Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ethnic Fetishes and the "E" word

I came across a rather interesting article from Brown Girl Magazine about "brown fetishes".  I'm not sure when it was written, but the comments go back to April 2011 so it's at least that old.

The article focuses on two issues: one is how South Asian actresses are used in Hollywood ("brown girl" roles and "attractive girl" roles), and the other is on the use of the word "exotic" to describe South Asian women.

I'm not going to comment on typecasting.  That tactic is as old as Hollywood.  Actually probably as old as professional acting.  That's just the superficial world of Hollywood.  It doesn't just affect Indian women either; just ask John Goodman or James Gandolfini about the variety of roles they've been offered over the course of their careers.

I do want to get at the "exotic" issue though.  Though I am a white male with an admitted "fetish" or preference for brown girls, I've never used the word "exotic" to describe brown women.  I first heard the world back in high school when someone was describing this extremely attractive Iranian/Persian girl I was interested in.  I always thought it was strange; "exotic" to me was jungles, tropical islands, the wilderness, a general lack of civilization.  Since then, I understand what people mean when they use that phrase to describe a woman, though I don't use the term myself.  I understand why it's offensive, there's nothing more "exotic" about being South Asian (or Middle Eastern or South American, etc.) vs being Caucasian or any other ethnic group.  I totally get all of that.

That being said, some of the comments under the article were a little off track.  One poster took offense to someone saying her name was "beautiful" and how would someone with a regular English name feel if she said that to them.  I say this as someone with a huge interest in etymology and linguistics: I'd probably say that to someone and I'd ask them what their name means.  That stuff interests me, it just does.  It disappoints me that so many people with those "regular" names don't know the meaning of their name.  I know the meaning of my name, and it's interesting.  I'd be happy to share that with someone and be happy if they said my name was beautiful or handsome.

The crux of the issue to me is this: some people are uncomfortable with people having a "thing" for people like them.  Doesn't matter if that "thing" is firefighters, virgins, South Asians, Jewish girls, fat women, etc.  It just feels like it diminishes you as a person because the other person just sees you as a member of some arbitrary (and often superficial) group.  Now, I get all of that too.  And it would annoy me too if some woman only wanted to date me so she could "corrupt me" or "fuck the innocent out of me" or something along those lines.  But, I still have a thing for brown women, and I don't think that will change.

I like brown women because they have nice looks.  I don't care if they're "exotic" or not (I already explained why that term is nonsense).  Their skin tone, hair, cultural history (real cultural history not Orientalist bullshit; I actually like hearing about the Rajputs or the Mughal dynasty or even mundane stuff...really), even accents are sexy to me.  I'm sure on the last one some women might be offended by hey, how many chicks go ga-ga over a guy with a British or Australian accent?  Sorry brown girls, you're just too attractive and too cool for me to say no.

So, here's to all you brown girls (or any other type of girl not covered): some guys just like your looks and personality and culture.  You can be interested in our looks and cultural history too if you want.  I won't be offended if you won't be.

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