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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 always saw it as a honour. Older black females with knowledge and wisdom to impart like a mother/sister/friend? Yet always there omnipresent to stop you from making mistakes. My twitter aunts are only a decade or so older —seniors to me in kindergarten. But hey.— Sophia (@SophiaCannon) June 5, 2019
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.
“Auntie” is an insult now? This where we at? pic.twitter.com/1ueCkk9Wr0— F² (@fonzfranc) June 4, 2019
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— Tweety Bird Lookin Ass Bitch (@Still_Bourgeois) June 4, 2019
I honestly feel like for anyone to take offense to someone calling them a auntie or unk out of respect, adoration and love for them to me, has something to do with them personally that they are not dealing with. Maybe from their childhood.— Bryan Earl (@thebryanearl) 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.— Thee Little Pony (@SoualiganAmazon) June 4, 2019
In the end, per her request, most people settled on calling Ava DuVernay “Queen” instead.
Dominic-Madori Davis is a recent graduate of the University of Southern California. She covers the internet, politics, and social issues.