Stop Fetishizing us: Women of Color

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The answer to this question is yes. A woman of color who is complimented as “exotic” is being fetishized.

Now let us examine the semantics of the word itself. “Exotic” literally means:  “Originating in or characteristic of a distant foreign country”,  attractive or striking because colourful or out of the ordinary..

So.. if you are “exotic”.. You are simply not “ordinarily encountered“.


But what to make of the use of the word in our modern vernacular? First and foremost, the term “exotic” is exclusively reserved for women of color. WoC have a long history of having their ethnicity be a fetish.

Some WoC do not find a problem with the term, and that is perfectly acceptable. But many of us do take if offensively and here’s why: It sets an entirely new standard of beauty that ultimately alienates WoC.

Just because our beauty is not “white”, does not mean our beauty needs to be a subcategory. Especially one that has not been appropriated by WoC. Who arbitrates what is, and isn’t “exotic”? Is it WoC themselves? In most cases, no.

The “exotic” category renders us almost subhuman. “Exotic” women of color.. Like the exotic animals section of the zoo.

Even worse, it is used as a compliment. Something we are to smile and nod to. I mean after all, isn’t it great to be strikingly, mysteriously and excitingly different? No.

Many WoC find that they are not defined by their ethnicity. They have many other characteristics that they would like you to pay equal attention to other than their fetishized ethnicity. They do not wish to be trivialized by this single aspect of them.

You are not paying a WoC a compliment by stating that she is “exotic”

You are telling her that she should be somehow pleased with being in a different category of beauty that YOU have created for her. After all, WoC have not consented to be part of an “exotic” sub-set of human.

WoC already find themselves hyper-sexualised in modern day-to-day culture. Young WoC– African Americans and Latinas especially– are depicted as having some degree of patholigized sexuality from the get-go.

The fetishization of WoC is an extension of the already existing sexualisation of their identities in the media and in modern culture. This is not fair on WoC. We call upon you to stop fetishizing us.


5 Comments Add yours

  1. Sofia says:

    I dont take offense at all when being referred to as exotic!! The intention with which its said to me has always been complimentary. After all most of the white women I see around me are desperately trying to emulate that look from a ‘foreign land’ with tanning products and dying their hair black to try and have that exotic look. I feel blessed to have that naturally and be referred to as exotic…im totally flattered when I hear that since ive never thought that of myself!

    1. If it doesn’t upset you, you must not understand.
      They are literally saying, “You are pretty for a woman of color,” and that you aren’t what they would usually go for, but you are different than the usual, UNATTRACTIVE women of color that they see. How can you not be offended by that? They set a whole new beauty standard. They alienate other women of color even further with their mental criteria of just what is “exotic”. Now, we have to look to be closer to white AND/OR to exotic so that we can feel beautiful. You have no problem with the oppression of fellow women of color? Maybe, you think you’re the only one that matters. Maybe, the others should look to be exotic like you. No. “Just because our beauty is not white, does not mean our beauty needs a subcategory.” They can’t accept that we aren’t white. They can’t accept that non-whites can be just as attractive. So, we are “exotic” and we have to become a fetish to validate their attraction to us.
      There is no equality to a white woman, either. Don’t compare them to us. First of all, when they try to look exotic, they probably culturally appropriate, but we won’t get into that. Secondly, they’re also following behind white men in fetishizing us.
      “I’m totally flattered when I hear that since I’ve never thought that of myself,” you said. You should think more.

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