25 July 2008

Scribe Vibe: Avoiding prejudice via language

i'd like to share with you today's column at Manila Times.

for the benefit of those who were supposed to sit in sa class ko when i taught the "non-discriminatory gender-fair language" lesson in scriptwriting weeks ago.

and for the benefit of those who want to understand where i'm coming from. because if you don't, then maybe it is time to rethink some things... the sentiment here is somewhat similar to my blog post entitled "of ghosts and upgrades" posted right before this one. wala lang...

original column is here. but i'm posting the longer unedited version here.

The Scribe Vibe

By Libay Linsangan Cantor

Avoiding prejudice via language

Part of my writing classes always entails teaching how to distinguish prejudice coming from writers and from the characters of the story. It should be clear to authors where the bias is coming from—which should be from the characters, not from themselves.

But to quote Shakespeare, aye, there’s the rub.

It’s hard to remove prejudice in the Filipino language. We have different types of prejudice masked as age-old terms handed down in our society from generation to generation. However, that shouldn’t prevent us from correcting the negativity encoded in our words and phrases.

For instance, our racism is enveloped in terms we use to call other races. I bet you know the colloquial terms most Filipinos use to refer to people from India, African Americans, and the Chinese. No matter how colloquial terms like bumbay and egoy are, they are racist, and we should refrain from using them. Yes, even if our parents and grandparents still use them, it doesn’t excuse us from correcting such stereotypical notions.

Similarly, terms that sound sexist may not sound as such at first, but a closer look reveals a derogatory connotation. Even seemingly harmless situations and self-identifications, such as being feminist (man-hater) or seeing a female motorist (her gender automatically tags her as a bad driver) could appear as sexist, and rude. Even our local cussword spat out by practically everybody here and there has a sexist connotation. Why do we swear by taking our enemy’s mother in vain, not their father? Just a thought.

People tend not to take these criticisms seriously. They might even dismiss it as something that’s a part of society already, that the terms are here to stay, so why change them? I highly disagree.

The reason why we go to school is to educate ourselves about things we don’t know and to get re-educated about the things we already thought we know. If there was no move centuries ago to change age-old ways of thinking and seeing things, we may still believe that the sun revolves around the earth, and that our planet is flat.

I’m not saying that teachers have a higher moral ascendancy when it comes to teaching children. Parents should also be more flexible when it comes to education. They should also be aware if, again, they are handing over prejudice and negativity down to their children via the language we use. It shouldn’t be a battle of parents/home vs. teachers/school. Parents and teachers are always on the same side when it comes to educating children, especially about language and tradition, but parents sometimes need to re-evaluate how they teach certain things to their children, and learn to get on with the changing times.

It’s not about being politically correct in word usage; it’s about being respectful and understanding—not just merely being tolerant—of other people’s differences, especially people different from the norm or who deviate from the status quo. //

Comments? Suggestions? Email libay.scribevibe@gmail.com.

so tell me what you think. oo e, apec ako ng todo kasi... hirap, no?

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