(VIDEO) Is Representing Women of Color Really That Important?

While searching for media that specifically represented young men of Color talking about how to properly put on and use a male and female condom for a previous post, I came across this video below which I linked to:

Excited that young college students from various racial classifications and ethnic backgrounds were represented and a part of the video, I shared the link via twitter. The next day I received a notification from someone called femidom_fan via twitter who said I should check out a video on a UKish site for a more “natural” model in a video. When I clicked on the video I noticed that 1. All the images that were drawn were colored in a peach color, what one might say is the color of the “flesh” crayon in a box and 2. The image of the person inserting the female condom matched these illustrations.

I responded to femidom_fan that the video and illustrations were of racially White or light skinned people and the videos I shared were more diverse and inclusive and so I would choose to use those over the one offered. The response was the following: “is it that important that WOC (women of Color) [are represented]? why?”

My immediate response was that femidom_fan’s question was problematic, then I found it interesting how exclusive femidom_fan’s thought process was. Why is it important to have women of Color represented and a part of conversations around reproductive health, reproductive justice, and sexual health? I couldn’t believe that was a question someone actually asked! It was as if my entire existence, my life’s work was seen as useless to this person. Good thing “I don’t really care what people say, I don’t really watch what them wan do, I got to stick to my girls like glue” as Sean Paul sings.

Then my homegirl, Aimee Thorne-Thomsen, executive director, Pro-Choice Public Education Project, a woman of Color in the reproductive justice movement, asked me: “where does one begin with schooling people about the importance of WOC, especially young WOC & QPOC (queer people of Color) in reproductive health/justice work…?” My response would probably be that I’d choose to educate other people of Color on why they are important versus educating racially White people on why our voices matter. I’m just in a space where I no longer want to prioritize or spend time educating racially White people who can educate themselves if they took time out to do their own research versus expecting us to teach and explain things to them. Talk about a sense of entitlement.

My homegirl Aimee and I are on the same page because then she wrote me this: “I think it’s hard to begin those conversations about YQPOC (young queer people of Color) & repro health/justice with people who want YOU to teach THEM” (emphasis my own). Notice how she too says “conversations about” not conversations with YQPOC.

I agree with my homegirl, poet, radical tutor, media maker and mamí Maegan La Mamita Mala Ortiz’s belief: “It’s not my job to engage White people.” I know this may sound harsh, and even exclusionary to some, and I hear that. At the same time these are our lives. This is our life, death, murder, eugenics, inequality, survival. If I’m working to center youth, queer youth, people of Color, working class people, people with disabilities, undocumented people I’m going to focus on us first. We are a priority, and in a world that does not prioritize our lives or our survival, there is a lot of work to do.

What are your thoughts about the importance of women of Color’s representations in materials and education focused on sexual and reproductive health?

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  • juliesunday

    i’m not a person of color nor am i a man so i don’t know if this registers on the radar of men of color but i always feel a little squicky about the fact that all condoms (with the exception of lifestyles’ ‘tuxedo’ which is black and various rainbow colors) are offwhite or, in the case of crown, pinkish. so i appreciate your taking the time to find a video with diverse people demonstrating how to use a condom. it reminds me of how you have to seek out special dildos for condom demonstrations that are not ‘white people’s color’ and they’re always exoticized as ‘big black dong’ or something like that. for my sex ed program we also order the circular ONE condoms to distribute to our students, which have about 100 different designs on the labels. in order to get representations of people of color (lots of the covers feature kissing, hand holding, muscly torsos, etc.) i have to order the special ‘urban’ assortment, and it irritates me that the manufacturer doesn’t make the standard assortment more reflective of the diversity of people who use condoms without forcing customers to resort to ordering a ‘special’ assortment (there is also a ‘pride’ assortment). i want all of my students who need to use condoms to use them and i wonder if these little things contribute to their reluctance. just some ramblings.

  • biancalaureano

    I know EXACTLY what condoms you are talking about! When I was ordering them 4 years ago for a job I had there was another company focused on men of Color specifically, I can’t remember hte name, but they def played off of the “ghetto”/”urban” stereotypes of Black men.


    I also have sat in on conversations by my previous supervisors who have said that we should order smaller/snugger condoms for younger men and that for those we should go to Asia. I was shocked at the blatent racial stereotypes. I thought: would she say we should go to Africa for bigger ones? And when people laughed uncomfortablly, she didn’t try to take it back she wanted to prove to us she was correct. It is still a stunning memory of the work environment in reproductive health (not justice!) field I was a part of!