Colored bottoms

A comment on my Crimplene posting:

Since you’ve been into ads in a big way recently, I think you’ll appreciate this one if you haven’t already seen it

It’s a Joe. My. God. column with this image, seen at the Belk department store:

Only two words in colored bottom, but there’s an issue with each of them.

(Background on the store:

Belk is a chain of American mid-range department stores chain founded in 1888 in Monroe, North Carolina, today part of the Charlotte metropolitan area. After the founding of the first Belk store, the company grew in size and influence throughout the South. (link) )

Start with bottom. From my “Active Bottoms” posting:

In the clothing business, top and bottom refer to clothes worn on the top and bottom of the body, respectively: for women, blouses or shirts vs. skirts or pants; for men, shirts vs. pants. (Shirts and pants each cover a variety of garments.)

(Big and Tall Bottoms appear in a follow-up posting.)

But then there’s the gay sexual sense, where top and bottom refer to the insertive and receptive roles, respectively, in anal intercourse. Discussion of bottoming on this blog here and here (with a great many illustrations on AZBlogX).

Then there’s colored. The store’s intention was clearly to refer to brightly colored pants/trousers. But then there’s the racial sense. Wikipedia on this usage:

Colored is a term once widely used in the United States to refer to black people (i.e., persons of sub-Saharan African ancestry; members of the black race), Brown People, Asians and Native Americans. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word colored was first used in the 14th Century.

In other English-speaking countries, the term has varied meanings. In South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, the term Coloured refers both to a specific ethnic group of complex mixed origins, which is considered neither black nor white, and in other contexts to people of mixed race; in neither context is its usage considered derogatory. In British usage, the term refers to “a person who is wholly or partly of non-white descent” and its use may be regarded as antiquated or offensive, and other terms are preferable, particularly when referring to a single ethnicity.

The term should not be confused with the more recent term people of color, which generally refers to all non-white people.

… Today colored is generally no longer regarded as a politically correct term. It lives on in the association name National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, generally called just NAACP.

In 2008 Carla Sims, communications director for the NAACP in Washington, D.C., said “the term ‘colored’ is not derogatory, [the NAACP] chose the word ‘colored’ because it was the most positive description commonly used [in 1909, when the association was founded]. It’s outdated and antiquated but not offensive.”

OED3 (Sept. 2011) is not so gentle:

Denoting a member of any dark-skinned group of peoples, esp. a person of sub-Saharan African or (in Britain) South Asian origin or descent; in earliest use [1758, 1794] with reference to South America. Now usu. considered offensive.

Coloured was adopted in the United States by emancipated slaves as a term of racial pride after the end of the American Civil War. It was rapidly replaced from the late 1960s as a self-designation by black (see note at black adj. 3a) and later by African-American, although it is retained in the name of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In Britain it was the accepted term for black, Asian, or mixed-race people until the 1960s.

The fact is that a substantial number of my black/African American acquaintances now find the racial label colored offensive. On the other hand, for many of my white acquaintances, especially younger ones, the racial sense is now effectively obsolete, though most of them recognize that the word was once used as a racial label; that means that for them the word in the store ad unambiguously refers to hue. Presumably, the creator of the ad was such a person, and the fact that the man in the ad could be taken to be black was irrelevant to the creator.

Joe. My. God. found the ad on the copyranter part of BuzzFeed (here), with a URL labeled “Gay men of color think this ad is a riot” and the head:

Retailer Subversively Seeks Bigger Piece Of Gay Market
Or, perhaps not.

Meanwhile, you can also find ads for Black Bottoms, the clothing — for instance, here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: