Monday, 3 December 2018

Being called a "Kiwi"

is offensive or is not offensive. Which?
Apparently someone did find being called offensive or "disrespectful" and took her (former) employer to the Equal Opportunity Commission. The EOC passed it on to the Employment Tribunal. The judge there came down on the side of the employer. 
I can only assume that it was allowed to get as far as that in an effort to test the law.
But what merit did the case have apart from that? 
I have met New Zealanders who have introduced themselves as "I'm a Kiwi". I know other people who have described themselves as things like "Yankees" and "Pommy bastards".
A friend in England, now sadly departed, used to call me "Antipodes". It was meant as a term of endearment. I am thankful it did not catch on but I understood what she meant by it.
I have been called other names in my time. They haven't always been kind. Children are not always kind. Adults can be even worse. And, more than once, I was mistaken for a "Kiwi" when I was in other parts of the world. There are regional accents in Downunder and ours is closer to that of New Zealand than some other areas. 
Of course name calling can hurt. The old saying "sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never hurt me" is not true. Name calling has led to suicide - yes, it's that serious.
The judge apparently said - correctly - that the purpose of the act in question is to stop behaviours which prevent people from being employed or participating in the social life of the community. Was being called a "Kiwi" actually doing that? Someone wanted to be known by their given name, not a nickname. 
Names are intensely personal things. They are powerful. They first represent the power our parents have over us when we are born. Names are given to us for all manner of reasons. 
I introduced one of my oldest friends, someone I have known since my teens, to another person recently. I used her proper name, not her nickname and she was the one who chose to say,
     "That's my proper name but everyone calls me....  Cat's being polite."
And that's the way it should be.

1 comment:

Jodiebodie said...

Sad if a workplace disrespectfully ignores workers' requests to use their proper names instead of a nickname. Discrimination begins with disrespect.