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Has hu­mour come un­der at­tack from what some call the tyranny of po­lit­i­cal correctness, asks Mondli Makhanya

CityPress - - News -

swanas are stingy. Xhosas are du­plic­i­tous. Sothos swear too much. Zu­lus are vi­o­lent. Shangaans wear bright colours and drink Fanta Or­ange. Swazis don’t wear un­der­wear dur­ing harvest sea­son. Peo­ple from Lim­popo are ex­perts at man­u­fac­tur­ing light­ning. In­di­ans are cun­ning and love the Golf GTi. Coloureds don’t like school but love the bot­tle. Bo­ers are thick. English speak­ers are fake and facile. Jews are money-grub­bers. Mus­lims bomb things. Catholics breed like rab­bits. Zim­bab­weans find goats sexy. And so on, and so on, and so on.

These are all stereo­types. Stereo­types that are the sta­ple of jokes that we tell about and to each other. They have been here since time im­memo­rial and no so­cial gath­er­ing is com­plete with­out them. The com­edy scene would not be what it is with­out jokes based on these stereo­types.

But this hu­mour is com­ing un­der at­tack from what some have la­belled the tyranny of po­lit­i­cal correctness. We came face to face with this tyranny when Bic was forced to apol­o­gise for a Women’s Day ad­vert that ex­horted the fairer sex to “look like a girl, act like a lady, think like a man and work like a boss”.

Af­ter wide­spread out­rage, Bic’s bosses with­drew the ads, poured ash over their heads and pa­raded them­selves in public squares wear­ing tat­tered clothes. In their state­ment, they said they were “in­cred­i­bly sorry for of­fend­ing ev­ery­body”.

“That was never our in­ten­tion, but we com­pletely un­der­stand where we’ve gone wrong. This post should never have gone out. The feed­back you have given us will help us en­sure that some­thing like this will never hap­pen again, and we ap­pre­ci­ate that.”

While I agree that the “post should never have gone out”, it is for a to­tally dif­fer­ent rea­son. That rea­son is that it was just a pa­thetic ad­vert that failed dis­mally at play­ing on the movie ti­tle Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.

That is where my ob­jec­tion ends. The po­lit­i­cally cor­rect fas­cists in our midst had many other ob­jec­tions, though. They told us that the ad­vert was sex­ist, con­de­scend­ing, pa­tro­n­is­ing and de­mean­ing to­wards women.

In the age of so­cial media, these fas­cists have gained a great deal of power. While the rest of us are get­ting on with life, they are busy look­ing for op­por­tu­ni­ties to kill the joy.

The march of po­lit­i­cal tyranny is a dis­turb­ing phe­nom­e­non that flies in the face of at­tempts to cre­ate men­tally healthy so­ci­eties. This is more so in South Africa, where we are try­ing to ne­go­ti­ate a path to­wards nor­malcy. There are things we are told we should not say be­cause they are of­fen­sive to this or that sec­tion of so­ci­ety. Jokes should be not told be­cause they are racist, trib­al­ist, sex­ist, ho­mo­pho­bic, xeno­pho­bic or of­fen­sive to peo­ple liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties.

This is not to say we should pro­tect the rights of big­ots and al­low big­oted talk to run ram­pant. We do need to fight back­ward­ness with all the le­gal and in­for­mal in­stru­ments at our dis­posal.

The is­sue is that as we are fight­ing big­otry – let us not lose our abil­ity to have fun. Let us not get into a sit­u­a­tion where we have to look around be­fore telling a joke, or where cre­atives at advertising agen­cies have to con­sult the Equal­ity Act be­fore de­sign­ing an ad­vert. Hu­mour should not be con­fined to com­edy the­atres or Chan­nel 122 on DStv.

If we are to be a healthy so­ci­ety, we should al­low our­selves to breathe eas­ier. The tyranny of po­lit­i­cal correctness should not turn us into a dull and dour peo­ple.

NOT VERY PC Women’s Day mes­sage (be­low) that caused all the trou­ble. It was pub­lished on the com­pany’s so­cial-media por­tals

The Bic

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