What we talk about when we talk about Gypsies
October 15, 2013 7:12 AM   Subscribe

Per mod request, I'd like to open a dialogue on the use of "Gypsy" as an ethnic descriptor here on MetaFilter.
posted by Etrigan to Etiquette/Policy at 7:12 AM (665 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

I used to live in Romania, I view it as a slur. That take on it is not yet common understanding with a lot of people that I know. I usually politely point it out when I see it. We don't have a policy about its use in MeFi. If we see people using it in a derogatory fashion we'll axe it. We're open to being more hardline with this policy.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:15 AM on October 15, 2013 [20 favorites]


I've commented before about the use of this term in my own family.

There is no consensus in the Romani world about what word should be used -- "Romani" or "Rom" are the most popular, "Gypsy" is still common, and others feel that we shouldn't lump ourselves together based on a (probable) old migration from India and the resulting grouping that became our ethnicity.

But much like the evolution of "African-American" and the holdouts of "Black" and even "colored" (as in the NAACP), we seem to have reached a point where "Romany" won't ever be offensive, while "Gypsy" sometimes will, and the latter is almost never needed to avoid confusion.
posted by Etrigan at 7:16 AM on October 15, 2013 [16 favorites]


I have been told by enough people (mostly in the US) that they consider it offensive, so I don't use it. I understand from previous threads that there are a very few places in Europe where it is preferred, but, assuming we are not talking about those places, I am perfectly happy going with Rom or Roma.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:21 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


FWIW I'd love it if people would avoid using the word "Gypsy" unless they're quoting someone or specifically talking about the term itself, in the same way that we generally avoid using the word "Nigger" around here unless we're explicitly examining the word.

It's my impression too that a lot of folks (especially in the USA, perhaps?) are unaware that "Gypsy" is derogatory and I think our first assumption on seeing it used should probably be that the user was ignorant of its derogatory nature, rather than that the user was saying it maliciously.

However I'd be totally OK with some gentle moderator intervention to change the word to a non-derogatory one when it comes up in an FPP, perhaps with a mod note saying "Hey I get that you probably didn't mean it this way but most folks consider 'Gypsy' a slur, so we've changed it to 'Romani' [or whatever]."
posted by Scientist at 7:22 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


FWIW, it appears a number of Romani origanizations use the term.

The Gypsy Lore Society
Gypsy Roma Travellers Leeds
National Association of Gypsy and Traveller Officers
The Domari Society of Gypsies in Jerusalem

This strikes me as a term that has no consensus among those who would be aggrieved by its use. I do not know how that might help to inform policy.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:26 AM on October 15, 2013 [15 favorites]


> FWIW I'd love it if people would avoid using the word "Gypsy" unless they're quoting someone or specifically talking about the term itself, in the same way that we generally avoid using the word "Nigger" around here unless we're explicitly examining the word.

I wish people wouldn't use this kind of rhetorical overkill. We can talk till the cows come home about the varying uses and impacts of "Gypsy" (and we have), but it is not remotely the same as "nigger," and the only reason to bring the latter up is to club people over the head and try to force them to agree with you. It's exactly parallel to bring up Hitler/Nazism as an analogy for anything we find objectionable. Try harder.
posted by languagehat at 7:28 AM on October 15, 2013 [95 favorites]


FWIW, it appears a number of Romani origanizations use the term.

My take is this: if a person or organization of that ethnicity wants to use the term, I am certainly not going to tell them not to. As a person not of that ethnicity, I would not use the term unless specifically invited to use it. As I said, I have been told this often enough that I would rather not play "will I offend you or not?" with someone I have just met. "Rom" or "Roma" are not that hard to say, after all, and what's the harm in using them?
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:32 AM on October 15, 2013 [25 favorites]


We're open to being more hardline with this policy.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:15 on October 15
[+] [!]


Be more hard line with this policy. Thank you.



If someone tells you that something you say offends them, you don't tell them no, it doesn't, or tell them that it doesn't offend a consensus, or whatever.

This comes up time and again because it is an ethnic slur. It hurts no one to stop using it.

Stop calling members of my ethnic group by this slur.
posted by samofidelis at 7:34 AM on October 15, 2013 [49 favorites]


The deleted comment linked to this previous thread in which opinions seem to diverge quite a bit. It's clear that there is criticism of the term from within the Romani community; at the same time it looks like some Romani organizations at least use the term in their names, and I understand that it is not uncommon for individual Roma and Travellers to refer to themselves as "Gypsy". I'm including Travellers here because they factor heavily into the discussion on the UK/Western Europe side; from what I gather the word is in common, current, uncommented use by the BBC and the Guardian at least. Here's a Guardian blog post addressing the controversy.

As a mod I try to err on the side of sensitivity, but here I was in a bit of a bind because I simply can't tell definitively how the term is commonly viewed within the Romani community. Is it possible that there are dialectical/national differences at play here, e.g. between American and British/European usage? Is criticism of the term recent and is continued use by news media — ones that I believe exercise at least some care in using inclusive language — merely a matter of inertia? So yeah, we're definitely open to input on how to deal with this in the future.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 7:35 AM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think my analogy actually still holds, even allowing for a difference in the intensity of the two terms. To me they are both racial slurs, and as such should not be used except in a meta-discussion of the terms themselves, or in a quotation. I used the latter term because it was one that I thought everybody would immediately recognize as a slur, not because I was arguing that the two terms are equally potent.

Note also that I didn't say "people should not," I said "I would love it if...". I was stating my personal preference for usage, not imposing a prescription out of some of misplaced sense of authority.
posted by Scientist at 7:35 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I come from a rural/farming area of west-middle England that was until recently almost exclusively white, Anglo Saxon, except for the traveling community. Gypsy was, still is, a word used there in different contexts; neutral and sometimes offensively. The always offensive variation on this word is 'gypo', as is the related term 'pikey', though this is often used as an insult to describe non-traveling, working class people.

Back on the word 'Gypsy'; it has been used by one of the main television networks in the title of a franchise of documentaries. Not without controversy.

Personally, even if not found to be offensive, I don't like the term 'Gypsy' as it's so often incorrectly used.
posted by Wordshore at 7:35 AM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Romani isn't always appropriate. In Ireland, "Irish Travellers" is now widely used and Gypsy is more often used by those outside the community as a slur.

I've commented before about the use of this term in my own family:
Some of us insist that we are Rom, and "Gypsy" is a catch-all for those petty criminals who give us all a bad name (to include Travellers).


Not all Travellers are petty criminals and I don't think generalisations like that are very helpful in terms of a debate about names/language.
posted by billiebee at 7:39 AM on October 15, 2013


I understand that this is a difficult issue, but I feel like if there is a way that we can, as a community, avoid the possibility of offending people by simply using one word instead of another, it isn't exactly asking for a whole lot of effort for a significant reward.
posted by fight or flight at 7:40 AM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


If people find it offensive, and some people do even while groups do use the term 'gypsy' to describe themselves, then it seems uncontroversial to avoid using the term if for no other reason than politeness. In the UK some Romany groups do refer to themselves as Romany Gypsies. But it's a big world and things resonate differently to different folks. I was amazed a few years back to find that Australians freely used 'wog' - a highly perjorative, little used (now) term for 'black' in the UK - to refer to Greek Australians, seemingly with little controversy.

One benefit of avoiding the term is that "gypsy" is not directly equivalent to Roma because the term is also used casually to describe other travellers. So if people object to being language policed on the basis of offensiveness then avoidance on the basis of accuracy also has merit.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:41 AM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Where I live-- Chicago area-- there are many who blithely use the term "Gypsy" as a pejorative to describe people who engage in certain stereotypical criminal behaviors. I don't know how common that concept of the word is elsewhere but for me, that's plenty of reason to avoid it.

(Seriously, in a suburban community center I saw a sign proclaiming "Watch out for Gypsies!" and warning everyone to beware of people coming around offering to resurface your driveway.)
posted by BibiRose at 7:42 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


In Ireland, "Irish Travellers" is now widely used...

Aren't the Irish Travellers a totally separate ethnic group?
posted by griphus at 7:42 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes Irish Travellers are distinct from Romani, but were also called Gypsies in Ireland and the UK.
posted by billiebee at 7:47 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I never really understand why it is occasionally a hardship for people to not use a term for an ethnic group which has been clearly stated by members of that group to be offensive, whether or not members of that group use it amongst themselves.
posted by elizardbits at 7:48 AM on October 15, 2013 [45 favorites]


Romani isn't always appropriate. In Ireland, "Irish Travellers" is now widely used and Gypsy is more often used by those outside the community as a slur.

Travellers are not (for the most part) ethnically Romani. There has been some interbreeding, but the use of the term as an ethnic descriptor is the thrust behind this MeTa.

I've commented before about the use of this term in my own family:
Some of us insist that we are Rom, and "Gypsy" is a catch-all for those petty criminals who give us all a bad name (to include Travellers).

Not all Travellers are petty criminals and I don't think generalisations like that are very helpful in terms of a debate about names/language.


My citation of what some of my family members use was not intended to be the Final Word on the subject, as you may have noted from the several other examples of "Some of us" in that comment.
posted by Etrigan at 7:48 AM on October 15, 2013


I'm just a little disappointed that we couldn't have this entire discussion in the form of Ray Carver titles: "The Idea!" "What Is It?" "A Serious Talk" "Why, Honey?" "Put Yourself in My Shoes" "How About This?" "Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?"
posted by octobersurprise at 7:54 AM on October 15, 2013 [13 favorites]


Apologies if that felt too critical. Disclosure - I work for an Irish anti-racist organisation and discrimination towards Travellers here is still acceptable in a way that other forms of racism are (slowly) ceasing to be, and the "criminal" accusation tends to be the main justification for that. Think you just hit a nerve.

However, if we are talking about the use of the word Gypsy then I felt it was worth pointing out that there isn't a clear Gypsy - Romani substitute in all cases.
posted by billiebee at 7:54 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I had the single sentence comment 'Antiziganists use that ethnic slur' deleted from the original thread.

It is a relevant remark to the discussion in that thread, and it ought not to be deleted. People reading that thread but not participating here ought to read that.
posted by samofidelis at 8:00 AM on October 15, 2013


The discussion in that thread is about the film. Metatalk is for discussion about site guidelines/policy/etiquette.
posted by vacapinta at 8:01 AM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


People are also more than welcome to email/MeMail flapjax directly about his word usage.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:02 AM on October 15, 2013


That discussion is in part informed by antiziganism.
posted by samofidelis at 8:04 AM on October 15, 2013


FWIW I'd love it if people would avoid using the word "Gypsy" unless they're quoting someone or specifically talking about the term itself, in the same way that we generally avoid using the word "Nigger" around here unless we're explicitly examining the word.

FWIW, I'd love it if white people would stop bringing up black people whenever they want to make analogy's about some other group's oppression. That'd be awesome, thanks.
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:04 AM on October 15, 2013 [29 favorites]


That discussion is in part informed by antiziganism.

Making comments in that thread about moderation policy is likewise not okay. You can have that discussion here, you can not have it there.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:06 AM on October 15, 2013


samofidelis, thanks for the word antiziganism.

Gypsy - Urban Dictionary - hostile, pejorative

gypsy - Wikipedia

Gyp·sy also Gip·sy
(jps)
n. pl. Gyp·sies also Gip·sies
1. A member of a people that arrived in Europe in migrations from northern India around the 14th century, now also living in North America and Australia. Many Gypsy groups have preserved elements of their traditional culture, including an itinerant existence and the Romany language.
2. See Romany.
3. gypsy One inclined to a nomadic, unconventional way of life.
4. A person who moves from place to place as required for employment, especially:
a. A part-time or temporary member of a college faculty.
b. A member of the chorus line in a theater production.
American Heritage® Dictionary

4. (l.c.) Informal. gypsy cab.
5. (l.c.) Informal. an independent, usu. nonunion trucker, operator, etc.
adj.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary
posted by theora55 at 8:09 AM on October 15, 2013


Deleting a remark like 'That ethnic slur is used by Antiziganists,' which is factually accurate and germane, is an attempt to hide the discussion here, where it will have less visibility. It was germane. It was brief. It is not a derail; it speaks to the cultural understanding of Roma culture. Deleting it is implicitly antiziganist.

The reason this is so ugly is because we are having a discussion about using ethnic slurs. We ought to simply agree not to use those slurs.
posted by samofidelis at 8:12 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


FWIW, it appears a number of Romani origanizations use the term.

That's fine, but it's not like the NAACP's name is an invitation to call people "colored" in this day and age.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:16 AM on October 15, 2013 [31 favorites]


Deleting a remark like 'That ethnic slur is used by Antiziganists,' which is factually accurate and germane, is an attempt to hide the discussion here

It is totally in line with how this site works. You don't have to agree with the policy but that's a completely standard enforcement of our existing moderation policies. The idea that "we should all agree" is a great one but we DON'T all agree and discussion of that topic is what this thread is about. It's not the topic of that thread.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:16 AM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure why "a lot of people find the term gypsy a slur, so since we're not actually discussing the use of the word but music, we'll take the offensive term off the front page of metafilter" is a bad way to go.
posted by jeather at 8:17 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


samofidelis: "Deleting it is implicitly antiziganist. "

Topicality counts for a lot in metafilter. Conversations get siloed and constrained when they need to. This isn't a new thing, and it's not an attempt to hide the conversation.

samofidelis: "The reason this is so ugly is because we are having a discussion about using ethnic slurs. We ought to simply agree not to use those slurs."

I agree with you, but tanizaki's links are giving me a different perspective to consider.
posted by boo_radley at 8:20 AM on October 15, 2013


Because in practice it means deleting the thread. We don't make edits. Someone is welcome to email f@m and see if he'd be okay with that edit.

samofidelis, if you comment again in that thread in an off-topic way we're giving you the day off. meta-discussion goes here, not there.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:20 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's possible to use the word 'gypsy' in a non-pejorative way, and it has somewhat related, but non-identical meanings. It's not possible to use 'nigger' in a non-pejorative way, with the possible exception of people of of African descent (let's not have that derail).

I like words. I like nuance. I have giving up words. Telling people what not to do isn't very helpful; what words should people use to replace 'gypsy'? What else do you call a gypsy cab? 'Gypsy' is frequently used to describe the culture of the Rom people. The words 'itinerant' or 'nomad' may work in many instances, but there's a positive connotation to 'gypsy' to mean free or roaming and that romanticizes an idea of what Romani or traveling people are like.

The word 'gyp' is clearly pejorative.
posted by theora55 at 8:20 AM on October 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


Because in practice it means deleting the thread. We don't make edits. Someone is welcome to email f@m and see if he'd be okay with that edit.

If he's ok with it? Who cares what he's ok with. Why don't you care what I'm ok with, which is that you stop condoning the use of ethnic slurs.
posted by samofidelis at 8:24 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is your argument that we should have just deleted the thread outright?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:25 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes. It would have been rather easy for him to write a similar thread without the use of ethnic slurs.
posted by samofidelis at 8:26 AM on October 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


What else do you call a gypsy cab?

Jitney, livery cab, or grey cab, but it's not actually my responsibility to find replacement words for you for those that make use of slurs. I feel sure this is something you can do on your own.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:26 AM on October 15, 2013 [22 favorites]


We ought to simply agree not to use those slurs.

We ought, yes, but it is not that simple. Americans, who compose most of MeFi, tend to know jack shit about the Roma because there's not a significant and evident Roma population in the United States like there is in Europe, and the institutional discrimination and social prejudice isn't as evident of a fact of everyday life. So when you come right out the gate with 'antiziganist' and 'ethnic slur' and not a whole lot of context for these words, there's an implication there that isn't appropriate, which is that the person who is using those words is consciously using an ethnic slur.

Look, I get really fucking pissed when someone uses the word" Jew" as a verb. But much of the time it tends to be used by people who have never actually had more tha nominal amounts of interaction with my ethnic group, and thrusting my finger out and effectively accusing someone doing that of anti-Semitism isn't going to get anyone anywhere.

There are many ways to combat ignorance and fight prejudice, and understanding the source and extent of that ignorance is a really important one.
posted by griphus at 8:27 AM on October 15, 2013 [27 favorites]


Is it possible that there are dialectical/national differences at play here, e.g. between American and British/European usage?

I think so. In my weird mashup of American and British usage (that's mostly American), I would pretty much never use 'gypsy' in an American sense, because it's sort of invariably offensive. I wouldn't think too hard about calling the people (who are quite possibly not Romani) who periodically camp near my grandad's gypsies, though. I am, however, perfectly happy to be told British usage has moved on* and I should make efforts to call them travellers.

*Given that I got this usage from my mother, there's a lot of room for usage to have moved on.
posted by hoyland at 8:28 AM on October 15, 2013


theora55: "The words 'itinerant' or 'nomad' may work in many instances, but there's a positive connotation to 'gypsy' to mean free or roaming and that romanticizes an idea of what Romani or traveling people are like. "

That's not a universal though. Where I live, "gypsy" has almost universally negative connotations. Gyp is pejorative as an extension of Gypsy being pejorative.
posted by specialagentwebb at 8:29 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Samofidelis, that was kind of a threadshit over there. The discussion you want to have is appropriate over here.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:29 AM on October 15, 2013


samofidelis: "Why don't you care what I'm ok with, which is that you stop condoning the use of ethnic slurs."

Metafilter is a community of thousands. It's not the samofidelis show and you don't have an overriding vote on anything. There are people who are advocating for your position in a much more effective way than you yourself are doing right now.
posted by boo_radley at 8:31 AM on October 15, 2013 [16 favorites]


The kind of discussion I want to have is one where I can, without malice, point out that an ethnic slur is a pejorative to someone who is using it, and not to be told that there is a time and place for me to make those remarks.
posted by samofidelis at 8:31 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's not a universal though.

On top of that, seemingly positive stereotypes are still stereotypes. We may think we're being flattering when we use "Gypsy" as a word for a free-spirit or a wanderer, but we're still applying a cliched, problematic idea of the Rom people in a way that is worth reevaluating.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:32 AM on October 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


This is some Tone Argument 101 BS, frankly
posted by samofidelis at 8:33 AM on October 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


The kind of discussion I want to have is one where I can, without malice, point out that an ethnic slur is a pejorative to someone who is using it, and not to be told that there is a time and place for me to make those remarks.

You can send f@m an email right now and point that out. If you want to have a public discussion about that topic, you can do it here and not in that thread.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:33 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm a member of the Chinese-American community by blood (I'm half Chinese, half Caucasian, and I live in the U.S.).

I sometimes (rarely) am privileged to use slurs against Chinese as non-insults (greetings, jokes, snark, etc.) that would normally be insults in the larger, global community, among friends, loved ones, folks who know me and know my stake in the community. That doesn't give me license to either vouch for those terms in the wider community as "safe" and that doesn't give me the right to use them in the wider community.

First, on the Internet, no one knows you're a dog. Unless some of you follow me, my life, my context closely. You're just not going to know offhand that I'm Chinese-American.

Second, an individual shouldn't be tokenized to speak for the entire ethnic community. That tokenizing perpetuates racist tropes and understandings. I can only speak for me, and sometimes maybe my family and close friends and loved ones. That's about it.

