Reclaiming “bad” words
*Warning, this post contains words you may consider offensive*
Let me just put it out there: I don’t think there is anything to gain by identifying yourself with words typically used to oppress you. I’m talking about women who try to reclaim the words “bitch” and “cunt,” gay men and lesbians who call themselves “fags” and “dykes,” black people who use the word “nigger,” or any minority who tries to take the power out of a word by repurposing it as a “good” word. Don’t try to repurpose it, throw it out! I’m still working on why I feel so strongly about this, though, so help me out if you have any ideas. I think that if we try to redefine “bitch” to mean an outspoken, assertive woman (in a good way), all that happens is that outspoken assertive women get labeled bitches in the traditional way, which also means malicious, domineering, and mean. Nothing really changes, except that those trying to redefine the word get put on the same team as those using it in it’s original, offensive way.
There is nothing wrong with some words being offensive. I think that “nigger” should be seen as an offensive term. It was coined for racist reasons, used with terrible effect, and needs to be consigned to the trash heap of history. I would rather say “nigger is a terrible word people used to use, but we don’t use it anymore” than “we took the shit they gave us, and polished it up nicely so that we could use it.”
Tamara Strauss reports that:
Women like former New York Times columnist Anna Quindlen have argued that equating lipstick with empowerment, however playful or ironic, and reclaiming such words as bitch and slut make a mockery of feminism’s longtime and still unachieved goals of social and economic equality.
On the other hand, of course, there is Bitch, PhD:
So I think that’s kind of the thing about bitching. If you’re doing it all alone, and it’s falling on deaf ears, and you feel powerless, it’s easy to feel like bitching is pointless. And that, of course, is why some people call other people bitches–to try to isolate them, marginalize what they’re doing, keep other women from joining them in bitching. But when bitchy women start bitching at each other, and then bitching together in a kind of bitches coven, it does make a difference. It makes you realize you’re not alone, and you do have the right to feel ticked off about whatever’s twisting your knickers, and hey, now that you mention it, my panties are in a bunch too, and why the fuck don’t clothing manufacturers make underwear that doesn’t ride up your crack?