exoticization

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Twerk It Girl

Self-proclaimed “twerk scholar” Kimari Brand created this five-minute documentary on twerking as a feminist issue while studying at University of Texas. Brand used her experiences—including a course on feminism and performance art, her study abroad experience studying Caribbean culture, and her own experiences as a black woman—to argue that twerking is empowering, and not demeaning. The fact that twerking is appropriated as extremely sexualized and as pertaining to low-income people of color have given it stigma, which Brand fights against. I love this documentary because the represented groups are women of color who are being empowered and not exploited by the content creator—a scholar and woman of color herself.

Black women have been fetishized, objectified, and exploited for their physical features for centuries—perhaps one of the clearest examples of this is Sara Baartman, “a Khosian woman who was taken from Cape Town to Europe in 1810, where she became a traveling human exhibit of racial and sexual difference. […] she was ‘inscribed as the iconic figure of African womanhood in metropolitan fantasies: as fundamentally primitive and lacscivious” (Munro 390). This stereotype of women based off of the example of Baartman “shaped the ways in which black female bodies are viewed: with an emphasis on the rear end as a signifier of deviant sexuality. As a result, such associations of black female sexuality with animalistic characteristics emerge not just in pseudo-scientific studies of human anatomy but also in popular culture” (Munro 390). It is in this very way that twerking is seen as sexualized, when in reality it is merely “performance art,” as Brand says.

Source: Munro, “Caster Semenya: Gods and Monsters”

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What NOT to Call Beautiful Women

A lesson in racial microaggressions.

Watch on ofhimself.tumblr.com

Thank you Beyonce for taking something that I love, something that I grew up with, something that means so much to me and millions of other people, something that unified and reified our cultural identity and totally bastardizing it.

Thank you for sampling the monumental and brilliant work of Om Kalthoum and for decontextualizing it so much so as as to render it meaningless. Thank you for treating it as a generic “oriental” sound, perfect for your erotic Dance of the Seven Veils.

Beyonce, thank you for reminding me that you are not ***flawless.

youtube

In “Liquorice,” Azealia Banks boasts of her misandrist exploitation of rich white men whose exoticization of black women she turns to her monetary advantage. This is an example of an important truth about misandry: It can be profitable! If you’re always ready to run off with the Man’s, and especially the White Man’s, money at any moment, you’ll gain handsomely when the opportunity finally comes.

as someone who has strangers take pictures of them, especially on public transportation, i DO NOT fuckin support that shit and you are DEAD WRONG for invading someone’s personal space like that. no one exists for you to spectacularize them. fuck outta here.

if you think it’s ok to take pictures of someone because they “look weird” and you want to document that moment, FUCK YOU. and i mean that with all my being. i will call you out.

by the way, this only just occurred to me but

compare Elementary’s You Do It To Yourself to BBC Sherlock’s Blind Banker

The former is a perfect example of how race could have been a lot more skilfully written, so now there’s a fantastic example the next time anyone tells me that the Blind Banker was not racist at all

I really want to write up a proper thing of this later but the main points really are:

  • The villains of the episode were not a gang whose main characteristic and main identifier was race. That is a shitty thing to do.

  • The people of that race were not exotified, or at least exoticism isn’t viewed as a non-negative thing - compare Blind Banker in how the Chinese gang was an “exotic” dance/theatre group (with a lady who really stereotypically and intensely loved teapots), while the villain of You Do It To Yourself was a white guy who fetishised Asian culture and abused his Asian wife. Exoticism is wrong in Elementary!

  • They weren’t viewed as aliens of any sort, with a language barrier that made any form of communication void. In Elementary, at no point does Joan ever have to translate or ~communicate~ with any of the Chinese people, because that’s what they are, separate people! And in any case they speak different things anyway, Mandarin and Cantonese. Sherlock communicates in English with the owner of the gambling shop, because he knows that he is capable of it. Compare that to Blind Banker, where there was really no hesitance in casting Chinese people as some unanimous alien species with no separate features, and who all spoke the same language.

