Em-URGE-ing Voices

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Don’t call me exotic: terms to stop using that sexualize Latinas

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September 18, 2015

It’s Hispanic heritage month which means American public schools will most likely just spend a little bit of time talking about Cinco de Mayo and white-wash history. It means kids will continue to grow up in America not learning about the history of beautiful and diverse cultures all year round.



It also means this is a great time to bring up the sexualization of Latina women and some of the really terrible things society calls us instead of just terms like “pretty” or “beautiful” that white women receive.

So buckle up everyone because we need to have a serious talk about the ways society “compliments” Latina women.



One of my least favorites: exotic, for many reasons. Just for a little bit of background, exotic is most commonly used to describe plants and birds from other countries. It’s also commonly used for women of color. So when someone calls me exotic it makes me, and other women of color, feel like an “other,” this is not a term commonly used for white women. It leads to fetishizing women of color and making us feel like some sort of conquest, also I AM NOT A BIRD OR A PLANT. I AM A HUMAN BEING.

Next, no joke people actually call Latinas “tamales.” I don’t get it. At all. “Oh what a hot tamale you are!” Tamales are corn and meat, how the hell is that supposed to be a compliment? When Latina women are compared to a tamale it literally means we are being seen as a piece of meat. Are you trying to show some type of respect for my culture? And if yes, why is the only thing you can think of is food?

Another one I really hate is “spicy,” for similar reasons to tamale. We are not seasoning to make your food taste better, just like how we are not something to add to your sex life so you feel like you made it better by adding some diversity.

I repeat: we are not something to be added to your sex life so you feel better about yourself, we are not some sexual barrier for you to conquer. We are people, and we deserve respect.

Obviously there are a lot of other terms I could list and discuss, but these are the three that stand out to me the most and that I have experienced.

So next time you try and compliment and Latina please remember this: we. are. still. people. We have just as much worth and value as anyone else you would compliment, we are not some food group or foreign marvel.

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