Ms. Oktofani has brushed off criticism that the book is overtly sexual or has a moral message. She says she is just trying to raise awareness. And much of the response has been positive. She says she often gets emails from women interested in the book but who want to buy it covertly. Many ask that she mail it to them in plain brown packaging; some even come to her apartment to pick it up. The Wall Street Journal talked to Ms. Oktofani about the book and how she has responded to the feedback. Edited excerpts.
WSJ: You said you wrote the book because you found from your experience dating Western men that you were being judged and it made you uncomfortable. But there is more to this book than that.
Ms. Oktofani: The book is divided into three parts: money, sex and love. [With] money, I’m trying to show that those Indonesian women who date foreigners are most of the time being judged for being after money. And then people think they must be sleeping together, so [they think] she’s an easy girl. Meanwhile, the other side of those two things is that those two people fell in love and just want to be together.
WSJ: How did you find your sources?
Ms. Oktofani: Some are people around me. Some I purposely looked for at nightclubs, to really understand what they’re looking for. Some I also found on the Internet, through bloggers and friends.
WSJ: Your husband is a Canadian. How did you meet him?
Ms. Oktofani: I met him in Bali in a beach bar. [But] I had the idea for this book for a long time, even before I met my husband. The majority of books are written by Western men when it comes to cross-cultural relationships or Westerners and Asian women. So I wanted to write it from a woman’s perspective, the way I see it.
WSJ: Did any of the women’s responses surprise you?
Ms. Oktofani: No, because everyone has a motivation, even if they’re openly saying I want to be with this Westerner because I want to improve my life financially. For me it’s not really surprising. Sometimes it’s not just Western men, but young Indonesian women married to older wealthy Indonesian men.
WSJ: Why did you choose the title?
Ms. Oktofani: The first time I heard the term bule hunter it made me think. I was sure people would be interested in reading about it. I was prepared for the controversy.
WSJ: You also talk about sex.
Ms. Oktofani: It’s necessary to talk about it. Many young girls are talking about (sex) but they’re not asking, ‘Have you gotten yourself tested?’ Are you using a condom? It’s important for me to say this because I found many people have sex, but they don’t care about safe sex and it has to be stopped.
WSJ: There’s been a lot of criticism of the book online. How have you responded?
Ms. Oktofani: At the beginning I didn’t really care. Instead, all those criticisms just encouraged me to write a second book.
WSJ: So what’s the next book about?
Ms. Oktofani: It’s more about the problems that happen in cross-cultural relationships, especially when it comes to religion.
Q&A On the Hunt for Bules is published by The Wall Street Journal on Oct 6, 2014.
Merdeka.com – Pada hari Senin (8/9/2014), Bp. Ramadhian mengajukan permohonan wawancara dengan saya, Oktofani Elisabeth, selaku penulis buku Bule Hunter: Money, Sex and Love. Dalam pembicaraan melalui telepon, saya menyetujui permohonan wawancara berkaitan dengan profiling saya sebagai penulis buku Bule Hunter:Money, Sex and Love. Senin sore, saya bertemu dengan dua reporter merdeka.com di bilangan Senayan untuk melakukan wawancara.
Setelah membaca pemberitaan di merdeka.com, saya merasa kecewa karena terdapat banyak kesalahan. Tidak semua tentunya pemberitaan tersebut salah menggambarkan Bule Hunter: Money, Sex and Love. Namun ada beberapa artikel 1. Ini yang Disuka Wanita Lokal Saat Ngeseks; 2. Cerita Bule Hunter Banting Harga Demi Gaet Si Om Blonde Pelit; 3. Gosip Ala ‘Bule Hunter’ dari Urusan Ranjang Sampai Sex Toys dan juga Di Mata Pria Bule, 4. Wanita Berbokong Sekel Lebih Seksi yang menurut saya salah menangkap maksud buku saya Bule Hunter: Money, Sex and Love.
Contohnya penggunaan terminologi ‘Bule Hunter’ di artikel berjudul ‘Cerita Bule Hunter Banting Harga Demi Gaet Si Om Blonde Pelit‘. Saya sudah dengan sangat hati-hati menyebut perempuan-perempuan yang memang pekerja seks di buku saya sebut sebagai pekerja seks komersial namun justru dalam pemberitaan tersebut terminologi Bule Hunter digunakan untuk menggambarkan sebagai sebuah profesi pekerja seks komersial.
Padahal buku tersebut justru saya ini ingin menantang penggunaan terminologi “Bule Hunter”. Bahwa apakah semua orang yang dipanggil “Bule Hunter” itu betul masuk ke definisi “Bule Hunter” yang dianggap negatif seperti pekerja seks atau perempuan murahan. Justru sebaliknya itu tidak benar karena pengalaman wanita-wanita di buku Bule Hunter: Money, Sex and Love. Buku saya ini ingin mendobrak stereotype tersebut.
Kalaupun ketika menulis buku ini terungkap pendapat-pendapat individu termasuk pendapat-pendapat saya seperti terkait ukuran, itu pendapat pribadi yang tidak mencerminkan fakta ilmiah di lapangan.
Justru maksud buku “Bule Hunter: Money, Sex and Love” adalah membuka pendapat-pendapat itu sehingga kita bisa bicara lebih lantang lagi terkait dengan hal-hal yang dianggap taboo tapi sesungguhnya sangat esensial atau merupakan bagian dari benang-benang yang mengikat bangsa kita saat ini, yakni tentang hubungan antar budaya dan ras. Hal-hal inilah yang ingin saya bawa ke permukaan dengan maksud membuka wacana.
