Category Archives: Culture

Offensive Word Research: Ofcom

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DO NOT READ IF OFFENDED BY STRONG WORDS

Ofcom has published research exploring the latest attitudes to offensive language on TV and radio.  The report looks at words and gestures, exploring what people were likely to find unacceptable, and the reasons why they were judged to be offensive.

Live TV continues to have the greatest reach of all UK media formats, with 92% of people watching each week in 2016. Furthermore, nine in ten adults tuned into the radio, listening for an average of three hours daily.

The groups of potentially offensive language and gestures fell into two broad categories: general swear words – those with clear links to body parts, sexual references, and offensive gestures; and specifically discriminatory language, whether directed at older people, people of particular religions, people with mental health or disability issues, LGBT people, or racist language.

General and other non-discriminatory language
• For general swear words, the emotional impact associated with particular words was important. In particular, certain words like ‘fuck’ or ‘motherfucker’ were regarded as among the strongest offensive language and not acceptable before the watershed, with some respondents having concerns about their frequent use after the watershed.

• Words with clear links to body parts like ‘cunt’, ‘gash’ or ‘beef curtains’ were in general viewed in a way analogous to the more, or most, offensive general swear words. However, many respondents thought the less crass or vulgar words (such as ‘balls’ or ‘tits’) were the more acceptable before the watershed.

• Sexual references like ‘cocksucker’ or ‘prick teaser’ were typically evaluated in a similar way to the more, or most, offensive general swear words. They were seen as distasteful and often unnecessary, but acceptable if used in line with audience expectations after the watershed.

• Offensive gestures were viewed as broadly unacceptable before the watershed, but mostly acceptable after it. The ‘blow job’ gesture was the least acceptable because it was perceived as the most vulgar.

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Discriminatory language
• Unlike other forms of discriminatory language, respondents had few concerns about the terms assessed in this report that were potentially insulting to older people. These were mildly distasteful to some of the older participants, but many (of a range of ages) found them inoffensive or even, to some extent, humorous.

• Many of the words that were discriminatory on religious grounds were unfamiliar to some of the participants.  However, those who were familiar with words such as ‘Taig’ and ‘Fenian’ viewed them as generally offensive and potentially unacceptable.

• Views on words relating to mental health and disability differed greatly. Words such as ‘spastic’, ‘mong’ or ‘retard’ were seen as insulting and derogatory, and therefore viewed as being as unacceptable as the strongestracist insults, with their use requiring significant contextual justification. On the other hand, words such as ‘nutter’, ‘loony’ or ‘mental’ were seen as more commonly – used mild insults, and were therefore much more acceptable, both before and after the watershed.

• Stronger homophobic and transphobic terms such as ‘faggot’, ‘homo’, and ‘chick with a dick’ were seen as very problematic by participants. This was, again, because of the insulting and derogatory nature of the language. These words were considered much less acceptable than general swear words.

• Racist language such as ‘coon’, ‘nigger’ and ‘wog’ were among the most unacceptable words overall; they were seen as derogatory, discriminatory and insulting. Many participants were concerned about these words being used at any time, with their use requiring significant contextual justification.

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The 9pm watershed was considered crucial
The watershed on TV (or considering when children were particularly likely to be listening, in the case of radio) was seen as a good way of striking a balance between protecting children and respecting adult freedoms to watch TV or listen to radio when they wished. It was highly valued by almost all participants.

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Unfamiliar words
Not all words were familiar to participants, and this limited the detailed feedback that could be collected on little-known terms. The least familiar words (those that were recognised by less than 40% of participants) were on the whole slang terms relating to body parts or sex, as well as some ethnic or religious slurs. These words are indicated in this and following chapters with an asterisk (*). Older participants recognised fewer words overall, tending not to recognise more recent slang terms.

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‘Medium words’ were those more often employed as stronger insults, as well as some words considered more distasteful depending on how they were used. They were regarded to be potentially unacceptable before the watershed, although there was some debate among participants.

Words such as ‘cock’, ‘pussy’ and ‘minge’ were seen as significantly stronger; a number of participants described them as more graphic, vulgar, or rude. Overall, this group of words were deemed generally unacceptable before the watershed.