I also understand that what's fair is jessamyn's and elizardbits' understanding. If other terms exist that'll get the job done without being insulting, exactly what is the issue with expecting us, in the spirit of good faith, to use those uninsulting terms? I think change keeps us vital. And the spirit of taking each other in good faith is also important and helps protect us from embarrassment if we use or misuse the wrong terminology. Just clarify, adjust and move on.
posted by kalessin at 8:34 AM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think the problem may be that some of are not actually sure how, or why, it's a slur. I worked really hard at eliminating "gypped" from my vocabulary, because it implies that gypsies/Roma/Travellers/what have you are thieves and con artists. I think also, as noted above, there is not the same anti-gypsy/Roma prejudice in the United States.

Gypsy as used here is not a slur - it's a positive attribute. Maybe having to do with our culture of individualism or the settlement of the West, but to be "like a gypsy" means, at least where I've heard it, to be free and unfettered. A gypsy cab, or a gypsy knife-grinder, means someone who has no master(or livery service), who goes around offering services to people directly.

So what I'm hearing is that gypsy is perceived as a slur, because people were prejudiced against travelling people in the past and still are in Europe.

(NB: when I was last in Rome, I do remember there were huge issues with people who were perceived at least to be gypsies, at least the ones who were begging in the train stations and were generalized to mean all of them)

on edit: I, personally, am confused on how viewing gypsies/Roma/travellers as wandering is a stereotype, so much as a self-declared thing. It seems like a stereotype in the way that claiming anarchists not wanting to serve a state is a stereotype
posted by corb at 8:34 AM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, in the spirit of no one knowing you're a dog, I don't mean to reinforce stereotypes when I talked about a knife-grinder, we had one come by when I was a girl, though I think this may not have been common everywhere and may have been more of a timewarp.
posted by corb at 8:36 AM on October 15, 2013


You can send f@m an email right now and point that out. If you want to have a public discussion about that topic, you can do it here and not in that thread.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:33 on October 15 [+] [!]


And you could delete that thread right now with no more effort than it would take me to send that email, and an ethnic slur would be removed from the front page of metafilter.
posted by samofidelis at 8:37 AM on October 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


I, personally, am confused on how viewing gypsies/Roma/travellers as wandering is a stereotype, so much as a self-declared thing.

Because it misses the other side of the coin, which is that they are constantly being chased out of places. The concept of itinerancy in itinerant cultures is complex, but the whole "freedom" thing is an ignorant statement in that, much of the time, the Roma did not actually have a choice as to whether they could stay somewhere or not.
posted by griphus at 8:37 AM on October 15, 2013 [44 favorites]


That "freedom" speaks to one of the romantic myths of being a citizen of the U.S. doesn't mean that it appeals to everyone.
posted by kalessin at 8:38 AM on October 15, 2013


e.g.
posted by griphus at 8:39 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


on edit: I, personally, am confused on how viewing gypsies/Roma/travellers as wandering is a stereotype, so much as a self-declared thing.

It isn't. Many Rom communities have been in the same place for centuries, and those that have been itinerant often have been due to circumstances of prejudice, such as being repeatedly forced out of a country, or not being allowed to settle, or being denied jobs except itinerant one. The idea of a wandering gypsy isn't terrifically far removed from the idea of a Jew as a rootless cosmopolitan, in that it ignores the history that led to the lack of a settled existence.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:40 AM on October 15, 2013 [28 favorites]


The kind of discussion I want to have is one where I can, without malice, point out that an ethnic slur is a pejorative to someone who is using it, and not to be told that there is a time and place for me to make those remarks.

Saying "take it to MetaTalk" is explicitly saying that we're willing to have that conversation right now, just in a slightly different place. It's not censorship and it's definitely not telling you to be quiet, it's just keep the site's organization intact.

I agree with you about gypsy being a slur, and I'd rather not see it on the front page either, but part of being in a community is that you have to make that case to the group, and this is where you do that.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:41 AM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Can you think of another ethnic slur the negative impact of which this community is so willing to discount? Meanwhile, that post continues to remain on the front page, and implicitly condones the use of that language within this community.
posted by samofidelis at 8:45 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Gypsy as used here is not a slur - it's a positive attribute.

This is always what fratbros told my Native friends about why the Indian symbol or mascot was a *good* thing, and that argument still seems to have currency in the discussion that's happening now about whether or not the Redskins should change their name. "But we're honoring your culture!" is a shitty argument, frankly, when made by people who could care less about the culture and just don't want to change the words they use.

I agree that it's a slur, I agree that it being a slur is much less known here in the US than in the UK and Europe*, and I agree that the discussion of this belongs here and not in the fpp
posted by rtha at 8:45 AM on October 15, 2013 [23 favorites]


Also, usage today on NYTimes.com.

Bunny Ultramod, I never said it was anybody's responsibility. I said it would be helpful. There are different points of view here, and being respectful helps, too.
posted by theora55 at 8:45 AM on October 15, 2013


The concept of itinerancy in itinerant cultures is complex, but the whole "freedom" thing is an ignorant statement in that, much of the time, the Roma did not actually have a choice as to whether they could stay somewhere or not.

I get that - I think this was not the case in the US, which had a lot more available land, but I do get that. But what I'm talking about is specifically - I personally came to knowledge of gypsy/Roma/Traveller culture particularly through folklore and oral tradition stuff (and one or two people I went to school with), and I seem to recall a lot of self-focus on independence and not being tied down to anything that anchors you somewhere, even when not being chased out of a place. A lot of the legends and folklore pieces I picked up - self published by gypsies/Roma - really put that emphasis themselves, as a choice thing. And so, I wonder if it's a chicken/egg thing at all - is it really fair to suggest that there was no agency in the travelling and wandering and independence?

Can you think of another ethnic slur the negative impact of which this community is so willing to discount?

Cracker.
posted by corb at 8:47 AM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm with corb. Could you educate me instead of yelling at me? Living on the west coast of the US, I have literally no experience with real life Gypseys/Roma/travellers. It's something that we dressed up as for Halloween as children. They exist in the same sphere as cartoon pirates and hobos. Of course, I got wind of Gypsey maybe being not so cool a term years ago and haven't used the term, but I also have literally no reason to use the term.

I favorited flapjax' post because "Gypsey" is a term I recognize and have no positive or negative thoughts surrounding it and this film looks like a good way to get to know something about a group of people I know nothing about.

I'm totally down with not using the term but I feel like I'm not using it merely because some random internet person got really really mad about it, which is probably not a great way to raise someone's consciousness. You've made your point about the term but continuing in this vein isn't going to accomplish anything more. I may be motivated to go and learn about the history of oppression of these people, but you seem to care an awful lot about this, why don't you share some links?

In summary, for the totally ignorant such as myself, flapjax post does more to raise awareness of these people than your comments here.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:48 AM on October 15, 2013 [16 favorites]


Can you think of another ethnic slur the negative impact of which this community is so willing to discount?

There was a whole discussion about the word "eskimo," which is considered to be a slur in Canada but not in the Alaska (where the term is proudly used by some Alaska natives) or the rest of the U.S.
posted by Area Man at 8:51 AM on October 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


I think it would be a worthwhile compromise for a mod to email f@m and talk about an edit. At the same time, samofidelis can try to throttle back a bit. No one can declare mefi mod policy by fiat.
posted by kavasa at 8:53 AM on October 15, 2013


You could literally google 'antiziganism.' You clearly speak English with the fluency of a native speaker. You can certainly see out that context suggests that 'antiziganism' refers to prejudice and bigotry against Roma. You could read about the Porajmos. You could read about the treatment of Roma in France today, or in Italy, or the risks faced by this ethnic group should violence reignite in the Balkans.

But instead, you think it's important that I stop what I'm doing to educate you on historic and present day racism against an ethnic group, otherwise you think we ought to feel license to throw around a bunch of slurs.

How are we having this conversation. This is insane. There's an ethnic slur on the front page of Metafilter. It is clearly offensive. Is it offensive to you? Doesn't matter. It is offensive. It ought to be deleted.
posted by samofidelis at 8:53 AM on October 15, 2013 [29 favorites]


Asking minorities and/or historically oppressed groups to explain to the majority/privileged group why they should no longer be oppressed via words or actions, even with the best of intentions, even when you really honestly just want to learn a new thing, is a troublesome microaggression.
posted by elizardbits at 8:54 AM on October 15, 2013 [67 favorites]


Tone. TONE. Are you kidding me. We are having the quintessential tone argument.

Forget it. Just go be bigots, I guess.
posted by samofidelis at 8:55 AM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


is it really fair to suggest that there was no agency in the travelling and wandering and independence?

It is more than fair to suggest that the agency was more often than not in the hands of people who didn't want Roma on their land.

I don't doubt there's a lot of cultural weight on independence in Roma culture. There are positive and negative stereotypes both that pop up as internal cultural concepts. Most of my clients at work are Jewish and they'll ask for a discount and say stuff like "hey, you know, it's a genetic thing with us" and I laugh and say yeah, I know how it goes. That doesn't make it remotely okay for other people to do that, or to base their opinion of me or my ethnic group on it.

There's no marginalized ethnic group in the world that doesn't interpret and emphasize certain aspects of their oppression in a positive way (and I don't think anyone can make the argument that a large component of the Roma's itinerancy does not stem from oppression.) It's what people do when times are tough. But the knowledge of the oppression is inherent in those groups because they live it every day. It doesn't need to be emphasized in the group. But when the positive aspects are taken with a considerably wider swath than they should be by outsiders, that's ignorance.
posted by griphus at 8:56 AM on October 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


I have already dropped f@m an email about this and was waiting to hear back.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:56 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why? Do you need him to turn his key simultaneously to arm a deletion device?
posted by samofidelis at 8:57 AM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


I never really understand why it is occasionally a hardship for people to not use a term for an ethnic group which has been clearly stated by members of that group to be offensive, whether or not members of that group use it amongst themselves.

I actually do think this is a really interesting question worth considering. It seems so obviously not okay but a lot of people do it; clearly a lot of it is the privilege of not being affected by these terms but I think there’s also the fact that sometimes people don’t know what else to do or say. I think there’s also often an unwillingness to acknowledge that you’ve been racist in the past that leads to people doubling-down on their racism. An article in the Redskins thread (to which you linked! Thank you! I thought it was a great article!) translating the owner’s letter about the team name had a line that I really liked, basically “If I feel pleasantly nostalgic towards something it can’t be racist”. I think this is a really, really important point that deserves a lot of consideration; if you have positive associations with something, especially from childhood, it’s super hard to go back and re-evaluate and so people dig in their heels. A LOT of people feel almost exactly this way; “It’s not racist, it’s traditional! It’s part of our culture/what we did growing up/I like it!”. I’m not proud of this but I’ve definitely done it; the combination of inertia, privilege, and fear of recognizing and acknowledging that you’ve been racist in the past means that a lot of people are just really resistant to change, especially because the status quo hasn’t hurt them.

Unfortunately there isn’t an easy solution to this but as far as I can tell the best things to do are 1) Keep making the point that, uh, yeah, this is racist and hurtful to people and it’s not cool. No really, we’re serious. 2) Stress that it’s a problem to keep going now that you know better. You can’t take back the negative things you’ve done in the past but you can move forward and acknowledge them and that’s a big deal. The issue wasn’t that you did something racist before – everyone has! People still do, all the time! What matters isn’t what you did before, it’s that now you know better and you can fix it.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:57 AM on October 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


Wow, tanizaki's links have lead to some really interesting reading.

Insiders, Outsiders and Others: Gypsies and Identity
In our work we have chosen to use the term ‘Gypsy’ primarily because those groups we refer to and spoke to in our research choose to define themselves as such. Many of the people we spoke to did not choose to define themselves as ‘Travellers’ as, they argued, they no longer travelled. They also suggested they would always be seen as Gypsies by society at large and would always remain Gypsies regardless of their economic circumstances. Despite a recognition of the pejorative associations linked to the use of the term ‘Gypsy’ by non-Gypsies, the people we spoke to understood the term as having positive associations with their communities and culture. Our use of this term may be seen as ‘giving voice’ to and legitimising the viewpoint of those people who informed our research. Here we agree with Okely (1983), who has argued that self-identification is the means by which ethnic identity is achieved and maintained. In order to legitimise the experiences of the group we have studied we have chosen to use their own self-ascription, rather than defining them ourselves.
posted by boo_radley at 9:01 AM on October 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


Why? Do you need him to turn his key simultaneously to arm a deletion device?

We're not deleting the thread. We've said that. I asked him if he would be okay with editing it, pointed him to this thread, asked him to respond to me. You can decide what you'd like to do with the information we've been presenting to you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:02 AM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


it's interesting how even within cultures understandings are different. there's a lot of talk here about how americans view the usage of gypsies differently because of never having negative associations with it. but, here i am, an american, and i grew up toe toe with some rainbow family and there was a gathering pretty close to my house during my formative years - so i've seen a lot of pejorative use of gypsy and i've had a lot of friends who were rainbow family and saw how that sort of prejudice really shaped their lives. i've also seen a lot of usage of the word within their community, but it seems pretty obvious to me that follows all the other rules about internal vs external usage of problematic terms.
posted by nadawi at 9:02 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I agree with samofidelis: the use of gypsy is racist, is roughly as problematic as a post using nigger would be and while I'm sure the original poster meant no harm, it's not something that we should keep up on MeFi's frontpage. The thread should be deleted or edited to remove it.

For the Americans here, do keep in mind that Roma/Traveller/Sinti/etc prejudices are about way more than just using language like "gypped" but involve active persecution of these people in countries like Italy or Romania, both state orientated and through pogroms organised by non-Roma.

In this context, gypsy is not a neutral word.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:04 AM on October 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


I asked him if he would be okay with editing it, pointed him to this thread, asked him to respond to me.

I'm curious: I've had posts I've made edited without prior consultation (not complaining, mind) and I'm sure that happens to others as well. Why not do so in this case, when it's clear that at least one member of the group this is a slur of, feels so strongly about this issue?
posted by MartinWisse at 9:07 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I actually do think this is a really interesting question worth considering. It seems so obviously not okay but a lot of people do it; clearly a lot of it is the privilege of not being affected by these terms but I think there’s also the fact that sometimes people don’t know what else to do or say.

I think part of the problem is there's no monolithic people: some people are okay with it, others are not. With the N word, there is pretty much no one, ever, who uses it about another group in a non-perjorative fashion. And when our only experience with it being a perjorative is "Someone on the internet said so", along with "This is a localized thing according to region", it's a little harder than most. Along with the whole "no words to replace" thing.
posted by corb at 9:07 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


samofidelis, I gotta say I'm seeing the passion but I don't think you're winning many friends and converts with your approach.
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:07 AM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


A gypsy cab, or a gypsy knife-grinder, means someone who has no master(or livery service), who goes around offering services to people directly.

They're called 'gypsy cabs' because they're operating illegally without a license, not because they aren't organised. (I have no idea what a gypsy knife-grinder is, given that I don't really know what a knife-grinder is. Someone who sharpens knives?)
posted by hoyland at 9:11 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Robot Rollcall is about to turn ugly.
posted by dr_dank at 9:12 AM on October 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


We've had discussions round these parts about the use of the word "cunt", which is, regionally, absolutely a no-go - the region in question being the US. UK (and Australian, I think) mefites have a different cultural context for the word. Many of them had no idea that its use in the US is as offensive as it is, and they seem to all be okay with dialing back on using it here on mefi because some people on the internet said so.
posted by rtha at 9:12 AM on October 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


I've had posts I've made edited without prior consultation

This is something we literally almost never do except to fix typos and move stuff below the fold. It's a pretty hard and fast rule here. I'm not sure what you are referring to, please feel free to point it out to me. Editing this post to elide the Gypsy mention would change the post entirely which is well above the level of the minor editing we do.

I'm aware that people aren't happy about the process we have here but there is a process. Usually what happens is that there's a discussion in MeTa, we reach some sort of consensus, and moving forward we have a clearer editorial policy about things--like whether the word is okay here--that we can point to. We've done this in the past with discussions of words like retard, cunt and mouth breather. Again, I understand that this process is slow and unpleasant for some people, but it's how things work here. We understand that may not be workable for some people.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:12 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


some people are okay with it, others are not

Personally, as long as I hear from even one member of a community that a word used to describe "them" is not ok, then that's enough for me to accept that I don't have the right to use it.
posted by billiebee at 9:12 AM on October 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


hoyland: " a knife-grinder is. Someone who sharpens knives?"

Yes. In Colorado, we have a tinker who comes by every six months or so to the area and we get our good knives sharpened by him.
posted by boo_radley at 9:12 AM on October 15, 2013


The reason this is so ugly is because we are having a discussion about using ethnic slurs. We ought to simply agree not to use those slurs.

As it happens I agree that "gypsy" is an easily avoided slur, but your argument begs the question. You are starting from the position that the term is an ethnic slur, so of course the fact that people are even discussing it seems ugly. But not everyone agrees that it is a slur, or at least not inherently offensive or incapable of being used in a neutral, descriptive way. Hence the discussion.

Simply asserting that "the term is an ethnic slur and if you do not delete the post immediately, then you are a racist" isn't much of an argument.

Likewise, I don't know why you would expect the moderation policy (i.e. no substantive editing of posts without poster's permission) or the MetaTalk policy (i.e. meta-discussion belongs in MetaTalk) to be changed for this issue or thread in particular.

Note that I'm explicitly not talking about your tone, here. Be as angry or unyielding as you like. No doubt you have good reason to be. But what you aren't doing is engaging the discussion.
posted by jedicus at 9:13 AM on October 15, 2013 [21 favorites]


Some significant number of reasonable people find this term racist. Others do not. Whose opinion determines whether or not it ought to be used in polite society? We generally concede to the opinions of those to whom these terms are applied.

Why ought this pejorative be treated differently from others?
posted by samofidelis at 9:15 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Could you educate me instead of yelling at me?

We are all doing our best here. Sometimes folks who want to know what to do and come at it with the best of intentions still don't like to be "told" anything and often conflate especially emotional reactions of some minority speakers as yelling when those speakers are just trying to express their opinions.

So the "instead of yelling at me" is troublesome.

Also "Could you educate me" is troublesome because on top of the context of the oppression the minority is facing, you are also asking that person to teach you something you could probably learn yourself by doing just a very small amount of research.

I'm seeing the passion but I don't think you're winning many friends and converts with your approach.

This is a classic "tone argument". If you are seeing the passion then respond to that. If the arguments aren't doing anything for you, that's fine, wait for more. If you are just trying to shut the person down it would be more honest to say so.
posted by kalessin at 9:15 AM on October 15, 2013 [21 favorites]


For what it's worth, it doesn't seem to have such a negative connotation in spanish:

"Deberíamos tener políticos gitanos"
Beatriz Carrillo, presidenta de la Asociación de Mujeres Gitanas Universitarias, lucha contra los estereotipos y por los derechos de su pueblo.

"We should have gypsy politicians"
Beatriz Carrillo, president of the Association of Gypsy Women in Universites, fights against the stereotypes and for the rights of her people.
posted by Omon Ra at 9:15 AM on October 15, 2013


Saw this meta coming the moment i read the post. Is it not possible, with users as prolific and site-savvy as Flapjax, to simply contact them and ask if the term in the FPP is absolutely necessary and edit it away if possible? Seems moderation of that type could go a long way to avoid these types of metas without seeming heavy handed.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:16 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is there anyone within the community who happily and proudly self-identifies as a Gypsy, and would like for that to be their term of identity?
posted by KathrynT at 9:17 AM on October 15, 2013


Usually what happens is that there's a discussion in MeTa, we reach some sort of consensus, and moving forward we have a clearer editorial policy about things--like whether the word is okay here--that we can point to.

