i've been thinking about this practice of "reclaiming" words, and i've decided that i just don't get it. what got me thinking about this is the upcoming "rising dragons, soaring bananas" conference this weekend. banana, just in case you haven't yet heard, was the term used by chinese to describe other chinese who had become westernised ie yellow on the outside but white on the inside. mostly used for first generation chinese kids growing up in western countries, who weren't deemed to be chinese enough.
this term has now been reclaimed by those described as banana's, who are celebrating the western culture they've adopted while also celebrating their chinese heritage. hence these banana-themed conferences they've been organising over the last few years, which are becoming increasingly successful.
the only other "reclaimed" word i'm aware of is queer. i'm sure there are plenty of other such words out there, but i remain ignorant of them.
i get the bit where you want to own and celebrate the aspect of the pejorative that you actually don't think is a negative. what i don't get is why you would want to adopt the language of those who are basically abusing you. surely, you'd want to bring another word into the culture which celebrates the essence of your identity, one that brings out positive associations for you rather than negative ones.
reclaiming words feels to me a bit like giving up, a bit like saying "there's no way we're going to stop people using that word, so we may as well just take it on board". but we know that changes in language do happen if there is sufficient pressure, the word "nigger" being the most obvious example. i know that such change takes a lot of effort, and is a burden on a minority group that is already under strain. but even so, it just doesn't sit well with me.
which is not to say that i don't love what they've done with the whole banana theme over the years, it's totally clever and is serving an extremely useful purpose in bringing two cultures together to celebrate some wonderful achievements. but it's just the theory behind reclaiming of words like this that bothers me.
maybe i'm just understanding it all wrong, and would be interested in hearing other views on this.