Tag Archives: John Lennon

It’s Not Just About The Word

355 Woman is the Nigger of the World

The Slutwalk controversy keeps rolling. As a moderator, it’s always a bit disheartening when you get the same level of denials and racist comments due to high activity from feminists that you do when you are linked to from a racist hate site. It’s not quite as bad as when we linked to the picture of Giselle being carried around by black men, but it’s close.

In my first piece on the controversy, I made this statement:

But can you appropriate a term like nigger if your body is not defined/terrorized/policed/brutalized/diminished by the word? Can we use it in a context that is supposed to belie gender solidarity, without explicitly being in racial solidarity?

In my second piece, I made this statement:

Arguing that black people don’t have a monopoly on the term nigger is just fucking disgusting. You want it that bad? Really?

Which one do you think more people responded to? Apparently, it’s easier to be mad that some people aren’t entitled to some words, than to engage with a heavy discussion of the requirements of solidarity.

So, for people who are still confused, let’s do a breakdown.

Reclaiming Words (Slurs) That Aren’t Yours

As a commenter pointed out, the tension between words used is a hallmark of Slutwalk itself – the reclamation of a formerly damaging term by the women who hear it. People marched for other reasons, not just word politics, but a key part of the framework was proud pronouncements of self.

The trouble is, all women have not been denigrated using the term slut, as Black Women’s Blueprint and the Crunk Feminist Collective have pointed out. Depending on your experience as a woman, you may have heard slut in regards to your sexuality – or you may have heard other things. This probably cuts to my ambivalence about Slutwalk from the beginning. It was never a word placed on my person. And, upon further reflection, slut did seem like the domain of white women – if it wasn’t Kathleen Hanna walking around with slut on her stomach in the Riot Grrl days or countless white women writing about the need to shed their virginity (read: innocence) by claiming a slutty identity, it was used as a pejorative specifically used to describe white girls people knew. This doesn’t mean that no woman of color has ever been called a slut, or had that term used to police their identity, or that a woman of color wouldn’t identity with the term – it just means that the aims of the march didn’t resonate with me on a “hey, I have to be a part of this” level.

But more to the point, the sign in question was about claiming identities. Slut isn’t an identity I would claim – I have no personal experience with it. But the application of the idea that woman is the nigger of the world to people who nigger has never applied is puzzling, to say the least. First, it would assume that all women are in the same boat. And as the statistics show when you start breaking down issues of wealth, representation, health, maternal wellness, and just about any other measure, that would be a lie. It’s also trying to pull the experiences and pain of a term on to one’s body without ever shouldering the burden that goes with that term. To me, that’s as asinine as me trying to adopt an anti-Asian slur or an anti-gay slur. Those kind of words would never be leveled at me. I never have to labor underneath their weight. I am not a part of intra-community discussions around those terms. No one has ever tried to make me fear them with those words. I don’t face that set of issues. I don’t carry those burdens. Therefore, it makes no sense to keep ham-fistedly applying terms that don’t fit. Continue reading

Slutwalk, Slurs, and Why Feminism Still Has Race Issues

Lennon Ono

Woman is not the nigger of the world.

John Lennon is not the final authority on whether it’s ok to use the term nigger.

Quoting black men from the 60s is not a valid defense against critiques from black women, black feminists, and our allies today.

The term nigger is not “in the past.”

The term nigger has not, and has never been, a term that can be equally applied to everyone.

Arguing that black people don’t have a monopoly on the term nigger is just fucking disgusting. You want it that bad? Really?

Over on Facebook, the woman posing with the infamous Slutwalk NYC photo (and the woman who created the sign) defended themselves. The tl; dr version of their statements: “It was wrong to use the word nigger, but the song is true!” Here’s the convo:

Christina Jaus How does this photo speak to inclusion?
Yesterday at 11:23am · Unlike · 9 people

Betty Chantel Jesus Christ, this is just shameful! SlutWalk &SlutWalk NYC what do you have to say about this??
Yesterday at 11:29am · Like · 5 people

Nicole Kubon This sign was not made by an organizer and, when it was noticed, an organizer respectfully requested the sign be put away and took some time to talk with the sign holder about why this message was not in line with our cause. Unfortunately we cannot police all attendants to our event, or any event, but it is a sign that was frustrating to all of us and has sparked discussion amongst organizers. We do not agree with the message being displayed here and addressed it as soon as we saw it.
Yesterday at 11:50am · Like · 2 people

Clare Mackay i don’t get the sign. is a word(s) on the poster out of view?
Yesterday at 2:02pm · Like

Amina Ali This is the title of a song written and performed by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in the 1970s. You have to listen to the whole song to understand it. It is not offensive to anyone other than sexists in its entirety and was a very powerful message, then and now. I can understand how the sign out of this context would be disturbing. But I urge everyone to check out the full lyrics and listen to the song and judge for themselves.
Yesterday at 2:59pm · Like · 6 people

Tyrra Kiri Adrien Ramos Whether the Lennon song is meant to be offensive, that word should just not be said by any white person.
Yesterday at 5:16pm · Like · 6 people

Amina Ali I think it is more productive to look into the deeper meaning of things than to exercise censorship.
Yesterday at 5:20pm · Like · 5 people

Christina Jaus ‎@ Amina, did you talk to any Black people (women or men) in the 60′s and did they themselves tell you at that time that they felt empowered by that John Lennon song?
Yesterday at 5:41pm · Like · 6 people

Christina Jaus And, the sign “out” of context or not is still offensive. When is the N word ever in context outside of dehumanizing?
Yesterday at 5:43pm · Like · 4 people

Continue reading

Which Women Are What Now? Slutwalk NYC and Failures in Solidarity

Over at Parlour Magazine, I spotted this photo yesterday:

Slutwalk NYC Woman Is the Nigger of the World Sign

Lord. The original reference is from a song written by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and performed mostly by John Lennon. At the time, Lennon and Ono justified their decision openly, using both the “my black friends said it was cool” defense as well as a more substantive critique based on ideas of “niggerization” – that nigger can be redefined to include anyone who is oppressed.

But can you appropriate a term like nigger if your body is not defined/terrorized/policed/brutalized/diminished by the word? Can we use it in a context that is supposed to belie gender solidarity, without explicitly being in racial solidarity?

I think not. And I am not alone. Continue reading