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exotic = offensive? - Page 3

post #41 of 138
People say stupid things period.

I have way to much to do to spend time getting offended over the stupid things people say to me.

I still prefer people asking questions then staring. I am not an animal in a zoo to be gawked at.

I know that DD prefers people to speak up too. If they don't she will answer the most common question she does get. "I'm part Japanese and he's one of my dad's."
post #42 of 138
Quote:
Originally Posted by koalove View Post
when i travled in central america, i was definately considered exiotic with my blue eyes and blonde hare, fair skin etc. i think exotic just means different or not typical, right? i cant see why thats offensive. if its true its true!
Yes, but you're part of an empowered group, and being exotic/different in that way is seen as a benefit. If you lived in Central America, you'd be given all kinds of societal advantages for your different looks.

Contrast that to the "exotic" experience here in the US, when it's used as a term, often sexually, to describe people of color. To comment on their otherness. To point out physical characteristics, often characteristics that belong to their race. They're not getting societal perks for that. On the contrary.

And when you use it to comment on a person of color, it has all kinds of really nasty historical ties that have to do with colonialism, domination, objectifying humans, and sexualizing non-white cultures. It can be a VERY ugly term to use for/at a person or child of color.

Personally, though as a white woman it made ME squirm (when I was a minority in a Central American culture), I still think I don't have a 10th of a clue what it feels like as a person of color to be called "exotic." No matter what terms you throw at me, or how much of a minority I am in my travels or work.... my skin color, eye color, hair color, etc. put me at the top of the heap, and I have no historical or cultural ties that make the fetishism or colonialism implied in "exotic" personally painful to me.
post #43 of 138
Quote:
Originally Posted by MusicianDad View Post
People say stupid things period.

I have way to much to do to spend time getting offended over the stupid things people say to me.

I still prefer people asking questions then staring. I am not an animal in a zoo to be gawked at.

I know that DD prefers people to speak up too. If they don't she will answer the most common question she does get. "I'm part Japanese and he's one of my dad's."
You've taught your daughter to speak up for herself, or she's modeled herself after you or your partner. That's great, and it's what I want for my daughter as well. If in the future she decides she has better things to do than getting offended over the stupid things people say to her, that's fine. In the meantime, and even then, I will be the person who acknowledges that YES, what those people are saying to her is STUPID. I will not be silent, or accepting, of those terms, because I don't want her to think she needs to be silent and accepting of those terms, or attention that is racially motivated, or the nosiness that people inflict on adopted children. IT'S NOT OKAY. How she wants to deal with it as she gets older is her choice. What feels right to me (as a mom of a SN kiddo and a transracially adopted kiddo) is to call people out on their hurtful statements or correct them on their misguided terms. Usually I do it in a polite way, but I do it. What I've read, in adoption book after adoption book (and articles, and magazines, and from adult adoptees who commented on their experiences) is that parents need to pattern how to deal with racism, or at the very least be a voice that acknowledges the racism our kids experience.

I acknowledge the racism my child experiences. I reject stereotypes and labels like "exotic" and "China Doll." I'm white, and I could say "what's the big deal" or "you could get offended at almost anything," but really...there are very few things that I confront in day-to-day life. The important thing, to what I've read and been taught, is that I stand up for her and confront when something needs to be confronted. And yeah, "exotic" is one of those words I will not accept as an appropriate way to describe my child.
post #44 of 138
Except that you may be telling people that something is offensive, when it's only offensive to some. Plenty of people out there who are racially different aren't offended by the term "exotic".

