Black Twitter was in full debate mode last night. This time, users were split on whether it is appropriate to refer to an older Black woman as “Auntie.” The debate began after filmmaker Ava DuVernay responded to a now-deleted tweet of podcast host Van Lathan, who referred to her as “Auntie.”
For the record, I happily respond to:— Ava DuVernay (@ava) June 4, 2019
“Hello, Ms. DuVernay”
“Hello, Ava” (safest bet)
Ms. Ava is fine if you’re under 18.
Thanks for showing me respect regardless, Van. Had fun talking to you. Wishing you all good things. 🙏🏾
The term “Auntie” in African-American culture usually refers not only to family but any older Black women exhibiting confidence, wisdom, and warm traits. For example, many consider Mary J. Blige to be an “Auntie” of the music industry, as she is seen as someone who paved the way for many artists of this generation.
Still, some do not find the term to be endearing. Many on Twitter said they believed the term should only be used to refer to family, while others said regardless of personal sentiments, people should respect the fact that DuVernay does not want to be called “Auntie” on the internet.
I don't understand the insistence @ava welcome Auntie. It's not her name, she's not your kin. You can just say Ms. Duvernay & keep it moving if you want to show an extra level of respect.— ❄Mikki Kendall❄ (@Karnythia) June 4, 2019
Others were confused about “Auntie” can be taken as an insult, especially since the term has existed in African-American culture for generations.
So to be clear, the word “Auntie” is used for older fine single women with no kids but she cool sassy and educated, drives a coupe with leopard print interior, stays fresh, about her money and is probably being chased by somebody’s husband? pic.twitter.com/SCaHu0fhaB— Queen Nefertiti (@Still_Bourgeois) June 4, 2019
Arguments against the term asserted it “desexualizes” women, and in response, some people said that there was nothing less sexy about getting older in age.
Actress Jackée Harry, who’s known for her role as Lisa Landry on the show Sister, Sister, let her fans know amid the Twitter debate that they can still use the term to refer to her. Harry is the first and only Black actress to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, which has since granted her “Auntie” status.
Absolutely! Good luck desexualizing this Auntie. 💋 https://t.co/DAvpHaft4X— Jackée Harry (@JackeeHarry) June 4, 2019
“We stan a confident legend,” one user said to Harry.
We stan a confident legend.— She Art Loosed (@SoualiganAmazon) June 4, 2019
In the end, per her request, most people settled on calling Ava DuVernay “Queen” instead.