  • Chinese people are victims too! It’s not a big deal to see an Asian lady as a victim, there’s not a load of fuss made about that fact. And she was actually specifically a victim of exoticism and racism on the part of her husband. (POC in general aren’t anything to blink at in Elementary, because surprise, POC exist in real life! And they are just as competent, just as human, so on and so forth. Elementary goes far enough to show that, while BBC Sherlock with its all-white cast really doesn’t.)

Just casually typing up a small rant, because as a Chinese person, watching the Blind Banker was upsetting to say the least. Seeing Elementary treat that so well was amazing, and just adds to the List Of Reasons I Love Elementary. :’)

I don’t understand how The Expendables ISN’T about all the ladies from 80’s and 90’s badass action who were killed, maimed and/or spent like fucking currency to buy audience amusement and man-pain narrative.

I mean that’s what they were, the actual expendables. They were spent.

[*growly trailer voice*] AND NOW THEY’RE BACK. AND PAYBACK’S A BITCH.

Orientalism is a way of thinking that gives rationalization for European/Western colonialism based on the oppressive history in which “the West” constructed “the East” as “exotic”, “backward”, less “enlightened”, and in need of imperialism to be rescued. Part of it involves seeing Arab culture as exotic, uncivilized — representing a widespread socialization of which Europeans/Westerners are seen as inherently superior in comparison.

A part of Orientalism includes exoticization against the “Orient”/”Other” (East), which also involves seeing women of color as needing to be liberated via hypersexualization. In history, Orientalism hugely affects religious women of color and seeks to suppress certain religious rights. For example, historic colonialist violence relies on Orientalism to unveil religious Muslim women of color. This is found in the example of when Lord Cromer, a British leader in Egypt, accused the Egyptians of degrading women through veiling. Thus he attempted to unveil Egyptian women, which can be said to be a form of hypersexualization; and he attempted to show himself as liberating the “Orient”, whilst using the opportunity to end the pre-existing Egyptian practice of training women to be doctors and furthering colonialist interest at the expense of women. However, due to the large legacies left behind by historic colonialism, Orientalism can encompass many things globally and is not exclusively a religious issue; thus it extends to structures of institutional racism that are still alive today, which also effect non-religious women of color.

just something I got to thinking about the other day…

my white friends tell me a lot that they wish they had my physical appearances. 

I wish I had your thick curly hair. 

I would do anything for curves like yours.

You have such nice skin color.

And I know they mean perfectly well. They think I am beautiful, as I do them, but my answer is pretty much automatic and always the same.

No you don’t. 

I always answer this because I never thought of myself as being particularly attractive and because I think my friends look fine the way they are. 

But now that I that I think more about it, part of the reason I tell my white friends that they don’t want to look the way I look is because my features are simultaneously exoticized and demonized. 

You want my thick curly hair? Be ready to deal with being called messy, dirty, and unprofessional for leaving it natural. 

You want my curvy body and butt? Go ahead and deal with being called fat and lazy and unlovable. Alternatively, being ogled and fetishized for being “thick.” (And this is coming from someone who pretty much has a lot of thin privilege, but in my culture, being chubby is tantamount to really fat.) 

You want my skin color? More fetishization for not just being brown, but a lightskinned brown girl. I’m more acceptable, but oh the microaggressions are everywhere. 

And even if a white girl happens to have one or ALL of those features, she would be praised up and down for it, but still get to be just a white girl. 

I understand that ALL girls regardless of race go through self esteem issues with their appearance because of society standards, but you, as a white woman, are the literal standard of beauty. If I looked like my Typical White girlfriend, with her pin straight hair, super fair skin, and straight, small hipped body type, my family wouldn’t give me as much shit as they do now. And yet you want to look like me…why? 

So white friends, when you tell me that you wish you had certain features of mine…think about how you’re reducing me to certain features. I appreciate you trying to make me feel good about myself…but it kinda isn’t tho. 

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