It's like saying "disable" or "differently abled" or "handicapped" is offensive, every person who deals with it has their own preference and it's not up to you to teach other that one is offensive. You can say it's offensive to you and you don't want to hear it used. But it's not a blanket offensive term, some people find it to be complimentary.
post #45 of 138
Take the time to read these posts, and you'll get some idea of what I'm talking about. I think they phrased it much better than I did:

The original question:
http://gusparents.wordpress.com/2008/07/20/question-4/

Juli's response:
http://gusparents.wordpress.com/2008...estion-4-juli/

Quote:
Your daughter needs to learn early on that this kind of questioning is not okay. Otherwise in ten years she’ll end up in tears while her fourth grade teacher publicly drills her about why she was abandoned, whether or not she wants to find her birth mother and if she feels any different from her siblings. And, she won’t tell you about it after the fact, because you’ve never given her any indication that it’s okay to be upset by questions like that. True story.

You need to learn to be an anti-racist parent. That means a lot of self-education, and not being afraid to tell people off the truth.

You have to be ready for the worst. When she hits her teen years, and you’re not around, people will ask her if she’s married to your husband. People will comment on her “chinky” eyes. They will stereotype, exoticize and fetishize her in every way possible. People will accuse her of things, people will assume things about her. And you have to stand up for her – even when it’s hard. Even when it’s a neighbor, a family member, a co-worker. You have to make people realize that racism is not acceptable, and that they can’t get away with talking about your daughter or people who look like her that way.

Of course, these things are insidious, and unavoidable. They leave wounds that only time will heal. Your love and support is important – but I know that for myself, it wasn’t until I was able to relate these experiences to people who had also lived them that I was able to properly see them as instances of racism, and realize that I was not to blame.
Heather's response:
http://gusparents.wordpress.com/2008...ion-4-heather/

Quote:
For you as a parent, I think it’s vital that you are a constant advocate for your daughter (of course), but it’s even more vital when she is adopted and a different race than yourself and the rest of her family. She will feel different and awkward in her own skin without any help from outside, ignorant forces (of which there are many). It’s up to you and the rest of your family to work against those forces.

From my experience, you can do this in any number of ways depending on the situation, such as humour, educating with facts, or simply stating that the information they are requesting is none of their business or doing things like asking them about their private history. There seems to be a natural inclination among people to ask inappropriate questions of adoptees and their families and this is not acceptable. I think ultimately, you should prepare rote answers to some questions so you can empower yourself, your daughter and the rest of your family. There will always be crazy questions out there that no one can prepare for, but if you have some prepared answers, it might help save you from punching someone out in the grocery store queue. She needs to have this language just as much as you do and so you need to take the time to talk with her about this keeping age appropriateness in mind. And no matter how you deal with each individual situation, it’s important that you talk it over each time to varying degrees so that she is able to express her feelings on some level about these times. When I was growing up and someone would ask me a stupid question or make a racial slur, I would answer to the best of my ability by giving some answer I had learned from my parents and siblings or by just walking away. I usually felt strong for about 2 seconds. Later, without exception, I would cry, feeling alone, angry and confused.

So did the advice I just give work for me, you may ask! Well, yes, it did. But it’s a process – one that is never over. At different ages you and your daughter will experience different types of racism, stereotypes and questions and it’s important that you’re all prepared for them as best as possible. They will want to know how much she cost, comment that “they’re” such cute children, and wonder if she’s good at math or playing the piano. She will be objectified and the fetishized; she will be told how lucky it is that she like the “rest of them” all look so young even when they’re old.

It’s important to remember that “positive” racial stereotypes are still racism and can’t be tolerated. It’s not good enough to just have Asian friends, not tell or laugh at racist jokes, or live in diverse areas. To fight for your daughter’s rights is to also be an example – an advocate of justice and rights for all in both words and actions. Be inclusive in your advocacy and this is one of the best lessons your daughter will learn from you.
JoLynn's response:
http://gusparents.wordpress.com/2008...tion-4-jolynn/

Quote:
I also had my set answers that were taught to me by my parents. To this day…people ask really intrusive & rude questions about my family. Questions I would never dream of asking them, but they still continue to ask me. I do have my “blanket” answers. I have to laugh at one of the examples Juli gave about being asked about “being married to your husband” because it happens to me & my dad when we go out alone!

I believe it’s imperative as adoptive parents to help your child through all the questions & learn to speak up for them when needed. They will learn through your example & how you decide to handle each situation. You really do become a sort of advocate for your child. Racism should never be tolerated & must be addressed.
post #46 of 138
Quote:
Originally Posted by MusicianDad View Post
Except that you may be telling people that something is offensive, when it's only offensive to some. Plenty of people out there who are racially different aren't offended by the term "exotic".

It's like saying "disable" or "differently abled" or "handicapped" is offensive, every person who deals with it has their own preference and it's not up to you to teach other that one is offensive. You can say it's offensive to you and you don't want to hear it used. But it's not a blanket offensive term, some people find it to be complimentary.
You're quibbling. "Retarded" is not offensive to some, but I know enough not to use the term. "Exotic" is extremely offensive to MANY people of color, and it is not a term I will use or accept. Every racist term is rejected by some and embraced by others. I grew up in a community of Polish-Americans, and the same slurs they got in racist jokes about Polish were sometimes embraced by them as affectionate labels. I'm sure as hell not going to go up to a person and use a racist label, though, just because I know that some people aren't offended by it.

You've stated that you won't base your life on what others tell you they've experienced. As a white man, talking about issues of race and racist terms, that puts you at a disadvantage.

I DO base some of my decisions based on what others tell me they've experienced. If people tell me that term is hurtful to them, or if I hear it consistently and also read into the historical racism implied in the term, then yeah...I listen to their experience and I change my behavior.
post #47 of 138
As a gay, legally blind man I am fully capable of understanding discrimination and derogatory terms.

I never mentioned the term "retarded". I mentioned "disabled", "differently abled" and "handicapped". All terms that I personally would rather not be discribed as. I am not differently abled, I am not disabled, I am not handicapped. I am legally blind, I can do everything an average person can do, just not all of them as well as the average person. I don't like the whole person first deal either. I am a legally blind person, not a person with blindness. I also fully understand that some people are neutral to these or prefer these.
post #48 of 138
I didn't say you used the word retarded. I was putting it out there as an example of an offensive term that is embraced, or viewed as neutral, by many. Much like exotic.

Because some people don't mind being called "retarded" or a substantial part of the population sees nothing truly offensive in using the term, should I teach my kids that it's okay to use the term? Should I not stand up for my son, who is in fact mentally retarded, when people toss the term around as a slur?

As to your example, the various terms used for disabled are far less racially or sexually charged than the term "exotic." My mother taught deaf children back when the accepted term was "Hearing Impaired." Now it's "Hard of Hearing" or other choices. Terms change. Lables of race and bigotry are a different class of hurt.

And yes, you are capable of understanding discrimination and derogatory terms, but you DID make the statement that you would not be affected by what others tell you they've experienced. In matters of race, or how people of color feel about certain terms and if it's okay to use them, that DOES put you at a disadvantage. You're a white male. If you're not going to change based on what a Latino woman, or an Asian male, or a Black woman tells you they've experienced, then what is your place in this conversation? How you as a white male feels about the term "exotic" being applied to you? I would argue that how you feel has very little practical application to this discussion, since white males aren't usually targeted, fetishized, or exoticized in the racist, sexist way that women often are.
post #49 of 138
I'm an Asian American woman who grew up in the USA during the late 1970s and early 1980s. I remember the comments about my "exotic looks". Looking back I have to say I didn't like the comments at all even if they were well meant. I think the majority of comments weren't malicious. From a young age I realized the person wasn't using the term to describe my friends but just me. I was singled out based on my appearance and I was left with a feeling of being weird and different from my peers. They weren't called "exotic". It was just me. It wasn't a good feeling to be singled out like that. One moment you're having fun and all of a sudden some adult intrudes into that moment to tell you that you are different and they notice you're physically different. What's the point of that? There's a whole negative connotation of "otherness" that goes with "exotic". Maybe to some it's not a big issue but I know it bothered me as a child.
post #50 of 138
Quote:
Originally Posted by RedOakMomma View Post
I didn't say you used the word retarded. I was putting it out there as an example of an offensive term that is embraced, or viewed as neutral, by many. Much like exotic.

