exoticization

vimeo

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”

NC: This is so frustrating. Buzzfeed posted a video on Americans trying Columbian food, and one girl posted, “Well of course you like our food, we Columbians have the most amazing food and beautiful women” And people agreed with her? Where were the people who go “all girls are beautiful? How come everybody else has the luxury of praising their women’s beauty expect for us?

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.

C: I don’t believe in “preferences”. It’s synonymous with having a “fetish”. If you do, at the very least own up to it. You’re interested in someone at first glance because of their race. Just be honest. And if you think that there is nothing wrong with this, then I truly hope you don’t say anything if any man says they “don’t date black women because they’re black”. If it sounds wrong coming out of a another person’s mouth, it doesn’t sound right coming out of your’s.

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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.

Confession- My Chinese friend invited me to stay with her family in Beijing next summer. I’m really excited, but I’ve heard that there might be some touching of my hair or skin. This doesn’t put me off, but if someone does end up touching my hair, I hope they respectfully ask to beforehand instead of just doing it like I’m a pet.


Let me go ahead and tell you: everyone won’t ask and most will just touch and they may pull you involuntarily to take pictures if they don’t take pictures of you while you walk around. It’s happened to my friend that studied abroad in HK and did some traveling to Beijing. Not fun. Another friend of mine found it amusing, but she’s one to give people the benefit of the doubt. Just be prepared.

-Admin Kelcie

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. 

:|

Dear ABC,

Do you recall how Pan Am employed numerous Japanese Nisei stewardesses during the 50’s and 60’s? Do you recall how they played an INTEGRAL part in the history of the Jet Age, despite and possibly because of the racism and exoticization they had to face on a daily basis?

Yet again, Japanese American women are excluded thanks to misinterpreted historical tv/movies.

Thanks for that.

Cordially yours,

A disappointed Japanese former Pan Am employee’s daughter.

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.

damegreywulf asked:

Just wondering, can you guys explain the definition of orientalism? I've recently seen it being used as a term for discrimination and/or exoticism, but trying to look this up, I just get art history in which white people tried to copy traditional Asian art styles.

So the idea started with Edward Said’s book, “Orientalism”, where he criticized the way western societies perceived “the Orient”. According to him, Europeans viewed themselves as “advanced”, “logical”, “rational” and “enlightened”. Therefore, “the East” was defined as the opposite. It played into the perception that North Africa and Asia were some kind of shapeless mass, a simplistic, backwards, dirty, strange, animalistic, exotic culture. The “Orient” was defined as Other - almost inhuman. And because European women were idealized as being “pure”, Eastern women would be sexualized (like in the paintings you might have seen of Orientalist art, esp. the “Harem” ones).

Or course (similarly to the myth of the “noble savage”), they had a strange relationship to the Orient, because at the same time they devalued it, they set it up as a sort of fantasy. Adventure, and conquest and beautiful women, and eroticism and mysticism…

“The West’s imagined construct of the East: strange religions and martial arts, bright colours and barbaric practices, unusual foods and incomprehensible languages, mysticism and magic, ninjas and kung fu. Asia becomes innately unusual, alien, and beastly. In Orientalism, Asia is not defined by what Asia is; rather, Asia becomes an “Otherized” fiction of everything the West is not, and one that primarily serves to reinforce the West’s own moral conception of itself.”

Under orientalism, all Asian (and North African) cultures are the same, sophisticated writing systems become “symbols”, women become faceless exotic conquests, symbols of colonial conquest, everything can become a conquest, an “object” rather than a “subject, and the culture can be “consumed”. Like fetichization, it’s reductive, dehumanizing. And a lot of pop culture tropes still play into this.

I personally tend to use it when referring to culture (and fetishization when referring to people - though it seems to come down to similar things). I’m not entirely sure if this is the right usage - I’ve never studied this in an academic context - but that’s what makes sense to me. I’ve reblogged  couple of posts on the subject, under the tag “orientalism”, if that helps :) 

-Mod V

huffingtonpost.ca
Why I Don't Sleep With White Guys

I live in a predominately white city. Everywhere I went, I was white men’s object (emphasis on object) of desire. I was being objectified, exoticized and sexualized for being one of few coloured girls in a sea of white men. Until I regain my trust in white men, I’ve saved myself from being checked off someone’s “To Do” list again. 

