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The Huntress vs. The Headline: “An Offensive Language Ban? Gadzooks!”

June 3, 2011

We’re winding down into a long weekend and in sympathy today’s top read headlines are also winding down in quality. Such sympathisers include “‘I’ll Let You Shag My Wife’ Sign Outrage” by AdelaideNow and “‘It’s Really Her!’ More Nude Pics Released” from The Telegraph.com.au. I can empathise with the sentiment of “Basic Nipple, Privates Coverage Please” from News.com.au, but it’s not exactly something I’d call headline news.

I also feel empathy due to the fact I was once nearly arrested for wearing Glad Wrap as a dress. The policewoman tried to explain I was inappropriately attired and that I was a target for rape. I duly explained that to remove 30 metres of Glad Wrap is not an easy feat to achieve and good luck to anyone who tried. I also explained that many girls younger than myself (I was approximately 18 at the time) were wearing bikinis which were far more revealing than my Glad Wrap dress (Glad Wrap becomes translucent after a few rounds and reasonably opaque after about 10 metres) and perhaps they should also speak to those young ladies if they were so concerned. It was about then I was threatened with arrest and I meekly agreed to put a ‘real’ dress on. My friend who kindly wrapped me that day fondly remembers my ‘real’ dress was shorter than my Glad Wrap dress.

These days I am a little bit more refined – like unleaded petrol as opposed to diesel. But one thing I am constantly troubled by is the state of my language, which brings me to today’s headline. The Victorian State Government this week introduced on-the-spot fines to those found using offensive language in public areas. Which immediately makes me think “What the fuck?” and secondary to that I think “Bugger, that would have just cost me $240 if I said that aloud in Victoria”. My third thought would then be “Is bugger considered to be an offensive word?”

I do harbour a belief that people swear in exchange for not being able to think of a more creative way to express themselves. This troubles me because I love to play with words and I desperately wish I was a more creative person. The seduction of being able to pretend to be a creative person is very alluring to me because it usually works to stop me from using that kind of language. But as discussed by Helen Razer in today’s article what happens if you drop something heavy on your foot? Does the fine still apply? Especially considering that studies show swearing can offer tremendous pain relief after such an event. Which probably explains why normally demure women turn out to have the filthiest mouths whilst in labour.

But aside from all these wandering thoughts I am having (in my defence it has been a long, long day and I’m not well) we really have to wonder what the Victorian State Governement is actually trying to achieve from this. If we look towards the groups of people who will be most affected by this new law it will be the homeless, the mentally ill, our youth – in short people who are often already disadvantaged. Which to me makes this an extremely counterproductive exercise. Yes, it would be nice if we didn’t have to listen to that kind of language – I do get sick of being abused by a torrent of swear words on a regular basis within my job. But would it not be better to aim for a long term cultural change? I don’t know but Australian Government’s don’t seem to think very broadly – rather if they don’t like the practice, they just stick a fine on it. Not a particularly inspiring way to get Australian’s to change their behaviour.

And speaking of trying to change behaviour I quite liked this picture of Simon Brundret’s sculpture entitled “Dog In A Bin”.

I like dogs and my young girl (the one I mentioned who got stuck under the herbs many posts ago) also quite enjoys sticking her head into the bin. I tried explaining to her she shouldn’t do such things as they’re not ladylike, but she just looked at me with her usual beautiful, bemused expression. So she’ll never change her behaviour because I can’t get mad at her. Maybe I should start issuing her with bin fines…

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3 Comments
  1. Kate permalink

    Yes, I know this extraordinarily well after you posted it, but I had to comment. In regards to the Glad Wrap, I maintain I was preserving your dignity! And may I remind you, you did get fined by the fashion police on this particular day 🙂

    On the subject at hand, however, the language of teenagers is becoming truly appalling. I can’t walk more than a metre or two at work without hearing the foulest langauge possible. It is not unusual to hear them call each other cunts or fuckheads or any other derivitive. A complete cultural change is necessary, otherwise this will become more pervasive.

    • I am so glad you reminded me about the fashion police. They were hilarious! I’m so sad I lost my ticket though, especially after having clung to it for so many years.

      I agree with you on cultural change in regards to offensive language. But what I find most difficult is what words can we now use when we truly want to be offensive? What words can we spit out in our deepest moments of hateful rage so that people can understand the loathing? These days when I’m told to ‘get fucked’ by a patient I just sort of roll my eyes and go on my merry way – it’s so unoriginal and non-intimidating that all I can think is ‘surely they can come up with something better’. We need to think of something…

  2. Kate permalink

    I actually think using simple, non-offensive language in a low, even tempered rate is far more effective than spitting venom at people. It makes people stop and get scared by the eerie calm, you know, like the eye of a cyclone.

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