There is absolutely nothing wrong with interracial marriage (heck, we at Coconuts officially support marriage equality for all consenting adult humans). What is wrong, however, is how the Indonesian media often portrays marrying a “bule” (local slang for a foreigner, usually caucasian) as the greatest achievement for a local man or woman.
Case in point: over the past few days, Indonesian media outlets have been pumping out endless stories about the marriage of a 21-year-old Indonesian woman named Sri Rahayu and 20-year-old New Zealander Ezra Liam Honan. Neither are (or were, as it were) celebrities in their native countries, but their nuptials are getting coverage worthy of at least B-listers here.
There’s nothing extraordinary about how their love story began either. The pair met on Kuta beach in Bali last year and entered into a serious relationship from there. So, theoretically, I could’ve gone on this rant about the thousands, if not millions of other couples who met on the beach and eventually got married.
And yet the media seem desperate to paint Sri as an extremely lucky woman for marrying Ezra, with numerous articles about their marriage even reeking of jealousy. Many writers made sure to point out that Sri worked as a babysitter and that there are “clear differences in the couple’s appearances,” meant as both a demeaning, stereotyping stab about the looks of domestic workers and Sri’s non-caucasian appearance (and, by extension, the appearance of all locals).
These are some of the totally real headlines for articles about Sri and Ezra that were published recently on some of Indonesia’s most popular news websites. See if you can spot the internalized racism and misogyny:
Warta Kota – “Babysitter ini nggak pernah menyangka bakal jadi istri bule” (This babysitter never expected that she’d be a foreigner’s wife)
Liputan 6 – “Bikin iri, gadis Wonogiri dinikahi bule ganteng Selandia Baru” (This makes us jealous, a girl from Wonogiri is wed by a handsome foreigner from New Zealand)
Malang Today – “Menang banyak gadis Wonogiri dinikahi bule ganteng asal Selandia Baru” (Big win as girl from Wonogiri is wed by handsome foreigner from New Zealand)
Sri is, for all intents and purposes, a very attractive woman, but we did not find a single article praising her appearance, as if she’s undeserving of her “bule ganteng” husband.
To be fair, the story of Sri and Ezra’s marriage was only picked up by the mainstream media after it had gone viral on social media. In the Warta Kota article above, Sri said that the comments she mostly got on social media were abusive, with many netizens mocking the fact that a local girl like her could marry a handsome foreigner like Ezra.
But herein lies the chicken and egg conundrum. We can’t police internet trolls, but if the media in Indonesia continue to stoop down to their level, then unnecessary coverage about interracial couples will continue to feed into the inferiority complex of many in this country, giving birth to more ugly, jealous trolls.
Regardless, we wish Sri and Ezra the happiest of lives together.