A participant in the survey said “Pussycat is fine but “Stop being such a pussy” puts the word in a different and more offensive context”.  

Participants agreed, however, that the word ‘pussy’ was potentially much more offensive when used as a slang term for vagina.  The words ‘beef curtains’ and ‘bloodclaat’ were recognised by less than half of those who completed the online survey.

However, among those familiar with these words, both were considered generally unacceptable for broadcast before the watershed. Participants classed a small number of terms such as ‘fuck’, ‘motherfucker’ and ‘cunt’ as the strongest and most offensive
terms in this category of non-discriminatory language. They were seen to express very strong emotions, or to be rude and aggressive insults. The cultural norms around these words meant they were less acceptable to use in front of children.

They were considered unacceptable before the watershed by the vast majority of participants. Responses to the word ‘cunt’ were particularly strong. A significant number of participants were uncomfortable with its use even after the watershed. Women were more likely to say it was completely unacceptable, based on its strong vulgar cultural associations. Some women and a few men said they were personally offended and would prefer ‘cunt’ not to be used on TV or radio at all.

 

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Sexual slurs, and more graphic sexual references like ‘cocksucker’, ‘whore’, ‘rapey’, and ‘jizz’, provoked stronger responses from participants. They were considered less acceptable because of their vulgarity, and because they were more likely to be used as insults directed at individuals. Similarly, words such as ‘slut’, ‘skank’ and ‘slag’ were seen as derogatory and vulgar, while words like ‘wanker’ and ‘dildo’ were seen as rude.

 

Discriminatory language
Participants’ in the survey suggested that their views on the acceptability of this type of offensive language on TV and radio differed from their response to the non-discriminatory offensive language and gestures discussed above. In general, discriminatory language was seen as potentially more problematic than more general offensive language.

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Religious insults
The majority of the words in this category were unfamiliar to a considerable number of the participants who took part in this survey. However, these words were generally problematic for those participants who recognised them. Views on acceptability also depended on perceived religious sensitivity. Many participants, even if they did not know the full meaning of the words, were wary of religious terminology because they were worried that people of faith might be offended.

These words were considered generally unacceptable before the watershed but broadly acceptable after it, based on the desire to protect religious
minorities.

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Sexual orientation and gender identity
Most of these derogatory terms, relating to either sexual or gender identity, were seen as very problematic by all participants who recognised them. As a category, they were viewed as insulting, derogatory and discriminatory. As with some racist terms, many participants could not envisage how the stronger words could be used in a non-discriminatory
way.

The word ‘gay’ was debated because it has multiple meanings and is used in multiple ways. Participants considered that it was acceptable when used as a simple identifier for homosexual people. Participants also discussed the use of ‘gay’ to mean ‘not cool’ or ‘not very good’. This caused some concern as it was considered potentially derogatory. While LGBT participants found this use of ‘gay’ less acceptable than participants generally, they did not consider it strongly offensive.

Words like ‘bummer’, ‘fairy’ and ‘pansy’ were medium in terms of acceptability. Participants thought of these words as rather dated and not often used now in a derogatory sense. However, they were still seen as potentially problematic when
intended to insult gay people. Many pointed out that some of these words are now used in the gay community in a humorous way. This meant that they were not always used as insults, thereby complicating decisions about acceptability and making context particularly important.

Words such as ‘dyke’, ‘poof’ and ‘rugmuncher’ were seen as strong and problematic. Participants objected to these types of words on the basis of being intentionally hurtful towards LGBT people. The terms were seen as generally unacceptable except in specific circumstances. For instance, as mentioned in the debated words section, some of these sexual orientation words like (such as ‘poof’, ‘queer’, and ‘dyke’) were seen as having been ‘reclaimed’ by the people they were originally intended to insult as expressions of their identity. In these circumstances the words were not considered
offensive.

Terms such as ‘batty boy’, ‘chick with a dick’, and ‘faggot’ were seen as among the strongest language, and much more likely to be used as insults. Many participants argued these were mostly unacceptable in society in general as they are particularly discriminatory and derogatory. As a result, they were seen as potentially problematic when broadcast on TV and radio, with their acceptability highly dependent on the context. In part, participants wanted to avoid children coming across these words, but there were also powerful concerns about protecting gay and transgender people from being offended or insulted.

