Use of ‘exotic’ in date auction degrades contestants

Across campus this week, students are being asked, “Wanna go on an Exotic Date?” by posters for a charity fund-raiser. Despite the good intentions and deeds of the event’s organizers, and the humanitarian ends they seek, this event’s title is degrading, insulting and poorly conceived.

The event in question is a “date auction,” co-sponsored by the International Student Organization and the Amnesty International club, and hosted at BAR this Friday. The proceeds from the event will go to Dignity! Period., an NGO that provides sanitary napkins to women who cannot afford them in Zimbabwe, and who need such supplies to live with dignity. In other words, the fund-raising effort is nothing but positive for women.

Its title is another story — and an unfortunate one. The people being “auctioned,” while both male and female, and all volunteers, are called “exotic” — a name which creates a number of problems. First, it creates an artificial group deemed “exotic,” as opposed to those who are normal; strange and foreign, as opposed to familiar. That wording is unacceptable because it makes those so labeled feel unusual and out of place, less comfortable and less safe. This feeling is anathema to AI, ISO and indeed all who should strive to make each other feel accepted and united.

Second, the concept of “exotic people” has a long and shameful history, which is especially relevant in the precarious context of a “date auction.” The term “exotic” evokes “otherness,” and it also labels commodities. In the context of this date auction, the assumption is that if people want to purchase exotic goods or experiences, they must want to have an exotic dating experience (read: sexual experience). Whoever is made “exotic” loses humanity in the process, becoming a mere sexual experience to be desired. It is not far-fetched to imagine that someone who bids on an “exotic date” feels — perhaps subconsciously­ — entitled to sex, which greatly increases the likelihood of sexual assault and rape. Quite inappropriate for an event promoting women’s rights and dignity.

This interpretation is not frivolous, nor is it made up out of whole cloth. Descriptions of various people as “exotic,” often using that very word, have been used for great harm in the past. Label a colonized people as “exotic” and they become less human. Their rights and demands become less serious; their personal value is on par with a handful of rare tropical bird feathers. In nearly every ideology of imperialism and subjugation throughout history, a view of the dominated class as somehow strange and fascinating has been a central pillar. That is why we must be vigilant today about how we refer to our human brothers and sisters.

Some Yale students have told me that this event’s title is not offensive, that some organizers do not mind being called “exotic,” or that the title is clearly a satire given its context. These are justifications of ignorance, and they are contradictory. If the title is satirical, then the word “exotic” is clearly problematic. But if the word “exotic” isn’t offensive, where is the satire? Frankly, as a one-line title for an event, and without any further discussion of wording or context, the use of “exotic” here cannot be called satirical. This is important to note because many will only hear the title of the event, and not its laudable goals.

Being called “exotic” is a characteristic of racism, and it opens the door to more violent ideologies. The members of ISO who came up with the title “Wanna go on an Exotic Date?” could use some more training in issues of diversity. Indeed, we all could use more training. And if events of the past year have been any indication, Yale University should make colossal efforts to educate its students about racial and gender equality and sensitivity. Whatever steps have been taken so far have not been enough.

We should continue to educate each other about these issues. It is often out of ignorance, not malice, that degrading messages are sent, so let us learn. What is an offhand remark to me may be stinging and bitter to you, especially when it exacerbates underlying prejudices. We must be conscious of what we say, and we must not assume that our viewpoint alone will suffice.

The only way forward is to work toward mutual understanding and a higher consciousness about our use of words. AI fights for women’s rights, an end to discrimination and universal human dignity; I can only pledge that in the future, our chapter will be more vigilant in working for these goals. We look forward to participating in the dialogue on campus, and raising a loud voice to defend human dignity.

Edwin Everhart is a junior in Saybrook College. Although he is the co-coordinator of the Amnesty International club at Yale, the views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of the organization’s leadership.

Comments

  • Anonymous

    To save space for printing, a few points were cut from this column. A few more were deleted to make it clear that I did not have the entire Amnesty club behind me in writing this column (unfortunately). Let me briefly add three of these points, if only online:

    1. I sincerely apologize for the insult that the name of this event has inflicted and will continue to inflict.

    2. To those who say they have no problem with being called "exotic," I warn you that it is not comfortable to live day in and day out as "exotic," as "the other." It is not pleasant or dignified to be expected to follow stereotypes (positive or negative). For the person who labels something as "exotic," the encounter with that "exotic" thing is fleeting; whereas those who are so labeled are stuck as "exotic" for life. They are forever on the periphery of normalcy, and this is a form of oppression. Maybe it's fun for some to go to a different country and be "that crazy foreign kid" for a while, but it will get tiring. And certainly not all international students are "fine" with being called "exotic."

    3. Fighting against racism and degrading speech is one of the central tenets of Amnesty International. We should be leading this fight, not taking steps backward. We can and will do better.

