In light of recent discussion to change the name of “The Gypsy Robe,” podcast guest Jennifer Cody shares her opinion on the name change.
As a proud Gypsy Robe winner, I fought against changing the name of the robe for a while. Then I read. I understand that it was never the intention of the name and that our word "gypsy" means someone who roams from show to show, etc. But there is a group of people who continue to fight persecution and this term hurts them, the Romani or Roma.
This is a term that has been used in the theatre community for decades. Some people believe that the term gypsy started off as a derogatory term. That the producers called us that and that is where the name came from. That we were 'named' and not that we came up with it. If the Chorus member who chose the name had chosen a different name but a slur none the less like Fairy or Fag or Midget or Tranny, we would know this was a bothersome term and would probably have changed it earlier. But because we are not surrounded by many "gypsies," we've not really taken into consideration what the term means to them.
People have said that by using the term, we are "lifting it up" and changing its meaning. That is not our call.
We are using an ethnic slur no matter what the original intention. Taking the word “gypsy” out of the Gypsy Robe’s title won’t change what it represents. The new recipients will feel equally joyous and proud. They will just know it by another name.
Trust me. I was on the fighting end and then the more that I read, I decided I was wrong and no matter how proud I am of what it stands for and its intention… I can't even go to a Gypsy Robe ceremony without crying- it means something else to some people. And to them it is hurtful. And to celebrate the term, even though it represents pride in our industry, is celebrating a hateful slur to an entire ethnic group. Changing the name isn't going to change the amount of pride we have to wear this robe and I hope that all those "gypsies" who have won the robe and will be a part of choosing a name that will fill us with the same pride.
Please read the effect of this term on those who have been branded by it. Then make up your mind. It changed mine.