Lauredhel has an extensive post here about language reclamation issues at Hoyden About Town. Below is a short excerpt, but you should read the whole thing!
… As with just about any topic in feminism, when stripped to the bone, reclamation about power. The patriarchal position is that people with power get to set the agenda, control the discourse, define people in pejorative terms, and decide what is or isn’t offensive – not only to themselves, but to others. They place themselves firmly in the subject position, and unilaterally assume the role of making decisions for less powerful people – the objects.
Feminism is about turning that dominance model on its head in every realm, including language. One recurring feature of feminist discussion about pejorative speech is that the person with the lesser power gets to decide what is offensive to them, and that we should be listening to their voices, not those of the dominant group. In the case of sexist language, women have the voices that count, the voices that all need to listen to. For racist speech, women of colour. For classist speech, poor women. For disablist speech, disabled women. For anti-lesbian speech, lesbian women. Fattist speech, fat women. And so on, and so on.
Linguistic reclamation is the re-appropriation of a term used by those in power to demean and disparage those in a less powerful group. One way in which women refuse the object position and reclaim their subjectivity is to take back control of pejorative terms such as”bitch”,”slut”,”chick”,”crone”, and”harridan”. …