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exotic = offensive? - Page 8

post #141 of 165
Quote:
If you're a nice, well-intentioned person who wants to call her beautiful, CAN YOU PLEASE NOT USE "EXOTIC"?!?
As I said, it's not part of my normal vocabulary.


Interestingly enough though, I was reading a Madeline L'Engle book and ran across the phrase "exotic beauty" referring to.....a white girl with blond hair and blue eyes. Was watching "Bizarre Foods" and heard the word used in reference to a fresh, local food "exotic local fare" .
Language and culture and social attitudes change. I agree that the treatment of Sarah Bartmaan and the portrayal of Africans at that time was horrendous. But neither I nor anyone else I know has ever used "exotic" in that context, ever. So again, while I don't normally use it anyway and wouldn't use it around someone who'd expressed offense at it, I don't agree that it is universally offensive and should be dropped from the language.
post #142 of 165
Quote:
Originally Posted by cappuccinosmom View Post
But even on this thread someone has said that commenting on things like eyes and skin, even positively, is rude and offensive.

*Anything* can be construed by *somebody* as offensive, which is why eliminating all speech still wouldn't get rid of the problem of people being offended. :
I think you missed my main point. My point was to say that other words can be used like beautiful or ravishing my point was NOT about commenting on someones skin color exclusively. The reason I asked up thread why people used exotic is because I think it used in reference to eyes, or skin, or facial features so you ARE commenting on someone's features using exotic but the word is so broad it doesn't encompass what pointing out the actual features would. You also said that the exotic means "strikingly beautiful" but it doesn't and saying strikling beautiful gets your point across without the risk of offending the person you are complimenting.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tiffani View Post

Oh, and something else... I was one of the people who mentioned that I don't like being complimented on my looks, and I wanted to address the concept of compliments being offensive or not. I don't mind comments about what I'm wearing, or my hair, or my decorating tastes, etc, but *I personally* don't like having attention drawn to my actual physical appearance -- I wouldn't call it offensive at all (though it depends on how a person is drawing the attention, I suppose ) but I don't personally like it, it makes me uncomfortable. I don't tell others they're pretty or have pretty eyes (unless it is somehow a relevant part of a conversation), or other things about their actual looks, but I will compliment a new haircut or new glasses or how amazing they looked in that photo of them at their brother's wedding (you know who you are! ) things like that. I don't figure we have much control over our physical looks, and I always hated being verbally set apart from the crowd as a teenager/twentyager -- but that's just me, lots of people like that kind of attention. I wouldn't be angry with the complimenter, but I would be embarrassed, and would usually tell them to shut the he!! up!!! I have been told many times that "thank you" is a more appropriate reply.
I just wanted to say it was mean who mentioned complimenting someones eyes or skin color but it was taken out of context by a PP. I was simply saying that if you are going to compliment someones features (which is what someone is doing when they use exotic) then why not use different vocabulary to compliment the persons features. I hope that came across right because that is certainly not what I was advocating .

Cappuccinosmom the context that the word used to have is still used today no matter how you see it. The context that the lovely ROM pointed out in her post is very much relevant. Then the context was someone that had features that weren't normal to the white "norm" and this is still what happens to this day, in this country. So even though YOU may not say it in a certain context, OTHER people who you may say this word to or around may see it in the context that it is offensive no matter how much you try not to.
post #143 of 165
Quote:
Originally Posted by cappuccinosmom View Post
As I said, it's not part of my normal vocabulary.


Interestingly enough though, I was reading a Madeline L'Engle book and ran across the phrase "exotic beauty" referring to.....a white girl with blond hair and blue eyes. Was watching "Bizarre Foods" and heard the word used in reference to a fresh, local food "exotic local fare" .
Language and culture and social attitudes change. I agree that the treatment of Sarah Bartmaan and the portrayal of Africans at that time was horrendous. But neither I nor anyone else I know has ever used "exotic" in that context, ever. So again, while I don't normally use it anyway and wouldn't use it around someone who'd expressed offense at it, I don't agree that it is universally offensive and should be dropped from the language.
I guess I just don't understand the point in being so resistant to the idea that quite a lot of people do find it offensive, and that you can not know who those people are in advance. The assertion that "it is the burden of each individual offended to inform me of their offense in order for me to adjust my vocabulary around them and around them alone" is itself really quite insulting.

(As an aside, "exotic local fare" or "exotically beautiful white girl" still typically will be applied to intend "bearing non-local and/or 'ethnic' characteristics." I hear it a lot with regard to my daughter, for example. Just as often as I hear speculation she's part Asian, for that matter. Someone up-thread mentioned Taylor Swift. Googling "Taylor Swift ethnicity" the first thing that came up for me was a couple of Yahoo Answers questions asking if she's part Asian -- it's not her blonde hair or such that make people inclined to turn to that term, it's the shape of her eyes. It is just not a term applied irrelevant of ethnicity, with regard to people, or origin of influence, with regard to products. The language hasn't changed that much.)
post #144 of 165
I'm not resistant to not using it or to the idea that people find it offensive. I already said I don't normally use it anyway, and if it comes to mind, it stays in my mind. I'm simply saying that it is not universally offensive, nor universally used in a racial or derogatory manner.

Quote:
"exotically beautiful white girl" still typically will be applied to intend "bearing non-local and/or 'ethnic' characteristics."
Really? In the context of the book, the only features specifically mentioned were long, blond hair, and sparkling blue eyes. The setting was in the West. So what would be racial or ethnic about those features that could possibly be construed as referring to something "foreign"?
post #145 of 165
I tend to think exotic CAN be used to imply that something doesn't fit in with the norm (which is known, and white, and all that), and this therefore excludes other types of looks from becoming part of a more inclusive norm. I try not to use the word that way. When it comes up as a vocabulary word in a story I teach to high schoolers, I try to use standard examples like plants and foods you can only get in certain places. Exotic inherently implies that the speaker and audience are sitting in one cultural or physical place, and the exotic object or person or whatever is somehow foreign. I suppose someone in a place that is exotic to me could consider other things exotic... but I have a problem when here in the USA people use exotic to describe features of people who are born here, and food that is regularly made here... it seems to maintain that there is still this white Euro norm and anything else is "other" still.
post #146 of 165
Quote:
Originally Posted by cappuccinosmom View Post
Really? In the context of the book, the only features specifically mentioned were long, blond hair, and sparkling blue eyes. The setting was in the West. So what would be racial or ethnic about those features that could possibly be construed as referring to something "foreign"?
Well, no, the only features specifically mentioned were long blonde hair, sparkling blue eyes, and an "exotic" quality. See the Ms. Swift example. It is not now nor has it ever been normative in America to describe blonde hair and blue eyes completely independent of any other characteristic as being exotic. If the author did indeed mean blonde hair itself is exotic, it was a use of language outside of the norm. Beautiful, icy, sultry, sunny, sun-kissed, all-American, etc, etc, etc, all typical, but not exotic. Which is rather the point.
post #147 of 165
I love this discussion by the way!

Quote:
Originally Posted by seriosa View Post
Words are manifestations of a person's thoughts, feelings and intentions. If you take away a word, without having eliminated the sentiment it expressed what will happen is that another word will slip in to take its place. There are words that are universally aknowledged as negative, and their use is open aggression. There are also, however, a vast quantity of words that are ambiguous. Is "average" a good or bad word? "Normal"? "Unique"? "Different?" Does "fat" have to be bad? How about "short"? how about "old"? Do I want to be called "black", or "person of color" or something else again? In this wilderness of uncertain terms, I prefer to look beyond the sequence of letters, and try to perceive the intentions of the person behind the word. If the intent is malign, it doesn't matter how politely it was expressed. personally where the intention is not clear, I am happy to assume that it was benign. I may sometimes be wrong, but I live better that way.
I love this response, it is very open minded and speaks to both points, however is it possible to have a malign intent when using this word? I think the closest one could get would be to say that they would have a seperatist mindset or even an ignorance of cultural diversity which in itself can be offensive, therefore it is not as black and white as to say whether the intent is good or bad persay.

