Friday, July 20, 2007

Political Incorrectness


Gay woman or lesbian? Asian or Oriental? Black or African-American. Disabled person or person with a disability? They're only words, what does it matter?

Words Used As Hate
I hate being accused of political incorrectness...especially by someone I respect or whose opinion I value. Years and years ago, I was visiting a good friend in San Francisco, and attempted to insult him by telling him he drove like a lesbian. He took me to task for the insult...not to him, but to lesbians, and I was quite offended, until I realized he was right. I have since been more careful about how I throw around my words.

Years later, but also quite a while ago, when I was working in Human Resources, a co-worker, Michelle (the supervisor of Employee Relations) had a friend (also an employee) she was pretty certain was gay (he was, but had never come out to Michelle).

Michelle asked me if I thought her friend might be offended by her use of the word "gay" to signify dorky or awkward, e.g., "He was wearing a sweater that was so gay."

I knew Michelle didn't mean any harm toward the gay community. I knew that she consdidered the word "gay" to have multiple meanings, including "dorky."

Since my friend was Jewish, I made a comparison of her use of the word gay to a gentile's use of the word "jew" to mean cheap, such as "He didn't want to pay the asking price and ended up jewing him down to a ten percent discount."

Michelle argued that the use of the word jew was clearly derogatory in that sense, and I pointed out that her use of the word gay was as well. She decided that associating gay to dorky was in fact similar to the association of jew to cheap, and that she wouldn't use gay in that way again.

Like I said, I knew Michelle well, and knew she wasn't trying to be intentially hateful in her words, but by perpetuating the use of the word "gay" in a negative way, she was doing exactly that.

Current Knitting
I spent the entire last few days working on scarves, scarves and more scarves. Actually, I only finished five scarves, but I was quite please to have finished that many. Here they are.



This one is a very light and soft and warm microfiber scarf...if I could wear traffic-cone-orange, I would keep this one for myself. It would be a perfect hunting accessory if I ever did that.





This one, on the other hand, is a bulky, thick and warm scarf with confetti-like speckles in it.




This is just a crappy, very loosely knit eyelash scarf. Purple seems to sell well, so I thought this would work out well.




This was the surprise scarf of the batch. It's made with a cheap acrylic ratty looking yarn, and I love how the scarf came out. I will be making a few more of these, especially since I got the yarn on clearance, and I'll be able to sell them for an inexpensive price.



Finally, I finished one more Boteh-like scarf. I still haven't gotten tired of this pattern. Like a commenter mentioned a while ago, it is addictive.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Regarding social healthcare, JoVE writes, "Another blogger I read made a comment recently that despite the problems with your current health care system, he wouldn't want the government involved as long as it was so corrupt and ruled by self interest and the interests of big business."

I couldn't disagree more. The current system is already run by big business, not just corrupted by them. Government oversight of healthcare would at least be one step away from profit-making whores overseeing my healthcare.

About the Aran sweater I'm working on, Marilyn writes, "Isn't it funny how you keep the stitch markers in place, even once you know the pattern completely? I see you still have yours in place, even though I know you know exactly where each pattern begins and ends."

Actually, the markers let me knit without thinking. Without them, I would have to count some of my stitches. Maybe her analogy to traffic cones is accurate.

12 comments:

jennifercarol said...

I came across your blog recently and love it. This mix of opinions and knitting is wonderful!

Anyhow, I just had to comment on the use of the word "gay" as a synonym for dorky. Personally I find this ironic when I have so many gay friends and colleagues who are quite the opposite. In fact they are some of the best looking men with the best taste that I've ever met!

JoVE said...

Thanks for commenting on that thing about health care. It is helpful to know how folks think about this. The whole thing is kind of alien to me.

shimmer said...

I'm so glad you helped your friend understand why it's not OK to use the word "gay" in that way. It's amazing to me that people think tha's OK. I know they're just not thinking about it, but still . . .

Carol said...

I love the Booteh scarf. When ya gonna' make me one?

I agree, Joe -- having even a disinterested bureaucrat with no personal incentive one way or the other would be a vast, vast improvement over a system that is designed to maximize shareholder profit (which necessarily means denying access to health care).

And there is also talk of a tiered system which would provide stopgap care for people who have no insurance while leaving those who have private insurance alone. Some think that if we remove the hidden cost of paying for the uninsured from the equation, private health care costs will go down. I don't know enough about it to say whether I think that's true or not, though.