Because some people don't mind being called "retarded" or a substantial part of the population sees nothing truly offensive in using the term, should I teach my kids that it's okay to use the term? Should I not stand up for my son, who is in fact mentally retarded, when people toss the term around as a slur?

As to your example, the various terms used for disabled are far less racially or sexually charged than the term "exotic." My mother taught deaf children back when the accepted term was "Hearing Impaired." Now it's "Hard of Hearing" or other choices. Terms change. Lables of race and bigotry are a different class of hurt.

And yes, you are capable of understanding discrimination and derogatory terms, but you DID make the statement that you would not be affected by what others tell you they've experienced. In matters of race, or how people of color feel about certain terms and if it's okay to use them, that DOES put you at a disadvantage. You're a white male. If you're not going to change based on what a Latino woman, or an Asian male, or a Black woman tells you they've experienced, then what is your place in this conversation? How you as a white male feels about the term "exotic" being applied to you? I would argue that how you feel has very little practical application to this discussion, since white males aren't usually targeted, fetishized, or exoticized in the racist, sexist way that women often are.
If someone tells me they don't want me to use a term around them of their family, I will listen to them. If they tell me that other people don't want me using a term and I should never use it. I won't listen to them because they are assuming knowledge of how other people feel.

BTW I believe that the Deaf community prefers to the term deaf now.
post #51 of 138
And *sometimes*, people comment on a child's beautiful eyes, skin, hair, smile, personality, etc. because..... the child has beautiful eyes, skin, hair, smile, personality, etc. and not out of some misplaced guilt for thinking something someone else thinks they must be thinking for commenting that the child has beautiful eyes, skin, hair, smile, personality, etc.

Working retail, I see a lot of different families of all sorts of different combinations come into our store. I say something complimentary to almost every child who comes in, as well as to their parents. And ya know... sometimes, my coworkers and I DO look at some of the kids and talk amongst ourselves. 99% of the time we're commenting on something positive and NOT trying to sort out how come this couple has a child that looks nothing like them. Ya know why? No one cares. There's no nefarious intent.
post #52 of 138
Quote:
Originally Posted by RedOakMomma View Post
I DO base some of my decisions based on what others tell me they've experienced. If people tell me that term is hurtful to them, or if I hear it consistently and also read into the historical racism implied in the term, then yeah...I listen to their experience and I change my behavior.
Exactly. It's common courtesy.

This isn't directed at anyone in particular, but I find it interesting when (usually white) people who claim to be extremely caring about others are put out about having to "remember" every word that "might" offend someone, to the point that they passive-aggressively claim they can't even speak to other people - especially people of color. Isn't that caring more about your own comfort level than the other person's? We will ALL offend people. It's unavoidable. Put yourself out there, do the best you can with potentially sensitive terminology, and if you slip up or meet with a difference of opinion, oh well. Your intentions were good, and reasonable people of every color appreciate that. Take note of it, and now that you know better, do better. Don't treat people as landmines - just treat them as people. Otherwise you'll miss out on an awful lot, hiding your head in the sand like that!

This poem by Pat Parker really brought these concepts together for me:

For the White Person Who Wants to Know How to Be My Friend"

The first thing you do is to forget that i'm Black.
Second, you must never forget that i'm Black.

You should be able to dig Aretha,
but don't play her every time i come over.
And if you decide to play Beethoven--don't tell
me his life story. They made us take music
appreciation too.

Eat soul food if you like it, but don't expect me
to locate your restaurants
or cook it for you.

And if some Black person insults you,
mugs you, rapes your sister, rapes you,
rips your house, or is just being an ***--
please, do not apologize to me
for wanting to do them bodily harm.
It makes me wonder if you're foolish.