I flagged that post when it went up because I read "gypsy" as a slur. Count me among those who would prefer the word be Not Okay here.
posted by lalex at 9:17 AM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think part of the problem is there's no monolithic people: some people are okay with it, others are not. With the N word, there is pretty much no one, ever, who uses it about another group in a non-perjorative fashion.

I think this is one of those cases where the North-American readership of the site runs up against the fact that this is an international site. Very very few people in Europe would agree gypsy is a neutral word and as far as I'm aware this includes nobody who identifies as somebody who's targeted by this slur.

And of course, it doesn't matter whether or not you or I agree it's a slur, if we're not part of the group who the slur is applied to. It doesn't even matter so much that some of the people it is applied to see no harm in it: what matters is that there are people who are offended and hurt by it, that it is used in political contexts to hurt and label people as, well, "rootless cosmopolitians" and that it's a small burden to ask people not to use the word.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:17 AM on October 15, 2013 [20 favorites]


Tone. TONE. Are you kidding me. We are having the quintessential tone argument.

Oh please. You are unambiguously presuming that any usage is inherently denigrating in intent. That isn't the tone argument, that's just plain hostility.
posted by chimaera at 9:17 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


If we want to go down the path of making analogies that Americans can understand, it seems like the closest analogy would be the debate over using the terms "Indian" vs. "American Indian" vs. "Native American." Plus the various terms for the more-native populations of northern Canada and Alaska.

In the light of that analogy, I agree with the perspective that, if there are two equally-common words to describe a general group (like American Indian vs. Native American), it seems respectful to choose the more accurate and least-offensive term to describe them in general, even if individual members of the group or sub-groups ask to be described by the other term (a request that can be respected in those specific cases). Some tribal members self-identify as American Indian - that doesn't justify me, a descendent of the direct oppressors of the native tribes of America, using the term that my ancestors invented to describe those tribes, rather than a more-accurate, equally-accepted term, when speaking in general as that post did.
posted by muddgirl at 9:17 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is it not possible, with users as prolific and site-savvy as Flapjax, to simply contact them and ask if the term in the FPP is absolutely necessary and edit it away if possible?

That is literally what's happened, the mods are just waiting for Flapjax to respond. He's in Japan iirc, so the problem is that it's 1 am or so there.
posted by Lemurrhea at 9:18 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


The use of the word "gypsy" is an offensive slur and should be avoided.
posted by 99percentfake at 9:18 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


For what it's worth, it doesn't seem to have such a negative connotation in spanish:

Well, it's a different word, for one thing.
posted by Etrigan at 9:20 AM on October 15, 2013


That isn't the tone argument, that's just plain hostility.

Two problems:
1) samofidelis was talking about the tone argument being used on em. You are turning that around and presuming, apparently, that semofidelis was using a tone argument.
2) Minorities get to be a little passionate sometimes, as do some people arguing the minority perspective, please cut slack.
posted by kalessin at 9:20 AM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


For what it's worth, it doesn't seem to have such a negative connotation in spanish:

It is absolutely 100% used as a racial slur in European Spanish. The fact that Andaluz people of Roma descent are actively reclaiming the term for their own usage as a point of pride does not negate that. Citing that in-group usage as a reason for people outside that ethnic group to use the term is not a good argument.
posted by elizardbits at 9:21 AM on October 15, 2013 [28 favorites]


Samofidelis's user page seems to be a bit inflammatory.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:22 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm aware that people aren't happy about the process we have here but there is a process. Usually what happens is that there's a discussion in MeTa, we reach some sort of consensus, and moving forward we have a clearer editorial policy about things--like whether the word is okay here--that we can point to. We've done this in the past with discussions of words like retard, cunt and mouth breather.

Which is fair enough and appreciated, but that strengthens my idea that this thread should've been deleted immediately; it's clear from reading it that flapjax is at least somewhat aware that it's not the best term to have used and some of the anger and upset here and in the original thread could've been avoided if he was given a chance to do it over.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:23 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think this is one of those cases where the North-American readership of the site runs up against the fact that this is an international site. Very very few people in Europe would agree gypsy is a neutral word and as far as I'm aware this includes nobody who identifies as somebody who's targeted by this slur.

You're probably right - the situations are very different, which is why I'm asking the Europeans to explain this a little more. I am not unaware that there is massive, massive anti-gypsy/traveller/Roma/what have you prejudice in Europe. But from here, it sounds like the word is a perjorative because people hate the people? Does that makes sense? As in, it is in an insult not because of the word choice, but because awful people hate the people being referred to by that word.

I agree with the perspective that, if there are two equally-common words to describe a general group (like American Indian vs. Native American), it seems respectful to choose the more accurate and least-offensive term to describe them in general,

That makes sense and I do agree here. But I think the problem is that, at least as far as I'm aware, there is no one unifying word other than gypsies to refer to all of the wandering people, Travellers /and/ Roma alike. If there is one, I would love to hear or know it.
posted by corb at 9:23 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Samofidelis's user page seems to be a bit inflammatory.

samofidelis was recently antagonized.
posted by kalessin at 9:24 AM on October 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


samofidelis you're clearly angry, and that's fine. But it's not how mefi works. And keep in mind that, in the future, it could well be that there's a much higher bar to keep an fpp with the word in it from instant deletion. Like, chances are, you're getting what you want - you're just not getting it this very instant. This is because (with some exceptions) no one does, because if we did, the mods would just sit there making and reversing changes at the behest of individual users.

This is the mistake often made when evaluating moderation: we don't think to universalize our desired moderation at this instant to all moderation ever.

Martin - were the edits of your posts for content? Or stuff like typos/bad URLs? Because it's my impression that the mods don't edit for content, ever, without consulting the poster.
posted by kavasa at 9:24 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Samofidelis's user page seems to be a bit inflammatory.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:22 on October 15 [+] [!]


Yeah, I just wrote that because the moderators here refuse to do anything about ethnic slurs being thrown around on their webpage.
posted by samofidelis at 9:24 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Samofidelis's user page seems to be a bit inflammatory.

Few people would've noticed had you not brought it up, so don't. Somebody in their position in this thread is going to get piled on a lot anyway, best not feed the flames unnecessarily.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:25 AM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Thanks for the advice, Dad.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:26 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


The link that Etrigan posted (and thank you, Etrigan) in the second comment should pretty much be required reading. All of the surviving links, top to bottom.
posted by boo_radley at 9:26 AM on October 15, 2013


Echoing many folks above, I was pretty stunned to see it on the front page here.

After I saw that my ancestors' ethnicity was listed simply as "gipsy" on their transport ship's manifest, I was initially confused -- as far as I knew, that side of the family had come over from Czechoslovakia. Then I found out why they came to America in the first place. And now I flinch whenever I hear that word, thinking about the immense levels of prejudice and antagonism that they must have endured, how they abandoned everything they had ever known to escape it, how grateful I am that they were brave enough to do so, and how horrifying it is to know that the hatred they were fleeing remains pervasive and unrelenting even today.

So, just my $0.02: It's an extremely fraught term, to put it mildly, and I would be very happy it if it was not used on MeFi.
posted by divined by radio at 9:27 AM on October 15, 2013 [13 favorites]


Yeah, I just wrote that because the moderators here refuse to do anything about ethnic slurs being thrown around on their webpage.

they've contacted the original poster about editing it

i realize this is not good enough for you and nothing short of deleting/editing it outright would satisfy, but to say they refuse to do anything is objectively false
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:27 AM on October 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


But I think the problem is that, at least as far as I'm aware, there is no one unifying word other than gypsies to refer to all of the wandering people, Travellers /and/ Roma alike.

Why should there be? And even if there should be, why one that has been long used to refer to a specific ethnic group?
posted by Etrigan at 9:27 AM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


It is absolutely 100% used as a racial slur in European Spanish.

And yet there are hundreds of spanish "Gitano" associations.
posted by Omon Ra at 9:27 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


"What else do you call a gypsy cab?

Jitney, livery cab, or grey cab, but it's not actually my responsibility to find replacement words for you for those that make use of slurs.
"

Jitneys and livery cabs are different here than gypsy cabs; I've never heard gray cab. But lyft is pretty much replacing gypsy cabs here, at least in my demographic.

The only Romani I know here in the US (who I know are Romani, natch) are self-described gypsies in a couple of gypsy bands. Which is what the FPP was about, right?
posted by klangklangston at 9:28 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


seriously dude, they contacted f@m to talk about an edit, and I would be surprised if he said "no". That is not nothing. That is something that is slower than you want, but a site with however many thousands of users simply can not do stuff as fast as you want in a case like this, which is creation of a new moderation guideline.
posted by kavasa at 9:29 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is it possible to change it now, and then change it back if need be after talking to the OP when he gets up? If it's 1AM there, it seems really uncomfortable considering how many folks find it offensive to leave that word on Mefi's front page for another 8 or 9 hours, especially during peek site visit time. Most people are not going to take the time to come into this MeTa thread to see the nuance.
posted by likeatoaster at 9:29 AM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I can't say the word 'livery' right.
posted by mullacc at 9:30 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Flapjax at Midnite's opinion about whether or not this is an ethnic slur is immaterial. This discussion clearly supports the assertion that it is. The moderators have decided that it is fine with them for an ethnic slur to appear on the front page.
posted by samofidelis at 9:31 AM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


IMO as long as I hear from even one member of a community that a word used to describe "them" is not ok, then that's enough for me to accept that I don't have the right to use it.

This clearly isn't true, of course. If I said "it is not okay to use the word 'community' because that word is a slur used to describe my people", then you wouldn't accept that you don't have the right to use it. It wouldn't be enough. You would demand some explanation of why it wasn't okay. And if my explanation wasn't reasonable (and it no doubt wouldn't be), then you would refuse to honor my request.

Now, in this case, I happen to agree that the word gypsy is an easily-avoided slur that should be avoided on MetaFilter. But let's not pretend that we would always simply take a single person's word for it that a term sometimes used to describe members of their community is a slur that must be avoided. For example, do you use the term "women"? Why?

And of course, it doesn't matter whether or not you or I agree it's a slur, if we're not part of the group who the slur is applied to.

That doesn't make any sense. If there is a "group to who the slur is applied to", then that assumes that it is, in fact, a slur. So it does matter whether or not you think it's a slur.
posted by jedicus at 9:32 AM on October 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


there is no one unifying word ... to refer to all of the wandering people

The word for "all of the wandering people" is a diaspora.
posted by muddgirl at 9:33 AM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Talk all you want about fallacies and tone, but your broad brush antagonism about "condoning" is against somebody who put this on the record:

jessamyn: "I used to live in Romania, I view it as a slur. That take on it is not yet common understanding with a lot of people that I know. I usually politely point it out when I see it. We don't have a policy about its use in MeFi. If we see people using it in a derogatory fashion we'll axe it. We're open to being more hardline with this policy."

The fact that you have the vocabulary to cry TONE ARGUMENT at people relentlessly doesn't excuse your inability to read what's been put in front of you as a solution.
posted by boo_radley at 9:33 AM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Jesus H Tap Dancing Christ, samofidelis, the mods are on your fucking side!
posted by corb at 9:34 AM on October 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


If you are just trying to shut the person down it would be more honest to say so.

I see exactly no one here trying to shut anyone down. I think people are correctly pointing out that samofidelis, until about 15 comments ago, has said literally one thing with a dozen comments and is starting to blow a gasket because he or she isn't getting his or her desired reaction by saying the same thing over and over. And those of us who have learned how to change minds are pointing out this is an extremely stunted way to argue.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:34 AM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Flapjax at Midnite's opinion about whether or not this is an ethnic slur is immaterial.

good thing, then, that whether or not it's a slur is not what the mods are contacting him about, isn't it?

The moderators have decided that it is fine with them for an ethnic slur to appear on the front page.

you have a fascinating definition of "fine"
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:35 AM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


I, for one, had no idea people find that term so offensive. I'll stop using it henceforth, but I think it's going to take a lot of education to change things.
posted by Floydd at 9:36 AM on October 15, 2013


samofidelis, I know you're antagonized (I certainly have been/would be in similar circumstances), but I say this to you as an activist. You are posing your position and interpretation like an activist and that's maybe more forceful than is appropriate for this discussion.

If you pose the argument like an activist, you risk violating the "assume good intent" guideline for discussion here. Most of the folks discussing this topic here in this thread want you to assume more good intent on their part and in exchange you may find that you generate more support.

Saying that the moderators have decided to let an ethnic slur appear on the front page is only true as long as that condition stands, and if you've been reading the thread carefully you can see that the mods have reached out to f@m to ask him about editing the post. When moderators ask you around here, it's likely that you do what they ask. If f@m doesn't, then we of course have more to talk about.
posted by kalessin at 9:36 AM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


What happens the next time, toaster? And the time after that? How do we as a community decide how much post editing we want mods to do and when? Implement your new policy. What happens when a poster is angry about an edit? Do we really want a moderation team that is broadly responsible for the wording of all FPPs?
posted by kavasa at 9:36 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Some tribal members self-identify as American Indian - that doesn't justify me, a descendent of the direct oppressors of the native tribes of America, using the term that my ancestors invented to describe those tribes, rather than a more-accurate, equally-accepted term, when speaking in general as that post did.

This is why I asked my question above, which is a genuine question motivated by curiosity and a desire to be inclusive and respectful in my language. I am white, but my grandmother was a scholar and historian who worked very, very closely with many Native American tribes, including giving hundreds of hours of sworn testimony to help many tribal nations secure sovereignty; "Indian" was the term she used, because it was the preferred term of her friends and clients. And not just in casual speech, but as an official designation, as in The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. I had the opportunity to meet and learn from many, many tribal members as a result of her work, and to a one, they all have chosen "Indian" as their preferred descriptor. When I speak with or about these specific people, I call them Indians, because that is what they've asked to be called, but when I speak of the larger people, I say "Native Americans" because I don't want to be racist.

I've gotten a sense that a similar split exists regarding the use of the term "Gypsy," but I don't know how reliable that is. Which is why I asked.
posted by KathrynT at 9:37 AM on October 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


i agree with your original point, samofidelis, but i also agree with the mods handling of the thread.

i would love if the outcome of this metatalk is that use of the word gypsy on metafilter needs to be specific to a conversation about the word and a far reduced tolerance for the word appearing "neutrally." but - that's not the current state of things, so under the current state of things reaction of the mods is correct - contact the poster to inquire about an edit and discuss the site issue of using the word here in metatalk.

there are some words where it's already agreed upon that will get something deleted, and there are other words that aren't on that list but members wish they were. gyspy is currently under discussion for which list it goes on - i agree with you - it should be on the near-banned list, but the community has to come to that decision, which is what is happening here.
posted by nadawi at 9:38 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


The word for "all of the wandering people" is a diaspora.

Hmm. I suppose "The people who by inclination wander", as opposed to people who simply leave from one place to another? Essentially, people whose cultural values do not lie rooted in a specific place.
posted by corb at 9:39 AM on October 15, 2013


"The word for "all of the wandering people" is a diaspora."

…but that would be a pretty terrible word to encompass Travelers and Romani, which seemed like what was being sought.
posted by klangklangston at 9:40 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nomad could work
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:41 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


i think native american vs indian is actually a pretty good place for americans to think about this issue - because it's my understanding (from growing up surrounded by reservations) that the preference is actually that you refer to them by their tribe name - but that they understand that people external to them want to group them all together and that sometimes they have to be grouped just so they can have any sort of voice so they've chosen what is least offensive to them for a whole slew of reasons - but that doesn't mean it's a preferred term free of problems.
posted by nadawi at 9:41 AM on October 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


I don't think asking people here in this thread is the right resource, though. That would be like me asking "Is anyone here a member of a native tribe of the US who wants to weigh in on whether I should say Native American or American Indian?"

The proper resource lies outside the direct personal experiences of Mefites.

Hmm. I suppose "The people who by inclination wander", as opposed to people who simply leave from one place to another? Essentially, people whose cultural values do not lie rooted in a specific place.

That's begging the question.

…but that would be a pretty terrible word to encompass Travelers and Romani, which seemed like what was being sought.

"Travelers and Romani" isn't good enough? It seems appropriately descriptive of a group encompassing "Travelers and Romani."
posted by muddgirl at 9:42 AM on October 15, 2013


and it's a little weird to see a conversation turn to overarching taxonomical terms.
posted by boo_radley at 9:42 AM on October 15, 2013


The first two sentences of my reply were directed at KathrynT
posted by muddgirl at 9:43 AM on October 15, 2013


Flapjax at Midnite's opinion about whether or not this is an ethnic slur is immaterial.

It is entirely material to the question of whether the post will be edited.

The moderators have decided that it is fine with them for an ethnic slur to appear on the front page.

The moderators have decided that they won't edit the post without the poster's permission. They have decided that the issue is close enough that they will not delete the post outright.

This discussion clearly supports the assertion that it is [an ethnic slur].

I think this discussion clearly supports the assertion that it can be and is often used as an ethnic slur. There is substantial support for the position that it can also be used in a neutral, descriptive, or even positive way, at least by some. There is some support for the position that the term is inherently offensive and should never be used. There is no support for the position that flapjax at midnite intentionally used the term in a derogatory way.

Thus, it could be that the moderators decide that the term should be avoided, but if it is used without malice (perhaps absent-mindedly), then that does not warrant thread deletion. It clearly does, however, warrant asking the poster if the post can be edited to remove or replace the term.
posted by jedicus at 9:43 AM on October 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


Hmm. I suppose "The people who by inclination wander", as opposed to people who simply leave from one place to another? Essentially, people whose cultural values do not lie rooted in a specific place.

Maybe we could not refer to an ethnic group by means of a culture to which some non-100-percent proportion of its membership subscribes.

I mean, jeez, people. I own a house, have never been arrested and have no musical ability to speak of (as proof, I offer that I was a bassist). That doesn't mean I have to hand in my Romany ethnicity.
posted by Etrigan at 9:45 AM on October 15, 2013 [28 favorites]


Samofidelis, it looks like f@m made the post in good faith; the mods have responded in good faith. It's clear that seeing it is deeply distressing to you, and I find that quite compelling. I'll be surprised if flapjax doesn't agree to changing the post.
posted by theora55 at 9:48 AM on October 15, 2013


Simply asserting that "the term is an ethnic slur and if you do not delete the post immediately, then you are a racist" isn't much of an argument.

I dunno; we have at least two users of the ethnicity in question saying that they find it offensive and are asking us to stoop using it. I don't see any users of the ethnicity in question saying "oh, hey, my family and I use that all the time." So, while I am all for linguistic discussion and hair-splitting about where the term is used and what is exactly meant by it, it's worth remembering that this is a really raw issue for some people (some of them on this page), and take that into account.

As I've said before, the internet has this distancing effect where a person can be talking about a topic in a very theoretical way and not notice that other people (who maybe don't have the privilege of being theoretical, having suffered various forms of oppression due to the topic) are getting angry about it because for them it's not theoretical. Eventually one of the "emotional people" writes something angry, and the "theoretical people" get all defensive and start pushing back because it's only theoretical. Which, you know, for some people it isn't.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:49 AM on October 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


We have procedures and mechanisms for this, people.

