This issue has come up for years — does anyone remember “Motherfuckergate” back in 2011? — and our response is generally the same: foul language has been a part of the Offbeat Bride brand since before the website even launched. The copyeditor of my book, Offbeat Bride: Creative Alternatives for Independent Brides, was flagging foul language all the way back in 2006. Ultimately, if you’re uncomfortable with swearing, Offbeat Bride just isn’t going to be a great fit for you.
I also take issue when people say it damages credibility or makes us look unprofessional — Offbeat Bride is a well-established niche publication serving a nontraditional market. Given our success with both readers and advertisers in this market, our credibility and professionalism are doing just fine. The majority of the complaints about our language comes from vendors on Facebook, saying: “I wanted to share this post with my clients, but it contains swearing, so I don’t feel comfortable sharing it… which therefore means I think you shouldn’t swear.” Sweet vendors, just because our content isn’t a fit for your market, doesn’t mean it’s not a fit for our market. (And furthermore, what do you think you’re going to get when you follow Offbeat Bride?)
There’s a larger issue at play here, though: we have a pretty specific way we use swearing on the Empire, and it’s almost always celebratory. We very infrequently say things like “Fuck this” or “This is stupid shit” or even “Then I fucked my husband.” (Long gone are our contentious “Fuck taffeta” shirts from early 2007 — some people like taffeta!) Our cursing is almost always used as a way to convey enthusiasm — HOLY SHIT! THIS IS FUCKING AWESOME! HERE’S A SHIT-TON OF AMAZINGNESS!
For us, using foul language in this way is a celebration. It’s a way of conveying just how enthusiastic we are. It’s also a branding litmus test: if “fuck yeah, kale bouquets” offends you, then it’s a quick indicator that Offbeat Bride might not be a fit for you. If THAT offends you, how are you going to feel about a collaring ceremony? Or a polyamorous triad? Or the fact that we have masturbation on our wedding checklist?
Things get more slippery when we’ve used curse words in a less positive context. We’ve been called out for using the phrase “making something your bitch,” and generally only using “bitch” in a positive way. That said, as someone who 100% identifies as a bitch and sees it as a term of endearment equating to “empowered, outspoken women creating awesomeness in the world,” I’m totally comfortable with reclaiming it positively. Heck, sometimes I’m perfectly comfortable with playing with the negatives uses, too — although I absolutely understand why some people aren’t, which is why we’re cautious when we use it that way on the sites.
As with all things language and colloquial, things are always shifting and ultimately this boils down to each reader making the decision for themselves about what they’re comfortable with reading. For me as a publisher, I’m totally comfortable with using cursing in a celebratory way. FUCK YEAH!