I personally am not biracial in an immediate sense ( mother and father) However I am black with grey/green/ bluish eyes and I can not count the amount of times I get questions about my ethnicity, heritage or parentage. However in thinking back on these experiences, I realize that I did not personally take offense to these inquiries as I completely understand the natural human curiousity that exists.

I understand that the word exotic in reference to a culturally ambiguous woman specifically can be objectifying and seperatist and also even supremacist if viewed in that way. I always feel that the interpretaion is always going to be based on the individual receiving the "compliment." It will be based on the thoughts they think about themselves and the way they view the world. It will always be subjective and you will always get a different answer no matter who you ask.

In the context presented by tiffani as a white guy ogling a hot girl and calling her exotic, I would definitely respond by telling him that everyone would not find that as an acceptable compliment. I would take offense if that was directed at me in that way because it would seem that his interest in me is piqued only because I am extremely different or other and therefore more intriguing in a fetish sort of way which is a bit creepy and definitely objectifying.
post #148 of 165
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by BlissyMama7 View Post
In the context presented by tiffani as a white guy ogling a hot girl and calling her exotic, I would definitely respond by telling him that everyone would not find that as an acceptable compliment. I would take offense if that was directed at me in that way because it would seem that his interest in me is piqued only because I am extremely different or other and therefore more intriguing in a fetish sort of way which is a bit creepy and definitely objectifying.
this thread has become about so much more than my original post, but I think my friend (and I'm only mentioning this because the poor guy has no idea the controversy he's created here! ) noticed this woman's attractiveness first, and then the fact that she was obviously of Maori descent (the native people of new zealand) and that, to him, would be quite exotic, not having ever been to new zealand before. I think the reason that it bugged me right off the bat was that SHE was the native here, and HE, being Canadian, was actually the exotic one in this case.

I think you're right in that it's important to keep in mind that when people use the word "exotic" they are generally trying to pay someone a compliment, so obviously, tearing their head off wouldn't be very polite. Intent is important for the listener to bear in mind, but the "complimenter" should just bear in mind that exotic can actually hurt people's feelings, even if it is somewhat complimentary at the same time.
post #149 of 165
Quote:
Originally Posted by Liquesce View Post
Well, no, the only features specifically mentioned were long blonde hair, sparkling blue eyes, and an "exotic" quality. See the Ms. Swift example. It is not now nor has it ever been normative in America to describe blonde hair and blue eyes completely independent of any other characteristic as being exotic. If the author did indeed mean blonde hair itself is exotic, it was a use of language outside of the norm. Beautiful, icy, sultry, sunny, sun-kissed, all-American, etc, etc, etc, all typical, but not exotic. Which is rather the point.
I totally agree with this and I am getting exasperated with the excuse" But white people can be exotic too!" it seems like that is a way to point out that since it is used for white people that it should be fine for minorities. It kind of reminds me of the whole argument, "I can't be racist because I have black/Latino etc. friends".