    Edwin Everhart

  • Anonymous

    As an American with many international friends here at Yale, I wholeheartedly agree with you. I saw the event and I was shocked, I immediately declined. Internationals are just like everyone else, but Americans here still see them as "weird" or "exotic" and don't appreciate them as much as they should. Using that word only serves to further drive the two apart and brings out the perverts who only see internationals as sex objects.

  • alum

    Holy crap, get over yourselves!!!! You shouldn't be so sensitive. Exotic is only a derogatory word to those with such thin-skins that they would consider descriptions such as "foreign student" derogatory as well. "Oh, you can't call me a foreigner, that denotes something strange and outside the realm of normal!"

    Please tell me there aren't too many of these people at Yale now!

  • ed marcos

    you've gotta be kidding me.

  • Hieronymus

    Isn't the idea of a "date auction" insulting and degrading just by itself?

  • Anonymous

    I totally agree with you. Calling international people, especially women, "exotic" slots them into an Anglocentric and Orientalist global view. Middle Eastern, African, Latin American and Asian women have historically been deemed "exotic" by colonial powers to indicate their sexual allure, their sexual looseness and voracious sexual appetite. They are exciting, titillating sexual commodities not quite normal and not quite human (in the way that white men are) and therefore less respected.

    Right on Edwin. Rock it.

  • Anonymous

    "The members of ISO who came up with the title “Wanna go on an Exotic Date?” could use some more training in issues of diversity"

    seriously?
    I think internationals could very well GIVE lessons on diversity. Internationals come from a variety of backgrounds, from countries from all over the world. The ISO is a rich expression of diversity, with members from all over the world. The international community at Yale thrives because of its diversity - because diversity is natural to us, it's not a political correct hype.

  • heartsurgeon

    Once you've agreed to auctioned off for a date, you basically abandoned all self-diginity.

    Using the moniker "exotic" hardly matters…

    Using the money to buy tampons?? For Zimbabwe??

    This is something you would expect to read in the Onion….

  • anonymouse

    i completely agree. at first i thought the ads were a joke, because the word exotic is clearly offensive. thanks for writing this.

  • Anonymous

    "Using the money to buy tampons?? For Zimbabwe??"

    FYI: This is actually a really important cause - most women in Zimbabwe don't have any access to sanitary products at all. The fact is that this limits the options and freedom of women - how can young girls go to school or women go to work (those who can actually find a job in a country with 80% unemployment and a 100,000% inflation rate) if they can't use sanitary products? The fact is that many people would not be able to leave their houses in such a situation. Many women are also forced to use newspapers or leaves as a substitute which can result in infections. Basically, this situation is not only degrading, but can prevent people from getting an education, holding down a job (how can you work if you can't go to your job for one week out of every month) and remaining healthy.

  • Nick

    Dude,
    get over yourself. Get down off of your pedestal and stop telling other people how they should feel and how they should react to things. If people don't mind being called 'exotic' then tha's up to them and they are old enough to make their own decisions. It's not up to you at the ripe old age of 20? 21? to smugly tell other people how its best to live. You have no idea. You were in highschool a couple of years ago. Maybe they dont want to fit in with your notion of American normalcy. As a foreign student myself, I quite like my identity as being exotic and different. I can be normal when I want and I can be foreign when I want. Its up to me. Its not going to traumatise me for the rest of my life to be cast in this way sometime. This kind of absurd political correctness gives Liberals a bad name. Please spare us your righteous fury in the future, you just sound like some overzealous Model U.N kid.

  • LP

    I can understand how people could be offended by this article and think the author may have a "holier-than-thou" attitude, but I can really see the author's point. It's easy to take the article way out of context and #11 seems to have done so. I understand #11's points, too. But as #8 and other people have stated, agreeing to do a date auction alone in itself is self-degrading.

  • @Nick, ISO, et. al.

    It's nice that you don't mind being "exotic." But when the ISO uses that label with with regard to themselves, they implicitly associate it with everyone from Latin America, Africa, or Asia. What you say to your friends should be up to you but the public use is both marginalizing and degrading. It's this same language that has been used to fuel the sex trade in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Southeast Asia, etc., with Europeans and Americans exploiting the poverty of darker skinned people in support of their exotic fantasies.

    Being international does not give you carte blanche to depict others however you choose. The ISO is a very limited, self-contained, and ultimately, elite group of foreigners, and it ought to take a moment to consider how such actions — obviously meant with humor and no ill will — might affect others elsewhere around the world, others not privileged enough to attend Yale.

    p.s. And yes, auctioning yourself on a date also seems degrading, but that fact does not justify ignoring the even more insidious language.

  • Volkan

    As one of those people aggreed to be auctioned, I would like to express that I have no problem with being called exotic, and in no way do I feel "unusual and out of place, less comfortable and less safe."
    I would prefer if people did not project their feelings based on their assumptions, perceived connotations and potentially personal experiences. Maybe we should try to normalize the word instead of adding it to the never ending list of "forbidden-by-PC" phrases…

  • Chloe Rossetti

    Hi, my name is Chloe, and I am a foreigner.
    I am exotic.
    I am well-versed in lessons of diversity.
    I am a member of the ISO.
    My OIS t-shirt says "Imported".
    And I am proud of these facts.