An interesting read and honestly? I feel the same way as the author. 

-Ro. 

“Chinese Food”

Patrice Wilson, who gained notoriety for producing Rebecca Black’s “Friday”, has now given the world “Chinese Food”, a song that has outraged many for its exotifying content.

thisfightisntover has noted that people who do not want to contribute to the view count can read a summary (complete with screen caps) at Buzzfeed:

The Guy Who Did Rebecca Black’s “Friday” Made A New Song Called “Chinese Food” And It’s So Embarrassing

Meanwhile Angry Asian Girls United has reposted Jenny Yang’s verdict.

Immigrant notes on Exclusion

When I talk about immigrant issues to my white western friends or just people around, I often get the same reaction. “But whats your problem? You’re white, everything is fine for you.” Probably these people have never heard about theory of intersections, that states that our life is the intersection of  dozens of different fields, of various structures. We are either privileged or oppressed, to a varying degree, we have different amount of resources, that appear from our identities. If you are a cisgender man, you benefit from male dominance, if you’re white – from white supremacy, heterosexual – from heteronormativity and so on. Equally important, if you’ve never had an access to higher education, if you’ve children – it all affects your resources to do things and possibility to act in a certain way.
There’s no single issue struggle. You are not just a precarious worker, in the same time you’re queer, immigrant, person with post soviet union background, disabled. And people around you – they are not one dimensioned. And this is highly important that people are ready to listen, to question, to reconsider. Otherwise, if a person doesn’t recognize their privilege, they benefit from it, keep using a privilege of not noticing an issue, preserve hierarchies and power structures and finally supporting status quo.
Here, I should say, that for the most of my life, i’ve been pretty comfortable, I lived in the center of russian empire, benefiting from its imperialism and colonialism. I had access to free education, medical care, I even had some basic human rights. I wasn’t afraid of cops passing by, I could afford telling them something nasty. I could go on a demo, I could afford being arrested. And many more things that I haven’t thought before now became very much clear to me, basically because I lost this privilege of being a citizen and many more. Should mention, that I suppose, it’s almost impossible to fully imagine something you haven’t experienced. But if one has an urge, you can try to get closer.
When I immigrated, I started to notice harsh difference in people’s attitude right away, but just couldn’t find words to describe it. And I didn’t know what are the structures that keep the wheels rolling. While I’ve been looking for the right words, we’ve made a series of interviews with immigrants from post soviet union countries to a western rich country or to the russian empire. We were comparing and trying to explain. And finally we’ve found some words.
Now, in western europe, in the netherlands, I feel pretty much excluded, for the most of the time. Context varies, but the reason is always the same. People are afraid of those who are different. They are afraid of barbarians from eastern europe who eat their white swans, while decent citizens been walking in their posh parks.

Exclusion is based on Othering. Here I’m the Other, I’m pretty much nobody. I mean, I have different ascribed to me identities. I’m a sold eastern european wife, I’m a circus drunk bear on one wheeled bike, I’m a press secretary of russian government. I’m dead, people don’t notice me. They speak their language, that I don’t understand, not worrying about my feelings. Sometimes I’m ‘a refugee friend’. Sometimes a poor russian girl from a broke family. I’m dancing with Lenin in a corn field.

I feel an endless necessity to excuse myself for who I am and where I am from/now.

Sorry I don’t speak dutch
Where are you from? What are you doing here? Why you’ve come? Is netherlands better than russia? Do you like it here? You accent is very exotic, I like it. I’ve been to russia. I know several words – blyat, spasibo. Your language is weird.