It is pretty arrogant for someone from a white normative area to go to a country where he isn't the norm and call the locals exotic looking like they don't belong.
post #150 of 165
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by futurmama8 View Post
It is pretty arrogant for someone from a white normative area to go to a country where he isn't the norm and call the locals exotic looking like they don't belong.
I don't think it's arrogant as much as it was said in ignorance, really. A person from a very small, very white town in Canada might feel more compelled to call someone exotic looking (and mean "beautiful in a unique way, special" in his own words) without thinking "hey, actually I'm the exotic one here" -- I think that usually, because exotic is generally meant as a compliment, it is an offense that should be met with gentle education on why it might not be taken as a compliment, what it really means, by definition and by historical significance. Also, because, as so many people here have pointed out, the word exotic is very often misused to mean "uniquely beautiful" we can't leap to the conclusion that anyone who uses it is being racist -- I mean...they are using a term with racist connotations, but they might not know it, and might not mean it in those terms, yk?
post #151 of 165
Quote:
Originally Posted by tiffani View Post
I don't think it's arrogant as much as it was said in ignorance, really. A person from a very small, very white town in Canada might feel more compelled to call someone exotic looking (and mean "beautiful in a unique way, special" in his own words) without thinking "hey, actually I'm the exotic one here" -- I think that usually, because exotic is generally meant as a compliment, it is an offense that should be met with gentle education on why it might not be taken as a compliment, what it really means, by definition and by historical significance. Also, because, as so many people here have pointed out, the word exotic is very often misused to mean "uniquely beautiful" we can't leap to the conclusion that anyone who uses it is being racist -- I mean...they are using a term with racist connotations, but they might not know it, and might not mean it in those terms, yk?
Ahhh I understand. I misread your original post as I thought you were saying he didn't like when people always cry racism but I believe you were talking about your husband. Yes it is ignorance and I really don't think he realized his privilege of being white and having that the norm in his world and maybe your explanation did change something you just don't know it yet .
post #152 of 165
in most cases i have ever seen, the word exotic is used to fetishize a person of color.

finding people of color attractive is one thing, but "otherizing" them for their specific traits is somewhat dehumanizing (ie. not seeing the whole person).
post #153 of 165
Thread Starter 
futurmama8, only time will tell...

my husband is just trying to find what he feels is the best path to raising transracially adopted kids. how do you instill pride, resilience, a strong sense of self, in the face of certain prejudice, without going overboard and causing your kids to assume that any stupid thing someone says is meant to hurt them, or coming from a place of racism?

Some people jump all over any phrase that is sometimes used in a racist manner (which is why my dh argued with me at first over my issue with the word exotic, though he has since come around to seeing my POV, as I see his) even if it isn't being used that way in a particular context. For example, we have a very close friend who is hispanic, and we were talking with him about our trip to Cozumel, a small island in Mexico that was nearly destroyed by a hurricane not too long before our trip there. My dh was talking about how the residents there worked together to re-build, as there was essentially no government support for the task. He said something along the lines of "in the face of all that destruction, those people were all there for each other, and just banded together to get done what needed to get done". Our friend took exception to his use of the phrase "those people", feeling that it was racist, and they got into a big discussion about how that is not what he meant by the words "those people" (he meant the people who live on the island, not Mexicans in general) as well as discrimination in general. My dh works with young men from all over the world, and they often argue about what is and is not racist, so he sees both extremes, I think, and is trying to find the most respectful middle ground from which to raise our kids.

We've talked a lot about white privilege and while he agrees with the concept, he also feels that most people, white men included, have been discriminated against for something or other in their lifetime (himself because he was chubby as an older kid and was ridiculed even by a teacher ) and while it's not the same as being discriminated against your whole life simply because of your race, his argument is that it's not helpful or useful to assume that white men have no idea what everyone else is going through, or that they all walk around feeling superior all the time. I agree with that wholeheartedly, and in talking about it quite a bit, I think we understand each other's pov on this one, even while it evolves...

I think he would agree with whoever it was (in whichever thread ) who said that conscientious white people are the most uptight about proper use of language, and he doesn't want to feel like we have to censor everything we say with our kids, because our relationship with them won't be as genuine -- using the word "monkey" for example, as someone else mentioned -- I don't know how I would remove that from my "playing with a kid vocabulary" -- it would feel very unnatural to NOT call my little ones monkeys, yk? It's just bound to come out! I do fully understand the racial implications, but that is so NOT what I would be referring to, and I don't want to constantly censor myself with my own children, yk? I don't want them to feel we treated them any differently than our other two kids, and I think if we're mentally choosing our words carefully, they will feel it. we have a very open and comfortable relationship with our kids, and I hope that continues -- I think we just have to trust that any mistakes we make in language with them will be easily rectified simply because they will know how much we love them. every child finds fault with their parent when they're teens or young adults, and I would rather they ask us "why did you call us monkeys when we were kids? that's such a racist term!" than for them to feel like we were ever "on our guard" with them, yk?

