She's a beautiful black woman. On the surface, this might seem like a compliment to some. But it's not. It's offensive. Why? One word: Black. Think about it. If you're a white woman and heard You're a beautiful white woman, you would probably be puzzled about why that person inserted the term white. Why? Because it's irrelevant.
But let me back up and introduce you to some terminology. I'll address the simpler one first: BIPOC. Black, Indigenous, People of Color. Fetishizing BIPOC: Focusing unnecessarily on race or ethnicity, often to include stereotyping and sexualizing.
None of this is new to BIPOC women. I've been interviewing women in preparation for our meetup on this topic, and what I hear is that they are exhausted. They've been dealing with this their whole lives. To many white women, however, these are new terms. We could argue about whether everyone should already know or not and what it means that they don't know, but what I do know is that it's time (arguably, past time) that we educate ourselves. I hope every white woman in Les Ladies takes the time to not only read this, but come to the meetup on Sunday, Nov 8 to discuss this topic. I am especially grateful for the BIPOC women who have agreed to come and be part of this discussion, because while it is not their job to educate white women, it is so very helpful and brings us all closer.
And as one article points out, "it is important to note that this ... is not exclusive to white people and that they are not the only ones guilty of fetishization... [People may] choose to believe that because they are fetishized, they cannot fetishize."
LaToya, who will be co-hosting this meetup event, says, "I think it's important that people get open to the idea that they can be offensive, whether or not they intend to be is almost irrelevant. What is most important is one's reaction when informed that something they've said or done was offensive. But in order for one to gain an understanding, we must courageously name our pain."
As I interviewed women of various racial and ethnic identities, I was surprised to learn that one woman was offended by the label "Latina," or even its more inclusive alternative "LatinX." I was confused since a former Spanish-speaking girlfriend referred to herself as both Latina and Spanish. Here's an excerpt that I found enlightening from Diffen: "According to a survey released by the Pew Hispanic Center, only 24% of "Hispanic" adults said they most often identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino. About half said they identified themselves most frequently by their family's national origin — e.g., Mexican, Cuban, Salvadoran, etc. An additional 21% said they called themselves American most often, a figure that climbed to 40% among those born in the U.S. Some find it offensive to be called Hispanic or Latino and prefer to be called by their true ethnic group, such as Mexican, Colombian, Bolivian, etc." What is ironic is that my former gf was highly offended when I referred to her as a "Hot Tamale" (I'm being vulnerable here!), but the person I talked to who was offended by the word Latina had no negative reaction at all and kind of liked the phrase Hot Tamale.
Which leads me to my concluding thought: there are no absolutes here. What is offensive to one person may not be offensive to another, such as the word Latina. Yet it is important that we as a community discover what those things are that are likely to be offensive and how to have a conversation about it.
Let's come together in honest, authentic, courageous conversation and build unity and strength as a community of women who love women.