October 24, 2014

Scrolling Headlines:

Michael Kimmel speaks to UMass students about ‘Guyland’ -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

UMass football looks for third straight win against Toledo on Saturday -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

‘Love is Strange’ is beautiful, painful and groundbreaking -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

White supremacy and settler colonialism at UMass -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

UMass hockey hopes first win will propel them past Hockey East rivals -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

UMass’ second line playing and succeeding with young talent early in the season. -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

‘The Good Wife’ returns as strong as ever -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Professor receives grant to cover massive election survey panel -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Unions rally over recent concession proposals -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

NFL Pick’em games return to the Massachusetts Daily Collegian -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

UMass celebrates Campus Sustainability Day -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

“Fury” falls just short of greatness -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Minutewomen look to continue their season in weekend game against Saint Bonaventure. -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

New meal plans receive mixed reviews from students -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

ISIS’s magazine is good for the West -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

UMass women’s soccer controls its own destiny as conference tournament approaches -

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

UMass soccer deploys new formation with Keys, Jess -

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

UMass calling on young swimmers to continue strong start to the year -

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

WMU, Ohio, NIU pick up wins in busy MAC weekend -

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A comprehensive guide to the Ebola virus -

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The queer state of reappropriation

Thalia Pena/Collegian

My friend called me a faggot last Saturday night. He took a puff of his cigarette and casually exhaled the word and bundle of smoke into the air. My other friend’s arms crossed tighter in front of his body, whipped his hair in defiance and said, “Don’t say that.” The faggot-caller stopped speaking and simply kept puffing in silence. Then we went back to the dance floor filled with homosexuals and began singing along to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.”

He didn’t call just me a faggot. He occasionally refers to his other friends as faggots as well. He’s not using the word as an insult, but rather as a term of endearment. Because all three of us are a part of the queer community, he believes that he can use the term in a positive sense.

The issue isn’t our sexual orientations; it is of those who reclaim words like “faggot,” “bitch,” “queer,” “dyke” and ‘tranny.’ Adam D. Galinsky states that this process of reappropriation can occur when a stigmatized group revalues an externally imposed negative label by self-consciously referring to itself in terms of that label. These group members take insults and then use these terms as positive identifiers. The evolution of the word ‘queer’ sheds light on the process. Queer originally meant “to spoil or ruin,” then developed a negative connotation when referring to gays. Now the word acts as a neutral umbrella term that includes all members of the GLBTQ community. Once divided on the use of this term, the queer community now consistently uses the word with its GLBTQ organizations and Queer Alliances across the country.

Compare this development to the reappropriation of “bitch.” The “About Us” section of Bitch Magazine reveals the nature of the reappropriation process.

“When it’s being used as an insult, ‘bitch’ is an epithet hurled at women who speak their minds, who have opinions and don’t shy away from expressing them, and who don’t sit by and smile uncomfortably if they’re bothered or offended. If being an outspoken woman means being a bitch, we’ll take that as a compliment,” it states.

Some individuals are insulted by these self-proclaimed bitches for speaking their minds and defying gender roles. Reappropriation solves the issue: the editors of the magazine acknowledge their personalities and then own their identities. Their stigmatized characteristics are no longer marks of shame, but ones of pride.

The second snippet of Bitch Magazine’s “About Us” reveals the discomfort felt within such a community:

“We know that not everyone’s down with the term. Believe us, we’ve heard all about it. But we stand firm in our belief that if we choose to reappropriate the word, it loses its power to hurt us. And if we can get people thinking about what they’re saying when they use the word, that’s even better.”

Despite the positive effects of reappropriating such terms, owning these former insults comes with costs. Some group members may still be uncomfortable with these terms and will thus refuse to follow the process, as was the case with my friend telling the other to cease using the term “faggot.” A former cohesive in-group may become divided, a division that such fragile groups can scarcely afford.

After some time, these words cool off to non-hostile outsiders who may begin to gently pick these now inoffensive terms up and place them into conversation. I claim few ties to geek culture, but I don’t hesitate to refer to those who attend Comic-Con as either “geeks” or “nerds.” Why? Because these former insults have lost their offensive edge. “Geek” and “nerd” serve as neutral terms now, perhaps even compliments. The same process happened with “queer,” just as it now is with “bitch” and “faggot.”

I was negatively called a faggot in high school, as were many of my gay friends who attend the University of Massachusetts. At the university, fewer people use “faggot” as an insult. Queers who once heard the word as a slur used against them now face three possibilities: they may reclaim the term, stealing power from hostile out-groups; they may ignore the term and hope that it fizzles into obscurity; or they may ignore the term and continue to allow others to oppress them with mere words. The first possibility makes the most sense. The queer community can soon fully reclaim the word and even propel “faggot” to the positive status that “geek” and “nerd” hold.

The Editors of Bitch Magazine are in the right. Reappropriation’s benefits outweigh its costs: the process boosts the self-esteem of group members, weakens the upper hand of malicious out-group members, and prevents the term from being a weapon. The word loses its hurtful power.

The reappropriation fight continues today as new controversial terms sprout with new generations. Accepting these former insults may be uncomfortable. Many in the queer community detest the term. I found myself awkwardly shifting my feet and recalling my high school days after my friend uttered the term. Despite my initial discomfort, I find little point in denying others’ empowering themselves through owning a word. My friend was right when he affectionately uttered the term and flicked his cigarette butt into a puddle. No hesitation needed on my part. I am indeed a faggot.

Brandon Sides is a Collegian contributor. He may be reached at bsides@student.umass.edu.

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