It's a fine line, and we're trying to find it... My biggest goal is for my kids to understand that someone else's stupidity doesn't have to affect them. They can deal with instances of racism however they feel most inclined, but I want them to have the option of fighting it, if they choose, or ignoring it without feeling any consequence to their sense of self.
post #154 of 165
Thread Starter 
after re-reading my post, I had to clarify -- some white men certainly do walk around feeling superior all the time, and have no idea what anyone else is going through, nor do they care...

but not all of them.
post #155 of 165
Quote:
Originally Posted by SeekingSerenity View Post
My "exotic" daughter? Tootsie Pop

Webster's Online Dictionary defines exotic thusly:

1. Being or from or characteristic of another place or part of the world; "alien customs"; "exotic plants in a greenhouse"; "moved to a strange country".

2. Strikingly strange or unusual; "exotic costumes from the Far East"; "an exotic hair style".

So, strictly speaking, I guess my little girl is NOT exotic, because she isn't strange or unusual, though she is striking. She's also 100% American, and here in Texas that doesn't qualify as being from another place.

Bottom line, I don't think it's offensive, but YES I can see how someone else might.
I tihnk this definition is why, in the context of transracial or international adoption, the word exotic gives me pause. There's an implication of "strange" or "other" in the word. It carries with it the idea that some people are "normal" and "belong". I know my child doesn't really want to be considered "other" he wants to be part of the group, and deserves to be raised in his environment where he doesn't stand out to the degree where he'd be considered "exotic" or, where if he does stand out it's because he's his amazing self, not because of his hair or the color of his skin.

I also think that there are families who adopt transracially because they are looking for "exotic" -- they specifically want a child who is different, and will make them stand out. Again, I'm not sure that's fair to the child.

To me, the question of whether exotic is offensive is entirely dependent on context. If I'm a (blonde haired, blue eyed tourist) and someone implies that I'm exotic -- that's fine, after all, I'm there in part because the people who live there are "exotic" to me. If I were in a situation where I was trying to make myself stand out physically in an attempt to find a mate -- yes, exotic is fine. But in the context of a playground, or a job situation, where I want the focus to be on my skills or my personality or other aspects, then I think the word exotic would bother me (assuming I lived in a place where my looks were considered exotic), because it shifts the focus away from what's important about me.
post #156 of 165
Quote:
Originally Posted by Momily View Post
...To me, the question of whether exotic is offensive is entirely dependent on context. If I'm a (blonde haired, blue eyed tourist) and someone implies that I'm exotic -- that's fine, after all, I'm there in part because the people who live there are "exotic" to me. If I were in a situation where I was trying to make myself stand out physically in an attempt to find a mate -- yes, exotic is fine. But in the context of a playground, or a job situation, where I want the focus to be on my skills or my personality or other aspects, then I think the word exotic would bother me (assuming I lived in a place where my looks were considered exotic), because it shifts the focus away from what's important about me.
In a job situation, any type of compliment not explicitly relevant to professional capabilities would be troubling. In general situations, the whole point is that it doesn't matter whether you are called "exotic" or any other term at all. If you stand out, you stand out. If you have some tract or feature that will call attention to you, that is there. If that matters to people, it will come out in their behaviour, whatever words they use or don't use. That's why I think worrying about a word is sort of a false problem. The issue is that right or wrong, like it or not, lots of people will view me as "other" and that is what I have to work around to assert "whats important about me". At least in common parlance, "exotic" is most often meant as a compliment. Since "different" is there anyway, I'ld rather be "different in an attractive way", lol.
post #157 of 165
Quote:
Originally Posted by seriosa View Post
In a job situation, any type of compliment not explicitly relevant to professional capabilities would be troubling. .
Not sure about that. I regularly say things to co-workers like "did you get your hair cut? It looks great!" Not sure those things are particularly troubling. In a job interview? Yes, but not in a day to day situation.