And even if you really believe Blacks are better
lovers than whites--don't tell me. I start thinking
of charging stud fees.

In other words, if you really want to be my
friend--don't make a labor of it. I'm lazy.
Remember.

-from Making Face, Make Soul
edited by Gloria Anzaldua

San Francisco: Aunt Lute Foundation Books, 1990.
post #53 of 138
Quote:
Originally Posted by MusicianDad View Post
If someone tells me they don't want me to use a term around them of their family, I will listen to them. If they tell me that other people don't want me using a term and I should never use it. I won't listen to them because they are assuming knowledge of how other people feel.

BTW I believe that the Deaf community prefers to the term deaf now.
Yes Deaf is the most common term, but others still prefer Hard of Hearing because they feel it describes their condition more accurately. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deafness

I think I work a little differently than you do. If I hear several families tell me they don't want a term used to describe them, their child, or their family, then I start to think about the term and wonder--if these families find it offensive, then why should I use the term at all? Is it worth it, preserving the use of that term in my vocabulary, if it could offend strangers and potential friends...people whom I don't know whether or not they find the term offensive? And when I read books or blogs about the Asian-American experience or hear of friends' experiences with the word "exotic," I know it's not a word that's worth preserving in my vocabulary. I take their feelings and experiences seriously.

And as a mom to an Asian girl, knowing what she faces ahead of her in terms of racism, fetishism, and exoticism....knowing what I know about others' experiences, that term is out of my acceptable vocabulary list. And I have no qualms about telling people that. And if they ask why, I'll tell them.

I prefer to err on the side of not offending people. Giving up a few racist, colonial lables lurking in my vocabulary is a small price to pay for the peace of mind of knowing that I won't contribute to the annoyance, hurt, or worse many women and/or people of color experience due to those terms.
post #54 of 138
Erring on the side of not offending people is impossible. There are words that are universally incorrect, but for the most part sticking to one term will eventually offend someone whether they voice that or not.

Some people would rather be hard of hearing, others would rather be deaf.
post #55 of 138
redoakmama - have i told you lately that i love you?

you are so good at explaining stuff like this.
post #56 of 138
Quote:
Originally Posted by RedOakMomma View Post
I have three gorgeous kids, and one of them happens to be Asian. Why are people so determined to make remarks about "her pretty eyes" or "her lovely skin" when they never give my sons, who are white, a second look? And really, how old is she going to be when the constant "ooooh...you're different" becomes a burden? Can't adults control themselves and realize that, if they're approaching an Asian kid to make a remark on their eyes, that it happens to that kid dozens and dozens of times from other adults who can't help but comment? Do those same adults stop all Asian families on the street and pick ONE of the family's children to single out and say "what lovely eyes you have?" Doubtful.
I am not trying to justify this in the least, but we always got more comments about our daughters at about your daughter's age than we did about our son at that age. He's just as cute as they were, but I think it's (unfortunately) socially acceptable for strangers to focus on the beauty of girls and women and comment on it. I have not been where you are yet with a child of a different ethnic background, but I just thought I'd chime in that this can be a gender-related issue as well. You may just be dealing with a double whammy here for a while.
post #57 of 138
Quote:
Originally Posted by RedOakMomma View Post
People say stupid things to minority children, and stupid things to adopted children, and it seems to me that when you combine minority + adopted + white parents, people think they can come up to you and say ALL SORTS of absurd, rude things. And even if they think they're disguising it nicely, or hiding their racial stereotypes in a compliment, really they're just making a comment when keeping their mouths shut would be the better option.
Exactly the double whammy kind of thing I was talking about. Next time I'll read all of the other comments before commenting.
post #58 of 138
Quote:
Originally Posted by MusicianDad View Post
Erring on the side of not offending people is impossible. There are words that are universally incorrect, but for the most part sticking to one term will eventually offend someone whether they voice that or not.

