Article written by

Lauredhel is an Australian woman and mother with a disability. She blogs about disability and accessibility, social and reproductive justice, gender, freedom from violence, the uses and misuses of language, medical science, otters, gardening, and cooking.

38 Responses

Page 1 of 1
  1. tigtog
    tigtog at |

    Wow. That’s a comprehensive overview. No wonder you couldn’t compress it down to a neat little FAQ entry.

    The grey areas are the difficult ones. I’ll have to think on this for a while.

  2. littoralmermaid
    littoralmermaid at |

    Hmmm … some words being “reclaimed” are more acceptable to me and others are less so.
    For example, I have no desire to reclaim anti-Asian slurs, they’re tainted with a history of white supremacist oppression and they sound too ugly to my ears. I know some people have but yeah, not working much for me there.
    As for anti-female slurs:
    “Chick” doesn’t bother me that much when used by women as a synonym for female acquaintances and friends, although it really really gets on my nerves when men use it to belittle women, like when they talk about “hot chicks” or “naked chicks”.
    “Bitch” bothers me a little more, but considering that it’s a term applied to strong-willed, opinionated, assertive women, I think those are positive attributes to reclaim.
    I don’t like “slut”, “whore”, “c*nt” (dunno if that sets off the spam filter) or sexually oriented slurs at all. I think that patriarchy has oppressed women on the basis of our sexuality for millennia, by reducing us to our reproductive systems.
    I have a post brewing about this, but “slut” really is a meaningless term – “slut” is applied to a woman who has promiscuous sex or to a young girl in precocious puberty who has big breasts, regardless of her sexual behavior – any woman who is “read” as overly sexual. “Whore” is a negative, insulting term applied to sex workers, but is also used for non-sex workers in the same way as “slut”. “C*nt” is really the worst – reducing women to sexual parts and implying that those sexual parts are something dirty and bad.
    I don’t think that those terms even exist without patriarchy. There would not be “sluts” because women would not be judged and labeled according to their conformity to sexual standards. There would not be “whores” because men would not feel entitled to sex anymore. There would not be “c*nts” because women would be regarded as human beings and female genitalia would not be labeled negatively. Just as I feel that racist slurs would not exist without racial oppression – racist slurs would be meaningless post-racism.
    Maybe “chick” wouldn’t either, because we wouldn’t infantilize women anymore, but it has less of the strongly negative misogyny than the other terms. Strong women wouldn’t be called “bitches”, but I think they’d still exist.
    Sorry, a bit of a ramble.

  3. su
    su at |

    I had the notion that ‘slut’ was somehow derived from ‘slattern’. Is that wrong? I am a proud slattern myself.

  4. Jovan1984
    Jovan1984 at |

    In all honesty, I don’t like any slang word for woman/girl, because now I find them to be offensive.

  5. su
    su at |

    Thanks for the link Lauredhel. General Uppitiness, I salute you !

  6. littoralmermaid
    littoralmermaid at |

    Lauredhel –
    In the US, some Asians do have shirts that say “Slant” or joke about being “Japs”, but I don’t think it’s very common (also, Asians are usually stereotyped as being meek, middle class drones who are not into social subversiveness).
    There has been the attempt at reclaiming the N-word by blacks. I’m not sure how that’s worked out, because now a lot of white people call blacks the N-word and they’re like, “Well, you say it, so why is it offensive if I do? You must be a reverse racist” and you have the bizarre spectacle of middle-class white kids calling their middle-class white friends the N-word.

  7. littoralmermaid
    littoralmermaid at |

    Oh and re: slut, in Patrick O’Brian’s “The Post-Captain” (or one of the books in his “Master and Commander” series), a man is called a slut because he’s messy.

  8. Friday Hoyden: Pippi Longstocking at Hoyden About Town

    […] don’t conform to traditional scripts of patriarchally-enforced femininity. Well, we’re reclaiming […]

  9. Feminist Law Professors » Blog Archive » On the reclamation of sexist slurs.

    […] Lauredhel has an extensive post here about language reclamation issues at Hoyden About Town. Below is a short excerpt, but you should read the whole thing! … As with just about any topic in feminism, when stripped to the bone, reclamation about power. The patriarchal position is that people with power get to set the agenda, control the discourse, define people in pejorative terms, and decide what is or isn’t offensive – not only to themselves, but to others. They place themselves firmly in the subject position, and unilaterally assume the role of making decisions for less powerful people – the objects. […]

  10. beatplayer
    beatplayer at |

    hmmm… interesting.
    i like the word cunt. the etymlogical sociology of it all fascinates me. and i disagree with littoralmermaid somewhat… her logic doesnt stand up to me…
    cunt is a word that has awful connotations, and a bad social rep. but its a word that relates to my vagina… to the thing that ostensibly makes me a woman, and a proud educated one at that. it was men that elevated the word to a pariah status, and I for one claim it back – it was never their word to taint. i am happy to use the word cock or dick… (…”dicking fuck!”… or …”bollocking cockers!”… regularly ring out from my shameless lips…”) so why the hell not? and why is it that we are turning on each other, and not the rest of the world…. what about the pay gap? that lack of safe methods of contraception? womens mental health? work like balance? the NHS? the medicalisation of obstetrics? so many issues, so little time…
    gosh… for cunting sakes people… get your priorities right ;)

  11. Chally
    Chally at |

    I think an amusing captioned picture concerning the need to lurk is in order.

    As for the NHS, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, beatplayer, but this is an Australian blog. Health care is an important feminist issue and something covered a lot here. You seriously need to lurk for a while.

  12. Chally
    Chally at |

    Good one.

  13. beatplayer
    beatplayer at |

    i knew there was a reason i wasnt quite getting the thread and attitude of the comments!
    its an interesting social anomaly that cunt isnt a word that is demonised as such in the UK, and it makes sense that this blog is foreign…
    the cultural differences are bleak here ladies… the response to a comment… a picture of a kitten.
    you are right ladies… and i am ‘rong’. your discussion of language, particularly the aversion to underhand humour and your inclusion of pictures of kittens are of a true feminist nature, and will take my mysogynistic passive aggressive musings elsewhere.
    congrats on managing in three posts to exclude and persecute a ready and willing contributor. what true strong independent women you all are.

  14. beatplayer
    beatplayer at |

    and on a final issue. you guys talk of racist language as if it has parity with the discussion with the persecution of over half the worlds population…. arent you the guys that have those race riots fairly frequently… isnt your government far right, voted in through a proportional representation scheme? ergo… aint most of you lot diiiirty racists?
    and re the health system. im just in the middle of a masters in medical law, regarding medical procedures that are forced on women. As far as I can see from my (fairly) detailed research… AUS really fails women.
    which i s’pose… actually lends more weight rather than less to my argument about actually getting something done? rather than formulating pseudo-witch covens on the internet to exclude those women that dont have the same attitude, sense of homour or perspective than you….
    in the UK, we have a modern movement within the feminist wave, which discusses the need for women to pull together, rather than attack… this is the problem currently with the UK’s glass ceiling at work etc… high achieving women will not promote women, because of exactly the behaviour shown on this page…
    hey ho however, im seeking refuge within the polite and ordered UK web pages from now on… good luck…

  15. Purrdence
    Purrdence at |

    Studying for a Masters in medical law and you don’t know how to use capital letters or other forms of punctuation ?

  16. beatplayer
    beatplayer at |

    [deleted. ~L]

  17. beatplayer
    beatplayer at |

    nd tht ws dltd bcs??? hm trths pr chnc??? wht lvl fr nd fr sct y hv. ts n wndr th fmnsts r ngr nd nt-scl…

    [disemvowelled ~ tigtog]

  18. Bene
    Bene at |

    …anyone who hasn’t noticed that this blog is sourced from Australia clearly is in need of a bit of…oh hell, I don’t even know what.

  19. tigtog
    tigtog at |

    Note the rank hypocrisy on display in earlier comments in the light of that last disemvowelled phrase:

    congrats on managing in three posts to exclude and persecute a ready and willing contributor. what true strong independent women you all are.

    You must really think we came down in the last shower. Your comments stank of Disingenuous Provocateur from the first, and then you rapidly fall back on the whole “you’re so angry” attempt to dismiss feminist concerns.

    Any future comments from you that do not abide by our commenting guidelines will be deleted without comment.

  20. Chally
    Chally at |

    I think if beatplayer isn’t familiar with LOLcats, our buddy needs to lurk moar not just on Hoyden but on the Internet in general. Yes, proportional representation is Teh Evol, as are we racist, voting, rude and cat-loving participnts in a baaaaad health care system. Oh, Medicare, Medicare, you have given us cause for shame in the company of our visitor. We got you in 3 comments? Well congratulations, ’cause you absolutely cut us down to size in 2. Be seeing you.

  21. Beppie
    Beppie at | *

    I keep thinking of your “concern troll is very concerned”, Tigtog. :)

    Actually, I’m kind of glad that this post came up again, because I’ve noticed, in a few communities lately that are primarily made up of female contributors, that the term “bitchez” tends to get thrown around a lot (and I’ve found that it’s started slipping into my thoughts a bit), and I think there’s a lot to unravel there. I mean, where I see it, it generally seems to be used in a context where it’s associated in some sense with “I was/am right”, which implies that being a “bitch” (ie, being a female) is associated with being “less than”, but at the same time it is only acceptable to use it in this sense if there is a sort of tongue-in-cheek context — it would be offensive if there wasn’t a tacit understanding that it’s meant somewhat ironically, and the presence of that tacit understanding means that the term has very different connotations within the confines of that community than it would when used elsewhere.

    And that’s not to say that it’s use is unproblematic, or that it shouldn’t be questioned, but from an anthroplogical linguistics standpoint I find it fascinating as to how it operates on several different levels.

  22. Brainfart
    Brainfart at |

    I’m very late to the party, but Iwould like to point out that human anatomy and its products have been the basis for a fair number of insults. There are a fair number of similar words (e.g. dick, bollocks) for males too, it’s not merely confined to females.

    Let’s not forget about arsehole too.

  23. Brainfart
    Brainfart at |

    No, it’s about power in language, thought and perceptions. I understand that, I read the post.

    I felt that it was necessary to point out that while there have been plenty of demeaning and derogatory words that are derived from the female anatomy or commonly directed at females, there are also plenty for the male gender. A quick look at any of the less savoury places on the Internet will acquaint you in their…frankly, rather creative uses. :P

    Language is language, it evolves with the people who use it. If anything, many of these insults indicate that the the flaunting of female sexuality is still a taboo in our supposedly modern and open society. Men have been socially conditioned by mass media to act in a different manner, so they have a different list of taboos and different forms of insults. It’s not all about the patriarchy making a concerted effort to ‘keep dem bitches down’.

  24. at |


    The problem with using the “Patriarchy Hurts Men Too” argument, especially in a post such as this, is that it derails the conversation from the impact of patriarchy (in this case, gendered language used as insults and the reclamation of same) on those who don’t have the power. I don’t think anyone would deny that you have a point, but the point you are making is not the same as the point Lauredhel is making, and mentioning it here just refocuses the conversation away from the point Lauredhel is making. The reason this is bad, in this case, is because 1) there are plenty of places where people talk about the impact of various cultural issues on men and 2) when not otherwise specified, a discussion of cultural issues almost always devolves to the assumption that the default is male.

    A free piece of advice, in order to reduce the amount of vitriol thrown at you: in a space devoted to feminist concerns or feminist discussion, just let it go and let the discussion happen. In this case, it’s literally not about you. You may have a good point, but there’s a time and a place for you to make those points; the world is full of places for people to talk about men’s issues and places where the discussion assumes a default male identity, and trying to bring men’s issues or the default male identity into a space that’s specifically identified as female-focused or feminist is disrespectful derailment.

  25. Brainfart
    Brainfart at |

    You seem to have mistaken my aim completely, I merely meant to point out that gender-specific insults exist and are in common use for both genders. It’s not the patriarchy at work here, it’s dumb people. People label without fully understanding the motives and perceptions of the other party, and we all know how virulent simple ideas like that can be.

    Seeing as the OP is being deliberately belligerent I shall cease my participation in this discussion. Nothing productive is like to come of her future replies.

  26. Mindy
    Mindy at |

    Shock horror, special snowflake just doesn’t get it and blames the moderator.

  27. amandaw
    amandaw at |

    I felt that it was necessary to point out that while there have been plenty of demeaning and derogatory words that are derived from the female anatomy or commonly directed at females, there are also plenty for the male gender. A quick look at any of the less savoury places on the Internet will acquaint you in their…frankly, rather creative uses. :P

    Yes, dear, that’s lovely — and a critique of those slurs could be made using the exact same feminist framework Lauredhel uses in her post.

    Or could you just not bear for the focus not to be on *you* for a moment too long? There are troubles in the world besides those that plague the privileged, you know.

  28. Rebekka
    Rebekka at |

    su/Lauredhel, the Middle English Dictionary has the current sense of the word slut (“a lewd or lascivious woman”) dating back to 1475 – and it doesn’t come from slattern, which came into English via Low German in the 17th century:

    slutte (n.) Also slut(e; pl. slottes.

    [?From OE (WS) *slet, *slt sleet, slush, with root vowel shortened; cp. ME sclot n., slt n.(1), slude n., Norw. dial. slutr snow mixed with rain.]

    (a) A dirty or slovenly person, usu. a woman; a lewd or lascivious woman [quot.: ?a1475]; (b) a scullery maid; (c) a beast messy or difficult to prepare as food; (d) ?mud, slush; — in surnames and place names only [see Smith PNElem.2.128].

  29. Beppie
    Beppie at | *

    (a) A dirty or slovenly person, usu. a woman; a lewd or lascivious woman [quot.: ?a1475]; (b) a scullery maid;

    Yes– in some early versions of Cinderella, the ugly sisters taunt her by calling her “cinder-slut”.

Comments are closed.