In the Black community, it’s not uncommon for someone to earn the label “Auntie” after displaying some serious #BlackGirlMagic and sharing major words of wisdom, but it beckons the question: Is it received as a term of endearment or considered an insult?
The question is raised after When They See Us director Ava DuVernay admitted on Van Lathan‘s podcast, The Red Pill, that she doesn’t love being called “Auntie Ava” on Twitter.
“Auntie Ava? Why? Am I that old?!” the 46-year-old asked. “Because I don’t feel that old! And it’s not a respect thing…Auntie Ava, like…Aunt Jemima?”
Sparking the debate as to whether calling someone older than you “Auntie” is ageist, OprahMag.com spoke with Ava’s friends Oprah and Gayle King to get their opinion.
Turns out, the media moguls do not like the term either.
“I cringe being called Auntie or Mama by anybody other than my nieces or godchildren,” Oprah said. “Except if I’m in Africa, where it’s the custom for everybody to refer to anyone older as ‘Sister,’ or ‘Auntie,’ depending on the age difference. And there, no one refers to anyone older by their first name, out of respect.”
“I hate being called Auntie. That’s what you say to old people or the old lady who lives in the neighborhood!” Gayle said. “I get that it’s a sign of respect, but no one’s calling Beyoncé ‘Auntie Beyoncé!’ The only ones who should be calling me ‘Aunt’ are my niece and nephew—and they don’t add the ie.”
So you may be asking yourself, what is the best way to refer to the women making strides in the Black community?
“Gayle works!” the CBS This Morning co-host said.
“Oprah has worked pretty well for me. Though sometimes strangers refer to me as Lady O, which feels friendly, yet respectful of the age difference. It feels appropriate,” Oprah said.
Via Twitter, Ava said that she “happily responds” to names like “Ms. DuVernay,” “Sis” and “Queen.”
Well, that settles it! We think it is safe to say we should keep the word “Auntie” limited to those that are our actual aunts (unless given prior permission).