Tuesday, December 04, 2007

It's political correctness gone mad, I tell you

Check this out. A man from Northern Ireland has been sentenced to 10 weeks in jail (suspended) for calling a Welsh woman English.

Apparently, being called English is a racial slur. Can I demand prosecution of the judges or magistrates who've handed down this silly sentence for declaring that being called English is offensive? They've offended me and my English son.


Actually, I'm not that bothered about the English bit. What really bothers me:

The former lorry driver[Michael Forsythe], who is originally from Northern Ireland, but lives in Powys, Mid Wales, called Lorna Steele an "English bitch" during an argument after he collided with her parked vehicle in the Welsh market town of Newport in February.

Why is it OK for a probably big and burly trucker to hit a woman's car and then call her a bitch. I'll admit that "English" wasn't the right label for the Welsh woman, but it's hardly the end of the world. I'll even grant that out of the mouth of someone from Northern Ireland, English does carry a bitter weight (whether they be Protestant or Catholic). But the hurtful, hateful part is indisputably calling that woman a bitch.

I can't tell you how many times I've been called Canadian*, and I'm tough enough to take it. I've been called Yank**, too - and while I do find that offensive, I haven't called the cops yet. But I'd be worried if someone hit my car and called me a bitch. To use that word is aggressive and offensive in anyone's book. It's usually meant to offend and when used by big, strange men it's usually meant to physically intimidate, too.

I've noticed this before. Why is it OK to be misogynistic - but even the slightest, tiniest touch of "racism" is deemed worthy of 10 weeks in the poky? I'm not calling for the use of gender-based slurs to go on the books as a crime (we've got more than enough "hate" legislation as it is). But I bet his use of the b-word went without comment.

I'm not defending Forsythe's behavior. Far from it. He sounds like a nasty man. But I'm inclined to agree with him here:

Forsythe has attacked the prosecution as a waste of time and money, according to the Daily Mail newspaper.

"I find it unbelievable that I've been prosecuted for this," he said. "I've travelled all over Europe as a lorry driver and never had any problems with anybody and now they're officially calling me a racist.

"It's political correctness gone mad."

* The Canadians, rather churlishly, do seem to take offense at being called American, so a lot of Brits use Canadian first since we Americans don't seem to mind.

** As a Southerner, I really don't like being called a Yank. But I usually just try to explain to the offender what they've done.


Chris in Oxford said...

I will stay out of the race vs misogyny debate, but man it does piss me off to be called a yank or yankee. They just don't seem to be able to make the distinction.

You would have had to find this in the Mail...

Sinead said...

I would be mortally offended if someone called me English as well:) The first thing my Irish Aunt said to me when i told her i was pregnant was 'you are going to have a pommy kid!'. I replied " I know, I can't believe it!". Offensive to the English I know, but I think it is my Irishness coming through (Zach has already got his Irish passport). Call it a genetically programmed personality fault:)
In all seriousness though, I can't believe the courts waste time with this kind of thing, but also that bitch wasn't more offensive than English.

jen said...

absolutely agree.

Sam said...

Better if he had been prosecuted for being a right bastard.

Vol Abroad said...

Well Sam, why not? That makes good sense - presumably he got in trouble for hitting her car, why not have additional style points deducted for behaving like a jerk. Could keep things far more civil.

Chris Black said...

Vis a vis the "ask if they are Canadian rather than ask ifthey are American":

I was sitting next to a French-speaking couple in a cafe in London some years ago.

I decided, rather brightly I though, to ask them if they were Belgian. I knew it was much more likely that they were French but reckoned that they'd be really pleased if I got it right.

The outcome? They looked at me with a very strange expression and one of them replies:

"Why do you say this?
We are from Luxembourg"

Ah, well.