E=Exotic and Eastern=Bookish Confession #5

Have you ever read the description of the Asians as exotic, chocolate colored, oriental, brown etc. I have, a lot many of them, and every time I read this description, I get a feeling that these should be added to the “dictionary of purple prose”.

Exotic

The definition of exotic as per Merriam Webster is :

  1. introduced from another country :  not native to the place where found exotic plants

  2. archaic:foreign, alien

  3. strikingly, excitingly, or mysteriously different or unusual exotic flavors

  4. of or relating to striptease (ahem… let’s minus this from the dictionary for current purpose)

The only definition which can actually show the usage of the word right are the first and the third definitions. By the virtue of first definition, eastern or Asian people can be called exotic in Western/European books, but not in the Eastern countries themselves. I wish authors will understand that and think for once before calling an Indian exotic in India, or a Korean exotic in Korea. Similarly not every Asian can be exotic in a book, but sadly  I have read a book which described every Asian as exotic.

 

Every time I read the description of humans as exotic, I am more likely rolling my eyes and moving on to the further sections. In some books, the use of word exotic for the people is likely to get a snort out of me.

But the point here I want to make is not merely about the word “exotic”, but it is about the stereotypes associated with the race  and country. The exotic easterns are defined as the exotic, beautiful, thin creatures who know the snake language(3 books till now), wear garish colors(countless books), and are excellent dancers(Belly dance!!!). The features appear on and off in different permutation and combinations in the book.

Since I  belong to the “Eastern” and “Exotic” world, there are few things that I feel like clarifying to every author:

  • I am not “exotic”.
  • Not all of us are “chocolate” colored. I mean I have nothing against being chocolate colored, but there are other colors in east too. Increase your vocabulary or stop defining the color of the skin.
  • We are known to wear pastel colors as well.
  • We do not speak the language of snakes or peacocks or whatever eastern bird you have associated with us.
  • Belly dance is not solely a sexy dance. It is the dance which was used to help the birthing mothers. And we all cannot do belly dance( or Bharatnatyam or Carnatic music or whatever music and dance form you associated with us).

I have seen such stereotypes for Western people too in Indian as well as in Western books, and I  always feel that our viewpoint is so obstructed because of the stereotypes  that we cannot see the true nature of the people. The books are supposed to form a viewpoint, but if they also fall in the web of stereotypes, they tend to soolidify the misconceptions going around.

I will like to end the post by saying that I do not care to be known as exotic. It makes me feel like an alien.

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