    I am sick and tired of Americans telling international students how they're feeling in response to their own events, without their consent, in public newspapers.
    I am also considering writing an article - pleae tell me, Edwin, what you think:

    Use of 'Invades' in Yale-sanctioned event degrades contestants

    Across campus this week, students are being asked, “Wann Invade Manhattan?” by posters for a charity fund-raiser. Despite the good intentions and deeds of the event’s organizers, and the humanitarian ends they seek, this event’s title is degrading, insulting and poorly conceived.

    The concept of “invasion” has a long and shameful history. The term “invasion” by a group of Americans invokes horrible memories of serious invasions into the hearts of those international students whose countries have suffered at its hands, as well as a painful reminber of a certain Iraq War."

    Etcetera.

    Don't I sound ridiculous? Too bad I work for a newspaper that will take my article seriously enough to insult something up to 10% of (extremely diverse) people on campus.

    And you, 'friend of international students'…how dare you.

    How dare any of you American-false-articulators of the international condition.

    Come chill with me for a while - I'll show you why it's great to be 'exotic'.

  • Anonymous

    This is satire, right? It's a little overblown, but all in all it does a pretty good job of mimicking the style of Yale PC blowhards. Good job.

  • heartsurgeon

    FYI: Last time i checked, Zimbabwae was "ruled" by a corrupt/insane fellow named Mugabe, who has destroyed the economy. My guess would be that any "donated" tampons would very likely end up being "appropriated" by the goverment, and sold/distributed to the benefit of Mugabe. You should do a little research on what happens to NGO donations..they frequently destroy local economies and line the pockets of the dictator at the top…

    last i read Mugabe was arresting elections officials for "undercounting" his votes…

    i fear your passion about tampons, zimbabwe, and women's freedom, is sadly misplaced…

  • Anonymous

    To "heartsurgeon," "Nick," "ed marcos," "alum," et al:

    I cordially invite you to discuss with me why you don't think it's wrong to call people "exotic." If you have time, I'd be happy to make you a cup of tea. I live in Saybrook College, and my email address is simply edwin.everhart@yale.edu. I look forward to hearing from you.

    Edwin Everhart

  • Anonymous

    Funny,people get outraged over being called "sluts" by drunken frat boys and take action, but people get called "exotic" and no one cares. I guess it only matters if the person in question is truly offended by the word. It could easily be the other way around, no one caring about "slut" and people getting outraged over "exotic."

  • Anonymous

    Dear Chloe,

    I think that would be an interesting article to write, about the use of "invasion" so casually. You might want to include a note about drinking "sake bombs," a phrase that always makes me cringe. But I think the word "exotic" is much farther beyond the pale.

    I'm not kidding when I invited you to tea, folks. And Chloe, I guess you'd take me up on the offer?
    Awaiting your email,

    Edwin Everhart

  • Anonymous

    From Madison Moore's scene article a few months ago:

    Exhibit A:

    So I log in to my account on one of these gay dating sites, and I’m excited because I see that I have a couple new messages. Yay! They flash in red, and the flashing excites me. I click on the mysterious messages, and not only is the guy who wrote me something like 200 years old and ugly and fat, but he also thought it would be neat to send me the following tactful message:

    “U are hot man. Into older men? I want some of that chocolate ass.”

    That’s: “U are hot man. Into older men? I want some of that chocolate ass.”

    DELETE.

    I mean, I know I’m brown, but I’d never write a Southeast Asian guy and be like, “Gimme some of that curry cock!!!” or “I like your rice ass!” to an Asian guy.

    I think he summarizes well why objectification of ethnicities can be insulting.

  • exotic girl

    Oxford dictionary defines exotic as "originating in or characteristic of a distant foreign country. 2 strikingly colourful or unusual."

    International students being auctioned off are indeed from "a distant foreign country." That makes them different from Americans, but in no way does calling them exotic reinforce a negative sense of "otherness." We appreciate our differences, we embrace the fact that we come from EXOTIC COUNTRIES, and we are even prouder to be able to use this asset to promote a deserving cause.

  • alum

    how helpful it is for heartsurgeon to let us know why donating tampons to zimbabweans is naive and useless. if you're really smart you don't need to do any research whatsoever. all you need to do is glance at nytimes.com headlines every now and then.

  • Gautam

    Here are a few thoughts, sadly disorganized, but representative of my thoughts on this mess:

    My name's Gautam - I am an international student. I don't wish to reiterate how international students love being 'exotic' and 'different', but well, it's true - we do. And no, it's not a fleeting flirtation with being different, it is a lifelong label, but well, I'm proud of who I am. And if I'm exotic, so be it.

