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exotic = offensive? - Page 3

post #41 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.
Because it's a lie.

I'm not exotic (foreign or unusual).

People of more or less pure Euro ancestry are. They are the minority compared to all the other minorities. They came here from somewhere else after my Apache forebears.

Plus it's a comment on personal appearance, which is crossing a line.

See the point?

I mean it would be equally rude to go up to someone and say, "Wow, you're so pale! What are you?" or "Gosh, you look so translucent! What's your ancestry?" or "You are SO skinny like my cousin who is anorexic. You should eat." or "Did you know you're fat?" Dark or light, skinny or fat, it's never appropriate.

Pick-up lines should be focused on the person's general appearance or better yet, personality.
post #42 of 165
Ditto what other posters have said about the colonial origins of the word. Also ditto that I would never presume to tell another POC they should be offended by a word. But I am offended by it. I typically won't get into an argument with someone over it, but over the years I have become quick to judge and if a person uses that word to describe me during our early acquaintance, I will often decide that I no longer have an interest in getting to know them, as I am likely to feel objectified and frustrated.

"Exotic" frequently identifies me as a lust object rather than as a person, and is often used as if this is a compliment for a positive quality that I should be grateful to have imputed to me.

The other thing that bothers me about "exotic" and the accompanying prying that often goes with it - which is usually done entirely for the gratification of the person interrogating me (usually a person with whom I have no or very little acquaintance, rather than someone who is a friend, and who I have a pre-existing relationship with) is that that person doesn't care that this term they assume is positive actually has a host of negative connotations for me.

Not in the least, it reminds me of my dual existence, of the imperialistic violence that led to my origins. It reminds me that my father's people dominated my mother's people; it reminds me that my father - who is a very nice and likeable person, by the way - sexually dominated my mother and later me, in a very inappropriate and disrespectful way. It reminds me that he did these things, most likely, not because he is an evil person who means ill (on the contrary, he is a kind person who probably saved the lives of my maternal family simply by sharing what he had with them, simply because he believed it was right to do so; and he believes these things so intrinsically that he would not call himself "good" for doing such a thing), but because he was unconsciously taught certain things about "Other" women that meant that he might never fully see my mother, my brother, or myself fully as human beings, no matter how much he tries or claims to love us. Though he probably thinks he sees us as human beings, he is divided from us even though I do believe he cares very much for us. I do not think he is even aware of thinking this way. I doubt very much at his late age that he would be able to change. He tries, though.

It reminds me that I love my father, that I cannot help but love my father, that my mother loves my father and asks that my brother and I love and respect him; and yet I also despise him for his carelessness and ignorance that has caused my mother so much pain, and myself.

It reminds me that I owe my existence to terrible circumstances.

So there is this dual feeling. And I wonder how many people who are "mixed" have similar dual feelings, especially those who have one parent at one end of the power gradient, and the other parent at some other place. Or how many people who are transracially adopted who have these dual feelings. How you can love someone so much but still be aware of the power gradient of race that separates you, no matter how much you or that other person might not want it to. Even if that person you are separated from has not done bad things (although many times they do bad things because they are unaware of what they are doing), you are still separated from them. You must sometimes remember that you are unconsciously dominated by them; or if not by them personally, then perhaps part of your circumstance in the world has been caused by their people. And yet you love them, for loving you, and you love them because they are your parents; or because they are your husband or wife, or your sibling.

I do think this is why racism is a terrible evil in our world; because it divides even parents and children, even when parents and children don't want it to, even when parents and children try hard to make it not matter, it looms there, intruding.

And the word "exotic" highlights all these things, and never in a thoughtful way, always in a way that is intended to satisfy someone else's brief curiousity or amusement or need to label. The word "exotic" perpetuates these things.

Musician Dad, I don't think it's about being proud or not proud of being different. I am who I am, I like how I look, and I don't wish I were different. I can't wish that I am different person than I am, because who wishes to be nothing? But it doesn't mean that I think that whatever happened in the past is just and right, simply because we can't go back and change it.
post #43 of 165
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sh0rtchica View Post
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.
there's nothing wrong with asking about a person's ancestry. pretend you're a single female, chatting at a party with a man, and compare these two sentences:

"you're so exotic, where are you from?"

"what is your family's background?" or "what is your heritage?"

which sentence makes you feel like the person is interested in you as a person, and which makes you feel like the person is interested in you as a fetish? I don't think anyone needs to necessarily attack someone who calls them exotic, as they maybe might if they were called other, less "complimentary" things, but if I were that woman at a party, the man who said the first sentence would have to have a lot going for him for me to continue talking to him, whereas the man who asked me the second question I would gladly converse with. It's a subtle but important difference, and maybe there are women who don't mind being called exotic (obviously, as there are many here) but to me it's icky and objectifying and "othering" and yes, even fetishist.

