Saturday, November 26, 2011

Survivor’s guide to P.C.

ODD couples sometimes work.

The pairing of words not usually seen in each other’s company made me stop and reread an Associated Press (AP) article published last Nov. 25, 2011 by Sun.Star Cebu.

“Female boxers shoot down skirts” was the “head” or headline of the AP report.

For suggesting that in the London Olympics 2012, female boxers wear skirts, instead of the usual boxing kit, the International Amateur Boxing Association (Aiba) had to dodge accusations of sexism.

Aiba suggested that the skirts make the women pugilists “stand out” from the men.

Although women boxers from Poland and Romania did don skirts during last week’s European Championships in the Netherlands, their British counterparts snubbed the apparel.

“Most (of the women boxers preparing for the London Olympics) would say we have earned the right to be boxers and we want to go as boxers, not female boxers,” commented a coach.

Since 2000, the year when I first worked full-time for a newspaper, “political correctness” has circumnavigated a route that has taken the concept from the unorthodox but proper to the satirical and sarcastic, and back again.

To be politically correct means to refrain from showing any bias against a race, gender, economic status, age, belief or any orientation.

Covering social issues, I got my instruction on how to be a P.C.P. (or politically correct person) from untangling the Gordian knot of terminologies used by non-government organizations and activists (or, to be more P.C., cause-oriented advocates).

It isn’t P.C. to report about “street urchins” and “prostitutes”. Use “children in conflict with the law (CICL), “ “children in especially difficult circumstances (CEDCs),” “sex workers,” “trafficked persons” and “sex care provider” to avoid being labeled as ignorant and insensitive (or “neuronically challenged” and “socially misaligned” to the P.C.Ps.).

Yet, when some P.C. terms became longer (or more “syllable-prolific”) and thus, tongue-twisting and silly, the anti-labels turned into labels and turned off even the most flexible.

For instance, while news readers like accuracy, few may be able to deal with the distinctions made by very activity-specific terms that capture the increasing specialization of the sex trade, such as “Men Having Sex with Men (MSM)” and “Women Having Sex with Women (WSW)”.

Outside of reporters and editors (whose character-counting lives are compressed by shrinking news holes and modular layouts), does P.C. disrupt the lives of people on the streets (not “street people,” which anyway, according to P.C., have moved out to make way for “informal settlers”)?

Recently, an Iranian got his foot shot after he argued with street bums (“displaced homeowners” or just “occupationally challenged”?).

According to Joy F. Tumulak’s Nov. 23, 2011 report in Sun.Star Superbalita, two cousins were hanging around a street corner in Guadalupe when the Iranian and a Filipino friend biked past them. The cousins cried out, “hey Joe! Hey Joe!”

This angered the Iranian who got into an argument with the two men. When he was about to ride away, one of the bystanders shot him.

Female boxers may start the fad of “skirt-shooting”. Lovers of English may die each time an editor uses “waitron” to skirt the gender slurs of “waiter” and “waitress”.

Yet, in a post-9/11 world, intolerance means more dangerous exposure than name-calling.

( 09173226131)

* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Nov. 27, 2011 issue of the “Matamata” Sunday column

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