    - I don't appreciate the preachy tone that the author uses in the article. I understand freedom of expression (which, ironically, is a reason not to have a problem with this event in the first place), but I do think that your use of the phrases ignorance (multiple times), "violent ideologies" and "could use training in issues of diversity", along with your advice for us to work towards "higher consciousness" seem to imply a rather high-handed (Orientalist, if you will) approach on YOUR part. I think we can all agree that this shouldn't be the case. We are all young adults, and each of us should learn from life's experiences, rather than sit back and advise a significant demographic of the university population.

    - Just as an addendum to the previous point, I think you waste a lot of column space discussing whether or not the event's title is technically satirical. It doesn't matter. That's all there is to it, I'm afraid. If anything, it makes you sound less credible.

    - I am very sure that no international students felt degraded at being involved with, or invited to, such an event.

    - It seems rather convenient to me that you connect "Wanna Go on an Exotic Date" to the "events of the past year" at Yale University. While I wholeheartedly agree that Yale should make "colossal efforts to educate its students about…sensitivity", it's sad that you had to connect this charitable auction to those unfortunate events to further your argument. I'm sure you know that there's no connection there.

    - I believe that your article, rather than the invites and posters sent out by the organizers, have tainted the fun and charitable nature the auction was originally intended to have. In your article, Edwin, you write about "mere sexual issues", "sexual assault" and "rape." I commend your imagination, but I must say that it was rather tasteless and unnecessary to bring such themes up, at an event I'm sure you know has no connection to such ideas.

    - Anybody who thinks that donating to developing countries because funds get misappropriated has to think again. If no aid (in whatever form) went into these countries, they wouldn't be able to sustain themselves. Corruption brings up the need to examine certain practices, but if you think charity is wasteful in corruption's wake, I'm sorry to say (as a peer) that you might need to think harder about the effects this could have.

    - If the word exotic shouldn't be used because of pejorative connotations from the past, I think your next project should be to abolish the word gay from "Gay Pride Parade" all over the world. I hope you see my point - it makes no sense to shy away from what you're proud to accept.

    - Judging by the fact that AI (a co-sponsor) tried to prevent your article from being printed, I lightly suggest that you look within the AI framework to see whether your goals are congruent with theirs.

    - So lastly, writing on behalf of all of Yale's "rare tropical bird feathers", let the event be. Let us use language as we wish, as long as it doesn't intentionally promote hatred.

  • Anonymous

    "It is not far-fetched to imagine that someone who bids on an “exotic date” feels — perhaps subconsciously­ — entitled to sex, which greatly increases the likelihood of sexual assault and rape."

    It is very "far-fetched"… the most far-fetched thing I've heard in a long long time.

    It is a "date" auction. Not a "rape/hooker" auction.

  • Anonymous

    To those who disagree with the article, I don't feel I will be able to change your mind with text. I again invite you to join me for tea. Send an email. I also suggest that you have serious discussions of these issues with people who disagree with you. I was certainly on your side of this divide as of 8 months ago, and I have come to a different understanding now. Who knows - maybe you'll convince me.

    I would also like to add that some of the assumptions I had when writing this column turned out to be false. These assumptions were exclusively regarding the procedural setup of the event, and were not "ideological," if you will. I am submitting a version of the letter below to the YDN, and I hope it clears up some unfortunate animosity:

    The International Student Organization (ISO), realizing the degrading nature of the Friday event title "Wanna go on an Exotic Date?," changed the title three days ago, and made a herculean effort to produce a completely new set of publicity material. That material is being distributed right now.
    The above facts were unknown to me when I penned yesterday's column, "'Exotic' title in date auction degrades contestants." I praise the ISO leadership for taking quick steps to change the offending title. I apologize for the poor light in which my column portrayed the ISO, its members and affiliates. If I had known about the early change in the event's title, my response would have been different; my ignorance is my own fault.
    ISO leaders agree that it is unacceptable to call people "exotic," because that language is dehumanizing. They agree that the initial event title was regrettable. I look forward to working with ISO in the future to promote understanding about diversity, so that all Yale students can see such problems coming and stop them early.
    I encourage the reader to attend the event in question, which is a very worthwhile charity fundraiser, at BAR this Friday evening at 7:00.

    Edwin Everhart

  • Laura

    So Mr. Everhart, are you going to tell me that I don't have the right to call myself a "girl" because SOME people use it as an insult (i.e. "boo, you throw like a girl")? Who endowed you with the right to impose your personal interpretations on others? I'm very proud to be exotic. It means I'm different- something I celebrate. Also, how dare you imply that ISO shares, even in the slightest, the racist/sexist messages that have appeared on campus? ISO is comprised of students who are proud to be different, and thus pledges to celebrate Yale's diversity. As such, ISO (and I should add, your own Amnesty International, a co-sponsor of the event) would be the last organization on campus to advocate such messages. Also, you imply that ISO is responsible for advocating rape and sexual assault, even if unintentionally, when the entire point of the auction is to help abused and underprivileged women in a developing country? Seriously.

    I would advise you to get off your high horse. I respect your right to free speech, as you should respect ours. We are proud to be exotic, and will advocate it any which way we can.