Quote:
Originally Posted by candipooh View Post
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.
I completely agree with this, and ideally, that's pretty much how all sensitive conversations or comments should be handled. at the same time, what is wrong with pointing out to a friend that they're using a word that is considered really inappropriate by many women? the onus can't always be on the target to just suck it up and not be offended if the intention was good, because it is very hard to read people's intentions sometimes. we all need to do our best to not use language that offends.

Quote:
Originally Posted by candipooh View Post
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?
the list really isn't that long, and it's pretty easy to go on your merry way, doing your thing, and altering your vocabulary as these things are pointed out to you. I would argue that yes, using exotic to describe people should be stricken from your repertoire.

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.
there isn't anything wrong with being different, it's awesome! but do you really not see how using the word exotic to describe a person (especially a woman, who is physically more of a target than a man) can be considered offensive? like others have said, it isn't the worst thing someone could say, but it certainly isn't the best either.
post #44 of 165
Thread Starter 
cyclamen, we cross-posted, thank you for sharing, it means a lot.
post #45 of 165
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.
post #46 of 165
Quote:
Originally Posted by cyclamen View Post
Ditto what other posters have said about the colonial origins of the word. Also ditto that I would never presume to tell another POC they should be offended by a word. But I am offended by it. I typically won't get into an argument with someone over it, but over the years I have become quick to judge and if a person uses that word to describe me during our early acquaintance, I will often decide that I no longer have an interest in getting to know them, as I am likely to feel objectified and frustrated.

"Exotic" frequently identifies me as a lust object rather than as a person, and is often used as if this is a compliment for a positive quality that I should be grateful to have imputed to me.

The other thing that bothers me about "exotic" and the accompanying prying that often goes with it - which is usually done entirely for the gratification of the person interrogating me (usually a person with whom I have no or very little acquaintance, rather than someone who is a friend, and who I have a pre-existing relationship with) is that that person doesn't care that this term they assume is positive actually has a host of negative connotations for me.

Not in the least, it reminds me of my dual existence, of the imperialistic violence that led to my origins. It reminds me that my father's people dominated my mother's people; it reminds me that my father - who is a very nice and likeable person, by the way - sexually dominated my mother and later me, in a very inappropriate and disrespectful way. It reminds me that he did these things, most likely, not because he is an evil person who means ill (on the contrary, he is a kind person who probably saved the lives of my maternal family simply by sharing what he had with them, simply because he believed it was right to do so; and he believes these things so intrinsically that he would not call himself "good" for doing such a thing), but because he was unconsciously taught certain things about "Other" women that meant that he might never fully see my mother, my brother, or myself fully as human beings, no matter how much he tries or claims to love us. Though he probably thinks he sees us as human beings, he is divided from us even though I do believe he cares very much for us. I do not think he is even aware of thinking this way. I doubt very much at his late age that he would be able to change. He tries, though.

It reminds me that I love my father, that I cannot help but love my father, that my mother loves my father and asks that my brother and I love and respect him; and yet I also despise him for his carelessness and ignorance that has caused my mother so much pain, and myself.

It reminds me that I owe my existence to terrible circumstances.

So there is this dual feeling. And I wonder how many people who are "mixed" have similar dual feelings, especially those who have one parent at one end of the power gradient, and the other parent at some other place. Or how many people who are transracially adopted who have these dual feelings. How you can love someone so much but still be aware of the power gradient of race that separates you, no matter how much you or that other person might not want it to. Even if that person you are separated from has not done bad things (although many times they do bad things because they are unaware of what they are doing), you are still separated from them. You must sometimes remember that you are unconsciously dominated by them; or if not by them personally, then perhaps part of your circumstance in the world has been caused by their people. And yet you love them, for loving you, and you love them because they are your parents; or because they are your husband or wife, or your sibling.

I do think this is why racism is a terrible evil in our world; because it divides even parents and children, even when parents and children don't want it to, even when parents and children try hard to make it not matter, it looms there, intruding.

And the word "exotic" highlights all these things, and never in a thoughtful way, always in a way that is intended to satisfy someone else's brief curiosity or amusement or need to label. The word "exotic" perpetuates these things.

Musician Dad, I don't think it's about being proud or not proud of being different. I am who I am, I like how I look, and I don't wish I were different. I can't wish that I am different person than I am, because who wishes to be nothing? But it doesn't mean that I think that whatever happened in the past is just and right, simply because we can't go back and change it.
Very well put, cyclamen, especially the references to family and where we come from, and how hard it can be when you don't like the actions of half the people you came from and what their ancestors did to the other half of the people you came from.
post #47 of 165
Quote:
Originally Posted by tiffani View Post
cyclamen, we cross-posted, thank you for sharing, it means a lot.
Your welcome. It's a subject I've thought quite alot about, as you can probably tell.

