Sunday, July 12, 2015

Racism, Sexism, and the art of being easily offended


I feel sorry for, and find it difficult to empathise with, people who are so small minded that they attack the physical and gender characteristics of others. I recently read this article about Serena Williams, and I was a little dissapointed.  I think articles like this do more harm than good.

The article is overly sensitive, and goes too far in applying the label of racist and sexist to people and actions that may very well not be sexist or racist. (This excludes, and certainly doesn't deny, the clear cases of actual sexism and racism, which do exist. I am very aware of the problems of real racism and unfair discrimination.).

In the article, comparing Serena to a gorilla is seen as being racist.  And yet if you look at a gorilla, the only trait she shares with it is incredible power, strength and agility.  Serena has incredible power and strength.  Comparing someone to an animal is only an insult when it is an insult.  Often times, comparing a person to an animal is a compliment.  Eldrick Woods doesn't seem to mind being called "Tiger", Jake LaMotta didn't mind "Bull", Usain Bolt is "The Beast", Gabby Douglas is "The Flying Squirrel", Michael Gro(ss) is "The Albatross".

Gorillas are STRONG, FAST and INTELLIGENT in what they do.  Doesn't that sound like Serena? SHouldn't gorilla be an OK nickname?  Or is it a no-no because it's too masculine for a woman?  Maybe we should get upset about Jacob "Baby Jake" Matlala - which is probably not masculine enough.

As to being upset because of her savage (very great; severe) strokes - "Ferocious" Fernando Vargas didn't seem to mind his nickname.  Does savage sound insulting and wrong?  More insulting than Pac-Man (Manny Pacquaio)?  I guess if you're overly sensitive, sure.  Otherwise not.

Ultimately, we as a society need to combat racism and sexism.  But we do not do that by trying to be politically correct or overly sensitive.  Nicknames and comparisons are never 100% accurate, and some of them may have insulting alternate meanings.  So what?  Do "The Rock" or "The Mountain" complain about their nicknames because of all the possible negative meanings of "rock" and "mountain"?

Let's stop worrying about the small things.  recognising race, gender and other characteristics is not racist or sexist or discriminatory.  Calling a black guy a black guy is no more an insult than calling a white guy a white guy. Treating people unfairly because of their race, gender, etc... - that is racist and sexist, and so forth.

If we let the little things upset and offend us, the water becomes cloudy and murky, and it's difficult to separate the real problems from mistakes and innocent banter.  If we stop being offended by things that are not really offensive, it will make it that much easier to identify and address the real problem - unfair discrimination.  And when the problem is clear and highlighted, it is a while lot easier to get rid of.

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