Dykes on Bikes

Transblawg reports that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has rejected the "Dykes on Bikes" name on the grounds that "dyke" is vulgar, offensive and "scandalous".
I’m sure the attorneys in question are very clever people, but brandishing a dictionary saying that the term is disparaging just isn’t good enough and ignores the fact that insults can be turned into powerful tools of self-identification through the process of reclaiming. If these bikers want to be linked with the term "dyke", it is incredibly patronising to tell them that they shouldn’t; as Charlotte said: "taking such words and turning them completely around creates a depth and double meaning that turns the pain, at least for some people, into power."
I wonder whether that’s what really worries those no doubt straight and right-thinking people of the law: the thought that lesbians might actually be comfortable with what they are and use language to assert their identity.

By | 2016-10-18T15:50:55+00:00 July 20th, 2005|Culture|2 Comments

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.


  1. Jean July 20, 2005 at 12:22 pm

    Oh, really, how absurd! I guess the question is how much of their time and grief it’s worth to fight this – if they are very well known there may be quite a bit of money in spinoffs I suppose, so worth trademarking the name. I enjoyed Margaret’s comment on her own post at Transblawg…

  2. Aurélie August 29, 2005 at 12:48 pm

    Céline, I totally agree. Apparently, this problem is far from being a strictly related to English. I have recently been reading the “Manual del maricón desenfadado” by J. González, where the first chapter is an explanation of why the author chooses to refer to himself as a “maricón” (=fag) although the term is generally considered as insulting in Spanish and not as “gay” or homosexual”. He points out the hypocrisy of politically correct terms. According to him, it is necessary to change the representation of the things denoted by existing terms instead of inventing new terms designed to denote what is in fact a blurred, hypocritical vision of the actual thing.

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