Names Will Never Hurt Me
I’m Ã¼ber stoked to introduce today’s special guest author. Arthur is a gay American who moved to New Zealand in 1995. Blogging and podcasting as AmeriNZ, Arthur regularly offers an international perspective on culture and politics.
“Names will never hurt me.” Maybe not, but there are some names that aren’t acceptable or, at least, that’s what the New Zealand public thinks.
The agency responsible for determining what can’t be broadcast in New Zealand is the Broadcast Standards Authority. In order to know what “community standards” are, they periodically poll the New Zealand public. In their latest report, two words used against gay men made the top ten list of unacceptable “swear words.”
The BSA’s report, “What Not to Swear,” was based on a poll conducted by AC Nielsen. They added eight words that hadn’t been included before, among them, “faggot.” That word came in at number nine, deemed unacceptable by 46% of those surveyed. Critics have pointed out that a majority of New Zealanders think the word is acceptable under some circumstances. However, context matters and that doesn’t mean that Kiwis believe the word is always acceptable.
Another anti-gay epithet is at number five, rejected by 60% of New Zealanders. Demureness forbids me from mentioning that word, or the rest of the words on the list (the complete report can be found on the BSA website), but the word refers to a man who engages in a particular sexual activity that women may also do.
Language evolves over time, and so do community standards, which is why the BSA surveys the public from time to time. Basically, they’re snapshots of contemporary New Zealand society.
New Zealand has evolved a lot in just 25 years, especially when it comes to GLBT issues. The fact that two anti-gay epithets make the top ten list of least acceptable “swear words” suggests that NZ society has become one that knows homophobia is wrong. Or maybe they just know not to say such words publicly.
Ultimately, of course, it’s up to people to police themselves and to refrain from using words that are deliberately hurtful or demeaning. Surveys like this show how much progress we’re making in doing so. New Zealand is in a reasonably good space. In fact, I’d swear to it.