Perhaps if enough people, using the site mechanism, flag the FPP as offensive,racist, sexist, then that could give the mods something to go on.
posted by lalochezia at 9:49 AM on October 15, 2013


"The people who by inclination wander"

You can't rightfully make the call about an ethnic group's inclination toward this or that behavior. It's no less ignorant than saying "the people who by inclination are good at sports" or "the people who by inclination are good at math."
posted by griphus at 9:49 AM on October 15, 2013 [16 favorites]


it's not actually my responsibility to find replacement words for you for those that make use of slurs. I feel sure this is something you can do on your own.

This is actually kind of an unfair statement to make to the people who were unaware that some considered a given term to be offensive in the first place. In fact, if I objected to a word someone was using, I'd welcome their checking with me to see if a given alternative was more acceptable, and I'd downright relish them consulting with me for suggestions.

In that spirit - is there a common preferred term to refer to the particular kind of jazz popularized by Django Reinhardt?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:49 AM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Thanks for the advice, Dad.

That's alright, you scamp. Just don't do it again and go play ball with your little friends.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:49 AM on October 15, 2013 [14 favorites]


Once upon a time earlier this year, it was not site policy to delete comments in which someone deliberately misgendered someone else. We had a couple of pretty lengthy and hot meTas about that and other issues related to trans* people. It's now site policy that those comments get deleted. This is how things work here.
posted by rtha at 9:51 AM on October 15, 2013 [21 favorites]


Maybe we could not refer to an ethnic group by means of a culture to which some non-100-percent proportion of its membership subscribes.

Etrigan, I'm sorry if you misinterpreted me. I don't want to refer to an ethnic group by means of a culture - and I think actually, though could be mistaken, that Irish Travellers and Roma are actually two separate ethnic groups anyway? I'm saying that for people who do want to refer to the culture and those who practice said culture, the word "gypsy" is currently largely used. Is there a better word to use in its place?
posted by corb at 9:52 AM on October 15, 2013


If this community gets together and decides it's ok with racist language, it could put a Metafilter post on the front page using that racist language TOMORROW. It is hard to see that very much would be lost by removing that post today.
posted by samofidelis at 9:53 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think asking people here in this thread is the right resource, though. That would be like me asking "Is anyone here a member of a native tribe of the US who wants to weigh in on whether I should say Native American or American Indian?"

*wince* yeah, that's fair. I've Googled, but my results have been highly contradictory. Metafilter is my default place to ask about clarification when that's my experience with a straight internet search, but that was kind of a tone-deaf way to drop into this argument. My apologies.
posted by KathrynT at 9:54 AM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yes. In Colorado, we have a tinker who comes by every six months or so to the area and we get our good knives sharpened by him.

I don't know about elsewhere, but local romany I've talked to tend to find the word 'tinker' much more problematic than gypsy.

Historically, they'd use the phrase disparagingly to refer to Irish travellers, who they'd claim 'aren't real gypsies'.

I'm going back 20 years though. Who knows what they like or dislike today? The only one I know refers to herself as from a 'travelling family'.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:54 AM on October 15, 2013


Is there a better word to use in its place?

Irish Travellers and Roma. Use two words (well, three).
posted by rtha at 9:55 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Flapjax at Midnite's opinion about whether or not this is an ethnic slur is immaterial. This discussion clearly supports the assertion that it is. The moderators have decided that it is fine with them for an ethnic slur to appear on the front page.

His opinion on whether or not his post is edited, however, is material. It's one of the cornerstones of the way the site works. Now, if he refuses the edit, the mods could chose to delete the FPP entirely, although I certainly won't speak for them.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:56 AM on October 15, 2013


It's fascinating to see tone arguments and appeals to ignorance being made when on other hot-button issues they would be eviscerated here.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 9:59 AM on October 15, 2013 [13 favorites]


I think this discussion clearly supports the assertion that it can be and is often used as an ethnic slur. There is substantial support for the position that it can also be used in a neutral, descriptive, or even positive way, at least by some.

Most, if not all of the evidence that "gypsy" can be used neutrally comes from people outside of the groups targeted by this (e.g. two of the Roma groups Tanizaki found are actually a group set up to study "gypsies" in 1889 and a support group for police officers in the UK), while on the other hand there are two self identified people of these groups here who do find it offensive. The first does not measure up to the latter.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:59 AM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


We don't have a policy about its use in MeFi. If we see people using it in a derogatory fashion we'll axe it. We're open to being more hardline with this policy.

Could a mod explain which other words have a hardline policy associated with them? I always thought that Metafilter moderation was on a case-by-case basis and that there wasn't a codified list of dos and don'ts. What is actually being proposed here?
posted by Wordwoman at 10:01 AM on October 15, 2013


MartinWisse: Do you think there's no neutral use even within the US, or is this strictly a European issue? Even samofidelis' antiziganism link seemed to suggest that the US is relatively unbiased on the subject.
posted by corb at 10:03 AM on October 15, 2013


You can't rightfully make the call about an ethnic group's inclination toward this or that behavior.

Oh my god, yes. That's almost as bad as talking about a particular group's "inclination" toward money lending, ignoring a long history of being refused the right to own property or engage in many other trades.

My favorite example of this is that, in the early days of basketball, the sport was dominated by Jewish players, and comments noted that the sport required "wiliness" and "quick-thinking," two "innate" Jewish traits. Now that the same sport is dominated by African-Americans, the argument remains, but, suddenly, "wiliness" and "quick-thinking" are not the critical attributes they formerly were.

Ethnic groups don't have "inclinations" anymore than nationalities or genders.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:03 AM on October 15, 2013 [32 favorites]


""Travelers and Romani" isn't good enough? It seems appropriately descriptive of a group encompassing "Travelers and Romani.""

Well, then, why did you say, "diaspora," if what you meant was "Travelers and Romani," especially since "diaspora" doesn't fit the question? Or were you just being shirty for no reason?
posted by klangklangston at 10:04 AM on October 15, 2013


"Ethnic groups don't have "inclinations" anymore than nationalities or genders."

Cultural groups do, though. Germans as an ethnicity don't have an inclination to speak German; they do have an inclination (even more than an inclination) to speak German as a cultural group.
posted by klangklangston at 10:06 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


MartinWisse: Do you think there's no neutral use even within the US, or is this strictly a European issue? Even samofidelis' antiziganism link seemed to suggest that the US is relatively unbiased on the subject.
posted by corb at 12:03 on October 15 [+] [!]


You've mistaken me for another user; I didn't post any such link. I've seen plenty of antiziganism in the US -- it often takes the form of ridiculing or mocking Roma for what is seen as 'folksiness,' and a belief that their culture is essentially an artifact to be consumed.
posted by samofidelis at 10:06 AM on October 15, 2013


I think it's ok for them to use that word amongst themselves, but outsiders should consider the consequences.
posted by Renoroc at 10:06 AM on October 15, 2013


Which, incidentally, is why "That ethnic slur is used by antiziganists" was an appropriate comment to make in the original thread.
posted by samofidelis at 10:07 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not once it was moved to MeTa.
posted by klangklangston at 10:07 AM on October 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'd never heard the word "antiziganism" until today.
posted by josher71 at 10:08 AM on October 15, 2013 [13 favorites]


Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.
posted by Tanizaki at 10:08 AM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


samofidelis, the mods are already routinely excoriated as jackbooted thugs with heavy hands etc, and many accounts have been closed over deletions of FPPs. Metafilter is not just you and f@m and the mods. It's thousands of people. The thread directly beneath this one is from someone upset at a deletion.

I mean, go back and re-read jessamyn's first comment in this thread. Is it really your belief that her reaction is utterly beyond the pale of civilized behavior?
posted by kavasa at 10:09 AM on October 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


In fact, if I objected to a word someone was using, I'd welcome their checking with me to see if a given alternative was more acceptable, and I'd downright relish them consulting with me for suggestions.

But that is totally a personal preference. If you're cool with it and capable of it, wonderful. But not wanting to shoulder that responsibility is also totally cool and the default assumption should be that, no, having certain genetics does not by default make you the NBC Page for your ethnicity.
posted by griphus at 10:09 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Citing that in-group usage as a reason for people outside that ethnic group to use the term is not a good argument.

Yup, having seen Public Enemy a couple or three times helped clarify this for me. Interesting how a derogatory term takes on power when its ownership shifts to the group being derogated.

On a separate tangent, I'm personally annoyed (offended?) when someone I don't know calls me buddy or pal. It's not a conscious thing. It just springs up, evidence of something living, lurking deep within. Maybe somebody who used to call me such (but really wasn't a friend) treated me bad as a kid. Maybe I just don't appreciate the throwback to pre-WW2 Hollywood movies. Either way, it gets under my skin in a non-productive way.

Do I make a big deal of this? Generally no. But it sure informs my feelings about those who use the term.
posted by philip-random at 10:09 AM on October 15, 2013


It's worth mentioning that in the previous Metafilter thread flapjax pointed to about the Roma, zaelic (who's studied the Roma for years and actually took flapjax on a tour of a Roma market in Budapest) routinely used the term Gypsy as if it's a non-offensive descriptor.

Usage of the term is complex - more complex than samofidelis would allow us to believe, so, you know, fuck that. And while I'm 100% behind using "Roma" or "Romani" instead (it's no more off-target than "Gypsy", for sure), I think the mods are right to stiff-arm samofidelis on immediate deletion and keep the discussion going - as it has for "cunt," "eskimo," "fag" and other words here in the past - in hopes of fostering the kind of good-faith, honest discussion that might change site policy in the future.
posted by mediareport at 10:10 AM on October 15, 2013 [22 favorites]


Could a mod explain which other words have a hardline policy associated with them?

Everything is moderated on a case-by-case basis but some terms have a lot less wiggle room than others. We've had lengthy discussions about terms like I mentioned above. Nothing is an auto-delete. Here are FPPs with the word nigger in them, for example, a word that falls into our "pretty much never okay" category but winds up being used in quotations or as a means of talking about the word without using it as a slur. We do not have any "This word can never be on the front page" proscription on any words at all.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:10 AM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


i'll say again - this is not strictly a european issue. in the united states gypsy is used pejoratively against communities in devastating ways. people are denied employment and housing and are kicked out of all manner of private businesses all while being called gypsies. i've seen it used as justification to remove kids from their families. you can also see the pejorative use if you google gypsy driveway - news article after news article talking about gypsy scams and the gypsies who perpetrate them. the idea that it's not used negatively in the united states is just not supported. now - in america a lot of people just seem to think that use is just hunky dory and use justifications that would not be accepted if it were another group under discussion - but that doesn't mean it's neutral.
posted by nadawi at 10:12 AM on October 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


Either way, it gets under my skin in a non-productive way.

Yeah, it suggests a relationship that doesn't exist; it feels presumptuous, which is usually immediately hackle-raising.
posted by elizardbits at 10:12 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Take it to metatalk" isn't a tone argument. I read it as saying "let's move this discussion from the middle of a comment thread where it might be overlooked to a high profile location on the site where it cannot be ignored."
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:13 AM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Ethnic groups don't have "inclinations" anymore than nationalities or genders."

Cultural groups do, though. Germans as an ethnicity don't have an inclination to speak German; they do have an inclination (even more than an inclination) to speak German as a cultural group.


Which is the problem with conflating cultural groups and ethnicities, particularly when dealing with "inclinations" that are very much wrapped up in negative stereotypes that are at this very moment being used to very real and very bad effect.
posted by Etrigan at 10:13 AM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


When I was a college student in the early nineties in southwest Virginia, I was in a department store one day when I saw, in the center of the store, one of the phones that that the employees use. On it was series of color codes for different emergencies for the employees to use when making announcements over the loudspeaker.

The emergencies for which there were color codes were fire, tornado, robbery, injury, and Gypsies. I could not believe it. It forever changed my understanding of that word.
posted by 4ster at 10:14 AM on October 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


I mean, go back and re-read jessamyn's first comment in this thread. Is it really your belief that her reaction is utterly beyond the pale of civilized behavior?
posted by kavasa at 12:09 on October 15 [+] [!]


My belief is that her emotional reaction to language is much less important than what she or other moderators here choose to do. I think they ought to delete the original post. If flapjax wrote another without antiziganist sentiment, I think that would be fine. As it stands, there's an ethnic slur on the front page of Metafilter, and a Meta thread where people who've never herd of the Porajmos want to tell us why that's fine.
posted by samofidelis at 10:14 AM on October 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


not wanting to shoulder that responsibility is also totally cool and the default assumption should be that, no, having certain genetics does not by default make you the NBC Page for your ethnicity.

A fair point.

I just feel like there's a better path somewhere, where the onus is not totally shifted back onto the person who said the objectionable word to find an alternative, because hell, if they're the ones who didn't know that the word was objectionable in the first place, do you trust their judgement would be up to the task of finding an adequate replacement if they didn't have a problem with the objectionable word in the first place? I respect the wish to not be the Demographic Relations Tutor, but there's bound to be some middle path, no?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:14 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Zaelic's link seems to also suggest US self-identification of some groups:
The Rom in Romania were held as slaves for 400 years, and during that time many, like the Rudari, lost the Romanes language and now speak only Romanian. I met a lot of them in Bulgaria, where they worked as dancing bear leaders, and in Hungary and Croatia, where they are called Baias - known in the US as Boyash Gypsies.
posted by corb at 10:15 AM on October 15, 2013


Cultural groups do, though. Germans as an ethnicity don't have an inclination to speak German; they do have an inclination (even more than an inclination) to speak German as a cultural group.


I don't know if I would call it an "inclination" in that case, either. I mean, maybe it's nit-picking, but speaking a language is, I think, a defining characteristic of a cultural group which speaks that language, rather than an "inclination." Inclinations are for individuals, I think. "Being German, I am inclined to like beer" sounds better to me that "Germans like beer by inclination" (I know a German who detests the stuff, but he seems to be an outlier). I don't think you can "incline" to things you learned as a baby....
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:15 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


zaelic (who's studied the Roma for years and actually took flapjax on a tour of a Roma market in Budapest) routinely used the term Gypsy as if it's a non-offensive descriptor.

But he isn't Roma himself, is he, so is used here in the same way as "but all my black friends don't mind if I call them..."?
posted by MartinWisse at 10:16 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


The situation is analogous to the one with Eskimo / Inuit, which has been discussed previously on MeTa. Eskimo is considered a slur in Canada, and Canadians consider the politically correct term to be Inuit. However, this excludes the Yup'ik, and the term Eskimo isn't considered a slur in Alaska where most Yup'ik live.

Roma is used a self-designation by Romani people mostly living in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, but it is not accepted by members of all Romani subgroups. In my understanding, this is partly because members of other subgroups consider themselves Caló, Sinti, etc., not Roma, and partly because Roma means "husbands" in Romani, so it sounds weird to members of other groups to use it this way. "Romani people" (or "Romanies"), though longer than "Roma" or "Gypsy", seems universally acceptable.*

It's worth keeping in mind that a) the term "Gypsy" is not universally considered offensive or used this way, so a lot of people are not going to realize that anyone has a problem with it, b) some English-speaking Romani people do refer to themselves as "Gypses" in English, while others consider the term offensive, c) a significant number of Romani people consider "Roma" to be inappropriate as a global designation for their ethnic group.

The English word "gypsy" has history of being used refer to traits stereotypically associated with the ethnic group and to refer to nomadic people who who aren't ethnically Romani. So it's problematic, fuzzy and sometimes prejorative, but not an ethnic slur exactly – cigani and it's cognates in various East European languages are a different matter

* If it helps at all, Romani Wikipedia uses Romane manusha. Manusha is plural of manush, "person".
posted by nangar at 10:18 AM on October 15, 2013 [28 favorites]


I think they ought to delete the original post. If flapjax wrote another without antiziganist sentiment, I think that would be fine. As it stands, there's an ethnic slur on the front page of Metafilter, and a Meta thread where people who've never herd of the Porajmos want to tell us why that's fine.

Which is more or less my own take and not unreasonable. Nothing against flapjax or his post, just the slur used.

(f.y.i. Porajmos.)
posted by MartinWisse at 10:19 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


But he isn't Roma himself, is he, so is used here in the same way as "but all my black friends don't mind if I call them..."?

Maybe, MartinWisse. But the evidence of the complexity of the usage - including among Roma peoples themselves - is clear. Surely you don't deny that complexity of usage among Roma people?

Also, I'm still waiting for that example of the mods editing your posts without contacting you first.
posted by mediareport at 10:20 AM on October 15, 2013


I'd never heard the word "antiziganism" until today.

Me, either, but I'm kind of glad I did. I confess it doesn't come up often for me, but having a less cumbersome term to describe the prejudice is something.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:21 AM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Why are you so invested in using language that is offensive to a subset of a larger group? What fraction must be offended before you'll consider changing your use of it?
posted by samofidelis at 10:21 AM on October 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


Thanks nangar, that is actually helpful.
posted by corb at 10:21 AM on October 15, 2013


What about the Fleetwood Mac song? Now I cringe at it. And I can't wait until they change the Redskins name, frankly.
posted by discopolo at 10:22 AM on October 15, 2013


in the united states gypsy is used pejoratively against communities in devastating ways. people are denied employment and housing and are kicked out of all manner of private businesses all while being called gypsies.

Surely this is a function of their membership of the group, not what the group is called. It's hard to imagine that banning use of one term and enforcing use of another will have any impact on this.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:24 AM on October 15, 2013


Cher sang "they called us Gypsies, tramps and thieves" and you guys still didn't get there might be negative connotations to "Gypsies"? C'mon people! Cher!
posted by billiebee at 10:24 AM on October 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


It's hard to imagine that banning use of one term and enforcing use of another will have any impact on this.

Ethnic slurs may not be the keystone upon which racism is founded, but that doesn't mean it's worthless to try to get people to stop using them.
posted by Etrigan at 10:26 AM on October 15, 2013 [17 favorites]


...but there's bound to be some middle path, no?

I mean there could very well be, but anything short of placing the responsibility for edification on the person with the ignorance issue means the failure of that person to be educated (and, therefore, their continued ignorant assumptions and behavior) is in the hands of the person whom they're asking for clarification. It turns into a case of "well, they were unable to adequately explain it to me, so clearly there's some truth to what I'm saying."

Here's a personal example: if someone asked me to explain why, if Jews did not actually control the banks, there were so many Jews in the upper echelons of finance, I would have, like, zero inclination to have anything resembling that conversation. There's no way I could adequately explain that, and there's no moral or ethical imperative I should spend my time in that fashion. There's no simple answer to their question, and the complex answer relies on a lot of other information that most people within the ethnicity absorb formally and informally over the course of their life.
posted by griphus at 10:27 AM on October 15, 2013 [20 favorites]


Surely this is a function of their membership of the group, not what the group is called.

isn't this the same for all groups who have pejorative terms that refer to them? how does that make the slur ok? women are discriminated against for being women - it's still not ok to call us bitches using the justification that it doesn't cause the discrimination.
posted by nadawi at 10:29 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's hard to imagine that banning use of one term and enforcing use of another will have any impact on this.

I don't find this hard to imagine. Banning the use of a particular term on this site will not solve all the problems, but it will at least stop contributing to that problem. That is not nothing.
posted by rtha at 10:30 AM on October 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


How do we appreciate art and books and cultural artifacts that have language that is no longer comfortable?