But if a fellow teacher walked into the staff room and I called them "exotic". Yes, I think it would be a concern.
post #158 of 165
i have to say that this thread has been so informative and it good to see a variety of responses and to the original poster, i have to agree that your friend probably never imagined that this would create such a debate.
post #159 of 165
Quote:
Originally Posted by tiffani View Post
futurmama8, only time will tell...

my husband is just trying to find what he feels is the best path to raising transracially adopted kids. how do you instill pride, resilience, a strong sense of self, in the face of certain prejudice, without going overboard and causing your kids to assume that any stupid thing someone says is meant to hurt them, or coming from a place of racism?

Some people jump all over any phrase that is sometimes used in a racist manner (which is why my dh argued with me at first over my issue with the word exotic, though he has since come around to seeing my POV, as I see his) even if it isn't being used that way in a particular context. For example, we have a very close friend who is hispanic, and we were talking with him about our trip to Cozumel, a small island in Mexico that was nearly destroyed by a hurricane not too long before our trip there. My dh was talking about how the residents there worked together to re-build, as there was essentially no government support for the task. He said something along the lines of "in the face of all that destruction, those people were all there for each other, and just banded together to get done what needed to get done". Our friend took exception to his use of the phrase "those people", feeling that it was racist, and they got into a big discussion about how that is not what he meant by the words "those people" (he meant the people who live on the island, not Mexicans in general) as well as discrimination in general. My dh works with young men from all over the world, and they often argue about what is and is not racist, so he sees both extremes, I think, and is trying to find the most respectful middle ground from which to raise our kids.

We've talked a lot about white privilege and while he agrees with the concept, he also feels that most people, white men included, have been discriminated against for something or other in their lifetime (himself because he was chubby as an older kid and was ridiculed even by a teacher ) and while it's not the same as being discriminated against your whole life simply because of your race, his argument is that it's not helpful or useful to assume that white men have no idea what everyone else is going through, or that they all walk around feeling superior all the time. I agree with that wholeheartedly, and in talking about it quite a bit, I think we understand each other's pov on this one, even while it evolves...

I think he would agree with whoever it was (in whichever thread ) who said that conscientious white people are the most uptight about proper use of language, and he doesn't want to feel like we have to censor everything we say with our kids, because our relationship with them won't be as genuine -- using the word "monkey" for example, as someone else mentioned -- I don't know how I would remove that from my "playing with a kid vocabulary" -- it would feel very unnatural to NOT call my little ones monkeys, yk? It's just bound to come out! I do fully understand the racial implications, but that is so NOT what I would be referring to, and I don't want to constantly censor myself with my own children, yk? I don't want them to feel we treated them any differently than our other two kids, and I think if we're mentally choosing our words carefully, they will feel it. we have a very open and comfortable relationship with our kids, and I hope that continues -- I think we just have to trust that any mistakes we make in language with them will be easily rectified simply because they will know how much we love them. every child finds fault with their parent when they're teens or young adults, and I would rather they ask us "why did you call us monkeys when we were kids? that's such a racist term!" than for them to feel like we were ever "on our guard" with them, yk?

It's a fine line, and we're trying to find it... My biggest goal is for my kids to understand that someone else's stupidity doesn't have to affect them. They can deal with instances of racism however they feel most inclined, but I want them to have the option of fighting it, if they choose, or ignoring it without feeling any consequence to their sense of self.
You and your husband really need to read this book. It will help you guys figure out how to build self confidence in a child, I think of any color.
post #160 of 165
I personally find the word "exotic" offensive. I am a light skinned African-American (and 1/4 Turkish, although I identify mostly as black) with curly hair. When someone tells me I am "exotic," I think that is a way of saying I'm beautiful for not being white.

That is just my opinion. I would much rather be called beautiful, gorgeous, or any other adjective that can be used to describe an attractive woman of any race.
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