March 13, 2015
Some language has baggage. But that doesn’t mean you can’t reclaim language that was once derogatory and shed its negative connotations.
In many Western countries the term “Made in China” has come to be synonymous with low quality. The butt of jokes, and the scorn of many shoppers. Despite a range of countries across the world with a focus on low-cost large-scale manufacture, “Made in China” has shouldered the infamy. But putting on a pair of trousers today I happened to look at the tag and noticed an interesting shift...
Shanghai Tang, a fashion brand aiming to rejuvenate the Chinese fashion of the 1920s and 1930s, has for some time been tagging their clothing with the term “Made by Chinese.” I think this is brilliant.
With a tiny change in the language they’ve shifted the meaning around that term. Instead of making it identifiable with large-scale Chinese manufacturing, they have identified with Chinese people. The term carries both a sense of artisanship and a sense of pride. And it makes me proud to be wearing something made not only in China, but by the Chinese people.
Whether it takes a concerted effort to refuse the common use of a slur, or a tiny shift in language to shed a negative connotation and find pride in a worn-out phrase…we have the power to change, shift, and take control of the language around us.