“We Sing for the Japanese, and the Chinese, and all the Dirty Knees”

A Chinese band Have you heard the recent story, in the US, about musicians seeking to trademark their band’s name — The Slants — and how the US’s patent & trademark office has refused on the grounds that the term (presumed to be a reference to so-called Asian eyes) is “scandalous or immoral”?

But it can mean a variety of things, no?

The multiple definitions of slantBut now a group of judges have agreed to let the band appeal the ruling again, after already losing their first (and usually only) appeal.

So what are the limits of free speech? Does something only mean one thing? Who gets to say what something means? And what does it take to re-signify something, either in popular culture or in law — say, like a term once thought disparaging but which members of that very group now reclaim and use for their own purposes?

Listen to the story here.

Or listen to their song from which the title of this post is taken.

One Reply to ““We Sing for the Japanese, and the Chinese, and all the Dirty Knees””

  1. Thank you for sharing about our story. If you’re ever interested in talking more about it, or what it has meant to carve out our own identity over these years, I’d love to discuss it at length. You can also check out my brief story in Bitch Media here: bitchmagazine.org/post/the-fight-to-reclaim-a-word

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