Look at these charts! Here’s the source from OkTrends.
So out of all races of male senders, White men get the most responses from female recipients (rate of 29.2). So, overall, White men are the most desirable.
So out of all races of female senders, Middle Eastern females get the most responses from male recipients (rate of 49.5). However, it is important to note that white men, overall, respond much less (rate of 40.5) than all other male races—probably due to their high desirability, as shown in the previous chart.
Now, look closer at that White male responding to female sender column. Anything stand out to you? The White men show a clear and strong preference for Middle Eastern women. I’m not just pointing this out to flatter myself, folks. I think this is a clear example of Orientalism.
Okay, I’ll be honest, I don’t really understand Orientalism. Edward Said wrote the famous book on it. I tried reading that book but couldn’t fully navigate it on my own. I tried doing a stand-up set about Orientalism but I just wasn’t prepared to fully tackle the concept on my own. It’s a weird phenomenon that I’m waiting for a course in.
However, in my limited research, I do know that Orientalism involves white, Western culture idealizing the Middle East in certain ways, particularly by projecting erotic qualities onto anything Middle Eastern. (Words like “exotic” and “fertile” are often products of Orientalism.) I know that such eroticism of the Middle East was used, in part, to justify Western imperialism. (Think about all those sexy beer commercials. Sex=value.) Because the lands were so valuable, it made sense that the West should try to claim them for their own. It would have been foolish for these powerful, white men to NOT seize ownership of such ideally beautiful, foreign lands.
You can see how feminist theory could easily fit into the political theories associated with Orientalism. I am not ready to argue that my encounters with white males hitting on me echo white imperialism; however, I am fully ready to claim that the attitude of Orientalism perpetuates negative effects of the notion of beauty.
As a half-Middle Eastern female, I cannot count the number of times I’ve been described as “exotic” in a way that made me feel anxious to capitalize on my physical appeal. Talking too much about a girl’s beauty will often lead her to place too much value in it…but talking about a girl’s exotic beauty? It’s like being reminded that I have not only an aesthetic power, but a rare aesthetic power. Couple that with the added notion of female competition, and it becomes very difficult to not feel pressured to exploit my “exotic” advantage.
Now here is where a lot of my friends would get mad at me for complaining. They would say “hey, people are saying you’re pretty, what’s the problem?” or “they’re just trying to give you a compliment.” These people don’t understand—too much physical praise scares me! I want to live in a society that challenges my intellect—not my beauty. Thank goodness that I am privileged enough to attend a great private school where I receive intellectual criticism/praise…but what about the girls and women who aren’t as lucky as I am? The females who are consistently confronted with the notion that their beauty is the only thing about them which is worth any value? How are they ever supposed to find the power in their thoughts?
Still think I’m being ungrateful to the guys giving me compliments? Here’s a little anecdote: I was recently at a stand-up comedy open mic, and I met some drunk guy after my set. We were having a decent conversation about comedy (which is more than I can say for most of my open mic experiences). Then he pointed out the following sticker on my jokes notebook:
I love this sticker. It’s weird and narcissistic and celestial and it makes me laugh whenever I see it. Yet this drunk guy was disappointed with it. He told me, “you know what, I’d really like to see you without your glasses on, like with your hair down, all wild and free and stuff.” At this point I was confused, so I asked him what he meant. He finally stopped rambling and just said “Well, look at yourself…you are undercutting your looks as much as possible.”
I was at a COMEDY OPEN MIC. As a COMIC. I was trying to TELL JOKES. To MAKE PEOPLE LAUGH. Yet this guy could not resist telling me to live up to my beauty potential.
Because even though I was at the bar to work on my comedic material, and had all the same things to worry about as the rest of the comics—like making people laugh and not hating myself when I didn’t make people laugh and writing more jokes and watching the other performers and being nice to people and remembering their names and all the other random shit that I should be doing at open mics—this guy wanted to remind me that even though I was at the bar as a comic, I was first and foremost at the bar as a woman.
My gender had overshadowed my passion for comedy.
(On a side note, if you want to instantly prove to me that you have absolutely no notion whatsoever of the internal conflicts imposed on women by patriarchal society, then be one of the comics who asks me “Do you really think female comics are disadvantaged?”)
Female comics are disadvantaged, exotic females are disadvantaged, intellectual females are disadvantaged, ALL females are disadvantaged in a society that obligates them to beauty.
You want to pursue your passion, ladies? Go right ahead, but don’t you dare forget that you have an obligation to look your best while you’re doing it. Because even though your passion in life is important, your gender duties are non-negotiable.
(That’s a quote by the patriarchy)
Just pretend it’s a real quote! Like historical fiction or something.
The bottom line is that the duty to beauty is toxic yet still prevalent.