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exotic = offensive? - Page 2

post #21 of 165
Same here, EdnaMarie. I totally agree with you.

These words can sometimes fracture a multicutural person's self image (from personal experience.) I struggle daily to become all parts of self due to years of being called "different", "exotic", "unique", and constantly being asked that intolerable question, "Where are you from?"

I am from the states. Originally and ancestrally.

Beauty is not dichotomous. It encompasses all.
post #22 of 165
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mtiger View Post
Personally, I find your reference to this friend as DH's "little friend" much more offensive than the term "exotic". The latter means unique and rare. The former? Is simply demeaning.
I actually read that before I posted and considered taking it out, but he's a good friend of ours, and they kind of have that relationship -- my dh is 42, friend is 25. In his defense, he said he meant exotic as "special, unique" but like others have pointed out here, that's not really what it means, if you go by the dictionary definition.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarah W View Post
We're all interesting to someone!
We are all interesting, and different, and a novelty somewhere, but that is very different than what the word "exotic" means. I found it interesting that most people who replied were blonde/white, and had tales of being found an oddity in other places. That is very true -- in cultures where there aren't a lot of blondes, people are fascinated by blonde hair, and white people in general -- BUT!!! I would argue that the actual term "exotic" would not be used, nor would the word used about the white person be an equivalent to the word "exotic". In parts of Africa, the words used to describe people who are not from there are more equivalent to "traveler" or simply "white person". Here is an interesting blog post I found from a Nigerian woman on the topic...

SilverWillow sums it up for me in her first post -- if you look at the actual definition of the word exotic, it is basically defined as "other", and why are white people "normal" and everyone else is "other"? it's funny, MCatLvrMom2A&X, because after I posted I did think of the fact that white women with sharp features are sometimes called exotic looking -- what does that really mean, though? the first thing that popped into my head was that they almost look alien or animal, with their very striking features -- not "normal" like everyone else, right? The term exotic, though, is often applied to women (not men, for the most part -- I've never heard it applied to men) of color who are also lovely to look at. Almost universally, I would bet that if you asked "pretty" women of color if they've ever been called 'exotic', the answer would be yes. there are models on the runways who are of all different races who are a little on the odd looking side, and they're there because their particular beauty is considered "exotic" whereas the odd looking white girls are called "unique" -- it's a double standard that I'm not comfortable with, and I know there are many others who aren't either, so I would choose not to use it.

Essentially, for me, "exotic" is a loaded term, and I don't think it should be applied to people. Plants, animals, locations, sure, but it's really objectifying and imperialistic to call a person exotic, imho.
post #23 of 165
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RedOakMomma View Post
Why do I find it offensive? I think it's one of many words that is used to label women from other cultures as hypersexual, submissive, seductive, etc. It's a word that smacks of cultural colonialism, going back to the days when white men oogled women from other cultures...seeing them as less than human but valuable for their exotic/native sexuality or beauty. It's objectifiying, in a racial and dominating way that I find inappropriate.

If someone used the term to describe my daughter, I'd have words for them.
I took this from the adoption forum, where I cross-posted this topic, because it explains my feelings on it really well. you can always count on RedOakMomma to explain your feelings better than you can!
post #24 of 165
dup
post #25 of 165
I've always taken "exotic" to mean rare, beautiful, or exciting - a compliment. But somewhere along the line the term "exotic dancer" was coined and has added an erotic element to the word.
post #26 of 165
Quote:
I've always taken "exotic" to mean rare, beautiful, or exciting - a compliment. But somewhere along the line the term "exotic dancer" was coined and has added an erotic element to the word.
This. It doesn't bother me, wouldn't bother me applied to my children, because I understand it as meaning what's in the first sentence, and a compliment. Even if it's not the dictionary meaning, it's a colloquial meaning. Language changes, as do meanings.

But because of the language change that refers to a certain type of dancer as "exotic", eh, I'd be hesitant to use it.

Personally, if I were to think of someone as "exotic" it wouldn't be because of their being a particular race. It would be a combination of features that made them stand out among others as particularly and eye-catchingly beautiful. And yes, I have thought that of white women as well as women of color.
post #27 of 165
I think that there is a time for using exotic, but because it is rude to make comments on personal appearance in general, it should not really be used for people. Exotic dress, exotic shoes, exotic music, fine. Exotic woman (whom you don't know so it's obviously a comment on appearance)? Nah.