“Ini lho ada perempuan-perempuan yang berhubungan dengan laki-laki kaukasoid atau bule dan selama ini perempuan-perempuan ini diberi label bule hunter yang mana selama ini berkonotasi negatif.”
Melalui buku Bule Hunter: Money, Sex and Love, saya ingin mendobrak terminologi dengan membuka lapisan bawangnya dengan wawancara dengan perempuan-perempuan yang kerap dianggap Bule Hunter, termasuk saya sendiri.
Jadi tidak tepat pada artikel 1. Ini yang Disuka Wanita Lokal Saat Ngeseks; 2. Cerita Bule Hunter Banting Harga Demi Gaet Si Om Blonde Pelit; 3. Gosip Ala ‘Bule Hunter; dari Urusan Ranjang Sampai Sex Toys dan juga Di Mata Pria Bule, 4. Wanita Berbokong Sekel Lebih Seksi membuat seakan-akan ingin mengeneralisi perempuan-perempuan ini dianggap Bule Hunter. Justru salah!
Perempuan-perempuan ini dianggap Bule Hunter dan saya ingin menantang penggunaan stereotype tersebut. Warna-warna apa saja sih yang ada? Ya silahkan anda membaca dan membeli buku saya sehingga anda bisa tahu. Finally, this book is about Indonesian women, who have been judged unfairly to be Bule Hunter just because being with Caucasian Man.
Tulisan ini dipublikasikan oleh merdeka.com pada tanggal 9 September 2014
After dating many Caucasian guys, locally known as bule, since she was a teenager, 27-year-old writer Elisabeth Oktofani settled down when she married a Canadian three years ago.
“I had many relationships with bule and reached a point when I couldn’t care less if I dated a bule or not. But then I finally found a peace of mind with my husband, who turned out to be bule,” Fani said.
Her story dated to high school in Yogyakarta, when many of her girlfriends got invitations to connect on Friendster, the once-popular social media outlet, in the early 2000s.
Fani, however, stayed out of the fray. Initially.
“My hair was curly, I had a dark complexion and I had no boyfriend — I felt ugly. But then I got a friend request on Friendster from a bule who then asked to meet me in person,” Fani said. “So I thought if it was difficult to find local boyfriends, I would just try dating bule because they liked girls like me.”
After going out with a lot of Western men, she realized that many would appreciate her more if they could talk about many things with her.
“At first, I didn’t feel much appreciated — maybe because as a teenager, I had a lack of confidence and knowledge,” she said. “That’s why I easily ended up relationship with someone and find another one until I eventually realized that I also needed to be knowledgeable to hang out with them.”
She was often judged by the people around her about her relationships with the Westerners. They told her that she went out with them only because they were rich, and bule liked her because she was ugly.
“That annoyed me, because not all relationships between Indonesian girls and bule are like that. There are other things the society should know behind the relationship between Indonesian woman and bule,” Fani said.
She then decided to make a book which was based on her experience and her friends. The book, Bule Hunter: Kisah Wanita Pemburu Bule (Bule Hunter: Stories of Women who Pursue Westerners), aims to get rid of stigma attached to Indonesian women who date bule only for their money.
“We want to let people know that there are also relationships with bule that are based on love,” she said.
Fani said the idea to make the book popped up in 2007 when she first heard the phrase “bule hunter”.
“It was a funny word I thought. I started to find out more about this, listened to my friends who shared their experiences with bule, then the idea to write a book crossed my mind,” she said.
It was not until 2011 she really started working on it, spending almost two years to do the research for the book.
She interviewed friends, prostitutes and random women in Jakarta and Bali.
“I went to night clubs and hotels to find out about how women made their deals with bule. I also found out that there were many women who married to bule to be able to leave Indonesia or to improve their lives in Indonesia,” she said.
However, she said, after they left many were often surprised to know the fact that their bule partners were not as wealthy as they were in Indonesia.
“Many women that I interviewed also like to hang out with bule because sometimes they are more open-minded than Indonesian guys when it comes to sex and safe sex,” Fani said.
She then went to Bali to focus on finishing the project. By the end of 2013, Fani had completed a book that was blunt and a bit vulgar.
It was not too hard for her to find a publisher. Rejected by one of the nation’s largest publishers, who thought the work too much, Fani offered it to Rene Book, which agreed to print it after some editing.
“The publisher says this 311-page book is different, as it brings out the silent phenomenon in the society as well as becoming the voice of certain groups,” she said.
She added that she already had a plan to make the sequel.
Fani has always been into writing.
She started blogging since high school and her blog received responses from readers in many countries. She studied journalism at Atma Jaya University in Yogyakarta.
She become a freelance writer for a newspaper in Indonesia, took an internship in a lifestyle magazine in Bali, worked for one-and-a-half years for a newspaper in Jakarta, and became a freelance contributor for an American media outlet.
Recalling her life from the past through present day, Fani said she was so proud of being an Indonesian despite the fact that she enjoyed hang out with Westerners.
“We have several values that are always instilled in us, like honoring older people by not calling them only by name and other polite gesture in Indonesian tradition,” Fani said.
Fani is also busy with her current job as an assistant editor and a contributor for a growing media outlet in Jakarta.
“I covered social issues, human rights and also terrorism. And the book’s writing style has been highly influenced by my investigative journalism experience,” Fani said.
Bule Hunter: Kisah Wanita Pemburu Bule (Rene Book, 312 pages, paperback) will be launched at the Reading Room in Kemang, Jakarta, on Wednesday. Visit bulehunter.com for more information.
This article is published by The Jakarta Post’s newspaper on Sept. 8, 2014