Thursday, March 4, 2010

Reclaiming Verbal Garbage


I had a conversation earlier this week about the modern notion of reclaiming negative words and turning them into something positive. The women on the View are great about this; they use the word bitch as a point of humorous reference, rather than to compare someone to a dog. Gay men have started to call one another 'fag' or 'girl' in an attempt to own the word, and to soften the blow when that epithet is hurled at them. Rap songs use the n word as though it were verbal water, natural and necessary. And the list goes on.

This concept confuses the ever-loving crap out of me.

When a word is specifically invented or turned into a negative and used in conjunction with judgment and belittling of others, I want nothing to do with that word. There is no power in the word that can be used for building back up what others have used it to tear down.

It's like telling me that I need to go through the garbage can and eat all of the rotten scraps. It's not going to do me any nutritional good, nor is it truly going to change the nature of the garbage. All it is going to do is make it seem like I am okay with the garbage's current state of being refuse. I am ingesting it in just the same way that a child ingests an imposed label.

We tell kids they're stupid or ugly or unworthy or whatever, and we label them. In psychology and sociology, these labels are shown to be potentially catastrophic to a person's future and psyche. The worst part of these labels is that we can internalize them, becoming the very thing we're told we are.

What is the point of reclaiming a word once it's been used to hurt? Why would I want it? There are so many ebullient, opulent words in the English language - such as ebullient and opulent - that I have no need to degrade myself by continuing their use. Acceptance of these words only lends them more power, but no amount of power changes them. Using them brings the cycle of verbal abuse full-circle, by not only owning the term assigned to you, but relishing in it.

There's something wrong with that.

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

5 comments:

  1. Trying to reclaim shock value or maybe they just forgot there were other words in the English language?

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  2. If I remember correctly, the n-word literally means ignorant or stupid. Why in the name of sweet Brighid would you want to refer to yourself or a friend, as is often the case when blacks use the word, as stupid or ignorant. "Reclaimed" or not, that is still what the word means.

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  3. This is an excellent article. I may just print it out to save for when kids use those words, to show them what they are doing to themselves (and so I never have to hear the word "fag" again except from British smokers). There are...unfortunate implications, though.

    See, a lot of us Pagans are trying to reclaim the word "witch"...

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  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I can relate to the "n" word situation through a disagreement I had with some married friends. When our kids were young they thought it was a good thing to try and make this word a positive thought (between the 2 of them they had 3 boys). My friend also had strong beliefs about her sons marrying black women only. Needless to say the whole concept backfired. The boys not only decided to engage in broader cultural concepts, they also never seriously dated and would even consider marrying a black female. Now my friends are just resigned to sit back and watch.

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  5. I just believe we should stop using words to offend each other. I mean COME ON we are all humans, we all live on the same earth, and so we are on the same "playing field". I Do not get why we have to go at each other by words. Words hurt more than actions do, they leave deeper scars.....

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