The debate around whether phrases can be reappropriated is always a heated one. It’s hard to see past the sting of certain terms no matter how much we try to redefine them with uplifting meanings. The N-word, B-word and “nappy” all fall into this category as does the phrase “Gold-Digging,” according to Nike.
The company recently released a “Gold-Digging” t-shirt, which they believe “uses a phrase in an ironic way that is relevant given it was released just as the world focused on the success of female athletes.” Jezebel writer Katie J.M. Baker asks if the t-shirt is problematic, especially since it’s only available in Womens sizes. Naysayers are outright calling it sexist.
I’m not one to get bent out of shape about a t-shirt, but it speaks to a larger issue of reappropriating terms to signify a more positive message. I have to admit I cringe at the thought of “gold digging” getting the “b*tch” and “n*gger” treatment. Growing up as a lover of hip hop culture, I saw “gold digging” routinely used as a phrase to berate women way before Kanye West ever tapped Jamie Foxx for his radio hit.
One of the bigger problems with the reappropriation of words is that not everybody gets the memo. When a woman walks around with her gold digging t-shirt, I’m sure the last thought on anyone’s minds will be winning the Olympic games.
I believe some sayings are so steeped in pain and degradation that they should be left alone. Gold-digging isn’t the most egregious of these phrases, but it is one of them. Just like “b*tch” “n*gger” and the like, I think we should come up with another way to speak positively of one another, instead of reviving hurtful terms and trying to call them something they’re not.