relation define all his future actions
For one thing, we can only imagine how a woman lives most of her life under an accusation that she has destroyed something millions of people love. She wakes up almost every day to read or hear negative comments about her action.
Some 50 years ago the world was so attached to scapegoating women and difficult to accept success of a woman, and it’s still true now.
Another thing is that by fixating Yoko, a woman and an Asian, as the main cause of the breakup of the biggest band on earth, they actually acknowledge of the immense power of Yoko, and women in general.
A woman, let alone an Asian woman, could be regarded to be behind the destruction of one of the biggest cultural products the Western World has to offer, and deeply influenced and dictated its leading figure show how the patriarchal world actually acknowledge woman’s power and capability, and seemingly terrified with the fact that they could surpass men.
Of course, Yoko is a factor behind The Beatles’ breakup. Denying it will be an insult to Yoko’s role, identity and power. But she was only one of the factors. Boredom, different personal ambition, jealousy and chaotic management as well as Allen Klein were other factors. But it’s natural for a group of people to grow, and it’s natural that they wanted to pursue their own interest. So, it’s only natural that The Beatles finally call it a day. Yoko only gave Lennon a different and fresh creative path, and clearer direction to get out of The Beatles.
Also, it was The Beatles, through Lennon, and later other members who allowed Yoko to be there in the first place without being intimidated or interrupted. The fact was McCartney, for instance, could finish among the band’s iconic songs, such as “Get Back”, “The Long and Winding Road”, and “Let It Be” right in front of Yoko without even slightly feeling awkward or uncomfortable. Or, Harrison could finish writing “Something” or “I Me Mine” without giving a damn about Yoko’s sitting on their amplifiers all those days.
This shows two things. One is that members of The Beatles understood it’s totally the right of Lennon and Yoko to be in love, and if Lennon wanted Yoko to be there, no reason to make a fuss about it. The members of the band always respect Yoko as a person and an artist. The Beatles has always been a feminist without having to say it. Their song, like “Blackbird”, for instance, is an anthem for black women to fight for freedom and independence.
Second, members of The Beatles have gift, talent and confidence unshakeable of any circumstance. The presence of Yoko would not in any way disturb them, and their mission of making an album were beyond accomplished.
Also, Yoko has her own identity, character and talent as she was a respected artist in her own right even before she met Lennon, who was actually a fan of Yoko’s work before they began their relations.
Gender, Talent and Personality
It, of course, takes two to tango. The session of Beatles in which Yoko was there every day shows that talent, character and personality dictate the kind of relations in place. Both members of The Beatles and Yoko have strong personality and confidence to finish their own respective mission. The Beatles were there to make an album while Yoko was there to accompany and provide support for her loved one.
Puteri Aliya’s description about how male activists abused their authorities and harassed their female subordinates physically, mentally and sexually in activities to defend public interests, for instance, can be drawn in parallel with The Beatles and Yoko.
First of all, these human rights activists have no sense of human rights, and accordingly have no respect to women’s rights. While they are in a leading position they have neither talent nor confidence and personality, compared to women they lead. Meanwhile, the women there should have shown more courage to fight against such harassments as based on Putri Aliya’s account they actually have the character, knowledge and more talent in organizing activities to do so. This way, they could avoid a prolonged misery of being harassed. Yoko’s unshakable character could be a model for all of us, and the lesson from The Beatles’ session was not song writing but actually a class of how to respect women more.