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Mental health and physical disability
For participants, the most offensive words were those such as ‘spastic’, ‘mong’ and ‘retard’. In their opinion, these were the most derogatory, and were often used in ways likely to be hurtful towards people with disabilities. As with other strong forms of discriminatory language, participants emphasised that broadcasters should be very careful when using them. They should ensure that there are good reasons for doing so, and that any potential harm and offence are appropriately mitigated.

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Race and ethnicity
Participants in the Ofcom survey had strong views about these words. Racist terms were the most unacceptable category overall because participants considered these words were usually used in a way that was derogatory and discriminatory to others. Participants thought they should normally be broadcast only in limited circumstances and in context, for example in news, drama, or documentary programmes to explore or expose prejudice.

However, participants did make some significant distinctions regarding the acceptability of words within this category. Terms such as ‘Jock’ or ‘Nazi’ were felt to be historical insults whose meaning and use had changed and softened over the years. Indeed, some Scottish participants did not find ‘Jock’ offensive and others expected ‘Nazi’ to be used mainly in educational contexts.

Although there was limited concern about the use of ‘Hun’ as a derogatory reference to German people, the word was seen as less acceptable by those familiar with its use as a sectarian insult. In general, though, these words were of limited concern.  Terms such as ‘pikey’ or ‘kraut’ were debated because some participants saw them as insulting and derogatory to specific groups – and therefore less acceptable – while others viewed them as having developed into more general insults.

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Friendly workplaces are less innovative

A boss shoutingWork friendships can contribute to a lack of creative diversity in the office, according to new research from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University.

‘Relational capital and individual exploration: Unravelling the influence of goal alignment and knowledge acquisition’, a paper that examines the double-edged sword of friendships between colleagues, has revealed that work friendships discourage employees from challenging ‘group think’.

Tom Mom, along with co-authors Pepijn van Neerijnen, Patrick Reinmoeller and Ernst Verwaal, demonstrate that by aligning themselves, employees become less likely to innovate away from the established and accepted ‘norm’.

The researchers examined 150 respondents within large R&D departments of three Fortune Global 500 firms, gauging whether their accounts of personal friendships affected individual creativity, in information obtained from their colleagues.

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Tom says: “Of course, having a network of friends at work is a positive circumstance, both personally and professionally. Not only does this enable innovation and creativity through increased knowledge exchange, but being able to trust one another and speak candidly opens doors to growth. Business development has always been huge priority for firms and the focus has recently shifted to maximising individual employees’ outputs. By taking measures such as cross-sectional working, mixed training exercises or even the rotation of teams, managers can ensure that they reap the positive benefits of work relationships without slipping into the trap of over-familiarity and goal-alignment.”

He adds: “This also highlights the very real need for companies to increase diversity at board level in order to combat ‘group-think’, which would ultimately hinder innovation. Steering away from having a standardised business ‘identity’ – even if that may seem counter-intuitive – is a necessity in protecting from a herd mentality.”

 

Reporter Bonnie Britain reports from Coppafeel!

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Monday Matters reporter Bonnie Britain returns with a look at an event aimed at breast cancer awareness called Coppafeel. Boobball is a charity game held in the olympic park and Bonnie managed to get interviews with some of the players. Tom Fletcher from Mcfly, Ashley James, Gaby Roslin, Dan Edgar and Kate Write from TOWIE and Kristin Hallenga all spoke to our Bonnie.

Police give hate crime the boot

Merseyside Police Commissioner at Mersey Pride event.
Merseyside Police at Pride event.

Officers from throughout the force are replacing the standard black laces for multi-coloured ones to mark the start of Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender History month.

The unique rainbow laces use the same colour scheme as the rainbow flag, which has been flown by the force for the past nine years to mark International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) in May and will be raised again on February 1st.

Officers of all ranks will be allowed to wear the distinctive laces throughout February as a show of support for our LGBT staff and also for our partner agencies who stand alongside Merseyside Police to end discrimination and to eradicate hate crime.

