Why I Must Eliminate the Phrase "WOC" From My Vocabulary

Why I Must Eliminate the Phrase "WOC" From My Vocabulary

While the term "WOC" aka Women of Color is an easy way of referring to minority women across the United States, more often than not, it's used as a nice and tidy PC way of saying black women. Just take a look at these headlines. 

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Two out of the three headlines speak specifically to the experiences of black women and yet the writers choose to regard all women of color together into one category.  There's nothing wrong with highlighting the experiences of minorities but to ignore the intersectionality that comes with it is irresponsible and lazy. 

Intersectionality, or the "overlapping/intersecting of social identities and related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination" is directly related to race, ethnicity, and class. It basically says a cis black woman with a high income living in a suburban area may be marginalized in a different way than a queer Indian woman with a mid size income in an urban area, and so on and so forth.  

Even in the beauty industry, WOC is rarely an accurate way to describe much of anything. Let's take foundation, for example. Certain skintones and undertones are found more often within specific ethnicities, but when people choose to look at "WOC" as one huge category, we get brands making 2 or 3 dark foundation shades in a line of 20 that are always too red/orange or gray.

Obviously there are situations where we may want to generally refer to women of color as a group of women who often experience discrimination or are often treated differently, but as a repeat offender myself, I realize that it's important to be intentional about who you are talking to and what you are talking to them about. And there are other ways to talk about marginalized groups without saying WOC.

For example, Cocoa Swatches' tagline is "the latest makeup swatches for underrepresented complexions," because medium to deep complexions are often left out of the beauty conversations worldwide, spanning race, ethnicity, class, and culture. So while the term "WOC" may include this group, to use this term would not accurately represent our cause.

Perhaps many people are scared themselves to call out specific racial and ethnic groups, like black women, in order to avoid siloing themselves into one category or out of fear of being seen as exclusionary. But, it shouldn't be that way. We shouldn't be made to feel that way. 

We all want to live in a world where we can live peacefully together regardless of race or class, but the way toward progress is not ignoring that these differences exist. Instead we should make it a point to learn more about them and celebrate them so we can celebrate each other without things like annoying and ignorant bouts of appropriation that revolve around race, class, and power, or the discrimination of darker complexions we see in the media.

When I think of how I identify myself, I don't think I've ever said to myself, "I'm a woman of color." I'm a black woman. I'm a Nigerian woman. I'm an American woman.

There are so many ways in which we are different and those differences should be acknowledged and given their due. It might be hard to eliminate the phrase "WOC" completely, but I want to try. 

What do you think about the term "WOC?" Let us know in the comments!