Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Is the term "women of color" offensive?

Okay so I'm reading this post at The Movie Blog about FHM's 100 Sexiest women in the world list. Well this post focused on only the top ten of that 100. Well I take a look at the top 10 and I'm sure you'll notice something. Got it? Okay.

So in noticing that I ask:
And this is why I don’t bother with such lists. If I think someone is hot I’ll just find pictures of them myself and not waste time on lists. And speaking of differing opinions (and I think this points towards the popularity contest theory as well) where are the women of color?
and in response I get:
There are plenty of women from all sorts of ethnicities on the list. “Women of Colour” is an offense. These are women. Who cares what colour their skin is.
Okay as a person that finds women attractive I do agree that a woman's skin color should not have a bearing on her attractiveness but at the same time I wonder if there is some racism at work that affects our opinions of attractiveness (note how the responder even straight up says that blondes tend to be at the top of the list when it comes to attractiveness). Oh I'm gonna get to that other part in a bit.

Thinking back on my life as a guy I noticed how when it comes to what is attractive I, just like most guys, had the image of a white woman drilled into my mind as the definition of attractive. (I wonder if women have a similar experience of having the image of white men drilled into them as the idea of attractive. With heteronormative assumptions attached to men as well as women.) So I'm left thinking that if skin color doesn't mean anything in terms of attractiveness then why does it always seem that when we talk about beauty why is it often white beauty? (Mind you I'm not trying to say that the image of white beauty is perfect there are presumptions attached to it as well). Now back to that other part.

There are plenty of women from all sorts of ethnicities on the list. “Women of Colour” is an offense.

Okay at first I was going to go off on how there is no way this is offensive but then I had a thought, "Hold up Danny. While you are of color you not a woman therefore what you think on the possible offensiveness of the label "women of color" won't carry as much weight as the words of someone who is actually a part of that group." Indeed.

Now in my time of interacting with people and blogging I have never, never, ever, heard a single woman of color say that being called such is offensive. I personally don't find the label men of color (a group that I fall into) to be offensive.

So I need some input from women of color on this (Renee I'm looking in your direction). Is the label of "women of color" offensive? Or is this guy just talking out of the side of his ass?


womanistmusings said...

Women of colour is absolutely not offensive and I think he is just saying that to avoid the fact that the list is racist. The very fact that his first image of beauty is blonde speaks volumes. I think that his comment is more about him avoiding the label of racist that he deserves.

Danny said...

Now mind you we were only talking about the top ten of that 100 (meaning that the other 90 could be much more diverse). I know its not but I just wanted to hear directly from at least one person of that group. Thanks for the confirmation.

The very fact that his first image of beauty is blonde speaks volumes.
I say this speaks to way guys are raised to think a white when they think beauty.

Paul said...

Danny, I tend to agree with you that when we're young that blonde white woman is the standard we're given. (that might be different nowadays, I don't know. I'm not a kid anymore) But I think, hope, most guys grow out of that as we get older, (I did, anyway) just as we grow out of that "only supermodels are attractive" phase. Anyway I don't bother with these lists either, they're just the opinion of the people making the lists. I mean, Kristen Stewart as #3? Really?

Note that I'm not trying to minimise the rascist undertones of this sort of thing, they're there and it's unfortunate. (for lack of a better term)

As for WoC being an offensive term? Obviously like yourself I can't comment on whether it is or isn't, but I will say that any label will be offensive to somebody, somewhere. I once knew a woman who objected to the term "lady." ...Never could figure that one out.

Paul said...

I should say "most white guys grow out of this as we get older" Because I don't know if men of color (hope thats not an offensive term ;) ) fall for the "blonde hype" when they're young.

Danny said...

Don't worry about the men of color thing around me, its just fine.

Well Paul I'll tell you as a man of color (black to be specific) we tend to have a mixed message situation going on. In mainstream media there is no question that the "white if beautiful" dynamic is all over the place. On the other hand if you look at rap music (which I supposed you can call mainstream as well) pretty tells any male that listens to it that black women are the way to go (mind you the message is not really as pretty as that but that is how its fed to us). So on one hand we have our music telling us one thing while the rest of our media is telling us something else.


womanistmusings said...

Those rap videos are about promoting Black women. They are teaching men to objectify women and that is a point that must be understood. When women are being referred to as bitches and hoes, I hardly see how that is supposed to encourage the idea that Black women have value.

womanistmusings said...

Sorry it should read those video are NOT about promoting Black women.

Danny said...

But at the same time those videos are teaching guys that that is what black men (or at least the target audience for rap which mostly black men) are supposed to want. Its saying that the "value" of black women is in their sexual appeal. Frankly the damn stuff is oppressive all around. Its saying the women are bitches and hoes and saying that men only care about sex.

Danny said...

Makes more sense.

Sloth Womyn said...

Suddenly, I'm finding that people who are noticing racism are being called racist. This is a new tactic that I've seen the right using lately. Don't believe their idiocy.

Danny said...

Thanks for stopping by Sloth. While I'm not sure if the guy that made that comment identifies with the the right (its a movie blog) this is something I've seem before.

The thing is -ist (racist, sexist, etc...) words are powerful words so its not surprising that people will try to use them first in order to put the defensive. This could also be why some people try to prop themselves up as immune to an -ist label (like people who try to say that women can't be sexist against men because they are women, or that black people can't be racist against white people because they are black).