Tuesday, 21 October 2008

PC in Argentina?

South America is not as interested in 'political correctness' as its Northern neighbours, and I suppose that's a good or bad thing depending on your point of view. But that might be starting to change:
An organisation of over 100 journalists in Argentina has drawn up ten "commandments" for news coverage of gender-based crimes, which include avoiding expressions like "crime of passion" and incorporating terms like "femicide."
Its aim is to combat "invisible discrimination, which is often unintentional, but occurs because it has become natural in daily life," Liliana Hendel, a psychologist and journalist for the subscription television news channel Todo Noticias, and one of the authors of the ten commandments, or decalogue, told IPS.

I understand why some people roll their eyes at such initiatives, but I think this might hint at something important going on. It has been noted, for example, that the violence of the Argentine dictatorship carried with it an undercurrent - and sometimes a blatant dose - of misogyny. Diana Taylor goes as far as to summarise:
The battle in Argentina between the so-called nationalists and progressives during the twentieth century has been staged on and around the female body - be it the metaphorical Patria, Evita's wandering corpse, the nude body onstage, or the scantily clad body of the endless number of women who, during the Dirty War, appeared on the covers of national magazines that announced ever escalating acts of horror.
(Disappearing Acts, 1997, Duke University Press, p. 16)

And, of course, the 'locas' (madwomen) of the Plaza de Mayo, who were ignored, then mocked and threatened for the audacity of attempting to report their disappearance of their offspring.

I am not saying that eliminating the phrase 'a crime of passion' from a newspaper article will in itself prevent human rights abuses. I am saying that sexism and disrespect for human rights went hand-in-hand in an Argentina where the strongmen of the military controlled everything, including the power over life and death. Perhaps, just perhaps, a part of rooting out the anti-democratic elements that remain includes being conscious of the language we use and the messages it carries.

Argentina: Non-Sexist Language for Reporters

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