When a man says “bitch” is it different than when a woman says the same word? Why? Because there is a power difference. Because when those who wield power and privilege hurl a slur, there is an entire system behind their words. There is fear. There is domination. There is powerlessness on the part of the one these words are directed at. The same is true with racial words and phrases. The word “paki” can spark a chain reaction of humiliation, shame, fear, and terror for many South Asians. Personally, it takes me right back to the days when people who looked like me were pushed off subway platforms in Toronto, Canada. When temples like the one next door to where we lived were fire-bombed with racist graffiti painted on the walls. Pakis Go Home. The word paki could roll easily off the tongue of someone for whom it means nothing. But for me, it is a “trigger” word. It sends me hurtling back through the years to a place of great pain and terror. This is something all feminists can and should understand. And it’s not that much of a stretch, really.
-Neesha Meminger, on the use of slurs