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The Reappropriation of Words & Symbols

(Written while waiting for 2+ hours at the DMV yesterday, side note: the dictionary did not recognize the word reappropriate. conspiracy?)

I'm having a hard time finding the line. As a Jewish woman I feel it appropriate to reappropriate (ha) the word CUNT to it's original meaning and reappropriating the concept of tattoos from what they meant in the concentration camps. I, however, do not feel comfortable with reappropriating the swastika back to it's original ancient roots. As a symbol it was originally a representation of peace and "doing good". I think it's important for people to know where that symbol came from but I'm not ready for the initial reaction of it to to the masses to completely change. I have read and can logically understand the movement's stance on wanting to reappropriate the swastika and maybe one day I'll agree with them but for now it just feels...icky (how ♀non-logical♀ of me).

No matter, censorship is never the answer. Every word/symbol/etc no matter how powerful and/or hateful deserves a place somewhere within modern dialog, even if just to serve the purpose of giving historical context as to how the word was used to oppress people or commit genocides unfairly (is there a fair way to do those 2 things?)

This reappropriation extends to ASL. Since the forehead designates ♂male♂ and the anitomically inferior mouth denotes ♀female♀ (Jailbreak the ASL patriarchy!), the sign for God starts above the forehead (one hand "B" position, medially facing palm), the best we have for sign for Goddess (since you can't find it in any of the translating dictionaries, which is a problem in and of it's self) is the same hand position and movement but starts at the chin. While it's true that the sign for bastard is the same "B" shape, it is usually tapped twice on the forehead and since the God sign starts above, it is hard to confuse the two. However, the sign for BITCH is used far more often in the lexicon (surprise) and, while the original sign is the same "B" handshape tapped twice, it often is taped only once for emphasis, leaving it to look remarkably similar to the above described Goddess sign, especially when seen sandwiched between other signs.

Without diverging into the debated racism that is/has been until very recently in the language (due to it being a visual language, thus describing groups of people based on visual similarities), this throws the discussion into similar female-centric words that have been dubbed insults: SISSY, BITCH, CUNT, PUSSY, WUS, (etc). The obvious word missing that I really shouldn't have any say in (unless possibly one day I am the mother to a child of a chid that may identify with the community this directly affects with an understanding that my say has an expiration date, this of course debatable because a whole nother discussion revolves around who gets to decide what words/symbols should be reappropriated and why) is NIGGER. There will probably never be a consensus on whether this word should be reappropriated or not. A significant difference is that the origins of that word have never meant anything positive, it has ALWAYS been used to marginalize people. Above stated words/symbols, which I think I have more of a say in, come from very powerful and positive origins. In the case of tattoos, they never had a significance in Jewish culture before the Holocaust because Jews had no reason to be tattooed (besides it being a mutilation of your body which was insulting to God because ⚧ made you perfect in ⚧ eyes purposefully DON'T MESS WITH GOD!) but the origins were very positive/significant in other cultures. Does this mean my reappropriation is also an appropriation of other indigenous cultures? Damn, how meta can this monologue get?

I've really enjoyed processing these thoughts over the last few days when they've been almost an obsession of mine. What do you ⚧ think?



( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Jul. 23rd, 2012 06:08 am (UTC)
What a great post!
And very interesting discussion about the swastika/swastik: in India (where I'm from), this was never anything that needed to be re-appropriated as it just stayed part of the 5,000 or so year tradition of Hinduism. As a result, even today (as it has always been continuously before, through, and after WWII), it is used by about 1 billion Hindus in daily rituals, on temples, in books, etc., and, to be honest, I don't think most of them would know the historical significance it has gained in the last 70 or so years for a lot of Western cultures. Interestingly, its use in Hindu cultures is unabated or unaffected by it and I'm not quite sure why (perhaps they separate its implications in each case? I'm not sure... I wonder how the US would have reacted if Hitler had adopted a variant of the Stars & Stripes for his banner; would Americans then separate the two representations in their heads the same way as the Hindus?). But great post and it highlights for me the idea that words and symbols have no meaning other than whatever meaning we choose to give them (or choose not to, of course! :).
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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