Can we talk? Like really talk—kitchen table, drink in hand, edges un-laid kind of talk? I want to get into this ongoing debate about the titles we give the leading women in our community: Mothas and Aunties. Some of us wear these titles like badges of honor, others cringe like someone just scraped their nails down a chalkboard. Why the discord? Is it the weight of responsibility or the not-so-subtle reminder that you’re not as young as you used to be? Let’s unpack it.
First, we gotta talk about the “Mothas.” In many cases, they are the rock, the backbone, the make-a-way-out-of-no-way women in our lives. Whether they birthed us or just birthed our spirits, these women are the definition of unyielding strength and love. But hold up—why does the title often come with an expiration date? Your value doesn’t go stale like old bread. Yet, society—yes, including us—sometimes treats this title like a ticking time bomb towards irrelevancy. “Mother” should be a title that makes a woman feel seasoned, not “seasoned out.”
Now onto the Aunties— in Black culture, these are the women who will let you drink at the family function even when you’re under 21 but will also make sure you get home safe. Aunties are the cultural preservationists, okay? They are the ones we get the real tea on sex that some of us can’t get with our mamas, to the importance of the voting bloc. But listen, not everyone wants to be an Auntie. Some of us are still trying to figure out our place between Black Girl Magic and grown woman wisdom. The Auntie label, though endearing, can sometimes feel like a nudge into a life stage we’re not ready to step into—or like we’ve been aged like a vintage wine we didn’t even know we were fermenting.
Who Gave Y’all Permission?
While Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) embraced the “Auntie” moniker during the Trump years, figures like Ava DuVernay, Oprah Winfrey, Gayle King, and Mary J. Blige have indicated their disinterest in such labels when used outside familial contexts.
DuVernay, expressing her feelings on Van Lathan’s “The Red Pill” podcast in 2019, likened the tag to “Aunt Jemima.” Wishing to clarify her stance, she later tweeted a list of greetings she finds acceptable: “Ms. DuVernay,” “queen,” “sis,” “family,” “Ava” and for youngsters, “Ms. Ava” makes the cut.
Which brings me to this point: Ask before you label. Titles come with expectations and responsibilities, and not everyone wants that weight on their Jimmy Choo-clad feet. Just because someone is older than you or has been through more life experiences doesn’t automatically slot them into these traditional roles.
The Community Impact
So how do these titles affect the Black community? It’s a mixed bag. On the one hand, Mothas and Aunties serve as the communal glue. They are our historians, therapists, and life coaches rolled into one. But there’s also a downside—these titles can pigeonhole Black women into roles of eternal service, at the expense of our own individual needs and dreams.
We need to reevaluate and redefine these terms so they can serve as beacons of respect without chaining us to societal expectations. Because, let’s be real—every Aunty isn’t looking to babysit your kids, and every Motha isn’t trying to adopt every stray that comes her way.
At The End of The Day
In the end, titles are more than just words; they’re a reflection of how we see ourselves and each other. If we want to empower the women in our community, we have to be conscious of the names we bestow upon them. Motha, Aunty, Queen, Goddess—whatever the title, let it be one of honor, chosen by the woman who wears it.
So the next time you’re quick to call someone “Aunty,” remember that titles are not one-size-fits-all. And for all the Mothas out there feeling like life has put you on the clearance rack, know that your value only increases with time.
Cheers to you, the Mothas and Aunties, and those who see themselves as neither. We see you, we honor you, and we wouldn’t be here without you.
— A Self-Proclaimed Auntie
P.S. Should we do “Unc” next? Let us know below in our Facebook Comments.