Is this a good idea? Is it even possible?
I think the answer is no to both questions.
First – I don’t like the idea of anyone throwing the F-bomb around like it’s no big deal. It is a big deal. It’s a big deal for the same reason that the protestor mentions in his video to the security guard. People who identify or are perceived as LGBT are being bullied – sometimes to death – and as much as we want to flip the script on that, trying to “reclaim” one of the most hateful words isn’t the way to do it and it won’t succeed.
Look at other cultures who have reclaimed offensive words and truly examine those reclamations. While they are able to use their words in their own culture, for their own purposes (and I fully support whatever they wish to say to describe their own cultures) when someone outside that culture uses the same word – it’s still treated as a slur – and I think rightfully so. But then the question is – so what was reclaimed?
I’ve seen the argument that words don’t have power unless we allow them to have power – but I don’t subscribe to that philosophy. A gun doesn’t have power when it’s sitting on a table – but the second the trigger is pulled, it can kill. In a similar way, I believe that a word, on it’s own, is useless – but the minute it’s aimed at someone with vitriol (as the F word usually is) it becomes a weapon. Look at the last time someone made a sarcastic comment to you. Sure, they were using commonplace, maybe even polite words, but it’s the WAY that they said it that left you feeling stung.
So what is our response?
I think that the protestor actually handled the situation perfectly. For starters, he had the conversation recorded. But also, he asked the guard to repeat what he said. Then he went on the offensive. He told the guard about being bullied and how hurtful words like that are – he made it real for the guard. He wasn’t just a pushover, he stayed in the guard’s face – and I think it was incredibly brave. He also asked for the guard’s supervisor who DENIED that the guard had said the word.
I’m not going to talk about the circumstances too much because I’m sure that the situation at the protests was tense already – but I think that instead of reclaiming the word to try to flip the script, we should do just as the protestor did – and instruct those using the word for harm of just how harmful it can be.
Please don’t ever call me a faggot.