Taking Back or Giving Momentum?

Do you use this word? What about ‘reclaiming’ it as a negative, and referring to your friends using the sobriquet?  I’m not so certain that marching in a large group, reclaiming a word is really addressing the issue, or simply adding more layers to the confusion.

With all derogatory terms, you are seeking to distance yourself from the person or behaviour you are not in favor of, or thinking that free use of the word among your friends and acquaintances will remove the hurtful power that the words contain.  If you listen to any hip-hop or rap, you will hear N****r, B***h, W***e thrown about with abandon.  Some claim that it has inured us to the “shock value of the word, and created an environment that ferments the growth of misogyny and racism.  Others have spoken to the power in ‘reclaiming’ the words to remove their ability to demean and deride.

What I see is the tacit acceptance of these words being acceptable commonly used terms in conversations, attitudes and even political discussions.  While I would never consider calling someone N****r, I’m also brought up short when I see others doing it.  Does that make me “too PC”, or just aware of the connotations and the separation that the word brings?

These words stir the emotions and are meant to be derogatory, to give YOU a feeling of superiority.  I don’t care who uses them – they are essentially separatist and intended to SHOCK you into a reaction, to instantly feel connected to or repelled by the speaker.

What about slut? Have I really managed to remove the hurtful connotations when I call a friend slut? And since women are taking pride in the “taking back” of the word: what is to stop a lunkhead like Limbaugh from using the term, nationally?  There is an attack on women in the political arena now: healthcare, equal opportunity access, child care, and birth control, even career women versus working moms or stay at home moms. (Please note – I see all mums as working mums – some just get a paycheque.)

With the incorporation of these words into a common use, taking them back if you will – have I not allowed those who have zero concept about the ironic nature of usage and the reason that I use the word to be lost when they continue to use it to demean?  I have billions of words at my disposal, I don’t need to choose one that will shock, to use ironically, so some moron will overhear and feel it acceptable for him to say.

I am unwilling to provide a disclaimer informing people that my use is ironic and meant to be a reclaim of a word rather than accepting the connotations of the word.  I don’t need to make my interactions that complicated; I shouldn’t feel it necessary to ‘explain’ my word choice to anyone.

I also don’t think I’ve reclaimed anything, or removed the power.  Someone calls me a name – it hurts, there is no “wondering” about the pain.  I do wonder where the thought came from but it still hurts.

I wonder about people who feel free to use these words, and if they give any real thought to the choice. And I have to chuckle at the more “feminazi” among us who wish to rant and rave against Limbaugh using a word, admittedly in a derogatory way, when they haven’t made effort to eliminate the word, but accepted it, taking it back  to “reclaim” the glory.  When the purpose is to change an outlook and attitude, the best choice is removing the word – not claiming it to wear with a badge of honor.


4 thoughts on “Taking Back or Giving Momentum?

  1. I can’t honestly think of a single word that would offend me in the least, Words only really have the power that others give to them. The less it offends the less most will most likely use it because all it’s power is gone . If someone calls somebody a “negative” word it just states where they stand in regards to someone..it’s a guide and nothing to be all up in arms about in my book.
    That being said you obviously don’t want certain people in certain positions if they use certain words that obviously seem to outline their outlook on a certain group of people .

  2. I don’t really get this reclaiming of certain words, especially when the culture now seems to remove the offensive to sanitise, like N word from Mark Twaine books, it’s not a word I use ever, but we do need to see it in the context in which it was used so people can see why it is so offensive to many.

    I hate it when commedians use it, though it’s done in America in the UK it’s simply not allowed and our audiences tend to be more mixed so there isn’t this huge division in humour.

    As for the word slut put a positive spin on it if you wish, but when called it I would say most would feel the insult as intended,and those who say they reclaim it because they read some book or went on a slut walk would feel the full force of the insult too.

    Saying all that with close friends we all probably use offensive terms but the context is understood and is taken in the spirit of what is said, unfortunately when generalised people seem to think they can throw offensive words at anybody and not expect them to be upset about it.

  3. My use, or non-use, varies from word to word. I think a lot of people try to reclaim the word – whichever word – and create a new meaning for it, while simultaneously denouncing the original (or commonly used) meaning. To me, that’s an exercise in futulity, and it allows trolls to continue to use the word, with an added layer of protection on it since they can now say, “What? You say it all the time!” I think if you’re ever going to be offended by it, by ANY meaning of it, you probably shouldn’t use it.

    I use slut and whore happily to describe myself or my closest friends, because I am not bothered in the slightest by the connotations that come with it, even when the intent of using it is to offend. I rarely use bitch to describe myself, unless it’s in a self-chastising way, because I dislike bitchiness in myself as much as in others. Not all will agree. Certainly I have friends and acquaintances who are proud of their bitchy side. I am not. If someone called me a bitch, and meant it, it would hurt because to me it says that I’ve been unpleasant. If someone called me a slut or whore, I’d be amused and perhaps even wear the title with pride, as even at it’s worst I don’t view promiscuity as immoral or unpleasant.

    The only person I dislike hearing slut from is my ex, because that’s just a minefield – we’re in the process of trying to find out if we can have a relationship that isn’t based on sex, and I’m touchy about the whole sex thing when it comes to him.

    I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable with the N word, but then I’m not Black. Well, not much. I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable with fag either, because I’m not gay. (Well, not much.) I do think that some words are not for use by people who they can’t ever apply to, and that’s just fine. What others want to do with them is not my concern, because I won’t ever be in their shoes.

    Although that does remind me – I remember one time I was on a train with my (biracial, but more Black-looking) boyfriend, traveling through Croydon (somehow I ALWAYS have some kind of trouble in Croydon) and a disembodied voice on the train yelled atme and called me a N- lover. So I stood up and said, “Well, what of it?” No reply. And when I sat back down I looked at Cam, and he looked at me, and we simultaneously burst put laughing, and were like, “Damn straight”. I guess it’s like the slut / whore thing for me. Every time I hear it, I’m like, “That’s an insult? Really? How is that an insult? Bfft, amateur.”

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