  • Anonymous

    International students, who created this event, are not offended by the use of "exotic" in this context because they are the ones who chose to use the word. If they do not feel degraded by the use of the word, no one should tell them to be. We need more peace and love, not more conflict, especially over something with such honorable intentions.

  • Ian

    I apologise for the disjointed and perhaps irrelevant tone of parts of this. I'm moved to share a lot of thoughts and experiences.

    This whole debate is simply ridiculous. I was fortunate enough to be reading this article while walking across Cross Campus, and immediately go to the 'Mental Health Week' table and ask the people there if I needed counseling for being utterly bewildered by this article, and thinking that it was created solely for the purpose of filling an otherwise empty space. The YDN is hardly renowned for its hard-hitting stories or profound analysis, after all. They reassured me I was stable, and that the problem probably lay with the article. I also got some Laffy Taffy out of the bargain, which is never a bad thing.

    As an International student I can't even begin to articulate just how patronised to I felt while reading this article. As a fellow pedant has already pointed out, the word 'exotic' directly implies something foreign or distant. I take that title with pride. After all, I had to stand for hours in your embassy in my country for my student visa, to earn it, after all.

    In the second instance, signing up for a 'date auction' does not divest one of dignity. The entire process is voluntary, and is designed to raise money for charity in a country that Amnesty International dedicates a significant amount of time towards. If somebody wants to stand on a stage and have people pay money for their company, then why is that a problem? Look at the guest-list for the facebook events (hardly the most sophisticated of analyses, I must admit) and you'll find that there is a disproportionately large number of International students attending. We're going to support our friends, and support a cause. Do you really think that anyone is entering this auction with an eye towards establishing a serious relationship with a stranger? If people want to part with their cash in order to spend time with us, then that's all well and good, for us, for the cause, and naturally for the payer because otherwise they'd keep their hands out of their wallet. The buyers aren't stupid, and neither are we Internationals.

    On that subject, it causes me no end of frustration to see Europe, Australia, Canada, etc omitted from the areas designated as 'International' by some of these responses. I'm European. I'm not American. I'm therefore 'International'. The United Kingdom and Canada supply more Internationals to Yale than every country except for China. Those being auctioned include 3 Frenchwomen, a Spaniard, a German, Greeks..etc ad nauseum. We're calling ourselves exotic because we're not American. We're, generally speaking, outside of your cultural background, context and framework. That's why the ISO exists in the first place. Why do you think Yale spends so much effort cultivating so many foreign students? Why do you think over 1/3 of those in the Graduate School are foreign? We all learn from one another. And we do that because we are different. We at the ISO celebrate difference.

    The use of the word 'exotic' is found to be so offensive. With what would one suggest it be replaced? 'Wanna go on a date?' automatically negates the fact that those being auctioned off are foreign, which is the whole point of the enterprise. We're not subordinating ourselves to the greedy, lascivious white American man, we're just trying to have a good evening and do something socially worthwhile at the same time. You'll note that there's a fairly equal gender balance between the auctionees; women are going to be having to do their fair share of the bidding too. And plenty of the students being auctioned could pass for an American just by sight. Our accents cause intrigue. Even American accents intrigue me. Why? Not because I want to judge, but because it's not what I'm used to. Feeling a frisson of, well, the exotic, when someone calls it a 'paper' instead of an 'essay', or 'vacation' instead of 'holiday', or even 'dining hall' instead of 'canteen' doesn't make me paternalistic, racist or divisive. It makes me a naturally-inquisitive person who is eager to understand more about things I don't know. And I don't know them because I wasn't immersed in them before arriving here. I have a confession to make. I didn't know who Michael Jordan was until about a month ago. This came up in conversation in a Dining Hall. Everyone stared at me in disbelief, and I still get taunted for it. Does this make my friends bad people? They are implying that my lack of consciousness of Michael Jordan makes me an inferior person, and they are highlighting and exploiting that difference between us. Of course it doesn't make them bad people. They're just intrigued by a cultural difference that they had never before had to consider.

    I don't deign to tell America or Americans how to govern itself and live their lives. I don't understand why Mr Everhart feels so able to do that to us. Looking at history, we see that America was founded by the amalgamation of citizens from an endless number of foreign countries. The United States did not produce democracy indigenously, it was a foreign import. The United States pursued the system of slavery long after almost every other nation in the world had abolished it as an abhorrent practice. The United States was by no means a front runner in offering women the vote. And the United States, for reasons of political expediency, supported dozens of corrupt, anti-democratic, politically extreme regimes, in countries in all corners of the world during the Cold War. Why is Iran such a problem on the International stage right now? Because it is led by religious extremists. Who toppled the democratically-elected government to put those extremists there? The United States.

    I love the USA and the people in it (or at least, most of the ones I've met). I also love my home country, I love my home Continent, and I love my heritage. I love my background and I love my exoticism. I'm not going to say every International student does, but I'd be impressed if you managed to find a statistically-significant number that found anything about this event to be offensive or distasteful.

    As for your offer of a cup of tea, I think I shall pass. I wouldn't want anyone to accuse you of luring me on a date with something exotic, after all. As much as I love the United States, its people have never been able to do anything but butcher the process of making tea. Ever since you decided to throw a bunch of it in the sea at Boston, you've been doomed. If it's all the same, maybe you should stick to what you do best and offer coffee. Tea apparently proves a little too exotic…

  • Anonymous

    The reason this has turned into such a heated debate:

    - Americans may be jealous of internationals…
    - Some people, the people being called exotic, actually take being called exotic as a compliment. They are proud to be different and not America. It therefore offends them greatly when they are told how to feel…

    - America is made up of people from all over the world - different races, religions, ethnicities etc. so in effect everyone within America is "exotic" in their own way. The problem is though that instead of embracing this fact people are striving to fit in and be "normal". Internationals however, already have a strong sense of belonging and identity to their home country and so being different and "exotic" in America, or any other country, does not bother them. This is obviously hard for Americans to understand.
    - Maybe going on an "exotic" date is just not appealing to Americans.

  • anna s.

    I am so disappointed in some of these comments.

    That you are or are not offended by the issue has little to do with the unintentionally pernicious nature of employing the term in public discourse. If a bunch of rich white males used the most vile racist and sexist language/jokes golfing amongst themselves and no one ever heard them (hence no one is offended) does this change the vile nature of the language or make its use inconsequential? If they were on an island, perhaps. But in a world where "otherness" is very salient in the form of race/ethnicity, nationality, gender/sexuality, and class, language has socializing powers with real human effects.--- After golf those men may run multinational corporations, and they probably won't use the word "exotic" while they exploit workers in those very exotic countries indeed.

    The point here is not over whether it’s a big deal to use "exotic" or not, or how many people are offended or about things being overblown. Quite frankly, I agree that there are more pressing needs towards which to focus a progressive politics.

    My point is only that the criticisms of this article (whether to the tune of 'I'm international and not offended/proud of it' or 'more PC crap') all rely on saying language is marginal. People, language structures your mind, your reality (Shout out to all my lit theory peeps) --how you construct your own identity and perceive that of others, and this all happens in the power structures of everyday life---> So sure, maybe at Yale "exotic" isn't a big deal at all because you’re privileged enough to not feel that it’s a big deal or even to be proud of the label without more nuanced consideration, even though in other places and other histories, the same idea fuels immense human suffering.

    Enough of this crap about "don't I have the right to.." or the bloody oxford dictionary----> words are embedded in power structures and like rights are part of systems of authority and exclusion. Words are given meaning (and power) by usage--OED won’t go into colonization if you look up "race," or neoliberal hegemony if you look up "globalization," ---don't ask OED for meaning, ask those who live what it means to be "exotic" every night in the red light districts of every nation with a tourist industry.

    the reason I personally wasn't offended by the title was because I gave people credit for more nuanced thinking, that they would see it as indeed satirical and only in this manner would it make any sense to use it, the same way a date auction is absurd (and absurdly objectifying) if it were not that we all obviously know this and hence don't take the idea of "buying" a person seriously--we can carry on with the fun only because we all acknowledge how ridiculous and unacceptable the idea is; only then are able to employ it in humor or for fundraising etc, ---the same way other derogatory terms, like "queer," can be re-appropriated for gay liberation BECAUSE the initial connotations are so fully rejected.

    Hence, only by giving notions of "exotic" the full weight of violent history and present exploitations can we responsibly, (instead of ignorantly) GET ON with having fun to help a worthy cause, and to re-appropriate the power of language for a positive, not dismissive, politics.

  • Chloe Rossetti

    Okay Edwin you're on.

    Let's discuss the quality of being exotic.

    And have tea.

    I will email you.

    - Chloe

    P.S. No I wasn't being satirical before, anon #16, how could you possibly think that, I absolutely think that Manhattan is to Yale as Iraq is to Bush and also sake bombs are dangerous and should be kept away from everyone under the age of 21. I love you and thanks for your compliments.

    P.P.S. Gautam and Ian, I love you both. You too, exoticgirl.

  • Alum

    When I have spent time in non-white countries, I was viewed as "exotic". In some places, they'd never actually seen a white person before. Did I get offended by this? Nope. Exotic is not a bad word. But this article proves any word can be made into a bad word if you try hard enough.

  • Anon #16

    Chloe - I fully agreed with you. "Satire" was in reference to this column, which - if meant to be taken seriously - is easily the worst PC-nonsense I've seen during my nearly four years here. (the YDN approves submitted comments in bulk, so you often can't see the ones immediately before yours until they're posted).

    That said, the "I'm very offended" genre has experienced such a resurgence this year that I wouldn't be surprised if this column is outdone in the very near future.

  • Janhavi

    I second Chloe, Laura, Gautam, Ian, etc.