FWIW, I would tell your friend that calling a woman exotic might damage his chances with her, and not calling her exotic will never damage his chances with her (if he's a single guy). If he doesn't care, then he's a bit of a tool, since the point of calling someone exotic is ostensibly to compliment (at least that's what everyone claims when you ask them why they use that word) and so one wants to give a compliment that will be well received. A person who compliments someone in a way that they don't care how the person takes it is not trying to compliment, but to dominate.

Most women are more charmed by being called "beautiful" than exotic. My boyfriend got major points when I met him for never asking me where I was "from" or what I "was" . At some point after we knew each other better, the subject naturally arose. And now we have a beautiful baby! And god help the person who calls her exotic! LOL.
post #48 of 165
cyclamen, thank you so much. That was amazing. I have some thoughts, but I'm actually so moved by your post that I need to take some time to contribute.
post #49 of 165
Quote:
Originally Posted by EdnaMarie View Post
Because it's a lie.

I'm not exotic (foreign or unusual).

People of more or less pure Euro ancestry are. They are the minority compared to all the other minorities. They came here from somewhere else after my Apache forebears.

Plus it's a comment on personal appearance, which is crossing a line.

See the point?

I mean it would be equally rude to go up to someone and say, "Wow, you're so pale! What are you?" or "Gosh, you look so translucent! What's your ancestry?" or "You are SO skinny like my cousin who is anorexic. You should eat." or "Did you know you're fat?" Dark or light, skinny or fat, it's never appropriate.

Pick-up lines should be focused on the person's general appearance or better yet, personality.
It's a lie that your different from everyone else? How is it possible to be just like every other person in the world? or country for that matter?

People ask me all the time about my skin, white people. Because lets face it, even for someone with OCA2 I am fair skinned. They want to know where am I from, why do I have pale skin... Unless they are being terribly rude about it I am more then happy to answer their questions.
post #50 of 165
Quote:
Originally Posted by tiffani View Post

there isn't anything wrong with being different, it's awesome! but do you really not see how using the word exotic to describe a person (especially a woman, who is physically more of a target than a man) can be considered offensive? like others have said, it isn't the worst thing someone could say, but it certainly isn't the best either.
No I can't, the only places I have seen/heard it used in a sexual setting are strip bars (bachelor party I apperently had to go to ) and on TV, and not the usual TV stations, more like showtime or HBO.

In the rest of the world I have heard it to discribe someone who is beautiful but in a way that sets them apart from those around them.
post #51 of 165
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.
: Best post in this thread. Meaning is all in the intention. (maybe I should go edit this sentiment into my other posts in the other branch of this thread, because it was the thought driving those posts)
post #52 of 165
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MusicianDad View Post
No I can't
really? after everything you've read here from women being objectified with the term exotic, you can't see how it can be offensive? carry on then...

Quote:
Originally Posted by MusicianDad View Post
It's a lie that your different from everyone else? How is it possible to be just like every other person in the world? or country for that matter?
it's a lie that she is 'exotic' since her ancestors were here long before any white person's ancestors were. the white people are the exotic ones in the US, is what she is saying, I believe.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cyclamen View Post

FWIW, I would tell your friend that calling a woman exotic might damage his chances with her, and not calling her exotic will never damage his chances with her (if he's a single guy). If he doesn't care, then he's a bit of a tool, since the point of calling someone exotic is ostensibly to compliment (at least that's what everyone claims when you ask them why they use that word) and so one wants to give a compliment that will be well received. A person who compliments someone in a way that they don't care how the person takes it is not trying to compliment, but to dominate.
that was sort of the frame of reference for our original conversation... I was giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming that he wasn't being a tool -- if I thought he was, I probably would have stated my case a little differently.

I agree that heritage is not a good opening conversation piece, and if someone brings it up right off the bat they're either objectifying you or maybe have a tie to your heritage and might want to further that connection. We're adopting a little girl from Uganda, and I can totally see myself accosting someone on the street if I thought they were Ugandan, to maybe learn something from them or forge a connection. Hopefully they'd assume the best of my potential rudeness! .
post #53 of 165
Thread Starter 
oh, and seriosa, I agree with you wholeheartedly -- the intention is everything, and usually if someone has good intentions, they aren't all that bothered by having offensive language pointed out, and appreciate being told that what they are saying has the potential to wound someone. It's always awkward having a mistake pointed out to you, but I, for one, would rather know that a term is offensive to some, rather than carry on using it in ignorance.
post #54 of 165
Quote:
Originally Posted by tiffani View Post
really? after everything you've read here from women being objectified with the term exotic, you can't see how it can be offensive? carry on then...


it's a lie that she is 'exotic' since her ancestors were here long before any white person's ancestors were. the white people are the exotic ones in the US, is what she is saying, I believe.
I am not going to base my life on what other people tell me they have experienced. I am going to base it on what I have experienced. Sorry if that is confusing to you, but I don't think something just because someone else tells me to.

