Feminism | Posted by Jaded16 on 06/16/2011

Things People Need To Stop Believing

#7:

#7: We're Not Your "Exotic Vessel" or your fetish

As a dusty third worldling, one of the things I learnt first was to see if there were other dusty people in the room whenever I go to any transnational feminist conferences. Something else I also learnt is to not expect ‘solidarity’ from anyone unless expressly proven otherwise — and these views are a result of the way people view me and my body in notIndia, what people assume of me in most internet spaces and fandoms. My friend and I compiled this list comprising of a few of the most repetitive and inane stereotypes that we’ve encountered of Third World Women. By no means is this list exhaustive, feel free to add your experiences in the comments — and tread carefully, the list is full of racial slurs and epithets.

1. We’re not disposable objects or your fetish or ‘flavour’ of the month. Not all Third World Women are ‘women’, but we don’t have the choice to identify the way we want, because exotification gets in the way of our special plans.

2. Not all Third World Women live in lands that are in a state of constant war. We exist in cities, between towns and villages — many in the West. There is no fixity of geo-political location, we don’t need to be in the Third World to be marginalised.

3. Not all of us live in tin shacks or mud houses, like every other group we too are scattered across classes and communities across the planet.

4. In popular culture and media, if Third World Women characters don’t wear shiny and bright colours, reality will not crack I assure you.

5. Hospitals exist in the third world too. So not all Third World Women need to squat in bushes to give birth.

6. Third World Women aren’t all ‘irresponsible mothers’ or ‘birthing cows’ because they have children at [x] age instead of the more socially ‘forward’ and ‘acceptable’ [y] age. I can vouch that the world will not come to an end if you don’t see Third World Women as ‘bad people’ for ‘not knowing better’ and ‘not having careers’.

7. We’re not your ‘Eternal She’, Earth Mother, Infinite Vessel, [Insert Inappropriate Phrase That focuses And Equates Sex Organ With Gender Here].

8. We are capable of doing more than care-taking children, cleaning houses and sewing immaculate quilts. We exist in all fields of work, equating every Third World Woman as a sweatshop worker is not necessary.

9. There is no situation where phrases like ‘exotic princess’ can be considered a compliment, even more so if this ‘compliment’ is based solely on skin hue.

10. We’re not always natural cooks or nurturing ‘goddesses’. We can do said jobs if need be, doesn’t mean we’re ‘more’ adept at menial jobs than anyone else.

11. We’re not ‘eager’ to dispense dusty wisdom and folktales on demand — especially about breastfeeding or childbirth. Take a close look at the Not All Third World Women Are ‘Women’ bit here.

12. No, we cannot be ‘purchased’ outright — definitely not if the sole ‘value’ that decides the ‘purchase’ are our hues.

13. When we say ‘no’ we mean ‘NO’ too. So saying ‘we can’t decipher your tongues’ is not an excuse.

14. Third World Women aren’t always looking to ‘entice’ White Men. Shocking, I know!

15. We’re more than just ‘enticing eyes’, or ‘gorgeous hair’ — we’re people and not body parts.

16. Most of us don’t have names like ‘Kali’, ‘Sarasvati’, [Insert Name Of Exotic Goddess], generally because we know the magnitude behind adopting such names and the cultural significance they carry.

17. If Third World Women have voice parts in popular media, the world will not turn upside down. Especially not if the said voice parts don’t involve being in the hotel industry.

18. Representation of Third World Women that doesn’t posit the hijab synonymous to oppression will not mess with Global Time.

19. We don’t like to be compared to food — ‘exotic’ or not.

20. When we’re involved with White people — sexually and otherwise — saying, “You’re a beautiful hue of Brown” isn’t helping anyone get laid.

21. Not all Third World Women roam shoe-less. (Sidenote: how come we can be shoe-less, but can afford to buy dresses? Curious minds want to know).

22. We’re not ‘sexually unrestrained’ — our cultures do not ‘encourage’ “godless unions and perpetual orgies”.

23. Not all of us have British accents, we don’t speak in archaic prose when addressed. And we do speak even when no one addresses us — apparently this is very shocking for people.

24. In the rare instance we do have voice-parts in popular media, and we’re speaking out against the dominant culture, our hair is ‘natural’ and ‘loose’ and ‘wild’.

25. In other rare instances where we do get screen time and space in popular media, we’re freedom fighters, UN refugees, sometimes nurses to Big Important White doctors, almost never as fully developed characters.