    In today's Opinion column, Molly Green, a junior in Pierson, wrote: "The idea that jobs in the porn industry are universally demeaning forces a victim status on women who don’t want it and who aren’t asking for it. This is not to deny that porn has the potential to be demeaning, or that some porn stars do feel oppressed. Rather, it is to state that the proclamation, even when made by feminists, is in itself demeaning"

    Similarly, by saying that international students should be offended to be called 'exotic' because it implies 'otherness', what you are saying is:

    -Being different is an insult, so we should not publicly highlight the fact that some people are different.

    -You are assuming international students will be offended and are suggesting that we would rather be 'normal' than 'strange and foreign'. Essentially, we should comply with the American notion of normalcy and downplay our foreignness. We should not use words like exotic, that highlight how we do not fit the American stereotype of normal.

    Well I am proud to be international and exotic, and perfectly happy to not be 'normal'.

  • @anna s.

    Thank you. Well said.

  • :-)

    Janhavi and Shray sitting in a (exotic) tree…

  • Blue Dog

    Auctions of people have an especially painful valence in the United States. For some people, I suspect the present issue is not so much a question of whether or not international students should feel offended by being called "exotic," but whether or not historically-conscious Americans should feel comfortable, given their national history, treating auctions of people (conducted by either American or international students) blithely. I know I risk seeming pedantic, but there is a history to this queasiness that's worthy of mention.

    At auctions held throughout the antebellum American South, wealthy white men bid against each other to purchase mulatto women and girls destined for lives of sexual servitude to their masters. These auctions were electric rituals of masculine power, Walter Johnson explains in his excellent book Soul By Soul (1999), “a contest between white men played out on the body of an enslaved woman.” Designated as “fancy” in the dealers’ parlance, and capable of passing for white, these women commanded astronomically higher prices than other categories of slaves for sale. In the process, the traders “took hold of slaveholders’ fantasies about the slave market, wrapping them around the slaves they had for sale, and selling them back to the buyers as indications of those buyers’ own good fortune and discernment.”

    The most audacious of these fantasies, and therefore the most highly-valued of the categories, concerned mulatto (known also as “fancy” and “yellow”) women. Light-skinned enough to pass for white in many cases, these young women and girls were destined for lives of sexual servitude to their masters. They sold at auction for more than other slaves—three times the season’s median, by some accounts, if their virginity could be confirmed. “We need not add,” the escaped slave William Wells Brown remarks in Clotel (1853), a novel whose titular heroine is Thomas Jefferson’s mulatto daughter, “that had those young girls been sold for mere house servants or field hands, they would not have brought half the sum they did.” These high prices, writes Johnson, amounted for some purchasers to a brazen public declaration of desire, potency, and immunity from the rules of propriety. “No other man could afford to pay so much,” buying a fancy announced to the world, Johnson argues, “no other man’s needs could be so substantially measured; no other man’s desires would be so spectacularly fulfilled.” Other slaveholders, unwilling to defy convention so openly, surreptitiously acquired their fancies by proxy. “By hiding their private desires from everyone but their slaves,” Johnson observes of these men, “they recapitulated the ultimate logic of the slave market: their phantasms of independent agency were built out of practical dependence upon people bought in the market—their selves were built out of their slaves.”

    It's inconceivable, I suppose, that Americans residing in Germany would ever concoct a fundraising effort organized by the conceit of concentration camps. And obviously, no one in this case meant to give offense to any other person or group. But as we have seen on several occasions this year, including this one, ignorance can produce offenses which, though inadvertent, merit constructive discussion. The proper response to such behavior, especially in an intellectual environment (which is what we should aspire to, rather than settling for being a dysfunctional village of very smart people), is nuanced and compassionate conversation.

  • @blue dog

    Please get off your high horse. Date auctions have nothing to do with slavery auctions--first and foremost, the prospective participant dates willingly choose to put themselves up for auction. I've been to several, and everybody has a good time, money is raised for a good cause and both the bidders and those being auctioned off are usually on the floor in laughter by the end of the night.

  • Blue Dog

    My horse looks high, but only because my legs are short.

    I am happy to concede that some people find such events pleasurable. That said, I think you misunderstand my point.

  • Anonymous

    Chloe and I will be getting together to discuss this issue on Wednesday, April 16. If anyone else would like to join us, by all means, send me an email:
    edwin.everhart@yale.edu

    Looking forward to more responses. I'm sure we all agree that in-person communication is more expressive than text only. Heck, if you disagree about that, we can talk about that on Wednesday too.

    Edwin Everhart

  • Anonymous

    Americans are stupid. Throw rocks at them.

  • Jerry

    Edwin,

    You need to get out in the sunshine for a while. For anyone to expend so much effort to criticize and condemn those who would use the word "Exotic" could certainly benefit from some diversity and sensitivity training.

    Folks who think like you really scare me, lets homogenize and analyze everything so carefully that it becomes almost impossible to use adjectives in speech. Next it will nuance and innuendo that are under fire. Get over feeling guilty about being white and privileged. It is what it is.