Anonymous said...

I'm old enough to remember when "gay" meant happy, cheerful, joyous.

Right now I'm trying to stay awake so I can be at Books A Million at midnight to get my copy of the new Harry Potter book. I'm staying away from any site that might have spoilers.

I once worked with someone who was constantly reporting people to HR for "racist" and "politically incorrect" remarks. Once he targeted someone for using the phrase "the natives are getting restless" because he said it was derogatory to African Americans (he, by the way, was Caucasian). He was a total pain to work with and it was a relief when he retired.

It's been a long day and what seemed like a good idea -- getting my book at midnight -- now sounds less and less appealing.

FiberQat said...

I served for a short time on a committee on diversity where I work. At the first meeting I attended I described Pride as "Queer Pride" when talking about our company's possible presence there. Later I was confronted by the leaders of the committee saying that what I had said was not acceptable, which floored me as I identify myself as being queer (which I told them). I also told them I sang for a queer chorus and belonged to a queer knitting list. But I was also aware of how that word has a negative context for some GLBT folks and agreed to refrain using it at meetings.

Andy's Crafts said...

I never like to dance the dance of calling names. Political Correctness can choke your spirit without a reason. If used to diminish a person any word is bad, but calling a man or woman oriental, means nothing but that they are from the orient. People love to Hyphenate themselves and box themselves in a word.

Besides that you area a Crafty Crafter that make beautiful Scarves, I am inspired to make some myself, which I will do once my sweater is one. Hugs

Sherry W said...

It's good that you realized your friend really didn't mean to be hurtful and you could explain it to her without making her feel horrible.

Using gay as a derogatory term is such casual use I don't think anyone considers the source. I learned about the source of 'being gypped' when I was in college, and I just learned what Scotch tape refers to. Our language is full of them.

I think it's right to make an effort. Context is important though
before the tar and feathers come out. Otherwise people turn into asshats like the 'natives' coworker above!

Ria said...

Part of the problem I have with political correctness and incorrectness is the extent to which it's taken. You're not disabled, you're differently abled. You're not blind, you're visually impaired. You're not short, you're vertically challenged. It's like those who are politically correct pride themselves on coming up with longer terms to describe something which may, to someone else, possibly be an insult.

And the double standards bug me too. It's okay for "a personal of skin with high melanin content" to break out an N-bomb, but as soon as a middle-class white guy does it, it's horribly offensive. Disabled folks can call themselves gimps with impunity, but shove foulness down the throats of anyone else who may choose to use the same word. It bothers me.

A friend of mine has the attitude of, "You're only allowed to poke fun at a community you are a part of," which can also fall under this sort of thing. One can't make a joke related to homosexuality unless they themselves are gay. I'm allowed to make cracks about hearing impairment, but only because I have hearing troubles myself. I no longer need my cane to get around, so making 'gimp' jokes with other people who use the word gimp to refer to themselves in jest? Nuh-uh, that's right out now.

Political correctness is a song-and-dance routine that works great in theory, on the whole, but for a good number of individual cases means dick-all. If a person who can't hear doesn't mind being called deaf, then where's the problem? If a homosexual man refers to himself as a flaming fag, then who gives a crap? But people with disparage these folks for putting themselves down, because someone else decided that these terms can't be used anymore in polite conversation, no matter what the context is.

I try to be polite with it. I won't go out of my way to lengthen my descriptions to make them politically correct, but I won't crack jokes about a sensitive topic with someone that isn't comfortable with it. There are some things that cross the line (racists remarks, sexist remarks, and the like), but for the most part, I view political correctness as a load of hooey. I'm a short fat geek who was a gimp for a time of her life, and I'm not ashamed to say it. And anyone else can say it right back at me.

JerseyTjej said...

As an American woman that is also black, I am refered to as African American, but I have no relatives that are desscendants of Africans. There are people of color all over the place and it is ofter more convienient to dismiss them under a "category" than to get the time to know the person behind the color.

Anywhoo, LOVE your knitting and would love to learn..any suggestions? I can do the stockinette stitch and purl, but that's it!

Emma in France said...

I remember someone on a message board somewhere being chastised for using black instead of African American.

Of course, the person to whom they were referring was not American.

knitphomaniac said...

I have scarf envy.