On a Sunday Married At First Sight marathon I indulged in the unfolding reality experiment of matching white straight cisgendered Australians with other white straight cisgendered Australians who take their white straight cisgendered privilege and compromise it all on camera. It’s saucy. And when white people arrange marriage -well that’s sure diggly darn acceptable.
Debbie an ex model in her 50’s thus far is continuing to express her disappointment in her non-Polynesian groom John. Their Samoa destination honeymoon deteriorates to a state that John calls “grim” while she expresses to the camera “im looking for an exotic island man, this is not what I had in mind”
Wypipo problems huh?!
Debbie continues “why did I have a Polynesian theme wedding and not get a Polynesian !! All they had to do was put an add out and they would have got me one. They should have interviewed 100 and they would have found me one, I’ve got nothing I wanted”.
Skip forward to a dinning setting where the couples are thrown into a dinner with alcohol flowing, Debbie before walking off the set explains once more “I’ve been saying all along I was expecting someone from the Polynesian islands, or someone with culture, or someone that wows me.”
*shakes head. Debbie, Debbie, Debbie.. shutthefuckup.
White people have (cough) culture too…. and believe it or not, not all of us Polynesians spend our days dancing in grass skirts with flowers in our hair waiting enthusiastically to entertain or seduce a white person with non white culture in fact most of us are completely disconnected from our own cultures living in a bedrock of imperialist white supremacist capitalist cis-heteropatriarchy.
But while many would assume an interest in someone’s ethnic physical qualities should be taken as a compliment, it’s actually the opposite, it’s racial stereotyping and the media not surprising; feed into it.
Sure, everyone has different qualities they are drawn to, but yo lady when attraction becomes singularly focused, like; I only date blondes or I’ve always wanted to be with an Asian. When this happens, it turns into something else entirely: fetishization. And for PoC, this type of attraction is cause for concern.
For those who insist that they could never say anything racist because they are not racists, I present a quick reminder: Just because you didn’t intend for something to sound racist, doesn’t mean it isn’t, and just because you don’t think you’re a racist, doesn’t mean you’re not.
As a New Zealand Caucasian/Polynesian, who reflects a common and decidedly ambiguous look in regards to my ethnicity, I have absolutely been questioned and “complimented” in some of the strangest ways to the tune of what’s considered exotic and islander looking or mixed race looking -rarely by people intending to sound racist but yet they do sound racist.
Yes, ‘exotic’ application to humans is inherently othering. Being looked at as a foreign treat is a treatment only white people impress on everyone else that isn’t white. Exotic is beautiful in a different way. The question is, different to whom? Normal people like John? Sounds like white nonsense to me.
Debbie, do not use the word “exotic” to refer to humans who do not look like you. “Island people” are not fruit.
Automatically clumping entire ethic groups into a label or worse, a compatible love interest. All of them. Because they’re all the same. Is not considered polite. It’s an age old cultural sore spot.
If you want to get technical, anything can be fetishized: looks, intelligence, height. But if there is only one reason you’re into someone, and you narrow their appeal and worth down to a single attribute, then that is not fair. That is dehumanising. Attraction involves initial sparks that can blossom into something deeper. Not presumptions based on pigment.
If any of this offends you as a white person, consider that discomfort for a minute. And then imagine that your discomfort weren’t the temporary consequence of reading a blog, but rather the permanent consequence of living in your own skin.