Say Her Name: Why I’d Rather You Didn’t Call Me ‘Sis’

A term that was once a sweet reference to a sister-friend is now a way to “soften the blow” of less-than-nice comments.

Woman with name tattooed on wrist.
Photo Credit: Photo: Burst

| November 01 2017,

7:28 pm

If you partake in social media, read blogs or watch reality TV (or YouTube, which is basically the same thing), you know that "sis," once a term of endearment reserved for biological sisters and lifelong friends, has become a popular adage that women of color use often.

Quite honestly, I have no plans of jumping on that bandwagon. When the term first gained mainstream popularity over a year ago, I overlooked it. But now, I’m bound to see it several times during a few quick scrolls of Instagram posts. Sigh.

You may be wondering what my grievance is with this word. After all, it’s not a big deal, right? Well, that would be true if the word was used endearingly. But, in the past 48 hours alone, I’ve seen and heard "sis" used in the following ways:

Sis ain’t got no edges, though [laughing emoji].

I coulda told sis her man was cheatin'.

But sis…no one likes you!

Reasonably, my issue does not lie solely in the word itself, but largely in how it is used and what it often represents. These unsavory comments are a reminder that just because you can voice your opinion about something, does not mean that you should. And yes, saying it in her comments is just as bad as saying it to her face.

As with so many other things, a term that was once a casual, yet sweet, reference to a sister-friend, has been turned into a way to “soften the blow” of less-than-nice comments. It is a disingenuous pre-cursor to sharing advice that no one asked for or starting an ill-fated conversation that no one wants to have. I can guarantee you that putting down a woman’s hairline, relationship or ability to be well-liked does not feel any better when preceded by "sis."

Call me Kaila (kay-luh). A polite "hey girl" – the kind that acknowledges my presence, not the kind that aims to slow down my swift walk past cat-callers – is acceptable. Although I am rarely referred to as ma’am, I’ll take that too. But please, don’t call me sis. I consider it a courtesy and will extend the same respect to you. Don’t call me sis because it’s trending or because you’re just longing to tell me something that is better left unsaid. Don’t call me sis because you’d rather say something mean than not say anything at all. Don’t call me sis, b**ch or h*e because that’s just “what we do”. It’s not. And, we don’t.

And while you’re at it, please don’t call me hun, sweetie, sweetheart, baby, darling or any other derivatives of the cutesy names people assign in lieu of properly addressing someone.

Don’t call me any of these names because I won’t answer you. And the next time you plan to assign one of these names to another woman, instead, just say her name.





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