13 August 2007

the other f word.

just so we're clear, i'm not talking about this f word: f*ck (i think we're all using that one... maybe not out loud nor in the presence of anyone under the age of 18... but hey, one misstep in the dark involving a lego brick and i let it fly...)

i'm talking about this f word: flip (some of you would use the asterisk in this case as well, i just wanted to be clear for those who didn't know what word i was referring to or didn't know (like me) that it was offensive).

the first time i heard the word was in high school. i was one of maybe five filipinos in my class. but, my family socialized (no, really!?) with other filipino families from the city and suburbs and the other teenagers my age used "flip" often and proudly. i remember one of them signed my yearbook "flips rule, class of '89! future class of '93!".

fast forward to 1998... i'd been living in the sf bay area for a few years. my stepbros, who i consider really "hip" and "happening" (they told me all about the black eyed peas in 1998 - B.F. (before fergie), asked me about life in the bay area and could i confirm that "there's plenty of fine pinays there?" i confirmed that life in the bay area was good, that fine pinays were aplenty and awaiting a visit from my stepbros and i even jotted a mental post-it note that filipino young men were now referring to their female counterparts as "pinays".

fast forward again to 2001... the thin man and i moved back to chicago from the bay area (long story). we were greeted at our new apartment by my brother and my stepbrothers. and while we were unloading the truck, i said something like, "so, what's happening? what are all the cool flips doing for fun these days?" my stepbros looked at me like i had killed someone. they quietly explained to me that no one used that word anymore, that it was equivalent to the "n" word or gook or chink and that historically, american soldiers used it as a derogatory slur/acronym in WWII for "f*cking little island people". i'm ashamed to say that i'd never heard that before. so, i stopped using it. curious? check out some of the entries on urbandictionary.com.

then after giving birth to the paloma in 2003, i started to look for t-shirts for her that referred to her filipino heritage. a google search yielded "flip" t-shirts from cafe press and a t-shirt company that calls itself flipside (i ended up buying from archipelago).

finally, in the more recent past and present - this past may/july, a filipino photographer exhibited a group of portraits of filipinos from all walks of life for a project titled "the flipbook project". and just the other day, i heard "flip" again while passing a loud group of filipino teens (possibly college students) downtown.

so, has a new generation of filipinos reclaimed "flip"? are you using the word again? did you ever use it before and then stop? did you never stop using it? what other words (if any) do you use to identify your (filipino) self? fil-am? pinay? pinoy? mestiza? mestizo? filipina? filipino?

lastly, i was just wondering on a related and similarly controversial note - as a filipino, do you consider yourself asian or pacific islander? i know many filipinos who identify themselves as pacific islanders and others who identify as asian. i also know some pacific islanders (specifically samoans) who are really angered with filipinos who identify as pacific islanders (in all honesty, until i did some research and found out that the philippines itself considers itself part of asia, i thought filipinos were pacific islanders).


mj aka sugarmama said...

My siblings and I are at one point the only Filipinos in our school. We grew up in Fredericksburg, Va. and really only knew a very small community of Filipinos. And yet -- I knew of the word "FLIP" as we knew then as: f*cking little islanders from the philippines...yes a little different from what you said.

Having known that, I stood away from ever having to say that word or never wanted to associate myself being called one. But when I moved here to Chicago in 1987 I started hearing Filipinos calling themselves Flips --- so I just assumed someone from back home either made it up or they seriously just never heard of it here in Chicago.

Either way, it still burns my ear when I hear it.

Asian or Pacific Islander? It's all po-tay-toes po-tah-toes to me. Whichever is available to check...then I check.

amaras_mom said...

I had never heard f*cking but "funny" little island person.

When I use "flip," I am using the term to describe myself just like my friends would refer to themselves as "sistas."

But hearing the expletive used makes me rethink my use of the word...

la dra said...

I never heard the word until college and then it was explained to me as "friendly little island people"- still condescending but less hostile. I think now that there are some people using it to refer to themselves in a nonderogatory way.

In terms of the census question you ask, I think Asian Pacific Islander is more inclusive. There's no reason to divide our political power even more by trying to decide who can use an arbitrary label and who can't.

Grace said...

Is it an East vs West Coast thing? I grew up in SoCal in the 80's where there are loads of Filipinos. We used in the same fun way "Flips Rule!" that you did. I seriously have never heard about this negative translation of the word until now...and I'm in my 30s!

As for Asian versus Pacific Islander? I only think about that designation when I have to fill in forms. And then I usually select Pacific Islander.

Karmela said...

First off: so glad I found this blog. Thanks to my proud Pinay cousin mama for pointing me to y'all.

Second: Flip is a bad word, eh? Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately), I'm not easily offended. Plus I'm one of those people who like to OWN the insult. If I were gay, I'd proudly call myself Queer. If I were black, I'd call myself N... you get the idea. I don't think it's the word itself that's derogatory; it's the context behind it that offends.

I say let's OWN the word FLIP. Even give it a new meaning:

"Fine-looking ideal person?"
"Filipina lurking in peace?"

Okay, I'm bad at this. You wouldn't know I actually working in PR/advertising by the pathetic examples given above. How bout it, mamas? Any other acronyms for FLIP you can think of that celebrate, instead of degenerate?

la dra said...

just got through clicking on your links- love the Flipbook Project! Can't wait to see it. Maybe I'll look for them at the next FilAm Arts Festival. when is that?

I've always wanted to buy the shirts at flipside but they don't bring my size to the festivals ;(

-- not so little island person ;)

samokdaddy said...

As the white part of the equation in our home, this is a word that I won't venture to touch with a ten foot pole. I have heard J, aka the "Freezing Islander", use it a few times during conversations with friends back home. She seemed to use it casually, but it was something I never asked about because I was not aware of the negative connotations that came out as a result of this posting.

This is definitely an eye opener for me. I do want to know about these things, so that when my kids run into words and ideas new to them, I can give them answers. J will probably be the one to do that with the Filipino side of the house...but daddy still wants to know.

I checked out the T-shirts at both cafe press and flipside. I really want to get Goobs a "who's your kuya?" T-shirt. The bun will get one with either Maganda, Pinay Princess, or Drama Queen. I wonder if it's appropriate for me to get the "Token White Guy" T-shirt.

maria said...

Alas! Since I did not grew up here, I have never used the word "flip". I think it works both ways though, depending on the tone of voice used by the speaker. As for Asians and Pacific Islander... whatever's available on the checkbox is fine with me.

xiaolin momma said...

I grew up in NY and So Cal and ahve always used the flip term and never thought it was derogatory - hmmm. Maybe because it was all my pinay sistahs using it.