Deputy Chief Constable Andy Cooke, said: “As a force we have already pledged to do everything we can to support members of the LGBT community and tackle homophobic and Transphobic hate crime in Merseyside. The flying of rainbow flag of IDAHO is already a well-established tradition in Merseyside and the introduction of rainbow laces as a show of support for LGBT History month is another great initiative.

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 21.55.57“We pride ourselves on being a diverse, fair and equal opportunities employer and the networks we have forged with support networks such as Homotopia and our GLSN have helped us improve the service we give to members of the LGBT community.

“Sadly, some people continue to be targeted because they are perceived to be different and it is important that victims feel confident enough in the police to report any hate crime incidents to us.

“We have made significant in-roads into addressing this issue through the establishment of our hate crime investigation ‘Sigma’ units, however there is further work to do to increase hate crime reporting and initiatives like this can only help demonstrate our commitment to this cause.”

Detective Constable Tracy O’Hara, chair of Merseyside Police’s LGBT network, said : “It is important for myself and other LGBT colleagues in Merseyside Police to see visible support from senior managers and those who do not identify as LGBT, wearing the rainbow laces.

merseysidepolice_34042783394.jpg“This is a team game and hopefully this will get people talking.

“LGBT history month is an opportunity to be visible in our stance against homophobia and transphobia. We have an established LGBT network however there are still those who feel unable to be out.

“Rainbow laces enable all staff to show their commitment to eradicating hate and discrimination in all its facets and that is what this is all about.”

During LGBT history month, members of Merseyside Police’s gay lesbian support network (GLSN) and Merseyside Black Police Association will be joining Homotopia and Liverpool’s Unity Theatre in welcoming a contingent of campaigners and academics from Poland.

The group will be looking at how LGBT cultural events such as Pride are organised in the city, how anti-discrimination is discussed in schools and universities, and how the emergency services and local councils work with charities to promote LGBT awareness.

K’S FIRST DEBUT LEAD ROLE DISABLED ACTRESS WINS L.A. MOVIE AWARDS AND JOINS OSCARS DIVERSITY DEBATE.

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With the lack of black actors causing boycotts at this year’s Oscars; criticism of leading men like Eddie Redmayne ‘cribbing up’ to play disabled characters (The Theory of Everything) and now Joseph Fines in the firing line for playing a bleached up Michael Jackson in a one-off Sky 1 comedy, a new British indie film promises to put diversity in the front row by casting a disabled actress in the lead role to reflect her real condition on screen.

Little Devil is a multiple award-winning British indie film that picked up gongs including ‘Best Lead Actress’ for its disabled star at the 2014 Los Angeles Diversity Film Festival. And now, taking advantage of the growing ‘on-the-go’ viewing habits of audiences, the movie gets its global release exclusively on-line via Distrify this February 2016.

Little Devil is saucy, character-driven feature film about a mischievous, sexually frustrated disabled girl who forms an unorthodox relationship with a troubled, gay male escort. But rather than being a victim of her condition, she uses her disability, Osteogenesis Imperfecta (Brittle Bones), as a cunning advantage in achieving her hidden agenda.

The film stars newcomer, Sam Renke, from Leyland in Lancashire, who has Brittle Bones, and – to our knowledge – will be the first disabled actress to take on a debut lead role in a British independent movie – and win awards! Sam worked closely with the film’s writer, Abraham Papacosta, and its director, Max Barber, to base some of the plot on her real-life experiences of dating and sexual exploration from the perspective of someone with an abnormal condition, but with very normal sexual desires.

She comments: “I’m not a ‘sit at home’ type of girl, I’m very pro-active in raising awareness in what to me, is still a blinkered world at times. The shameful lack of diversity at the Oscars, again, means that all of us in a perceived ‘minority’ must make a noise and demand change. The world’s population is amazingly varied – something not reflected by The Academy and its white, wealthy, ageing heterosexual male members.”

Playing alongside her in the supporting role is black, British actor, DeObia Oparei who is currently making it big in Hollywood. Better known for his action movies: Doom, Thunderbirds & Dredd; more recently he appeared as Areo Hotach in Game of Thrones and he also features in this summer’s blockbuster sequel Independence Day: Resurgence.