Being here first doesn't make one "not exotic", being different from the population around you makes you exotic.
post #55 of 165
Quote:
Originally Posted by MusicianDad View Post
It's a lie that your different from everyone else? How is it possible to be just like every other person in the world? or country for that matter?
This is equivocation. "Exotic" implies a certain kind of difference- a difference from the dominant, or main, or familiar because one is from a different, foreign place- that is evident in one's appearance. I object to this because I object to being cast as the outsider. I am not. I am a native. To say that a mixed-race person looks exotic implies that that person does not look native, which in turn implies that to be native is to be white.

This is not to say that I do not look different in any way from anyone else. I do look different from every other person in my specific features, but I do not look noticeably different from the norm, unless you assume that the norm is "pure" "white", or "pure" "black" (neither of which are useful categories, but they are used).

Quote:
People ask me all the time about my skin, white people. Because lets face it, even for someone with OCA2 I am fair skinned. They want to know where am I from, why do I have pale skin... Unless they are being terribly rude about it I am more then happy to answer their questions.
I think it's rude to make comments asking about people's skin or appearance. It's fine that you accept it, but if someone asked me whether to ask about it [your paleness] or not, I'd say- don't, it's rude.
post #56 of 165
It's more rude to stare, which someone is inclined to do when they are curious and not willing to ask.
That goes for my skin tone and my disability.
post #57 of 165
Quote:
Originally Posted by tiffani View Post
that was sort of the frame of reference for our original conversation... I was giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming that he wasn't being a tool -- if I thought he was, I probably would have stated my case a little differently.
Heh, I figured. I guess I was answering more to the hypothetical. It always confuses me when people insist they meant it as a compliment. Well, if you really meant to compliment, then why don't you care if it's not recieved that way? Eh. But as others have pointed out, people who truly have good intentions rarely respond by insisting that since they meant well, the recipient of the alleged compliment must take it well...

Quote:
I agree that heritage is not a good opening conversation piece, and if someone brings it up right off the bat they're either objectifying you or maybe have a tie to your heritage and might want to further that connection. We're adopting a little girl from Uganda, and I can totally see myself accosting someone on the street if I thought they were Ugandan, to maybe learn something from them or forge a connection. Hopefully they'd assume the best of my potential rudeness! .
I do think that when trying to forge a connection, most people won't take it as a rudeness. We all like to make connections with others, and the person doing the asking usually offers some piece of personal information about themselves that explains why they are asking - a kind of trade, I think? Congratulations on your adoption, by the way!
post #58 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.
WSS

As a visible minority, I tire quickly when people ask me "where are you from?" because they think I look exotic. I have a suspicion that the majority of the poeple here who are not offended by being referred to as "exotic" are not a visible minority.

And making the claim that they'd be considered "exotic" in Sierra Leone or China isn't exactly the equivalent of being a non-white visible minority in North America or Western Europe...
post #59 of 165
Quote:
Originally Posted by MusicianDad View Post
It's more rude to stare, which someone is inclined to do when they are curious and not willing to ask.
That goes for my skin tone and my disability.
Well, I personally think it's equally rude to do both (staring and asking, just staring, or just asking), and certainly hope to teach my children that.

Quote:
And making the claim that they'd be considered "exotic" in Sierra Leone or China isn't exactly the equivalent of being a non-white visible minority in North America or Western Europe...
Thank you! Not least because so few whites, I mean a minuscule number, relatively, are born in China (and in Sierra Leone, at least of late, though more relative to the native population), so really we are talking about someone being truly foreign, and therefore, truly exotic, to that situation.

Whereas here, 33% of the population self-identifies as non-white, and most of them are native-born.
post #60 of 165
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by FelixMom View Post
And making the claim that they'd be considered "exotic" in Sierra Leone or China isn't exactly the equivalent of being a non-white visible minority in North America or Western Europe...
exactly. and I would suspect (and may do some research on this if I find a spare moment) that the language used to describe people from elsewhere in more homogeneous populations are not, in fact, equivalent to the word exotic, which has imperialistic connotations when applied to people.


Quote:
Originally Posted by EdnaMarie View Post
Thank you! Not least because so few whites, I mean a minuscule number, relatively, are born in China (and in Sierra Leone, at least of late, though more relative to the native population), so really we are talking about someone being truly foreign, and therefore, truly exotic, to that situation.

Whereas here, 33% of the population self-identifies as non-white, and most of them are native-born.
that's a really, really good point.

and if anyone is interested, this same conversation is going on in the adoption forum, and RedOakMomma has really gone to town on the subject...
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