"Not Your Exotic"
Start writing a post
Community

"Not Your Exotic"

Why calling someone "Exotic" is not a compliment. Title inspired by the poem by Suheir Hammad.
160
"Not Your Exotic"
https://www.katrin.co.za/Hair-Kinfolk

"You're just ethnically ambiguous", my friend's voice echoed in my head. I was around the age of thirteen the first time I was referred to as "exotic". My vision of myself as a woman was still developing, and I don't think I genuinely understood what that meant – to be exotic. At the time, I quickly took it as a compliment. After all, having grown up in Venezuela, it had been hammered into my head that my appearance was the result of hundreds of years of interracial mixing; I was the result of a glorious, melting-pot of races, all united under the pretext of a "New World". What a bunch of crap. For years, I had silently accepted the word "exotic" as a compliment, not knowing that it was deeply harming my perception of myself as a woman of color, as well as furthering a toxic narrative about beauty standards in Western cultures.

1. It's degrading

It takes one (1) Google search to look up what exotic means – and in which contexts it is (or should be) utilized. That one Google search will define the word "exotic" as the following: "originating in or characteristic of a distant foreign country". Above it, the words "physics", "chemistry", "plant" and "tropical" sit, matter-of-factly. A definition worthy of a textbook! It can only be inferred then, that the word "exotic" should only be utilized to describe, well, forest and fauna. I am neither an animal nor a flower, but when faced with the backhanded compliment, "You look so exotic!" I personally like to answer with a slew of bird noises.

2. It's an unnecessary way to single out a body of color

When you call someone "exotic" you are inherently othering them. You are implying that they do not look like the norm, particularly because they may look "foreign", and in most cases, non-white. Although your comment may be well-intentioned, the recipient of the backhanded compliment will just simply be made acutely aware of the differentiation you just placed between you and them through pointing out their appearance. I don't know about you, but sometimes I just don't want to be hyper conscious of the color of my skin and my non-white features 24/7. Especially at a predominantly white space – it is exhausting.

3. It perpetuates Western beauty standards

Think about this, what does it really mean to call someone's appearance "exotic"? Usually, when people call someone else "exotic" it's because they don't see their beauty as "conventional" according to Western beauty standards. Yes, I know I don't look like a white girl, but if you really wanted to compliment me, you would have said something else (perhaps just "pretty")? Certainly, then, calling someone "exotic" perpetuates the idea that only what is Western is conventionally beautiful. This all goes back to the idea that white = norm and non-white = foreign and unusual. We as a society should be way past the perception of white as the standard, as it is simply ignorant and naive.

Next time you find yourself tempted to mention how "exotic" someone else's appearance is, try to think of why. Why must you use this word? Perhaps they want to be complimented on something that is beyond the product of a normalized, white supremacist point of view.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Featured

How I Celebrate Valentine's Day

Every person, every couple celebrates Valentines in different ways, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

1192
How I Celebrate Valentine's Day
https://stokpic.com/project/love-heart-art-on-urban-street/

Ah, Valentines Day, a day of excitement for some and heart break for many. There are three kinds of people on Valentine's Day: the ones who make it a big deal, a little deal, and those who are single, but Valentine's Day can be fun for anyone if you have the right spirit in mind.

Keep Reading... Show less
Warner Bros. Television

1. You don't have to feel guilty about flirting with customers for tips (or just for shits and giggles).

2. You can be obnoxiously flirtatious with anyone you want. You are free to be that girl that flirts with everybody and makes 'em all smile (it's especially fun when the guy is as cute as Collin Jost). No shame.

3. Making random men nervous with your superior beauty and intense eye contact just for the hell of it is really amusing and empowering.

4. No one gives two poops if ya legs are hairy (your man shouldn't either but *Kermit the Frog meme* That's none of my business)

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

Black History Month? Try Black History Year

What does Black History Month mean to you?

1666
madamenoire

African Americans have done so much and will forever be remembered for their accomplishments. In my opinion, there is no such thing as Black History Month. All year, we should celebrate the amazing poetry, music, inventions, and accomplishments that has surfaced over the last 100 years. Let's take a look...

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

A TikTok Ban? Nope, That's Not Happening

We've seen this movie before with the popular social media app.

4636
tiktok

Here we go again. There's a groundswell of support to ban TikTok in the United States.

Keep Reading... Show less
Content Inspiration

Top 3 Response Articles of This Week

Check out what's trending on Odyssey!

4765
writing on a page with a hand holding a pen as if the person is beginning to write something
c1.staticflickr.com

Looking for some inspiration to kick off your Monday? Check out these articles by our talented team of response writers! From poetry to tips for manifesting your dream life, there's something for everyone.

Keep Reading... Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments