Saturday, February 24, 2007

Mouth Forged Manacles

Posted by olvlzl.
Talking and thinking about the use of identifying words for different groups of people takes up way too much time, it seems to me. It’s too complex to really be able to understand just what the ever shifting implications about them are. And by the time you’ve figured something out, someone has changed it. The worst, though, is that too many people tend to use labels as limits past which people aren’t supposed to go. Call yourself one thing and express an opinion outside of the prescribed role and you’ll get your head handed to you. That’s as big a danger as it ever was.

Interesting piece by Joel Bleifuss about the current use of identifiers among various people who may or may not belong to various groups. I tend to use the terminology that became current in the early 1970s, maybe because of my age. It’s funny to think back at how I didn’t like the word “gay” because it seemed to imply that gay men didn’t take themselves seriously. It seemed to me to be an adoption of the stereotype of what gay men were supposed to be. Now it’s just a word.

Feminist” seems to me to be useful because calling yourself a feminist is a sign that you didn’t retreat in the backlash of the last three decades but just kept going.

I think it’s entirely wise to steer clear of using terms of invective, no matter how fashionable those become. Most importantly because they can still hurt people but, also, by the time you’ve found out, they’ll have reverted back to their original connotation. This is especially true of the use of reclaimed invective by people not in the group. Besides, there are few things more tempting than calling up someone on their use of one.

Actually, it’s best to avoid using all of them unless it’s impossible.