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Is it racist to describe someone as having slitty eyes?

(162 Posts)
joogle Fri 10-Jun-11 09:14:52

Why is the description slitty eyes racist? Is it used as a derogatory term?

My ex husband was Japanese and his eyes were slitty in comparison to my rounder eyes, our DD has eyes shaped somewhere inbetween, would that make me a racist bigot to say her eyes were slightly slitty shaped? I think she has stunning eyes and I wish mine were her shape!

I was often described as round eyed when living in japan, I didn't take it as a racist slur, do some of you believe I should have?

I may be being 'naive' here but I'm curious about this.

scurryfunge Fri 10-Jun-11 09:17:47

Yes it is used as a derogatory term. If you question it's use then it is best not to use the term.

Besom Fri 10-Jun-11 09:20:33

Say 'almond shaped' instead if you need to say anything? Slitty has been widely used as a derogatory term.

joogle Fri 10-Jun-11 09:21:28

I've never heard it used as a derogatory term which is why I ask.

Would round eyes also be a derogatory term?

FruStefanLindman Fri 10-Jun-11 09:22:15

I agree with scurry.

You could always describe your DD's eyes as almond-shaped

Besom Fri 10-Jun-11 09:22:28

Although everybodies eyes are almond shaped aren't they? Eyes are not round.

scurryfunge Fri 10-Jun-11 09:22:55

It will be interesting to see how this thread goes. I challenged the same term that was used by someone on a Style and Beauty thread once and I was flamed for challenging it.

FruStefanLindman Fri 10-Jun-11 09:23:16

Oops, X-posted, Besom

moogster1a Fri 10-Jun-11 09:24:08

I've always wondered why Paki is derogatory but Brit isn't. I see them both just as abbreviations. Aussie, Argie, Yank. Why are some viewed as so awful and others not?

PrettyCandles Fri 10-Jun-11 09:24:13

'Slitty eyes' has a negative connotation. You could say 'almond-eyed', I think that would be fine.

I think that the Japanese are casually racist in the way thatthe Britush were a generation ago, when terms like 'the Paki shop', 'spas', or 'retard' were considered just descriptive, but not pejorative. They may be descriptive, but in an offensive way, which is now recognised.

joogle Fri 10-Jun-11 09:25:05

I think when people use the term 'round' they mean in comparison to their own eye shape rather than someone actually having circular eyes!

valiumredhead Fri 10-Jun-11 09:25:14

I agree, not a nice term.

moogster1a Fri 10-Jun-11 09:25:48

Message deleted by Mumsnet.

MrsLevinson Fri 10-Jun-11 09:26:55

It is used in a derogatory way, not in a usual descriptive one, therefore it is racist. Agree the term almond shape is best, it's obvious what is meant by this as Western eyes are rounder.

joogle Fri 10-Jun-11 09:30:15

Although some people may use a word in a derogatory way, do you think if you use it without derogatory intention or even in a positive way that still make you a bigot, ignorant or neither?

If I said I don't think Hugh Grant (for want of a better example!) is attractive as he's too pale would that be racist?

joogle Fri 10-Jun-11 09:31:31

Is it because slitty doesn't sound as nice as almond? I agree almond sounds more attractive

scurryfunge Fri 10-Jun-11 09:31:48

It wouldn't matter what your intention was, it is the received message that counts -so don't use the term if you believe it may offend.

Animation Fri 10-Jun-11 09:32:21

This is something Prince Phillip said - in a moment that was intended to lighten a situation. I watched his interview last night. I believe his intentions were good - but that it's best not use terms like that.

joogle Fri 10-Jun-11 09:36:23

I saw the interview too which is the reason I started the thread.

I've never heard it used but then I suppose no one is going to say something they believe to be racist within earshot of me considering my DD is half japanese.

Irksome Fri 10-Jun-11 09:40:46

yeah, it's an unpleasant thing to say.
It's like the difference between 'round eyes' and 'bulbous eyes'.

EricNorthmansMistress Fri 10-Jun-11 09:41:30


Paki is a racially motivated slur. It was/is used as a term to denote inferiority by nature of someone's ethnic background (it isn't short for Pakistani, it's a slur for asian-looking) and it is actively and intentionally hurtful to asian people. Brit is simply a shortening of British. Huge difference.

Slitty is an unpleasant word and implies that having east asian eye shape is ugly or inferior. Slanted or sloping might be ok, or almond, or just east asian.

joogle Fri 10-Jun-11 09:43:06

I've heard slanty eyes is also racist....

BingBongSong Fri 10-Jun-11 09:43:54

Actually, I was on a predominantly Chinese discussion board yesterday, where the term "round-eye" was being used alongside the term "potato" in a derogatory way to describe white people. Hadn't been aware of that till now.

Other expressions used are Gweilo (ghost-man, used to describe anyone not Chinese), and one which is used less often now in China is "dabizhi", which translates "big nose".

PrettyCandles Fri 10-Jun-11 09:44:02

It's establishing a term as a label - often an irrelevant label - that makes it a problem. Many offensive words started off as legitimate and acceptable words, until their use was hijacked. Take 'spastic', for example, or 'yid'. Both were originally used by people with CP and by Jews to describe themselves. It was when others used those words to exclude these people that the words became unacceptable.

Though TBH I think with 'slitty-eyes' the reason is even simpler. If a Westerner narrows their eyes it is often a negative expression - suspicion, dishonesty, etc. You would legitimately describe them as slitty-eyed, it would not be racist, and it would immediately send the message that they were being in some way bad.

valiumredhead Fri 10-Jun-11 09:44:41

It's like the difference between 'round eyes' and 'bulbous eyes'

I disagree, that's descriptive but those words weren't/aren't used as a racial slur iyswim as 'slit eyes' was/is.

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