Rust & Bone, The Sessions, Marnie’s Story, The Finishers are just a few of the notable movies putting disability in the forefront of cinema in the last few years. Little Devil is leading the way in raising awareness of Brittle Bones in a frank and entertaining way. It portrays the condition as anything but a disability – and it doesn’t need an able-bodied actress pretending to use a wheelchair to do it. Little Devil revolves around the theme of unconventional families and sets out to turn the notion of what constitutes sex and body-diversity on its head. The film is designed to be a poignant, but ultimately, uplifting tale and deliberately sets out to court controversy and debate with its frank scenes and radical casting.

The movie is directed and co-written by London based, first-time feature director, Max Barber, originally from Grays in Essex, who has a string of award-winning short films to his name released through Peccadillo Pictures in the UK and TLA Releasing in the USA. He’s best known for some of the TV shows he’s directed which include Geordie Shore, A Girls Guide to 21st Century Sex & Don’t Tell the Bride, so expect a fair sprinkle of outrageous behaviour and drunken shenanigans! However, Max promises the movie will certainly be a step away from his roots in television and will not skirt around the more weighty issues the film raises, choosing instead to bend convention, lay his characters bare, and apply his bold and colourful film-making style.

He comments: “Understandably big star names attract film finance and audiences, but unless you start giving bigger parts to actors who don’t fit the convention, then you won’t get new and diverse talent into the system. I deliberately cast a disabled, up-and-coming actress, Sam, in the lead role, to get people talking, and gave her a powerful and positive character, rather than the stereotype, freak, villain or victim.”

The trailer and film is available to be seen and for rental or download on Distrify.
https://distrify.com/videos/cx5W3j-little-devil

Islamic students disrupt blasphemy & apostasy lecture

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Maryam Namazie – hear the interview 

Well known campaigner Maryam Namazie had been invited to talk at Goldsmiths University on December 3 by the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society campus group, on speech on blasphemy and apostasy.

However, as she was speaking members of the Goldsmiths University Students Union’s Islamic Society (ISOC), who had already try to ban her from speaking, began to heckle, with one switching off a projector and when looking at the video, it does show hat that Maryam was subjected to intimidation by a group of Islamic men who were set up disruption rather than engagement.

The Islamic students disrupted the speech, entitled ‘Apostasy, blasphemy and free expression in the age of Isis’, because they claimed it “violated their safe space”.

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Most surprisingly, Maryam told me how both Goldsmiths LGBT Society and Goldsmiths Feminist society “sent a solidarity message with the Islamists who disrupted my talk, rather than with me, someone who is a women’s rights campaigner, gay rights campaigner – someone who has campaigned for the free expression that these societies are using”.

I couldn’t quite believe what Maryam was telling me however she went on to say “they have labelled me an Islamophobe.  They’ve shown solidarity with Isamic Society brothers who actually have invited speakers in the past who defend the execution of gay people, who defend the execution of apostates and it’s such an irony that they would support them”.  Maryam said that identity politics had removed politics and choices from being debated and all that was left for some people was their identify as a muslim and “therefore anyone who identifies as a muslim is automatically seen to be the oppressed one in this conversation”.

And in further developments, Zak Thomas from Goldsmiths Students’ Union paper The Leopard wrote that “Members of the Islamic Society (ISOC) and the Atheist and Humanist Society (ASH) could face disciplinary action after a row broke out”.  When asked to comment about the investigation into those members of (ASH) – who had tried to restore order Maryam commented “afraid so” on twitter. The Leopard went on to quote Goldsmiths SU and said that the “SU will arrange a meeting between both societies specifically to identify how the incident should be dealt with”.

Listen: Maryam speaks to Jason

 

A Very Tory Christmas

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I love this picture of Prime Minister David Cameron – it really works on so many levels – in that – he could actually play this part in cartoon form!!!

The picture appeared in the Herald Scotland – under the headline “A very Tory Christmas: welfare rules leaving vulnerable families destitute over holidays” – so not a great story -but I do like the artistic impression this gives off.