I personally do what I can to enjoy it and know that it's not necc'ly the best portrayal of modern vocabulary conventions and find other art that suits me better. Sometimes I consume the more archaic vocabulary in the sense it was meant (often romantic or exotic) and move on.

And if it's too much to take I regretfully put it away entirely and find other stuff that suits me better instead.
posted by kalessin at 10:30 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


When my paternal grandmother used to talk about where she was from she'd say Austria-Hungary, but she never called herself a gypsy. Her mother died shortly after her birth, and soon after, her father left Europe to find his fortune in America. She was consequently left behind to be raised by her family's tribe for the first half of her childhood. When her father finally saved enough money, he sent for her, and upon her arrival to the states she moved in with his new family. He had taken a Polish wife and had two daughters with her. Needless to say, her dreams about America were a bit filtered by this experience. In that house they only spoke English and Polish, neither of which she knew. She was hated by her new step-mother and her new step-sisters, as she was a constant reminder of her father’s past. As a result she was frequently mocked and taunted, typically with the term gypsy.

When she got older she began to refer to herself, not as Austrian or Hungarian, as she was well aware she was neither, but as a Bohock (sometimes pronounced Bohunk) from Bohemia. We never knew she spoke Romani until by chance, late in life, she met another Romani woman and struck up a conversation that no one in the family understood. When asked what language that was, she told us Bohemian.

Slowly I began to put the pieces together. Her father died before my father was born, so her only living relatives here that our family knew where the members of her step-family. I don't think any of us grandchildren ever heard her step-sisters speak poorly of her, but it didn't really matter, the damage was already done. What I do remember was my Grandmother herself using the term gypsy as a pejorative, just as she had learned in the second half of her childhood from her step-sisters. She did this so frequently that no one in the family would have ever imagined she herself was Romani, or that some strange words she sometimes used were Romani in origin.

All of those discoveries color my feelings about the term gypsy. The word was used against my grandmother so frequently that she not only disavowed the people who raised her for half of her childhood, she herself would go on to imitate the hateful behavior, and used the very slur once hurled at her. In hindsight it makes a lot of sense. The denial of her heritage was clearly a survival strategy, but I am still stunned that the cognitive dissonance was so deep that she too used the term to describe anyone she thought was dirty, lazy, or immoral. I understand that the cultural implications of the word aren't well understood by most people, but I also witnessed how a word could be used as a weapon, and could inflict so much pain and damage as to create self-hatred and denial in a child, enough that could last a lifetime. For this reason I would rather people not use it.

One of the best anecdotes to describe my grandmother comes from a follow-up to that first question, Where are you from? Where in Austria-Hungary were you born? She would always reply Timişoara Bukovac. It wasn't until after she died that I looked it up. It's actually two different villages about 90 miles apart. It made perfect sense. She lived in neither place, but instead in a caravan that travelled between them. Whenever I think about her life in Europe that's what I imagine. No roots, no home, but instead a life lived between places.
posted by Toekneesan at 10:30 AM on October 15, 2013 [53 favorites]


I worked really hard at eliminating "gypped" from my vocabulary, because it implies that gypsies/Roma/Travellers/what have you are thieves and con artists.

Yeah, "gypped" was easy to eliminate. Every time I hear it, it reminds me of the first time after moving to the U.S. south that I heard "He jewed me down." Once I made that connection, it was a quick step to drop "gypped" from my vocabulary. It took me a few more years before I got rid of "gypsy" as well, but it wasn't at all difficult, and I encourage everyone else to do the same. I agree with samofidelis strongly on one point, at least: it doesn't have to be everyone in a particular ethnic group - or even a majority - who finds a word offensive before I stop using it.

That said, the complexity of usage of "gypsy" among the Roma remains. It's a fact. Much as s/he's trying, samofidelis can't deny it.
posted by mediareport at 10:32 AM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't know if you've noticed, but the artificial and academic-sounding word antiziganism includes the word for "gypsy," and that is the offensive word in the languages where it's used. That is the word people use when making bigoted remarks about a perceived class of people. We don't somehow remove the "taint" of bigotry by using a foreign word for the same thing.

So once we agree on a maximally inoffensive word (not an ethnonym, mind you), do we wash our hands and say, yes, problem solved, we're not bigots anymore? What a ridiculous and shallow notion of "activism"!

We are taking the topic of ethnic stereotypes and systematic discrimination based on skin color, occupation, and class and turning it into a ridiculous and hysterical back-and-forth about words. I think that this kind of hand-wringing is very near-sighted at a time when brown people around Europe get rounded up by rioters and vigilantes and get harassed and beaten in public with very limited response from local law enforcement.

But yes, let's keep talking about inoffensive words for "gypsy." By all means.
posted by Nomyte at 10:33 AM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


Much as s/he's trying, samofidelis can't deny it.

This is not helpful. It's combative and it seems to me that you're taking it personally.

Also what does it cost us to use other vocabulary if we are not so entrenched in the inside culture to know if we are using the challenging word inoffensively (or offensively but in the "right" way)?
posted by kalessin at 10:36 AM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


So once we agree on a maximally inoffensive word (not an ethnonym, mind you), do we wash our hands and say, yes, problem solved, we're not bigots anymore? What a ridiculous and shallow notion of "activism"!

I would be astonished if you could point to one single comment where anybody suggests this.

But yes, let's keep talking about inoffensive words for "gypsy." By all means.

Yes, I agree. It is a useful conversation, because hurtful language actually does cause harm, and we should strive to find better language. I'm glad you ended your strange rant on a reasonable note.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:37 AM on October 15, 2013 [22 favorites]


We are taking the topic of ethnic stereotypes and systematic discrimination based on skin color, occupation, and class and turning it into a ridiculous and hysterical back-and-forth about words.

I don't figure that I'll be able to get all of MetaFilter up in arms about the travails of the Romany in Eastern Europe. But I might be able to get some greater proportion of MetaFilter to stop using a particular term, and in so doing, maybe unpack some of the associations with that word. I'm sorry that I'm insufficiently activist for you.
posted by Etrigan at 10:37 AM on October 15, 2013 [24 favorites]


isn't this the same for all groups who have pejorative terms that refer to them? how does that make the slur ok?

I wasn't making any reference to whether the slur was OK. I was simply pointing out the flawed logic of your comment.

What fraction must be offended before you'll consider changing your use of it?

This is a good question. How many people does it take to claim offence before we change policy/law related to these issues?

Is one offended person enough? Fifty? If I claim that the use of the word Scousers to refer to Liverpudlians unfairly disparages my tribe because I can point to examples where the term is used in a disparaging fashion, will Metafilter's mods impose a ban on the use?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:39 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think that this kind of hand-wringing is very near-sighted at a time when

"Walk and chew gum, people. That's the motto this year."
posted by nadawi at 10:39 AM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


my logic wasn't flawed - but thanks for your concern.
posted by nadawi at 10:39 AM on October 15, 2013


In my direct experience, it's like what to call someone of indigenous North American extraction - sometimes they'll self identify as Indians, and you respect that. Unless you know them and understand their preference, best to use the term "Native American" as some folks see the term Indian as describing a person or culture not from the Asian subcontinent as insulting.

My old downstairs neighbors, some self-identified as Gypsy to those who asked, and some as Roma. This was in New England, which generally has positive and unrealistically romantic associations with the word "Gypsy" - I can see where the word gets ugly in a hurry. The prejudice against the Roma was everywhere in Italy when we visited, and Gypsy was a pretty nasty word used by the tour guides to describe less fortunate countrymen.

In the US, we know about Roma as Gypsies and are generally OK with them as an ethnicity (well, as much as we can be about any non-WASP ethnicity) - it's tough to talk about their culture otherwise, because not enough people know Roma isn't just a variety of plum tomato or Rom isn't just computer jargon. It's an odd situation. I can see where it would lead to frustration and hurt feelings.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:39 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I claim that the use of the word Scousers to refer to Liverpudlians unfairly disparages my tribe because I can point to examples where the term is used in a disparaging fashion

Does it? If so, I will stop using it.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:40 AM on October 15, 2013


My point, in case you missed it, is that words as sequences of sounds aren't inherently bigoted. What's bigoted is our stereotypes and maltreatment of the people we refer to by those words. Without a change in treatment, any word could just as easily be used as a slur.
posted by Nomyte at 10:40 AM on October 15, 2013


Here's a personal example: if someone asked me to explain why, if Jews did not actually control the banks, there were so many Jews in the upper echelons of finance, I would have, like, zero inclination to have anything resembling that conversation. There's no way I could adequately explain that, and there's no moral or ethical imperative I should spend my time in that fashion.

I think I may be referring to a different set of circumstances, though. I'm talking about - well, let's use the question I've raised above. There is a band I heard a few months back that I've innocently been referring to as a "g-word jazz" band, because that is the term I always heard for that kind of music. But now, I'm learning that that term is probably offensive because of the g-word.

I sincerely do not want to cause offense. So I ask what term would be preferable. And if someone were to remark "it's not my job to help you figure out what you can say instead," I'm going to be even more at sea because a) I never knew there was anything wrong with the term in the first place, and b) the very source I would ask what the preferred term is is telling me "don't use me as a source". So my choices are to either make something up and have no one know what I'm talking about, or to continue using the offensive term and cringing guiltily.

It sounds more like you're speaking of people challenging why a certain term is perceived to be offensive - I've already accepted that a term is offensive and am trying to work with someone to figure out what the ground rules are so I don't accidentally continue to offend.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:41 AM on October 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


How many people does it take to claim offence before we change policy/law related to these issues?

PRIVILEGE BINGO!
posted by Etrigan at 10:41 AM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is not just about "words," it's about degrading words applied to groups who experience material and systematic marginalization, and even outright genocide, as part of their history relating to those words. So facile arguments comparing generic insults to degrading language historically related to ethnic cleansing is mind-bogglingly blinkered and gross.
posted by Ouisch at 10:42 AM on October 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


If I claim that the use of the word Scousers to refer to Liverpudlians unfairly disparages my tribe because I can point to examples where the term is used in a disparaging fashion, will Metafilter's mods impose a ban on the use?

You would be hard pressed to make a case that it's a problem here, as you're the only one who used it since 2009, both times as a rhetorical design to poo-poo somebody else's problems?
posted by MartinWisse at 10:42 AM on October 15, 2013 [16 favorites]


If I claim that the use of the word Scousers to refer to Liverpudlians unfairly disparages my tribe because I can point to examples where the term is used in a disparaging fashion

I think it's a "will you say that to their face in polite conversation" sort of thing. Like, regardless of which particular Roma find which terms offensive, I wouldn't come up to a person of Roma descent and start throwing the word 'gypsy' around because it's perfectly clear that there's a significant amount of Roma people who would be seriously offended.

So if I -- a person not from remotely near Liverpool -- am hanging out in Liverpool and know that referring to someone as a Scouser is liable to get hackles up, I'm sure as shit not going to use it.
posted by griphus at 10:45 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Part of the challenge is that, as noted above, "Roma" is not at all an accepted substitute. I started using "Roma" years back, until I was angrily corrected by various "Gypsies" who made it very clear that they were to be called "Gypsies" and that calling them "Roma" was taking sides in a tribal war.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:46 AM on October 15, 2013 [14 favorites]


Is one offended person enough? Fifty? If I claim that the use of the word Scousers to refer to Liverpudlians unfairly disparages my tribe because I can point to examples where the term is used in a disparaging fashion, will Metafilter's mods impose a ban on the use?

Maybe? But we're not having a "what if this other hypothetical thing" discussion. We're having a discussion about a totally non-hypothetical thing that is actually happening right now on this site.

If you, PeterMcDermott, asked me to stop using Scousers (not that I think I ever have) because it was offensive, I would not ask you to show me three or more surveys of at least 1200 randomly chosen adults in order to prove it really is offensive to more people than just you. I would just stop using it. It's not that great a burden, you know?
posted by rtha at 10:48 AM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


> Flapjax at Midnite's opinion about whether or not this is an ethnic slur is immaterial.

It's exactly as material as yours. You are not the boss of either MeFi or the English language. Please do less demanding and more conversing. (This is not a tone argument.)
posted by languagehat at 10:48 AM on October 15, 2013 [13 favorites]


Does it? If so, I will stop using it.

I think it's exactly like the use of the word gypsies -- in the UK at least, I understand that in other countries, the word has more baggage.

People who don't like us will use the word in a disparaging fashion, people who do will use it affectionately -- and the majority will regard it as relatively neutral.

But ignore that for a moment and pretend I say that I am offended by it. Is that really all it takes to change your use of the word? Do you just stop using it in my presence, or do I get a complete veto over all your use of the term?

Serious question: I don't know what the answer is or should be.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:49 AM on October 15, 2013


Scousers is offensive?
posted by josher71 at 10:49 AM on October 15, 2013


That said, the complexity of usage of "gypsy" among the Roma remains. It's a fact. Much as s/he's trying, samofidelis can't deny it.

I dunno, my impression is that samofidelis (and Etrigan) has said the term is pejorative and a slur. Now, it's possible to say "oh hell, I didn't mean it like that; I'm sorry, and I won't use it (around you (if you must))." Saying "well, you know, not everyone feels the way you do, so your feelings are invalid" is... not a useful approach.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:50 AM on October 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


Scousers is offensive?

When you call someone a Randy Scouse Git, I suspect it may be.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:51 AM on October 15, 2013


I think it's exactly like the use of the word gypsies -- in the UK at least, I understand that in other countries, the word has more baggage.

I disagree. In NI (part of the UK) Travellers are routinely refused services due to discrimination on the basis of their membership of the Travelling community. I could well be wrong, but I don't think being called a Scouser has either the same implications or ramifications.
(But I'm not at all arguing your right to object to it - I would not be pleased if I saw "Paddy/Mick etc" used for "Irish".)
posted by billiebee at 10:54 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've already accepted that a term is offensive and am trying to work with someone to figure out what the ground rules are so I don't accidentally continue to offend.

I totally get that you're coming at this with best intentions but, again, you're placing the responsibility to never again offend a member of a certain ethnicity on a particular subject, and if whatever they tell you isn't universally applicable -- as we're seeing here -- then any offense you cause by following their advice is effectively their responsibility.

Now you might not think that because you're enough of a reasonable, cognizant human being to know that people can be wrong, and individuals aren't representative and blah blah blah, but that doesn't go for everyone.

Do you just stop using it in my presence, or do I get a complete veto over all your use of the term?

If exactly one person tells me that a certain term I use to refer to their ethnicity (or whatever) is considered offensive then, yeah, that person just got me to stop using the word on the whole. Why would I want to risk that again when I can use a non-offensive term?

And if it is a seriously complex situation like this one, then I just have to use my judgement. If my Roma friend tells me to never call him a Gypsy, I will never call him a Gypsy. If my Gypsy friend tells me to never call her Roma, I will never call her Roma. I am confident in my ability to get across the point that I have zero intention of offending anyone.
posted by griphus at 10:54 AM on October 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


Oof. When Spurs and Liverpool played in Baltimore last year I kept yelling "Scouser! Scouser!" and Liverpool fans just came pouring in. I had no clue. At least they didn't seem angry.
posted by josher71 at 10:54 AM on October 15, 2013


Languagehat, flapjacks wrote a post that used a term that contains what I and many other people find to be an offensive slur. I wrote 'That ethnic slur is used by antiziganists,' which was immediately deleted. So, that which I consider a slur stands in the original thread, the remarks pointing out its offensiveness have been moved here, where they are far less visible, and you are lecturing me about prescriptive and descriptive vocabulary.
posted by samofidelis at 10:56 AM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


"words as sequences of sounds aren't inherently bigoted"

Yes they are. We don't talk because we think; we think because we talk.
posted by klarck at 10:56 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have an opinion on the word "gypsy" and could discuss it at length, but I think it's irrelevant here. What seems obvious to me is that the casual use of the word "gypsy" is guaranteed to cause a shitstorm on Metafilter. Isn't it already site policy to aggressively moderate shitstorm-inducing threads and comments? I am genuinely confused about why this is different. Shitstorms are bad for the site. Posters should try to avoid inducing them and moderators should step in when they are likely to flare.
posted by Wordwoman at 10:57 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


i too will change my vocabulary because one person tells me that i have been offensive regarding their identity. if that one person is offended then others may also be offended and even if that one person is the only one offended i'd still rather not offend even one person than just ride roughshod over them because i feel as though their opinions regarding the use of terminology regarding their own identity are less important and valid than mine. [this is the logic i use internally when making the decision to do this, not an accusation that all people who don't follow the same logic are subhuman or something ok.]
posted by titus n. owl at 10:59 AM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


But ignore that for a moment and pretend I say that I am offended by it. Is that really all it takes to change your use of the word? Do you just stop using it in my presence, or do I get a complete veto over all your use of the term?

It depends. I'm having a terrible time right now with hypotheticals (not enough caffeine?) so I will relate a personal anecdote.

When I got to college, I was able to be in the company (if I chose, and I did) of many more Native American/American Indian people than ever before in my life. They were from all over the US and a few from Canada. They had many different ways of referring to themselves, their tribes, and the Native/First Nations communities in general. Some of the terms were definitely in-group terms that as a not-in-group person I wouldn't touch with a barge pole. Some terms were regarded as neutral, but different people preferred other terms. Some of my friends wanted to be called by their tribal affiliation. Some wanted to be called Indian. Some felt being called Indian by someone who was not was too laden with slur potential, and preferred Native American.

I try to use my brain cells for good and thoughtful purpose. Sometimes I accidentally don't, and I appreciate the correction even if the method stings. If you honestly want me to promise that I will not use the term Scouser, in or out of your presence, I will do my best to do so (and as I said above, this is really not a term I think I've ever used, but now at least I know that its use is considered to be offensive by some if not all, which is useful information).
posted by rtha at 10:59 AM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Saying "well, you know, not everyone feels the way you do, so your feelings are invalid" is... not a useful approach.

Again, the point is that many Roma themselves do not find the term offensive. That is basic, relevant information, and denying the complexity of the usage among the Roma (and others) does no service to this discussion.

Also, again, I've stopped using the term "gypsy" in my own language. I made that decision a while ago, for just the reason you describe: some folks find it offensive.

These two points are not mutually exclusive.
posted by mediareport at 10:59 AM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


So, that which I consider a slur stands in the original thread, the remarks pointing out its offensiveness have been moved here, where they are far less visible,

The original thread has sixteen comments. This thread has 215 right now. Any discussion you had about the term would have been buried in a thread about a movie that anyone without an interest in the Roma or their culture would have likely ignored; here, the discussion is clearly flagged as being about the appropriateness of the word. I think your point got a great deal more exposure here.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:03 AM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


So, that which I consider a slur stands in the original thread, the remarks pointing out its offensiveness have been moved here, where they are far less visible

They're a lot more visible to folks who are active, policy-minded members of this site than a one-off piece of metacommentary in a single thread on the blue, though, and folks in here are seeming generally sympathetic to the objection and we're actively pursuing the actual site process we've established over the years to try and make the situation better.

I appreciate that you are upset, but between being kind of a jerk in here and repeatedly sending us crappy WHY ARE YOU PRO-RACISM contact form stuff this morning this feels like you taking a really bad approach to making an otherwise laudable argument about this.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:04 AM on October 15, 2013 [15 favorites]


If you, PeterMcDermott, asked me to stop using Scousers (not that I think I ever have) because it was offensive, I would not ask you to show me three or more surveys of at least 1200 randomly chosen adults in order to prove it really is offensive to more people than just you. I would just stop using it. It's not that great a burden, you know?

