Monthly Archives: May 2006

Octavia Butler Tribute -NYC

Laurie says:

The New York Public Library is hosting a tribute to Octavia Butler on June 5th. There’s a great picture of her on the site.

“Writers and friends of Octavia E. Butler, who died in February, 2006, will gather to pay tribute to this internationally known science fiction writer whose evocative, often troubling, novels explore far-reaching issues of race, sex, power and, ultimately, what it means to be human.”

The list of speakers is fabulous. Check it out.

<br /> Octavia Butler<br /> <a href="" rel="tag nofollow">Body Impolitic</a><br />

Exclusion by Compliment

Laurie and Debbie, who are happy to be blogging together again, say

Out there in the blogosphere, Feministe picked up on an excellent brief post from Brownfemipower on the subject of the word “exotic.” Check out the post; it’s both scathing and very funny.

Feministe especially notes a comment from scenius at Sexual Ambiguities, to the effect that “exotic is not a compliment; it basically says, ‘you don’t belong here.'”

Actually, we think it’s more complicated than that.

Laurie says, “When I was growing up in New York City, no one ever thought I was exotic. When I left New York, nobody thought I was exotic unless they knew I was Jewish. And as soon as they knew I was Jewish, I was suddenly “an exotic beauty.”

So when “exotic” relates to beauty, it still isn’t about how someone looks, but about the context in which they look that way. We think it is a compliment, or perhaps more accurately, it is intended as a compliment. No one ever says: “I find you exotic,” to someone they are dispossessing, or kicking in the face. In this sense, “stacked” is also a compliment.

The issue is that “complimentary” does not equal kind, let alone respectful, and not all “compliments” are welcome. We addressed this issue a little over a month ago, when we wrote about Vegan Kid’s objections to Leonard Nimoy’s photographs of fat women. Here’s a quote from Vegan Kid:

When someone seemingly tries to highlight the beauty of a group of people dancing naked regardless of their size, … when we label the photo series “Full Body Project”. Once again, it ceases to be about pure beauty, because those outside the standards of conventional beauty can never reach pure beauty. Instead, we are a tainted beauty – a beauty of pity.

And while exotic can be beautiful, it can never be pretty. In fact, one of the dictionary definitions of “pretty” (all available at the link) is “having conventionally accepted elements of beauty.”

While exoticism isn’t about a beauty of pity, when it’s about beauty it’s about outsider beauty. As piny points out in the Feministe post, Brownfemipower can simultaneously be “exotic” and suffer all of the negative effects of racism. Someone who is “pretty,” however, is likely to be experiencing privilege to which the exotic person has no access.

So what “exotic” really means is “beautiful but never conventionally acceptable”; “beautiful but I won’t take you home to meet my parents.”

So it’s no surprise that Brownfemipower and piny (and the two of us) see it as an unwelcome compliment. In a beauty of inclusiveness, the word “exotic” becomes meaningless.

<br /> exotic<br /> beauty<br /> pretty<br /> feminism<br /> beautiful<br /> women<br /> <a href="" rel="tag nofollow">Body Impolitic</a><br />