I can’t think of anything that makes me see so much red as people appropriating genocide for kicks and giggles.
Reclamation is a powerful and healing tool for social justice. A marginalised group takes a word that has been used against them and changes its meaning until it is a point of pride. Women have the wonderful feminist Bitch Magazine now. Sex workers are rallying around the term whore. Same-sex attracted people are queering it up. Using a word that has been used against you on your own terms? That’s a powerful feeling.
So people rally around terms that have been used to make them feel bad, and they feel better for it. You know what has been pretty hurtful? When misogynists have characterised feminists as “feminazis”. Wanting gender equality is not equivalent to what Nazis have done in any way, shape, or form. What I’ve noticed a number of feminists doing is using that term to refer to themselves, jokingly, to empower themselves, in a sense that echoes of reclamation.
You don’t get to reclaim pride from that. Not ever. It is not a slur in the way those other words are slurs: it is a term that refers to a specific organised and formerly governmental group. Nazis did not target women as an identity group. They did, however, target people of identity groups that include women among their number. And it is feminists belonging to these groups who I never see attempting to reclaim the word “feminazi”.
It’s not going to be reclaimed by people it affects the worst, because, for these people, Nazism still means something raw and awful, well beyond cutesy usage. There is no distance, certainly not an ironic one. Neo-Nazis are still marching in the streets of Latvia, defacing Jewish graves in New Zealand, attacking people all around the world.
It’s also worth noting that the groups not affected by Nazis – able-bodied people, white people, and so forth – are broadly the people who are privileged by wider society, a society that includes the feminist movement. It’s important to think about the context in which the “reclamatory” usage of “feminazi” happens, and who uses it. And who has to think about it. It’s telling that a movement that traditionally tramples all over the least privileged of women includes those who would continue to use their pain for those kicks and giggles because they will not see beyond their own noses.
You can’t reclaim what’s not yours. I want to see feminists universally saying that calling people who are not Nazis that word is never okay.