I think for some people this is true - and honestly laudable, it's a standard we should aspire to, of not offending people when we don't have to. But I think this is not a standard that has been adhered to overall - see, again, the cracker discussion.
posted by corb at 11:05 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I totally get that you're coming at this with best intentions but, again, you're placing the responsibility to never again offend a member of a certain ethnicity on a particular subject, and if whatever they tell you isn't universally applicable -- as we're seeing here -- then any offense you cause by following their advice is effectively their responsibility.

Okay, so then what should I do? ....In truth, I just want to be able to tell people about this awesome band I heard busking in Florence without running the risk of causing offense if anyone asks "so what kind of band are they?" I get that it's a complex term and people are going to have different opinions about whether the term is offensive, and because of that I just want to cover all bases when choosing my words.

I'm honestly at a loss to figure out where else I would seek out a judgement call on "is the term [g-word] jazz okay or not".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:06 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Okay, so then what should I do?

I have literally no idea, which sort of speaks to my point.
posted by griphus at 11:07 AM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


We're having a discussion about a totally non-hypothetical thing that is actually happening right now on this site.

We're talking about Metafilter policy formation, no? The fact that today the word happens to be gypsies doesn't mean that it won't be a different word next week.

I don't have strong feelings on the issue either way. If a word offends you, I might stop using it in your presence -- doesn't necessarily mean I'll abandon it completely.

When you call someone a Randy Scouse Git , I suspect it may be.

A Traitorous Scouse Git might be even worse!

(I'm joking, Scouser isn't offensive. I'm just curious about the circumstances under which people think they get the right to veto others choice of words. Obviously, you're going to be more respectful of any persecuted minority who believes certain terms injure them but I'm uncomfortable with the fact that it sometimes seems as though all you have to do is claim to be offended in order to silence someone.)
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:07 AM on October 15, 2013


Again, the point is that many Roma themselves do not find the term offensive. That is basic, relevant information,

That's been asserted, rather than proven, while those who have self identified as being part of the groups targeted by "gypsy" have said that, hey, this is insulting and hurtful to me.

Therefore, "gypsy" falls in the same category as "cunt" to me, as a word that may occasionally be neutral in other contexts, but not here.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:08 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Again, the point is that many Roma themselves do not find the term offensive. That is basic, relevant information, and denying the complexity of the usage among the Roma (and others) does no service to this discussion.

That sounds -- to me, an admittedly non-neutral observer -- a lot like "Well, gosh, look at all these African-Americans who call themselves the N-word. And look at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People!" The fact that some members of a group don't find a term offensive should be outweighed by the fact that some of them do, especially when you have at least two people of that group on this site who have asked (in varying degrees of politeness) that it not be used, weighed against exactly zero people of that group who demand that it remain.
posted by Etrigan at 11:09 AM on October 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm joking, Scouser isn't offensive.

Too late. I've already removed it from my vocabulary.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:09 AM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Seriously, your argument is getting kind of silly and helpless-sounding, EC. You are allowed to use whatever word you want for that type of jazz, but be aware that some people might dislike the term or might raise an eyebrow and you might feel awkward and need to explain further. And you always run the risk that someone will be seriously offended. This is not an earth-shaking problem, but the Wiki suggests a couple other terms if you want to be really careful - among them is "hot club jazz."
posted by Ouisch at 11:09 AM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Obviously, you're going to be more respectful of any persecuted minority who believes certain terms injure them but I'm uncomfortable with the fact that it sometimes seems as though all you have to do is claim to be offended in order to silence someone.

No one is demanding silence. What some of us are asking is that a term be removed from a front-page post in favor of a different one. There is a difference.
posted by Etrigan at 11:10 AM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


but between being kind of a jerk in here

This just isn't true. Samofidelis has been persistent, yes, but afaik not attacked other people here, rather their actions.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:11 AM on October 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm joking, Scouser isn't offensive.

Ugh, this seems like a bad thread for joking.
posted by KathrynT at 11:12 AM on October 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


I appreciate that you are upset, but between being kind of a jerk in here and repeatedly sending us crappy WHY ARE YOU PRO-RACISM contact form stuff this morning this feels like you taking a really bad approach to making an otherwise laudable argument about this.
posted by cortex (staff) at 13:04 on October 15


I'm being a jerk because there's an ethnic slur on the front page f metafilter that you ought to delete but have chosen not to do so. That implicitly condones the use of that language. The moderators of metafilter have made that decision, and therefore have chosen to implicitly condone antiziganism. That is hard to deny.

I used the contact form because goodnewsfortheinsane told me he appreciated my remarks and took them seriously, but he was goin off shift and wanted me to use the contact form instead. Thanks for bringing that up here, however.

Why are you upset? Is it because someone has accused you of allowing bigoted language on your 'community weblog'? I'm upset because you're allowing that to occur.
posted by samofidelis at 11:13 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


but I'm uncomfortable with the fact that it sometimes seems as though all you have to do is claim to be offended in order to silence someone

Asking someone to use a different term is not silencing. You're smarter than this. I don't understand why you would accuse someone of "silencing" when the request is to use a different term.

Also? Mods have said in more than one meTa that using hypotheticals and what-iffing is generally really unhelpful. If you have a personal point to make, can you not make it without making something up?
posted by rtha at 11:13 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


i don't consider myself "silenced" by someone saying "that specific word is offensive to me, please use a different word when you're talking about this subject"
i mean, that's what it is, it's "use a different word while you do it" not "never ever ever talk about it you are nOT ALLOWED TO TALK ABOUT THE SUBJECT AT ALL BC YOU'RE NOT QUALIFIED SINCE YOU'RE NOT A MEMBER OF THE GROUP" which WOULD be silencing and is a tactic that comes up sometimes in other sites and contexts

and ok i'll admit i'm a liar and a hypocrite : there are in fact times when i will ignore someone saying "this word offends me, please don't use it" - i admit i don't agree with people who think "cracker" is a racial slur - although i've never actually been politely asked not to use it, personally, i've only seen it brought up in arguments as a hypothetical/counterpoint so far in my own life
posted by titus n. owl at 11:15 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry, Ouisch, I'm actually not making my argument well - my point isn't an issue of "what word should I use to describe this music," that was just an analogy in the larger service of a point that "telling someone who sincerely asks what an acceptable term to 'go look it up yourself' may be perceived as unfair".

I understand griphus' point about not wanting to be the Demographic Teacher all the time - lord knows I've rankled at doing that myself in other threads - but I also saw someone making a sincere effort to try to check "if I said [foo] and [baz] is that okay" get shot down, and that didn't seem fair either somehow.

People re-learning, or learning for the first time, what is and is not acceptable are going to make mistakes, and ignorance shouldn't be mistaken for ill will. That's all I was getting at.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:17 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


(then again i actually am a white person, whereas i am not from liverpool and thus have no context for deciding on the term scouser)
posted by titus n. owl at 11:17 AM on October 15, 2013


Now I have the damn Cher song stuck in my head, so thank you all very much for that.
posted by Curious Artificer at 11:17 AM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Now I have the damn Cher song stuck in my head, so thank you all very much for that.

YNWA
posted by josher71 at 11:19 AM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


the point is that many Roma themselves do not find the term offensive.

I'm not sure why that's relevant. Some Roma do find it intensely offensive. Isn't that enough?

"Roma" is imprecise and something along the lines of "Roma/Rom/Sinti" is as awkward as Innuit/Yupik/Innu. Nevertheless, either is better than using a word which is used as a slur in some places and which is now known to be received by some of us mefites.

For many of us on this thread this is an interesting academic issue about worldwide language use. For some of us this is not academic and perhaps we should defer to them.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:20 AM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Nangar: I spent a fair amount of time in Alaska, and there, "Eskimo" isn't quite considered a slur, but it is considered old-fashioned and not the right word. The proper term is "Native Alaskan." But yes, the Canadian use on "Inuit" to refer to First Nations people sounds bizarrely tone-deaf to people from Alaska, where the Inuit and Yupik peoples frequently fought ugly battles.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:20 AM on October 15, 2013


I'm being a jerk because there's an ethnic slur on the front page f metafilter that you ought to delete but have chosen not to do so. That implicitly condones the use of that language. The moderators of metafilter have made that decision, and therefore have chosen to implicitly condone antiziganism. That is hard to deny.

That's a reading that only works if you choose to ignore any approach to making the situation better than the one that you prefer, the one that contradicts normal site processes. You're choosing to take a failure to get exactly what you want exactly when you want it as some kind of official site endorsement of bigotry rather than of this shit being a big, slow moving ship dealing with a situation that's kind of complicated.

That sucks, that gets us nowhere; it just puts us unnecessarily at odds with you about something that as a team I think we substantially agree with you on. Let the system actually work instead of harassing us, basically. We're not against you on this but you seem hellbent on turning this into a fight with us.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:21 AM on October 15, 2013 [31 favorites]


That's been asserted, rather than proven

My Big Fat Gypsy Metatalk Thread

posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:21 AM on October 15, 2013


Therefore, "gypsy" falls in the same category as "cunt" to me, as a word that may occasionally be neutral in other contexts, but not here.

I agree. The sooner "gypsy" is replaced by "Roma" or "Irish Traveler" or whatever is most relevant to the particular discussion at hand, the better.

So, are you retracting the claim that the mods have edited your posts without asking you first, or are you letting it stand?
posted by mediareport at 11:21 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


What some of us are asking is that a term be removed from a front-page post in favor of a different one.

I think that's reasonable if a word is offensive, I think we're all just kerfluffling over what a word offensive to no one is - as apparently even saying Roma is taking sides in a war. Romani seems good, but I'm not sure that it applies to Irish Travellers...
posted by corb at 11:22 AM on October 15, 2013


I'm honestly at a loss to figure out where else I would seek out a judgement call on "is the term [g-word] jazz okay or not".

EC and griphus, what I generally do is I would call the jazz form something like Roma, Romani or Rom jazz and if folks didn't understand my use of the new term, I would explain that "well we used to call it jazz but it turns out that gypsy is not an easy term to use in a well meaning way, and Rom, Romani or Roma is less challenging/potentially offensive, so I use that now."

And thus our language evolves. And thus we make teaching moments.

posted by kalessin at 11:22 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've already removed it from my vocabulary.

What do you call a Scouser in a suit?
The defendant.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:23 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Which is where the Roma problem comes in again... A lot of members of the Traveller (?) community really are offended by "Roma", like a Ukrainian would be if you called them a Russian. They haven't spoken up on this thread, though, so perhaps that counts for less.

That's a reading that only works if you choose to ignore any approach to making the situation better than the one that you prefer, the one that contradicts normal site processes. You're choosing to take a failure to get exactly what you want exactly when you want it as some kind of official site endorsement of bigotry rather than of this shit being a big, slow moving ship dealing with a situation that's kind of complicated.

cf.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:24 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Possibly of interest within this context: discussion of the terms Roma, Sinti, Gypsies, Travellers... by the European In Other Words project.
posted by rjs at 11:24 AM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think that's reasonable if a word is offensive, I think we're all just kerfluffling over what a word offensive to no one is - as apparently even saying Roma is taking sides in a war. Romani seems good, but I'm not sure that it applies to Irish Travellers...

Did you miss comments from mefites in this thread who find it offensive, including the very first comment here?
posted by rtha at 11:25 AM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


Cortex, what possible damage would occur if the post were deleted until flapjax agreed to edits?

It has been mentioned that moderation occurs on a case-by-case basis. Why are you behaving so rigidly in this case? Is it because you don't understand the seriousness of this problem? Surely you've had time in the several hours since the post first went up to acquaint yourself
With these issues.
posted by samofidelis at 11:27 AM on October 15, 2013


Obviously, you're going to be more respectful of any persecuted minority who believes certain terms injure them but I'm uncomfortable with the fact that it sometimes seems as though all you have to do is claim to be offended in order to silence someone.

You have said a truly terrible thing here, in so many ways. The implication is that Romani are merely claiming offense, just believing they are injured. You mention persecution, but really we're talking about concerted historical and current efforts by culturally and politically dominant powers to eliminate a minority ethnic group: attempted genocide, continued disenfranchisment and active discrimination. And your response is that these people believe they're injured, they claim offense. Let's balance their fancied hurt feelings against my Freedom of Insulting Speech. It's really awful.

And the Scousers thing, I mean, talk about leading people down the garden path of false equivalence, it isn't even a slur in the least! And then making a bunch of jokes, like it's all okay because now jokey time. What the hell are you doing?
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 11:27 AM on October 15, 2013 [32 favorites]


>Saying "well, you know, not everyone feels the way you do, so your feelings are invalid" is... not a useful approach.

Again, the point is that many Roma themselves do not find the term offensive. That is basic, relevant information, and denying the complexity of the usage among the Roma (and others) does no service to this discussion.


But, in this specific circumstance, we have at least two people saying that they find it offensive and no people of the ethnicity saying that they prefer it. Therefore, saying that people elsewhere don't find it offensive trumps the feelings of people here who do is valuing the theoretical over the actual.

What do do? I think we shouldn't use "gypsy" on MetaFilter (unless discussing the official name of a group." If users emerge who want to say that they do not like being called "Roma," we will have a problem, but, until then, this seems the best route to me.

As for what term to use for the music (as EmpressCallipygos asks), I would tend to say "Roma music" and, if challenged by someone of the ethnicity, apologize and use their preferred term. Making a faux pas is usually less socially disruptive than aggressively defending the same.

(And, yes, I get that there is a fine theoretical discussion to be had about uses of the word in different contexts, but, in the face of (somewhat passionate) requests that we not use the word, well, I am inclined to side with the actual people present.)
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:28 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


A lot of members of the Traveller (?) community really are offended by "Roma", like a Ukrainian would be if you called them a Russian.

So? Don't call them Roma then. Call them by the most correct word you can. I don't really know why we're apparently looking to replace the word "gypsy" with another single word that incorrectly lumps together multiple populations in multiple countries and ethnic groupings. It's OK that we have to sometimes use more than one word to say what we mean.
posted by muddgirl at 11:30 AM on October 15, 2013 [31 favorites]


But, in this specific circumstance, we have at least two people saying that they find it offensive and no people of the ethnicity saying that they prefer it.

This is true, but I'd wager that the amount of people who comment in MetaTalk is more like the tip of the iceberg than the thing itself - there are a lot of people who read but do not follow that closely or don't speak up. People with experience have said that this is a real thing where some people do prefer it and get offended by the word Roma.
posted by corb at 11:30 AM on October 15, 2013


I appreciate that you are upset, but between being kind of a jerk in here and repeatedly sending us crappy WHY ARE YOU PRO-RACISM contact form stuff this morning this feels like you taking a really bad approach to making an otherwise laudable argument about this.

What would be a more 'effective' approach in this situation? I mean, honestly, just asking samofidelis to sit around and wait shouldn't be expected. Currently, I see that there is one moderation policy that is defining the conversation - the editing of posts. For samofidelis, this isn't acceptable and I don't see why we should expect samofidelis to just accept that. I don't see samofidelis being a jerk while shouting from the rooftops that the current policy of non-editing of posts should trump the use of ethnic slurs on the front page. There is nothing on the front page that currently says that this conversation is being hand. Rather, for the new visitor to Metafilter, the only thing that can be seen is that Gypsy is currently an accepted word. I see samofidelis stating, in blunt terms, that this community should not have that as part of its identity. Why shouldn't samofidelis be doing this? And why shouldn't samofidelis be doing this passionately?
posted by Stynxno at 11:31 AM on October 15, 2013 [26 favorites]


Ok, so. I learned several years ago (after being completely unaware, as an American) that gypsy is not a cool word to use and have excised it from my vocabulary.

However, whenever I hear someone go "ugh I can't believe you're making a tone argument" in one of these threads, I always think of the 'spastic' thread. I think it would be very difficult to argue that the poster's tone in later comments did not severely damage his argument. I know that tone arguments are frequently used to discredit people unfairly but that doesn't mean that you can, as in that thread, be incredibly nasty to people and expect them to listen to you.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:32 AM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


i admit i don't agree with people who think "cracker" is a racial slur

It's not a racial slur, but it is often thrown around in a way that implies that all white people from rural areas are big fat racists. Wild haymakers that hit current/potential allies are usually not the best way to fight racism.

Not intended as a tone argument against people who are experiencing racism. It's my experience that cracker is a word used primarily by white urbanites as a fighting word, a practice I think is unproductive.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:32 AM on October 15, 2013


This discussion seems really clearly related to the word "fag" for me. As a gay person, the word has some really really heavy association with threats of imminent violence. But for some people, it's just a cigarette. I know that. And when someone asks for a fag in a movie, I shouldn't tense up but I do. Is that the speaker's fault or mine? Or some invisible third party who has exited the scene and who can't really be held accountable anymore?

There's also a huge feeling of ridiculousness that I'd have to overcome just to explain to someone how awful that word makes me feel when they use it in a manner that is not meant to be offensive. I know they can't understand it. And I know that it is going to kind of come out of left field. And I know it is going to be doubly hard for them to understand because there are gay folks who use the word or who come from a culture where it is not a word used in the context of victimizing sexual minorities, and to them it's always just been a goddamned cigarette so what's the big deal? It's rough, but would I prefer it if folks just found another way to refer to cigarettes? Yes. Absolutely.

Being part of a community means setting some reasonable standards under which everyone can function. I don't think it is at all unreasonable to ban or edit FPPs that include words that are slurs or even have secondary/less common definitions that are slurs. I haven't yet heard anyone explain exactly what is lost from a rule such as that. But it seems that there is a lot to be gained from that, including more robust and diverse participation in the community by members who would be bothered by seeing those words.
posted by jph at 11:32 AM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]

the remarks pointing out its offensiveness have been moved here, where they are far less visible
For what its worth, I would never have seen your comment in the original thread nor bothered to read the original post. I was previously aware of the pejoritive nature of the term "gypped" and have long since banished it from my vocabulary, but was not aware that gypsy itself was regarded as a similar item of offense. I would have not have learned so without the discussion taking place in this thread which, for me, is a much more high visibility location.
posted by Lame_username at 11:33 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


rjs's link is fascinating, summarizing a lot of the discussion about the various European terms.

In some countries, NGOs that had been established by Roma, Sinti and Kale use the word Gypsy or its equivalent (Tsigane, Zingari, etc) in the name of their organisation. Nonetheless, in each of these countries, the word Roma is accepted when it is used to designate the Roma community as a whole, especially in the international bodies.
posted by mediareport at 11:34 AM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I hear what you are saying, EC, and I think the answer to your question is mixed - first, you can do your own research, and upon finding that some non-zero proportion of people find it offensive, you can make a judgment call about your own personal use of that language in the future. Second, if you have a trusted friend who self-identifies as part of the group and is willing to educate (OR a person you don't know well but who expresses an interest in educating you or sharing their opinion about it), you can discuss it with them as well.

The point other people were making is that it is a common trope for "well-intentioned" people who "just don't know" to attempt to force people who experience marginalization to "educate" them on the basic 101 concepts when those people really are not interested in justifying their existence or proving their personal experiences to a skeptical and defensive person with more institutional power than them for the millionth time that day. This behaviour, insisting someone who is a member of a marginalized group educate you, is a way of engaging the power dynamic that one simultaneously claims doesn't exist, or claims to be ignorant of, through acting entitled to a person's time/energy/education.