26. We’re not ‘natural hard-workers’. Back-breaking straining physical labour isn’t ‘easy’ for us either.

27. As Third World Women, we’re not ‘in tune’ with our ‘natural femininity’. Subservience isn’t coded into our genes.

28. Third World Women are queer too! And still people! Who knew?

29. Contrary to popular opinion, I have on good authority that not all Third World Women despise sex. And we need consensual sex as much as everyone else — even the supposed ‘desperate hookers’ from Pan Asia — and yes, they’re all in one monolithic identity like the rest of us.

30. Some of us speak multiple languages, some don’t. Some have the privilege of speaking in our native tongues and not get shamed for it, some don’t. Don’t expect ALL Third World Women to start ‘shrieking hysterically’ in ‘devilish tongues’ over canned soup.

Jaded16 also writes the blog Oi With The Poodles Already

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  • allie @ at 12:11 pm, June 16th, 2011

    i found this interesting. i must say that i’m white and i’m attracted to other races as well as my own. mainly to me, hot is hot! yes sometimes i do look at women/men(i’m bi) and think their skin is beautiful, whither its dark or a fair skin tone. that’s just part of it,but to me there’s more to attraction than what a person looks like. for example, i love a good accent, mainly British or somebody from the united kingdom (Irish, Scottish, Welsh etc.). i wouldn’t date somebody who only dated a certain race though, or didn’t even consider their own race if they were dating. to me that’s so limiting, love is color and gender blind, why limit it! i love different races, i love different cultures, beauty is beauty it doesn’t matter who they are, or where they are from. but saying that, i see men who are white males go over to eastern Europe(Russia, Ukraine etc) and other third world places to find a mail order bride, and this disgusts me! they don’t want to find love they want to find a pretty little ornament to show off, “look at my little submissive wife who will do what ever i say and not get fat because she isn’t a western woman” i have to say that it’s not only sexist but a bit racist, but that’s just me. though i feel that prostitution is a gray area since some women do thoroughly do enjoy having sex a lot and like getting paid for it(again very gray area), i think in places that are third world countries its sort of a different story and i find it creepy that men would go there to take advantage or play out a racist fetish! i pretty much agree with you, but i must say, if i were ever to date a beautiful woman who had beautiful dark skin, i just hope she wouldn’t be offended if i told her how beautiful she was and how gorgeous her skin looks. mainly because growing up fair skinned i got teased and told i looked like a ghost so to me bronze and dark skin is the prettiest, though i do love fair skinned girls and love my fair skin too!

  • O'Phylia @ at 5:50 pm, June 16th, 2011

    *applauds*

  • Kat @ at 8:15 pm, June 16th, 2011

    Wow, reading this, I actually appreciate my hometown so much more! I grew up and still live in a very multi-ethnic part of South Florida, and many people are from third-world areas of Central and South America, and Asia. Women from these groups represent a wide cross section of income levels, occupations, and lifestyles where I live. Some proudly wear the traditional clothing of their native countries, some shop at The Gap. Some have accents, some don’t. I never thought that a person’s skin tone or ethnicity limited them to anything. The examples around me proved otherwise too blatantly! It baffles me how stereotypes can limit someone’s view of other ethnicities to such a narrow definition.

  • Liz @ at 9:06 pm, June 16th, 2011

    Awesome post! I am white and studied abroad in Quito, Ecuador last year, and many of my American friends asked me questions like, “What are the bathrooms like?” and other dumb things that should not be asked about living in a city. Americans, white Americans especially, have really dumb assumptions about developing nations in general. And the women from developing nations are no exception to these dumb stereotypes.
    I’ve been trying to watch more movies in Spanish (mostly through netflix instant because that’s convenient to me) to both keep up those language skills and try to find points of view not represented in mainstream American media (quite a wide range there…). XXY (movie, Argentina) and Johnny Mad Dog (book and movie, Republic of Congo) are two examples of media with strong female characters in them (well… XXY has a female actress), the Deepa Mehta trilogy (India), but if anyone else has suggestions about novels or movies set/made in developing countries with good female characters I’d love to hear them because there aren’t a lot of them! There definitely need to be more and they need to be more well-known!

  • Garen @ at 6:36 am, June 17th, 2011

    this is brilliant and so are you.

  • There are things people need to stop believing | The Shoops Roost @ at 4:27 am, September 25th, 2014

    [...] Fbomb comes a list of stereotypes about women in Third World countries that are often held by people in [...]

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