Two days ago, I came across a video on Coconuts Jakarta, made by a Bule (an actually endearing term, Indonesians use to call white people) who goes by the name Manuel Gituloh, about how he loves his ‘ayam’. Ayam is Indonesian for chicken, but it is also a slang for prostitute. Many enjoy his video as a satire, but many others find it offensive. I am part of the latter camp.
While I am going to keep my good faith in Manuel that he is just trying to be funny and he probably does not mean to come across as offensive (after all, Indonesian is not his first language, so there is a probability that he does not completely understand the nuances of the words that he uses in the video–I am being unusually lenient right now), I honestly think the video does more harm than good. Because in the video, he explicitly uses terms that are derogatory to not just one, but several groups of people. Here is the breakdown of people who might be offended by his video.
Asisten Rumah Tangga (maids)
He says that when people see his girlfriend, they would tell him–in a degrading way–that his girlfriend looks like a maid. To give you a little bit of a context, a lot of Indonesian households have maids, and these households are not just the top 1% of the population who are ridiculously rich, they are mostly middle class households. And maids in Indonesia live in their boss’ house 24/7, they don’t get holidays, they are paid very little, they are not covered by insurance, don’t get any benefits and mostly are not educated beyond primary school. If you’re not seeing the problem with this already, let me point out to you that telling people that they look like a maid tells more about you than the people you call on. What’s wrong about looking like a maid? Nothing, because maids are humans, and humans look like humans (obviously).
Dark skinned people
Indonesia is unbelievably diverse that you can find people with all types of skin complexion, ranging from people who are as fair as Korean/Japanese, people who are as dark as the Melanesians, and everyone in between. Although in the video, he says that he likes dark skin, he also says that he likes it because it’s exotic and he makes a point about people associating ‘being dark’ with ‘being ugly’. This is just straight up racist.
‘Ayam’ (sex workers)
The other protagonist in the video is his ‘ayam’, which is actually a rooster. Let’s assume that he probably couldn’t get a hen and move on to the fact that he is perpetuating stigmas towards sex workers. This is probably one that people will find so hard to be open minded about, but all I can say is that there are stories of struggles in each and everyone of us, so the least we can do is to keep our judgment to ourselves.
I actually took time to read the comments section of his video and a lot of Indonesian women finds this really funny. Why they would allow themselves to be described as gold-digging Bule hunters, only god knows. But, I know many nice, intellectual, and independent Indonesian women who are in a relationship with a Bule, and they are definitely not in it for the money. This is two thousand freaking sixteen for god’s sake.
To make fun of his own kind is probably intentional of him, but what he does in the video also perpetuates stereotypes for Bules in Indonesia. He actually says that he met his girlfriend in Blok M, which is famous for being a place that people go to find ‘ayams’. A lot of Indonesians already assumes that Bules who come to Indonesia only wants ‘business’ not real relationships, his video only makes the case stronger.
While many things Manuel shows on his video are acted by him, I bet he picks all this information up from his interaction with Indonesians while living in Indonesia, which is why I am not going to put this only on foreigners who need to be more sensitive about local nuances, but also on the general Indonesian society who plays a significant part in perpetuating the stigmas towards certain marginalized groups. I realized that there needs to be a balance between when to laugh something off and when to not perpetuate stereotypes that causes harm to a certain group of people. We just need to be very sensitive to know which one to do when.
To conclude this, I’m going to quote a beautiful sentence from a comedian who has done so many satires before, one that Manuel should probably learn from, if he really wants to go into satirical comedy.