There are many ways to kindly and respectfully compliment the way a woman looks. But one descriptor that should be left out of such comments? "Exotic."
Cristen Conger of the How Stuff Works podcast, Stuff Mom Never Told You, takes on the topic of "exotic" beauty -- and explains to the world why using that adjective to describe a human woman is anything but complimentary.
"When you exoticize and fetishize someone, it's actually an example of what's called a racial microagression," says Conger in Stuff Mom Never Told You video produced alongside the podcast.
And as she goes on to explain, whether the speaker has "good intentions" or "means it as a compliment," is pretty irrelevant to how the word makes women on the receiving end of the label feel. "A lot of times, the message that it communicates to the recipient is, 'Hey, I think you're super hot and desirable, because you don't really look like what your ethnicity leads me to believe you should look like!'"
Since Conger is, as she puts it, a woman with "very pale skin who has never ever been labeled exotic," she asked her listeners who have been called "exotic" to weigh in.
"I don't know a woman of color who has not had experiences with people making her feel like a conquest of some kind," wrote a woman named Robin. "'You're really pretty, for a black girl,' or 'You're really nice for a black girl,' or maybe even 'I've never liked a black girl like this before.'"
The takeaway? People should never ever be called exotic. It's not cute, it's just ignorant. As Stuff Mom Never Told You podcast listener Lillian wrote to Conger: "A parrot is exotic, I'm from New Jersey."