  • Anonymous

    Dear Jerry,

    I invite you to join me and Chloe for tea on Wednesday.
    It's not really speech itself that I'm after. Having studied some morphology and translation theory, it's my understanding that language is really just a structural representation of people's semantic intentions… and of course the language impacts what things can be thought, but certainly most of the time it's the thoughts that are in the driver's seat.
    I think where our difference lies, and where I think the problem lies, is in the underlying assumptions about the way the world works and how people should interact with each other. For instance, some have said that they are proud of being "other," proud of being foreign. I take issue with that characterization. My view is that we are all fundamentally the same as people. With the world as it is today, it is that commonality that we should be stressing, not any differences. And the differences are usually slight. Even when you compare traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyles to the lifestyle of, say, a citizen of downtown Chicago, the two people are remarkably similar.
    I find the similarity to be the remarkable thing, the thing worth celebrating, and the thing that will lead to understanding and peace.
    That's not to say that cultural distinctions aren't valuable. Unique cultures are basically the biggest treasure we have on Earth. But they don't make us different as human beings. And so I think you should celebrate distinct cultures, yes, but that quality of "otherness" by itself is only a negative.
    So for instance, if you have a community of Russian immigrants in Canada, they can maintain their Russian culture and traditions, their identity, etc. But they should not make a point of being unlike other Canadians. So you should celebrate the culture itself, but not the fact that it is different.

    Sorry to be long-winded. I hope that make sense, Jerry. Send me an email regarding tea.

    Edwin Everhart

  • joey

    wanna go on an Exotic date ? yes i do Yale Daily News,with Anna Worcester,or that absolutely stunning blonde with the Yale 2010 tee shirt on jogging down Orange street,we'll go to an Ice Palace Hotel or hell we'll go to a warm EXOTIC location

  • Chloe, I love you, please go on an EXOTIC date wit

    Disclaimer: For those of you who have not been endowed with the gift of humor and are all to prone to over analyzing what people say, the following comment contains elements of satire which are not intended to insult or defame any individual or group of individuals, whether that is based on nationality, race, gender, sexuality, religion, disability (unless you can't appreciate satire and humor), or previous condition of servitude.

    Edwin,

    Your overly analytical, patronizing language is "exotic." And, yes, I mean this in the bad way that you claim pervades the word's entire connotation. I'm use to people talking like normal human beings.

    I'd discuss this issue further, but that would be even more pointless then this article already is. One suggestion I might give, though, is that you regularly visit a counselor (if you don't already). The connections you make in this article are too far fetched for a "normal" or a "common" person. These connections (and your general passion and fervor with such a random issue) might be the result of deep-seated psychological issues arising from your childhood. Perhaps your classmates in elementary school taunted you for being different? Emphasizing commonality and ignoring differences is not the solution to bad past experiences with being different.

    On another note, I don't think it was very professional of you to publish an article that criticizes two organizations with which you were working. If you disagreed with the direction in which the date auction was going, you should have resigned or recused yourself. Your article looks (and probably is) like a veiled attack on the Amnesty and ISO leadership, like a personal vendetta because they didn't do what you wanted.

    And please don't ask me to tea. I hate tea. Its "exotic."

  • Anonymous

    Dear #46,

    Please join me and Chloe on Wednesday anyway. I can serve you coffee, espresso, soda, water, or whisky, if you don't like any of my teas.

    As to my writing style being unusual - written and spoken styles of language are always distinct. I'm sorry if you wanted me to write a formal column as though I were chatting away on a sofa.

    You're characterizing my column as an attack. That's not quite accurate. I wanted to apologize for the offense caused by the title, an apology which was removed from the column against my will. Rather than attack a group from the outside, my goal was to associate myself with the Amnesty club, and apologize on our behalf, with some understanding and sincerity.
    Furthermore, I didn't know the title of the date auction until publicity materials had already been produced and distributed, and I didn't fully understand why it was insulting until another day or so later. So I couldn't very well work to change the title in advance.
    Again, to be clear, I had no interest in personal or group-directed attacks. I wanted to explain why "exotic" is so offensive in this context and apologize to those who were insulted - and by doing so, hopefully prevent someone else from writing a more vituperative column about the event title.

    About professionalism - look at it from my perspective. Here we have an urgently degrading title being promoted all across campus, by a group that is supposedly in favor of human dignity. At any moment, someone may write an angry column criticizing the event, and cut down a lot of reputations along the way. I had to act to preserve Amnesty's reputation of standing up for what's right. Because if there's one thing that's more important than "professionalism," it's justice. And in my view, this is an issue of justice.

    Please, please join me and Chloe on Wednesday. And please start signing your posts on this website. Talk about professionalism…

    Edwin Everhart

  • enough

    Edwin, don't you have better stuff to do besides respond to every single freaking comment? You made your point clear. You want people to come drink with you on Wednesday to discuss the issue. We get it. We get it. We get it. Let others comment all they want and go do some homework, go party, go watch tv, go have sex with an exotic Yalie,do something else besides comment on every post.

  • Adam Solomon
  • Future Yalie

    I can't wait to be at YALE! YOU GUYS ARE HILARIOUS!