Want to support our work? Donate
Skip to content
Words Matter

Reclaiming language

← Back to Words Matter

We’re reclaiming the narrative, together.

The power of language

Words have power. Language has the ability to hurt, uplift and shape our world. In our Words Matter explainers, we have focused on explaining the harm that certain narratives cause. This is to remind us to be mindful of the language we use: whether that looks like completely abandoning certain words, or using certain words only in their appropriate context.

Sometimes words can have healing power. When a word has been used to dehumanise or demonise a certain community, they can decide to reappropriate that word, and turn it into a source of power, defiance, healing and resistance. This is what we call reclaiming language. This reclamation can give the word a new meaning that vastly differs from its original one.

The nuances of reclamation

We know reclamation is nuanced. Reclamation of a harmful word is something that can only be done by the community who was harmed by that word. It is up to that community to decide whether that word can begin to be used by general society in a way that does not continue to perpetuate harm. 

Within a specific community, some may choose to reclaim a word, but for others, the word and its legacy may be too painful to reclaim. Reclamation can also look different for different members of the same community: this means that someone’s reason behind reclaiming a certain word may differ to someone else’s. 

As members of marginalised communities, we will all have our own relationship to reclamation. It is important for us, as a lived-experience-led and values-led organisation, to make space for all these different stories and experiences of reclamation. 

In this section, you will find various stories from individuals with lived experience of migration, migratisation and racialisation, about the words they choose to reclaim, and why. It is our hope that this collection of stories can help us understand each other better.

Share your story

If you want to share your own story of reclamation, you get in touch with us via [email protected]. Your story can be as short or long as you like, and we can also offer suggestions if you would like us to. We will ask for your permission before we share your story to our website and social media, and your story can also be anonymised if you so wish. 

In this section: