Tag Archives: reclamation

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