For the past few weeks I've been reading up on leveraging Instagram as a marketing strategy. In the process of noting what hashtags are being used by jewelry artists with large followers, I keep spotting variants of one word over and over and over again: "gypsy."
Every time I see it, I wonder: do the etsy sellers using it so liberally to describe their products have any idea what it actually means? Do they care that they're hurting people? Or is the lure of marketing to the enormous demographic of consumers who've co-opted a racial slur to describe a fashion aesthetic and/or lifestyle simply too tempting to resist?
I took the word out of my vocabulary as soon I learned it was a slur, but I have to admit there are times when I post something to Instagram and wonder how much traffic I could drive to my products if I was willing to use those hashtags. At the end of the day, though, I have to live with myself: my religion requires me to be mindful of my actions and my speech and to work to heal the world. Intentionally marketing my work to a demographic that insists on perpetuating the use of hate speech is not something I can do, no matter how much it might increase my sales figures. There are far more important things than money, and this is one of them.
(Please do NOT come into the comments to argue about how it's okay for you and everyone else to use the word gypsy because it's come to mean free-spirited. Yes, language shifts over time, but as long as there are people who find it hurtful, it's not welcome around me. If you're actually Romani and you've intentionally chosen to personally reclaim the word, this queer gimpy feminist has your back; everybody else is cordially invited to go exercise their freedom of speech somewhere else.)