That said, a white person in China or Africa IS exotic and foreign most of the time. It's considered quite rude to stare here but I don't know about those countries. If it is rude, some people don't seem to mind as much, or possibly cannot help it due to the novelty.
post #28 of 165
Quote:
Originally Posted by tiffani View Post
I took this from the adoption forum, where I cross-posted this topic, because it explains my feelings on it really well. you can always count on RedOakMomma to explain your feelings better than you can!
Hmm well from that point of view, while I am "white" I am latin american and from the third world and all of that, and I really hate when other people choose to be offended for me for things I couldn't care less, now it may be different when you adopt your child as at first you'll be his/her voice, but to choose to be offended for a woman in a restaurant it's a little too much.
post #29 of 165
Quote:
Personally, if I were to think of someone as "exotic" it wouldn't be because of their being a particular race. It would be a combination of features that made them stand out among others as particularly and eye-catchingly beautiful. And yes, I have thought that of white women as well as women of color.
:

This topic has made me think once again how I am afraid to make reference to anyone for fear of offending them without even knowing it I would never intentionally say something that I felt was hurtful to someone in a racist way but it is a big fear of mine.
post #30 of 165
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by TropicalGirl View Post
Hmm well from that point of view, while I am "white" I am latin american and from the third world and all of that, and I really hate when other people choose to be offended for me for things I couldn't care less, now it may be different when you adopt your child as at first you'll be his/her voice, but to choose to be offended for a woman in a restaurant it's a little too much.
I wasn't offended for her, I was just pointing out to my friend that if he were trying to woo a lady, calling her exotic might not work in his favor. I wouldn't call someone exotic, when 'beautiful' would suffice, and with the word exotic, you run the risk of making them feel alienated.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MCatLvrMom2A&X View Post
:

This topic has made me think once again how I am afraid to make reference to anyone for fear of offending them without even knowing it I would never intentionally say something that I felt was hurtful to someone in a racist way but it is a big fear of mine.
that's why we talk nicely about these things! how else do we learn what might offend people? If it's coming from a good place, you won't likely offend anyone, but I like to know what phrases and ideas are found to be offensive to people -- usually when I think about their reasoning, it makes sense, and then I choose other ways to describe people.
post #31 of 165
Quote:
Originally Posted by TropicalGirl View Post
Yep, I have seen exotic people in every color of the rainbow, I don't see how it could be offensive, I actually think it's kind of flatering like you are special or something, while I don't consider myself exotic (I'm white and have blue eyes), In some circumstances I may be considered exotic mostly because of my accent and curly hair and I don't mind it one bit.


Heck I have blonde hair and grey-blue eyes and have been called exotic.

As far as I know, it just means as another PP said, lovely in a ways that seems to almost transcend beauty.
post #32 of 165
Well I don't mention anything about "white people" (who also comprise many, many groups) in normal conversation, either, you know? That would also be racist and inconsiderate.

I dunno, I was raised to believe that one does not make comments on personal appearance, and one discusses money, politics, and race only with very, very close friends and immediate family. That's why it's offensive, not because it implies that someone is a racist.

I have to agree that if it were me, not that any guy is going to have a chance to try the line as I'm married and so on, I would so be turned off. Exotic? Like a dancer? Is that the BEST you can come up with ?
post #33 of 165
Thread Starter 
I hadn't really even thought about it in terms of 'exotic dancers'... wondering now why they're called that (what is the history of exotic dancers, did they used to be exclusively "foreign" in north america?), and I think it sort of adds to my point about the term 'exotic' being applied to people can be demeaning and objectifying...
post #34 of 165
I think one thing to remember is that you can actually offend someone by trying to be too inoffensive, if that makes sense. I would rather someone call me exotic and ask about my ancestry than make an assumption, because usually that assumption is incorrect.
post #35 of 165
Quote:
Originally Posted by SilverWillow View Post
I find it offensive, because it perpetuates the idea that the empowered group is "normal" and anything that differs from it is the "other." it's also a sexualized term, and used to objectify people. people of color are termed "exotic" sometimes to relegate them to the status of animals who cannot control their sexuality in order to titillate people -- see the typical portayal of AA folks in pornography for a stark example of this. children (and all people) of color are simply PEOPLE who belong just fine exactly where they are, no matter where they are, and calling them exotic tells them at the very least that they are "other." why do it? celebrating diversity is not about pointing out that one who doesn't belong to an empowered majority "belongs" somewhere else - it's about incuding them as uniquely themselves, but just one of the many parts of "normal." exotic means unique in a way that tells a person they don't belong to normal, and that's why it's offensive.
ITA 100%. Calling someone "exotic" (and I've been on the receiving end) is very "othering." In many contexts, I can see how that isn't an issue, but in the world of race and difference, the term carries a lot of weight. I am sure many people aren't offended by it, but I am.
post #36 of 165
It has been used to describe my daughter by strangers and friends. It does not offend me. I try to look beyond the word and see what they really meant. The friends, I know their hearts and know that they are not raciest. I take it as it was meant, a complament.
With strangers I don't know their hearts. I will still say "thank you" and move on. Because if they mean it as a complement then I treat it like one. If they mean it in a raciest way then they are not worth my fretting over and I move on. The end result is the same. I move on without offence taken.


Quote:
that's why we talk nicely about these things! how else do we learn what might offend people?
But the "what might offend" is a HUGE list. Humongous! And it is different for everyone. Exotic is offensive to some. I get that. So should I never use it? If I stopped using a word or a saying or ...(fill in the blank).... because it might offended someone I would never open my mouth. Every thing I say from the word "good morning" all the way to "get to bed" is offensive to someone somewhere. I can see the frustration of the other poster
Quote:
once again how I am afraid to make reference to anyone for fear of offending them without even knowing it
I feel like that too.

I have a ton of empathy. Sometimes so much that it is hard sometimes. I often sacrifice my own comfort to make sure others are comfortable. I always put myself in the other ones shoes. I would never intentionally hurt someone.
post #37 of 165
Yes, it offends me. It's not the most offensive thing I've ever heard, but I agree with PPs that it is "othering." We all know what it "technically" means-- theoretically it is value-neutral and not laden with historical white supremacy-- but the way it's used is problematic. I am multi-ethnic and have been told many times I am "exotic" looking, which is always a precursor to questions about my (assumed) non-white ancestry. "Exotic" has always creeped me out WRT my female cousin (Asian Indian and white), and I am not looking forward to hearing it about my female children (who will be Filipino and white/Jewish/black). It's TIRESOME.

Which is the other issue-- as folks have mentioned. It's fairly exclusively applied to women. It's somewhat fetishistic, really. I'm sorry, but I'm kind of tired of people defending things like this by bringing up (more or less) the dictionary definition and not thinking a little more deeply about how they are actually applied, or how they might make folks feel. I'm sure blue-eyed blondes have been called exotic-- for the most part, if they have "non-white" or non-blonde-associated features and that's kind of the point. OR if they are in a very homogenous non-white culture (although they still have privilege in that context). "Exotic" = different = other = not like us. Which is BS in a diverse country like the US. Ugh. I'm just tired of people trying to pinpoint how folks aren't white or "fully white." "Genuine, innocent curiosity" or not.

"Exotic" is not the hill I'd choose to die on or anything, but yes, it's problematic.
post #38 of 165
Just a question... What is wrong with being identified as "different" from the average? I am very happy about not looking like everyone else.
post #39 of 165
Quote:
Originally Posted by MusicianDad View Post
Just a question... What is wrong with being identified as "different" from the average? I am very happy about not looking like everyone else.
I agree with you. Just saying.
post #40 of 165
Quote:
Originally Posted by MusicianDad View Post
Just a question... What is wrong with being identified as "different" from the average? I am very happy about not looking like everyone else.
Your reply post just made me .

My two cents: I don't mind that I've been called exotic or the food I eat is called exotic or even if sometimes the clothes I wear is exotic. Here in the US it technically applies to me since I am foreign in this country and I am different. In China they also consider me exotic because I'm still different from them as well even though I'm 75% Chinese and technically I'm foreign to them too. Guess I don't belong anywhere .

I've always found the responses to these types of threads so interesting to see what every person's individual take is and it always seems the end consensus is that everyone is going to have a different opinion on what they personally find offensive or not. To me anything can be considered offensive dependent on what the intention is behind it.
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