Some people would rather be hard of hearing, others would rather be deaf.
Erring on the side of not offending people acknowleges that is is impossible to avoid offending people. That's why it's "err"ing. It's just consciously doing your best to avoid it - with the knowledge that it will happen now and then no matter how hard anyone tries. It's just kind of putting your best effort out there. It's kindness, and that's one thing that is always possible. Why refuse to try? :
post #59 of 138
Quote:
Originally Posted by SilverWillow View Post
Erring on the side of not offending people acknowleges that is is impossible to avoid offending people. That's why it's "err"ing. It's just consciously doing your best to avoid it - with the knowledge that it will happen now and then no matter how hard anyone tries. It's just kind of putting your best effort out there. It's kindness, and that's one thing that is always possible. Why refuse to try? :
You can be nice without convincing yourself your avoiding hurting anyone by following their lead on issues such as what language to use instead of assuming you know what's best.
post #60 of 138
Quote:
Originally Posted by RedOakMomma View Post
I think I work a little differently than you do. If I hear several families tell me they don't want a term used to describe them, their child, or their family, then I start to think about the term and wonder--if these families find it offensive, then why should I use the term at all? Is it worth it, preserving the use of that term in my vocabulary, if it could offend strangers and potential friends...people whom I don't know whether or not they find the term offensive? .
This is the crux of it for me.

I used to freely use the word "jipped"..i really thought it was spelled that way, i even corrected someone who (shockingly) used the term "jewed" and sayed no, just say jipped, you're being racist...it wasnt until my half-Hungarian Gypsy/half Japanese college roommate nicely explained to me that the term was actually "gypped" and was a slur against gypsies, that i realized how offensive it was. And i havent used it since. I could say "ohhhh but i didnt mean it THAT way" and defend the use of the word, but why? I instead now use the more accurate and completely non-offensive "cheated". How hard is that?!

If i had regularly used the word "exotic" and then discovered that a lot of people found that term offensive, i wouldnt use it anymore...not a big deal. There are lots of words in the English language, yknow? I guess i just dont get being *told* that many find it to be offensive and still defending the word. Is it that important to you to get to say "you look exotic"??

I guess i find it sort of objectifying.

Its one thing to think in your head "oh, that person looks really exotic!", which in my head is a good thing, it might mean "they look cool/different/beautiful"...but i cannot imagine why anyone would actually SAY IT TO SOMEONE'S FACE?! And the *reason* i dont get that...is exactly what RoM said, about that itch that people just feel like they gotta scratch. Do you really truly think you are the only person that has ever said that to that person? Do you think they *really* need to hear one.more.time from you? Why?

As i've posted before, i have a redhaired son. He's 12 now, and shaved his head, but for the longest time his hair was really long, and fell in these sort of bouncy curls.His hair wasnt bright red but this deeeep shade of red, the kind women pay good money to get. He was often mistaken for a girl (until he got 12 inches cut off!)....every single day he'd be reminded by someone that he has redhair. Literally. Every time we went out from the time he was about 2 or younger, until he was probably 10 or older, we heard some variation of "Where'd ya get that red hair???" And we were always polite, and smiled, and gave some type of answer. But did *any* of these people ever stop and wonder why they needed to know that, or stop and think "gosh this little kid might not want to always get attention for his hair and i'm probably the millionth person who has asked and maybe i should just shut up"?? I can only imagine how much worse it is for a child who is transracially adopted and often singled out anyway, and maybe already has issues with belonging/fitting in/etc. And especially if they are only considered "exotic" because they arent...well....white.

I so far havent gotten any adoption-related comments about my younger son (though until i cut it all off we got TONS of comments about his hair)...but i have heard parents of transracially adopted kids say that some people have gone on and on about their exotic-ness, and "where are they from" and then the child instantly becoming "less exotic" when the stranger finds out the child is not African (or Chinese or Guatamalen or whatever) but is, rather, from Texas. Maybe i would get the term "exotic" thrown at us when we were out if i told people my son was from Liberia instead of Detroit?
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