This way, I’m becoming a show, I’m performing, not only on wednesday nights. I’m telling exotic stories that dear spectators want to here. Wanna story about political prisoners in russia? Here you are. Bloodcurdling enough? LGBTQIA+s beeing bullied and killed. Feminist demos attacked by antifa. I don’t understand anymore whether I like telling these stories, or I’m having a Stockholm syndrome. Whom i’m trying to convince and in what.
Probably, I’ve a bit of immigrant syndrome. In my case, it is expressed in people returning me more money that they owe me. They pay for me in cafes. They do favors I haven’t asked for. I think twice before bashing back to misogynists or xenophobes, because I have to be quite and polite. And if I’m not, consequences here to appear. I’m too dependent to point out on some shit. Meanwhile I hate asking for favors, because it always is some sort of humiliation, it makes you vulnerable, dependent. Moreover, its terribly difficult to speak up, because if they assume you are a woman, and they do, none will believe you. None believes women. 
And here, the western europeans, as a group, should be mentioned. You can be surprised to know that there’s a certain behavioral pattern, pretty much widespread, and for these, westerners can be hated. Hated for the terrible insensitivity, for hierarchies, that they build. Instead of bridges, they construct walls. This wealthiness, this comfortable life, syndrome of charity and rescue brigades of white westerners, all these keeps their eyes shut down. It’s almost impossible to 'join the club’. In all senses.
Westerners assume a lot. Basically, that’s the way of dealing with all these different cultures around them. They keep extracting horrible stereotypes from books, articles, films and strongly believe that they’re true. Because it’s terribly scary to live with a thought that you might not know something. Much easier is to unite everything you’ve heard in a more or less good-looking scarecrow, to frighten yourself and everyone around.
Again this popular thing of rescuing refugees/immigrants by white dutch people, in all these NoBorder groups, is not more than a mere speculation, far from solidarity, just a game in tolerance. Refugees are becoming objects, valid only until they can tell stories, but they are not your friends. Here comes white man’s burden. Possessing knowledge of how fucked up the world is, they make attempts to 'change’ it, but not by rejecting their privileges, but just throwing leftovers from dinner table of western stability.
There’ re plenty of structures lying in the basement of hate and attitude that I get: othering + xenophobia, orientalism (civilized West and barbaric East), migrantophobia. Colonial western hegemony (dominance) teaches that everything that is Western is good, its by default, all others are weirdos with strange languages and cultures. But if they have nice food or music, this can be happily appropriated. Fine.
Women and queers from eastern europe and post soviet union countries are seen as something exotic, our lives being reduced to some patterns, that might seem romantic in a way. This mysterious russian soul! With this, women are hyper sexualized and reduced to objects. We are perfect house wifes, very tender and caring, but also very easy approaching, some sort of sluts. Not to mention that, these stereotypes are being spread and popularized not only by westerners, but also by russian womens’ magazines, in articles like 'a russian woman in the eyes of a westerner’. Here the patriarchy comes into act, forcing women to self-objectify and cope with ascribed identity.
Additionally, on a cultural level there’s a terrible stereotypization of russians. Have you seen any american movies with russian rednecks fighting and drinking all the time? Any russian clumsy spies stuck in communist ages? Plenty of them. Another but similar story is with women. Western produced film of sex traffic portraits eastern europe as depressed broken places, but still very exotic, with people of a completely different habits and attitudes. Together with it, women of these countries are shown as cute but stupid naive girls, who believe everything and never think for themselves. They’re being brought to europe and sold to brothels. But here comes a brave rescue brigade of a white woman/man cop or journalist, who save their souls and bodies. Here women and kids are just mere objects of 'operation’. These movies serve to concentrate status quo, the need of borders, and finally, objectification and infantilization of women and othering people (proving their otherness as a justification for a different relation to them).
'Other’ and the relation to them, can be seen in various situation, but always it’s about a scarecrow and stereotypes. For example, people think that I deserve what I have now, my 200 euros a month is 'very good’ for me, but I doubt they’ll consider it enough for them. They think I need less to be happy and I can go and live in a refugee center. And it comes from classism and migrantophobia, the deep hidden notion of 'second rate people’.
Returning to romantic dreams and perceptions, here comes revolution of 1917. In both anarchist bookshop of Amsterdam Fort Van Sjakoo and Anarchist Library I’ve seen plenty of books about bolsheviks revolution, writings of and about Kropotkin, Makhno, Bakunin, theorizations of all sorts. The other extreme - researches written by western academics about some protest movements. And that’s it. Just because East stays fixed in time and space, it has no development. It can be only described, barbarians can’t speak for themselves.
Meanwhile West is a starting point for everything. And it’ll stay the same center of universe with the most civilized and smart people, who possess the secret knowledge of what is good and bad, ready to share it all with you, but only if you fully integrate, reject your identities that comes into clashes with comfortable reality and status quo. You can survive only if you accept your subordinate role. And they’ll try to convince you, that you both are equal, but you are not. You’ll never join the club. But do you want it anyways?