This is a thing that happens repeatedly, all the time, so, so often to folks who have less privilege that it has become a type of systematic disadvantage all on its own. It takes time, mental energy, and sometimes significant psychological resources, to "educate" people who are learning about this stuff for the first time, and who will, intentionally or not, say hurtful things and step on your toes repeatedly. It can be very gratifying work to do, but again, only when the person consents to do that work in the first place.

Not everyone wants to be a student driver instructor because it's a lot of work and there is some risk of injury. You shouldn't try to force people to teach you to drive.
posted by Ouisch at 11:36 AM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is true, but I'd wager that the amount of people who comment in MetaTalk is more like the tip of the iceberg than the thing itself - there are a lot of people who read but do not follow that closely or don't speak up. People with experience have said that this is a real thing where some people do prefer it and get offended by the word Roma.

Quit moving the goddamn goalposts. First it was that no one found it offensive; now it's that maybe there are many people here on mefi who don't read or comment in meTa, therefore...What? Therefore what, exactly?
posted by rtha at 11:37 AM on October 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


You know, I understand not asking the minority group to educate, but there are a lot of people here endorsing the position and only two from the minority group. Isn't it possible to assume we're asking the lot of people who are in that situation, rather than the other, to educate?
posted by corb at 11:37 AM on October 15, 2013


How many people are required.
posted by rtha at 11:38 AM on October 15, 2013


Jesus wept, rtha. Is it ever possible for you to listen to something without trying to figure out how you can possibly pick it apart for an attack?
posted by corb at 11:39 AM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


the argument of "people get offended by roma" seems to be "people who are not roma or don't consider themselves roma get offended when they're called roma" which - yeah. it's sort of like "oh, cherokee is offensive because my sioux friend gets pissed when people call her cherokee" or "my thai friend gets mad when people call her chinese." neither of these are an argument for a broader term, they're an argument for trying to use the correct term. now there are broader terms and it's common for groupings to to occur - but i think it is important to figure out if the term being widely used by the outgroup is also being used as a slur by the outgroup. how the ingroup identifies is a parallel conversation, but not one gives a pass to the outgroup.
posted by nadawi at 11:40 AM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


There is no way to be completely inoffensive to everyone. That doesn't mean that the ethical choice isn't to try your best anyway. As an ally or just a concerned citizen trying to cause as little offense as possible, know that you will cause offense and my advice is strategize ways of most effectively communicating your intent not to cause harm.

These include:
- Be ready to take some lumps and be wrong.
- Be prepared to be gracious.
- Be prepared to learn.
- Be prepared to learn from folks who may not be gentle.
- Be prepared to be humble in the face of not-gentle-enough correction.
- Be prepared to change and adapt to changing circumstances.
- Be prepared to be respectful even so.

In wanting to be a supportive ally, I know that I have to express myself, that I may misstep and that it's okay for me to be wrong, to learn from correction and to change my approach. And that in doing so I may earn a little respect. Or I may not. I have to be prepared for that too.
posted by kalessin at 11:41 AM on October 15, 2013 [15 favorites]


You have said a truly terrible thing here, in so many ways. The implication is that Romani are merely claiming offense, just believing they are injured.

That wasn't what I was either saying or implying at all. I thought I was fairly clear that I was talking about the general principle rather than this specific instance.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:42 AM on October 15, 2013


Your comment is a bit unclear, corb. Rephrasing might help.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:42 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


"The emergencies for which there were color codes were fire, tornado, robbery, injury, and Gypsies."

When I was in Italy, I was really surprised by how casually racist the country was, including signs on the highway that said, "DISTRUST THE GYPSIES."

"When I got to college, I was able to be in the company (if I chose, and I did) of many more Native American/American Indian people than ever before in my life. They were from all over the US and a few from Canada. They had many different ways of referring to themselves, their tribes, and the Native/First Nations communities in general. Some of the terms were definitely in-group terms that as a not-in-group person I wouldn't touch with a barge pole. Some terms were regarded as neutral, but different people preferred other terms. Some of my friends wanted to be called by their tribal affiliation. Some wanted to be called Indian. Some felt being called Indian by someone who was not was too laden with slur potential, and preferred Native American."

I got to my college right after they'd gotten rid of the previous team name, the Hurons, and there was a lot of discussion about Native American/American Indian/First Nations/Huron identity. It's really tough to deal with multiple, conflicting legitimate claims. Similarly, I know black people who are offended to be called African American, and African Americans who don't consider themselves black. There's nothing I can really do to predict what someone wants to be called, so I kinda have to just wait to be corrected and then move on.
posted by klangklangston at 11:42 AM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


It has been mentioned that moderation occurs on a case-by-case basis. Why are you behaving so rigidly in this case?

Moderation occurs on a case-by-case basis. Unilaterally editing a post doesn't so much, it's actually a "basically never" thing, a policy that we've come to from long-experience and community feedback on the subject. So, we've tried to contact the poster involved and we're waiting to hear from them, while acknowledging that the situation is problematic. I understand that this is not the process you want to to follow, but it's the process we follow.

I know that shit can be frustrating but suggesting that the two options are (a) immediately change long-standing practices or (b) be clearly officially endorsing antiziganism is not actually workable as an argument, and ignoring basically everything else in this thread as if by not doing precisely what you want we're just sitting around totally delighted with the situation and declaring it not a problem is just piling extra friction into the whole thing in a way that's not great.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:43 AM on October 15, 2013 [16 favorites]


corb, I get tokenized and asked to be a docent a lot. I'm personally tired of that requested duty and generally I punt when asked. What does the majority do when the minority refuses to take part in the request? Does the majority get angry and flail or does the majority go learn? Why not skip the step of alienating another minority and just go learn?
posted by kalessin at 11:43 AM on October 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


>But, in this specific circumstance, we have at least two people saying that they find it offensive and no people of the ethnicity saying that they prefer it.

This is true, but I'd wager that the amount of people who comment in MetaTalk is more like the tip of the iceberg than the thing itself - there are a lot of people who read but do not follow that closely or don't speak up. People with experience have said that this is a real thing where some people do prefer it and get offended by the word Roma.


Until these people speak up, you are putting theoretical people you imagine exist in front of actual people who have made their feelings known. I'd rather try to not offend the actual people.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:43 AM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


corb, some of those people might be all out of energy on a given day, as well. Sorry. Humans don't have inexhaustible resources and you can't force someone to have a conversation with you that they don't want to have. True, it may be less shitty to do that to someone not actively experiencing marginalization, but still pretty rude.

In general, I think it's an okay rule to call people what they ask to be called, and apologize sincerely for making any inevitable blunders.
posted by Ouisch at 11:43 AM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


We absolutely shouldn't be talking about Irish Travelers and calling them Roma. But if you've got a group of people and you cannot identify whether they are Roma or Irish Travelers, then that by itself is a pretty good indication of why this is an ethnic slur--because it's being applied to some generalized stereotype rather.

'Tinker' was originally a word for someone who traveled around repairing household goods. If someone is literally still going around sharpening knives, I think it's an apt word, but 'tinkers' are not a broad group of people including those who do not actually work as tinkers. That part's offensive.

As a member of another ethnic minority, I want to say that while at least one person involved here is upset and obviously acting like it, I feel like this ought to be a no-brainer. It doesn't matter if some people self-identify that way. At that point, you may use the word to identify people who have explicitly said it is okay to identify them that way. You may not use it to refer to some random person whose opinion on the subject you do not know, because it is widely considered offensive. I don't see why this is a difficult thing to grasp. There is a difference between greeting a friend with "hey nigga" because that's what your mostly-black social group does and using the same word for random people on the street. A difference between identifying as queer and referring to the political actions of a "bunch of queers".

So, yes, I think things like this ought to be deleted. On the other hand, there's no reason not to do the 'we're deleting this but let us know if we can edit it and put it back' kind of thing. People who use ethnic slurs are not all monsters just because it's an ethnic slur. I feel like members of minorities who point out the slurs being used against them generally mean it as "I know you are a decent person so please adjust your behavior a little", and for some reason get taken by a certain proportion of the public as "zomg you just called me a racist". Using an ethnic slur does not make you a racist. Using a slur and then defending its use against members of that minority who tell you that they find it offensive... might be another story.
posted by Sequence at 11:43 AM on October 15, 2013 [14 favorites]


Jesus wept, rtha. Is it ever possible for you to listen to something without trying to figure out how you can possibly pick it apart for an attack?

When you make comments that don't move goalposts and make it clear that you've actually read other comments in the thread and have thought about this stuff for more than five seconds, sure.
posted by rtha at 11:45 AM on October 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


Oh, I should add: I think that Metafilter on the whole is one of the places where I generally feel safer admitting that I am Mexican and female and queer. So obviously a lot of stuff is working well, in the moderation. I'm just saying, I think this is something that could be handled better than it has been.
posted by Sequence at 11:45 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


These include:
- Be prepared to learn.
- Be prepared to learn from folks who may not be gentle.
- Be prepared to be humble in the face of not-gentle-enough correction.


I was with you until learning "from folks who may not be gentle." You see, I don't accept abuse willingly. I will not play Stockholm Syndrome and thank the person beating me with a stick. I can learn just fine without being subject to hostility and "folks who may not be gentle."

I refuse to enable abusers and bullies, no matter if their intentions are good or ill.
posted by chimaera at 11:45 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fun comment from Slarty Bartfast in the original thread.
posted by mediareport at 11:45 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Cortex, I'm really sorry that antiziganism has caused you so much suffering -- this friction you speak of,... It sounds awful.

But you still haven't told me why the post can't be deleted, and a new one posted by the same user without the ethnic slurs? Maybe it's because you don't take antiziganism seriously.
posted by samofidelis at 11:47 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Cortex, what possible damage would occur if the post were deleted until flapjax agreed to edits?
I am not cortex, but:

The actual practical thing under discussion is "does metafilter want to take a more hard line approach to the use of this particular word." So this isn't a one-off but getting close to being a rule/addition to an existing strong guideline.

This change is occurring on a site with several thousand active users.

Changes like this, when they're perceived as hasty, out of the blue, or capricious generate a LOT of ill will.

The mods are also already often perceived as being heavy-handed in their moderation, and the "back in the good ol' days mefi was much better" sentiment is extremely common.

So if you change how moderation happens and start deleting things that wouldn't have been deleted a year ago and editing posts without talking with the poster, you make a lot of people very angry.

You also seem to think that letting a post stand grants it implicit approval. It does not do this! But under your proposed system, every post the mods don't edit or delete would in fact have implicit approval. So not only do people get mad at having their post messed with, now the mods are directly responsible for the wording and nuance of every single post and comment on the site. That's simply untenable.

This post - and your reaction to it! - are not unique. They are instances of a kind of situation that is going to happen repeatedly. Which is why their response can not be as precipitate as you want.

Ok?
posted by kavasa at 11:47 AM on October 15, 2013 [19 favorites]


I refuse to enable abusers and bullies, no matter if their intentions are good or ill.

Then we are at a stalemate. If you use, endorse or defend use of a racial slur, and you expect me to deal with it, then we cannot proceed - your policy is hypocritical.
posted by kalessin at 11:47 AM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


corb, I get tokenized and asked to be a docent a lot. I'm personally tired of that requested duty and generally I punt when asked.

Oh, completely. I'm sorry, I should clarify: usually in ally training that I have been a part of, one of the things that is requested is that people who have already educated themselves and identified as allies should stand up and take the burden on so that members of minority groups do not need to do those things. I noticed that there seem to be a lot of people here who are self-identifying as allies, and think in that case, it would be reasonable to ask that those people, not the minority group members, be the people to step forward with explanations - and not to assume that people were asking the minority group members, of which there are only two and it would be a lot of work even if it weren't tokenization, but rather the broader group of allies.
posted by corb at 11:48 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am extremely surprised by the moderation response to this. I feel like in nearly any other circumstances, the post would have been deleted, then reinstated once flapjax weighed in to OK whatever edits were necessary to prevent an offensive racial slur from being on the front page. I'm really unclear as to why this is being handled differently. We delete otherwise great posts for poor framing all the time, often with a comment that a better-framed post would be fine - so why not this one?
posted by dialetheia at 11:49 AM on October 15, 2013 [18 favorites]


Wait, the filmmakers used the word themselves? So that's why the word was used in the post about the film? This changes everything!!!

(No, it doesn't)
posted by Curious Artificer at 11:49 AM on October 15, 2013


I refuse to enable abusers and bullies, no matter if their intentions are good or ill.

Someone who snaps at you after having endured a lifetime of abuse is not him/herself an abuser. I believe in good manners, I believe being polite is important, but there is a massive, massive, massive difference between 'ill-mannered' and 'abusive'. Nobody's asking you to learn from someone who literally beats you up; they are asking you to be willing to accept criticism from someone who is upset and expresses things in a manner consistent with their emotional state.
posted by Sequence at 11:49 AM on October 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


I refuse to enable abusers and bullies, no matter if their intentions are good or ill.


If you come up to a person and unintentionally use a very offensive term in reference to them, there's a good chance they're not going to sit you down and have a polite conversation on why that word is bad. They might tell you to go fuck yourself because there's only so many times people can throw an offensive term at you until the default reaction becomes hostility. That's not abuse and bullying. That's just a person being fed up and you being the straw that broke the camel's back that day.
posted by griphus at 11:50 AM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


I refuse to enable abusers and bullies, no matter if their intentions are good or ill.

Okay, but people who are justifiably angry because you are contributing to their marginalization are not unilaterally being bullies or abusers, they are probably yelling that you are stepping on their foot and they want you to get off.
posted by Ouisch at 11:50 AM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


But you still haven't told me why the post can't be deleted, and a new one posted by the same user without the ethnic slurs?

I suspect it's really a matter of timing-- the post has already been up for hours, and had been so by the time this was posted. The poster of the original post is on a different time frame than many users, which has made communication less quick than in other cases. I had thought that usually posts/comments aren't deleted after a certain amount of time, but maybe I'm wrong on this?
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:51 AM on October 15, 2013


You also seem to think that letting a post stand grants it implicit approval. It does not do this!

Well, no, but it can and does imply that "gypsy" the way it was used in the post is not bad enough to delete on sight, the way "cunt" or "nigger" used the same way would've been. Now the mods have been honest enough, including goodnewsfortheinsane in the original thread to say that actually, they aren't sure how serious/offensive "gypsy is, so it is understandable that they hadn't deleted the post yet, but with the current meta thread making clear that for several people at least, this is a bad slur (and the original post not getting the attention it may deserve because of the slur), why not delete it now?
posted by MartinWisse at 11:52 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you come up to a person and unintentionally use a very offensive term in reference to them, there's a good chance they're not going to sit you down and have a polite conversation on why that word is bad. They might tell you to go fuck yourself because there's only so many times people can throw an offensive term at you until the default reaction becomes hostility. That's not abuse and bullying. That's just a person being fed up and you being the straw that broke the camel's back that day.

I think this is kind of the whole point of allies, though? Like as a non-trans person I make it a point to engage in the same 101-type conversations with many different people, so that maybe by the time they get to a trans person they will know a bit more. Because as an ally I can grit my teeth and deal with hearing the same dumb shit over and over, since it doesn't affect me directly.

Does being an ally here just mean "getting super pissed off on behalf of people" and that's it?
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:54 AM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


I have problems with letting offensive terms stand on the front page until the moderation policy catches up with it. I have problems with the same in comments. Unfortunately it's one of the aspects of MetaFilter moderation policy that changes, if at all, very very slowly.

So I ended up just having to deal with it and to explain to interested outsiders who note the same problem (that the offensive term allowed to stand is not offensive enough to the moderation policy to delete on site) that that's just how it works here.

And we talk about it again and again on MetaTalk and we move, very slowly, toward letting fewer really offensive terms stand. And that's as good as it's going to get with respect to getting immediate responses on offensive terms that are not offensive to simply everyone.
posted by kalessin at 11:55 AM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I agree that being an ally means you probably have more resources to deal with that stuff, but it does not make you superhuman nor does it give you inexhaustible patience. People are going to be angry sometimes at the injustice they see in the world even if it does not directly impact them, because very likely it still affects people they love and care about, and it impacts all of us as humans, provided we have empathy.

Tone arguments are not an excuse for not educating yourself or trying to be a better person - they are the lazy way out, whether you are responding to an ally or a person within a marginalized group.
posted by Ouisch at 11:56 AM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Whoa whoa whoa, are non-Roma and non-Traveller people in this thread not making a calm, good-faith effort to talk about why we agree with Etrigan and samofidelis? Because it appears to me like we are, and claims to the contrary are confusing.
posted by muddgirl at 11:56 AM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


Does being an ally here just mean "getting super pissed off on behalf of people" and that's it?

I think the only super pissed off person who has been posting comments regularly here is samofidelis and it strikes me that it's possible e has more of a stake in the topic than a run-of-the-mill ally would. I don't think this is something samofidelis has directly addressed. It's just my sense. I think the rest of us various allies have been pretty good at not getting super pissed off.
posted by kalessin at 11:57 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Stop calling members of my ethnic group by this slur.
posted by samofidelis at 10:34 AM on October 15


I'm pretty sure samofidelis is Roma, not an ally.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:00 PM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


And we talk about it again and again on MetaTalk...

Ethics aside, that's a good pragmatic reason for our moderators to enforce rephrasing away from a word that hits some of us as an ethnic slur.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:03 PM on October 15, 2013


I think the rest of us various allies have been pretty good at not getting super pissed off.

Yeah, we're just trying to have a conversation to convince fellow members to not use the word "gypsy" in the future while acknowledging the mods are handling this in a way consistent with both the site's past moderation policies and its commitment to respectful conversation in the future.

Seems to be working ok at the moment.
posted by mediareport at 12:03 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I thought the whole point of this thread was to establish whether gypsy is an offensive term, a disputed term, or totally fine? Sorry if you think it's obvious, but it isn't, not to the majority, and not even to the sensitive social justice types on the internet. There isn't a 40 year old very vocal movement of civil right advocates in the US for this group--in order to get gypsy to the level of consciousness that these other words (like "Redskin", which Indian groups unfortunately still have to remind people about), you have to make the case that people of this ethnicity find the word offensive, and why it is offensive, OR at least point to the case as it is made by others elsewhere.

I could link you to 10,000 arguments for why people shouldn't use other terms, could we see some for this one? If it's that settled, they should exist beyond one anonymous person's insistence. I googled it, and it seems to be under dispute.

Seems to me this is in fact different from other terms for ethnicity, like, say Oriental. It seems more like the word "trans" which some folks like and some folks hate.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:05 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


you have to make the case that people of this ethnicity find the word offensive, and why it is offensive

"Because I, a person of this ethnicity, find it offensive" is pretty much all you're going to get for any such "case." There isn't a mathematical Proof of Offensive Ethnic Terminology with its own Wikipedia page that we can point you to.
posted by Etrigan at 12:08 PM on October 15, 2013 [15 favorites]


I thought the whole point of this thread was to establish whether gypsy is an offensive term, a disputed term, or totally fine?

The point of this thread is that two Mefites have strongly objected to having the term "gypsy" applied to people of their own cultural group and ethnicity. I don't think we need to take a worldwide opinion poll to agree to avoid that word in the future. 10 seconds of googling led me to a very thorough and personal interview with Professor Ian Hancock about why he objects to the term.
posted by muddgirl at 12:11 PM on October 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


The last Metafilter post (which is linked to in one of the earliest comments in this MeTa) is explicitly concerned with the use of the word Gypsy. If you want to find out more about why it's problematic, that might be a good resource. It's definitely what alerted me to the issues with the word and has convinced me to stop using it.
posted by urbanlenny at 12:17 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


""Because I, a person of this ethnicity, find it offensive" is pretty much all you're going to get for any such "case.""

Well, no, it should also (as per gypsy) be associated with a concrete historical harm — which is why "cracker" doesn't really count.
posted by klangklangston at 12:17 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I would say that, in the US right now, the word "gypsy" is akin the word "colored" in 1968 or the word "Oriental" in 1990. There are well-intentioned people who don't know many people find it horribly offensive. We're learning that the word is inappropriate, but we're not there yet. Not everybody knows to avoid it, or why. In Europe, I gather, it's more clearly a slur, but not here. The New York Times (as cited above) still uses "gypsy." That will probably change soon. (It's not like the NYT is on the forefront of social justice issues, but they really do try to be attentive to these things.)

It will probably change here too, and that is good. This thread will help.

But to think that every minute that goes by without the FPP being deleted is somehow increasing the amount of racism on the site is disingenuous. To claim that the moderators are condoning racism -- by following site protocol, and editing the offending word after a day rather than an hour -- is disingenuous. To imply that was was any racist intent in the original usage of the word in the FPP is disingenuous and offensive.

Really, most of us here are on the same page. Assume good faith.
posted by neroli at 12:19 PM on October 15, 2013 [15 favorites]


Fun comment from Slarty Bartfast in the original thread.

Heh. Now I feel like an idiot for saying earlier in this thread I had literally no direct experience with Roma people. Awareness: raised.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:20 PM on October 15, 2013


Martin,

1. Those terms are similar in some ways. They're not identical. For instance, there's no good-faith FPP that was made recently using the n or c words. In part that's because of established site guidelines.
2. Deleting an otherwise good-faith "cool thing on the Internet" post (with, now, a thread's worth of comments) is a big move.
3. Again, remember to apply this approach to all instances in the future. Do you see how this is going to spawn a lot more shitty meta threads?

Basically, adding a word to the nearly-forbidden list is always a big deal that affects a lot of users, and the mods can't just delete good-faith FPPs on a few users' say-sos, no matter how righteous those sos are.
posted by kavasa at 12:21 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


you have to make the case that people of this ethnicity find the word offensive

You don't get to demand that people "sell you," or even "prove to you," the pain language causes them and the marginalization they personally experience as connected to that language. This is not the place for either marketing or scientism. There is, however, ample proof of systemic discrimination and ethnic cleansing against people in this group for anyone who cares to go looking.

This is a social request. You either trust that people are hurt by the word and choose to be careful with that language in the future, or you don't and you continue to use any word you want and deal with the social consequences of that.

Asking the site moderators to treat this particular term as an ethnic slur is a pretty low-risk proposition for those of us not personally impacted by it, but it likely will make a large positive difference to those who are.
posted by Ouisch at 12:22 PM on October 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


Well, no, it should also (as per gypsy) be associated with a concrete historical harm — which is why "cracker" doesn't really count.

Yeah, "cracker" being called a "racist slur" just brings to mind that whole Louis CK routine about being white. "Damn, reminding me of when I used to own land and people. Ruined my day."

As to PROOF that "gypsy" is offensive, I dunno, how about we accept that a) this is a word that has demonstrably upset people, both from within the group it refers to and without, b) there are other, less provoking words that can be used, and c) it's no skin off our collective nose to make that switch. Why do we need to break this down and make some huge case to get people to just be more aware and polite?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:22 PM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


To imply that was was any racist intent in the original usage of the word in the FPP is disingenuous and offensive.

Intent doesn't matter, and bringing it up is disingenuous. I don't think it's necessary or helpful to audit samofidelis's thoughts and feelings in this case.
posted by muddgirl at 12:23 PM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Okay, but people who are justifiably angry because you are contributing to their marginalization are not unilaterally being bullies or abusers, they are probably yelling that you are stepping on their foot and they want you to get off.

I take no umbrage at someone shouting "Get off my foot!" if I'm standing on it. I take no umbrage at someone saying "that term is really offensive to me, you should stop using it" as well.

I know many people don't operate in good faith. But someone who assumes I'm not operating in good faith is actually not operating in good faith themselves, and I'll gladly ignore them. I have plenty of people in my life who teach me valuable things all the time. And when I feel bad about something I do it's because I've come to an understanding of what I did wrong, not because someone told me I ought to.
posted by chimaera at 12:24 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm kind of really surprised there are so many Americans in this thread protesting that we don't have Roma people here so it's totally understandable that we don't understand the controversy and we used to dress up as them for Halloween (?) and could someone explain this to us.

No, it's not the same populationwise and prejudice wise as Europe but we absolutely have Roma people in the US and protesting ignorance is just not okay. If you have never heard of this, okay, but here we are. Also, this bit about Metafilter being a "predominantly American" site keeps coming up lately and is not a good basis for ignorance/America centric thinking either.

Here is a US embassy article on the Roma, that covers a community in the Bronx, and the (mis)use of the term gypsy.

If you are still feeling very removed from the whole topic of Roma culture/use of the word gypsy but still really wanna say gypsy cab or whatever, go watch Latcho Drom, topic of the FPP, or several of Emir Kusturica's films, especially Time of the Gypsies. (That is what it is called, and it was made in 1988, which as I understand is before the controversy around the word gained traction and no it doesn't make sense to go back and rename things).

The way the world has treated gypsies is absolutely shattering. If you just think of it as "Halloween costumes," please read a bit and watch a bit and think again.

I am American and non Roma, btw.
posted by sweetkid at 12:24 PM on October 15, 2013 [15 favorites]


You know, as much as it would personally bother me more, I'm going to put in a request that people here instead use "paki" for their just-saying hypothetical musings, because I have to imagine that black members of this site get awfully tired of that other slur being used for everyone's facile rhetorical comparisons. Oh, wait, I don't have to imagine it.

That word appears in 38 posts and 2248 comments to date, with its more acceptable variation clocking 13 posts and 447 comments. For a word that is in "our 'pretty much never okay' category", we sure do like saying it around here. "Paki" only shows up in 1 post and and 244 comments. Well, 245 now, but, still, a ways to go. I know y'all need a new slur to beat into the ground to show how bad slurs are, because it's impossible to make that incredibly complex point without using one or more of them, so I guess I'm volunteering the Desi. Sorry, guys.
posted by Errant at 12:25 PM on October 15, 2013 [15 favorites]


that's okay Errant as a fellow Desi I support that.

I too dislike "what if we said that about BLACK people because 1) it kind of assumes a bunch of people in your intended audience are not black 2) it is a really tired/not really exact comparison" 3) assumes people don't say that about BLACK like all the time still.
posted by sweetkid at 12:28 PM on October 15, 2013 [14 favorites]


Basically, adding a word to the nearly-forbidden list is always a big deal that affects a lot of users, and the mods can't just delete good-faith FPPs on a few users' say-sos, no matter how righteous those sos are.

For the record, I'm not demanding deletion or even the mods' editing of the FPP without giving flapjax a chance to weigh in. I just wanted to start a conversation about it so as A) not to force more policing of that thread, and 2) to ask the community to maybe use that word less in circumstances where it can totally be avoided.
posted by Etrigan at 12:28 PM on October 15, 2013 [16 favorites]


As to PROOF that "gypsy" is offensive, I dunno, how about we accept that a) this is a word that has demonstrably upset people, both from within the group it refers to and without, b) there are other, less provoking words that can be used, and c) it's no skin off our collective nose to make that switch. Why do we need to break this down and make some huge case to get people to just be more aware and polite?

Wouldn't all of these also apply to cracker, regardless of whether or not it is used as a slur against a group people feel have too much power to be offended?
posted by corb at 12:29 PM on October 15, 2013


Which, I want to emphasize, is totally okay and a good use of Metatalk, Etrigan. I do appreciate you starting this thread as a way to broach the subject, and I hear ya.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:30 PM on October 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


Why do we need to break this down and make some huge case to get people to just be more aware and polite?

Because that's how social change happens. Are you still saying Native American? Many Indians prefer Indian. Black people in America prefer to be called Black, in most cases. I know this because they write articles about it and say so on twitter or tumblr or a bar and in works of fiction and people talk about it and I read it. There's no Word Pope telling us what words are hurtful yet, unfortunately. Communities like this one discuss it and figure out what we agree on. Attacking the very act of discourse that allows us to figure out which words are hurtful and why is anti-rational, and moreover, useless. Man, we're going to talk about it even more if people keep demanding that the voices calling for it to be banned should be unquestioned! Nothing makes people ask more questions than a moratorium on questions.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:32 PM on October 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


I don't use the word cracker and I'll go ahead and continue not to use it. So.
posted by sweetkid at 12:32 PM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Same here. I don't use it, and I hardly ever see it used except in hypotheticals like this. At the same time, I recognize that my hurt feelings over the actual use of "cracker" are highly survivable since I am not being denied jobs or housing or education, nor do I have a higher chance of being imprisoned unjustly, for being white.
posted by Ouisch at 12:33 PM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'd never support a requirement of "proof" that a term is offensive before stopping myself from using it. Hell, I'm in an argument a discussion right now with a co-worker about his casual use of the term "douchebag." I find it offensive and insulting to women (especially women customers who might overhear him); he responds by presenting me with women who aren't bothered by the term. About the best I can hope for is he stops using it *around me*.

Metafilter is that "around me." If folks in this community - even a handful of folks - are offended by "gypsy," it's easy to stop using it, and we all should. That those offended can make a good case (as the ambassador of the Romani to the United Nations does in muddgirl's interesting link) is useful but not necessary.
posted by mediareport at 12:34 PM on October 15, 2013


I don't say Gypsy ever by the way and am totally fine with using Roma as a default if that's a consensus among folks who know stuff about it.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:34 PM on October 15, 2013


One of the big robots in Pacific Rim was called "Gipsy Danger". What was up with that?
posted by smackfu at 12:35 PM on October 15, 2013


I prefer the term Honky American.
posted by klangklangston at 12:35 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wouldn't all of these also apply to cracker, regardless of whether or not it is used as a slur against a group people feel have too much power to be offended?

That's not what this thread is about. If you want to have that discussion maybe you can do it somewhere else and stop derailing this conversation with your endless hypotheticals.
posted by elizardbits at 12:35 PM on October 15, 2013 [24 favorites]


Wouldn't all of these also apply to cracker, regardless of whether or not it is used as a slur against a group people feel have too much power to be offended?

So don't use the word 'cracker.' There's really no reason at all we need to continue debating what makes white people feel bad in this thread.
posted by griphus at 12:35 PM on October 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


Wouldn't all of these also apply to cracker

For reasons already stated. Although I don't think anyone outside of Sanford & Son re-runs even says "cracker" anymore, if it bothers you, I'll make a note to continue not saying it.

Because that's how social change happens.

Oh, I'm totally down with discussion, and I appreciate your point. What I'm not down with is the usual goal-post moving that usually comes along with "prove to me I should care", but that's not necessary as a part of a great discussion on vocabulary, it's true.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:36 PM on October 15, 2013


Although I don't think anyone outside of Sanford & Son

Hey now let's not forget the inimitable Curtis Mayfield.
posted by elizardbits at 12:37 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Then we are at a stalemate. If you use, endorse or defend use of a racial slur, and you expect me to deal with it, then we cannot proceed - your policy is hypocritical.

I do not use, endorse, or defend the use of slurs. I do not expect you to "deal with it." Furthermore, you seemed to undertake some sort of logical path from my statement to imply that I do, in fact, endorse or defend the use of slurs. I simply said I do not tolerate abuse from someone, even if the anger underlying it is justified.

I contend that you are arguing in bad faith by calling my policy hypocritical, because you inferred endorsement and defense of slurs, which was beyond the bounds of my statement.
posted by chimaera at 12:37 PM on October 15, 2013


Wouldn't all of these also apply to cracker, regardless of whether or not it is used as a slur against a group people feel have too much power to be offended?

Is there a point to introducing "cracker" to this discussion or are you just stirring the shit to see which turd floats to the top?
posted by octobersurprise at 12:38 PM on October 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


I have been known to use derivatives of "cracker" in fits of pique (and usually a little self-hatingly, as caucasian family has often identified and behaved on the trashier sides of "white"). I usually keep it to my own Facebook or my own blog and keep it off of Meta* and other places that really value good faith discussion.
posted by kalessin at 12:38 PM on October 15, 2013


Is there a point to introducing "cracker" to this discussion

I dunno but it's making me kind of hungry.
posted by sweetkid at 12:39 PM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


"cracker" being called a "racist slur" just brings to mind that whole Louis CK routine about being white. "Damn, reminding me of when I used to own land and people. Ruined my day."

For the record, "cracker" generally referred to the whites who didn't own land and people. That was kinda the point.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 12:39 PM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Although I don't think anyone outside of Sanford & Son re-runs even says "cracker" anymore, if it bothers you, I'll make a note to continue not saying it.

Well, the reason it spawned a MeTa in the first place is because it was used, on Metafilter. I'm glad that you don't use it, but it has been used. And it's relevant to this thread, because, again, while I am really sympathetic to not using slurs once I figure out what is actually a slur, I think that people claiming that any time a group complains about a term it is not used anymore and so everyone should stop talking about what the right words are is really, really ignoring Metafilter history here.
posted by corb at 12:40 PM on October 15, 2013


I contend that you are arguing in bad faith by calling my policy hypocritical, because you inferred endorsement and defense of slurs, which was beyond the bounds of my statement.

Okay. Sorry. I await your response to the other 3 commenters who responded to the exact same line in your original comment.
posted by kalessin at 12:40 PM on October 15, 2013


For those saying that 'allies' in this thread are doing a really good job at calm conversation - the question 'but what about allies' seemed to come up in response to the statement by someone who is clearly an ally and not Roma that
- "it's not actually my responsibility to find replacement words for you for those that make use of slurs. I feel sure this is something you can do on your own."
And then the conversation became
- 'but why can't you?'
- 'because when people are very offended they don't have to help you not insult them'
- 'but you aren't hurt and offended, you're telling me that other people find it offensive. If you feel the responsibility to come out and make me aware of that, why can't you also take the time to add some alternatives?'


Kind of like how my manager used to say 'don't bring up a problem without a solution'. Not a hard and fast rule, but far more likely to be well received and actually get acted on.
posted by jacalata at 12:40 PM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Are you still saying Native American? Many Indians prefer Indian.

In Canada the term of first resort is now First Nations. Among other virtues, the term reminds us that (for example) the Mohawk and Haida peoples are culturally distinct. Really culturally distinct. The main thing they have in common is having been colonized by white Canadians.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:41 PM on October 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


I think that people claiming that any time a group complains about a term it is not used anymore and so everyone should stop talking about what the right words are is really, really ignoring Metafilter history here.

I really think you need to re-read my response because this is not even close to what I was saying.

Elsewise I am wholly uninterested in discussing the etymology of "cracker".
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:43 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


jacalata, I get you but I am unable to determine whether you're saying that to the "allies", the majority or both groups.
posted by kalessin at 12:44 PM on October 15, 2013


Whereas coming into a thread about prejudice towards minorities and saying BUT WHAT ABOUT THE WHITE PEOPLE is fucking par for the course.
posted by elizardbits at 12:44 PM on October 15, 2013 [41 favorites]


there is seriously no point to be talking about what about "cracker" in this thread. This is not that thread.
posted by sweetkid at 12:45 PM on October 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


I seem to be getting mentioned in this, so I should speak up. First off, I am not a Rom, although I can speak passable Romani and work with many different Romani people in Europe. I have posted before on the use of the terms Gyspy or Roma in referring to people. And I personally know Flapjaxx from way back in the Late Stone Age, when we both played primitive musical instruments together for money in far away, long lost Amereeka. (Jamaica Plain to be exact.) If you think Flapjaxx is some kind of anti-tziganist... well, he ain't. He ain't by a long shot. Von si yek baro, patshivalo manushen taj butfeder lacho bashaldar mai dzanalas ande kodo bari Lumea, te del o svunto devla te na phendeav o cacipen andar mo puro ilo! If you can figure that out... that is Romani ... then we can vakeran.

First off: Gypsy is the English language term. (I wish Languagehat were still here...) If you are speaking English and you say "You GYPSY!" you are probably saying something declarative along the lines of "You Norwegian!" "Gypsy" simply doesn't have enough of a history as an insulting epithet in American English beyond "I gypped him." Now, if you are speaking Romanian or Hungarian and you call your neighbor "Tsigan!".. well, them's fighting words. But if you shout them at the brown skinned fellow walking his donkey down your street it is more likely to mean "Hey, come over and take away my trash, Mr. Tsigan!" If you want to effectively insult this brown skinned fellow ... there are far more nasty, genital-oriented words you can use in Romanian or Hungarian.

So, if the problem is the existence of "anti-tziganism"... what language are we referring to? French? Because the word Gypsy over in Francophonia is tzigane as well as variations of gitane and manouche and .... so since when is English a dialect of French? (1066?)

So, the question is... are you actually being insulted by hearing the English word "Gypsy"... or are you linking it to the use of the words in other languages where active hate crimes against Roma are more built into the culture than in the English language world, particularly America and Canada?
posted by zaelic at 12:46 PM on October 15, 2013 [25 favorites]


I was told I wasn't allowed to point out that certain remarks were antiziganist in the original thread, though I had done so matter of factly and rather politely, so I will do so here in the same manner I would otherwise do there:

It never would have occurred to me to call these people Gypseys (or Roma, or whatever -- my inlaws referred to them by their caste name which now escapes me) until just now.

There is no 'whatever' ethnic group. We do not say 'whatever' to an ethnic group or culture. This is an issue freighted with a lot of baggage, and the idea that people concerned about antiziganism are some kind of PC police is a concept that should have expired a long time ago.

Trivializing these issues is also antiziganism.
posted by samofidelis at 12:47 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Kind of like how my manager used to say 'don't bring up a problem without a solution'

Bunny Ultramod isn't anyone's manager. I think his statement is absolutely true - I guess I am being grouped in Team Ally here, and I have never called anything a 'gypsy cab', so why would I know what you should call it? Looking at the wikipedia entry for that term, it looks like it's an unlicensed or illegal cab, so that would be my suggestion.

Do you see what I'm saying? I don't think it's an ally's job to hold anyone's hand through the very simple process of saying exactly what you mean rather than using a slur to say it.
posted by muddgirl at 12:47 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


My point is that this thread exists because there is confusion over where Gypsy stands on the spectrum of offensive terms. Aren't those the goalposts? People keep bringing up analogous terms to see if they are similar. I agree that is distracting. The only relevant information to whether the word is offensive is (in my mediocre opinion) A. Groups that represent Roma people condemning the term. B. Individuals who understand the issues connected with this group condemning the term (including members here like samofidelis). C. An etymology of the word that reveals its roots in racism and use by racists.

Plenty of which information is being gathered here, so thanks! Interesting stuff. Accusing people who ask questions of making tone arguments and accusing the mods "condoning antiziganism" in allowing this conversation to take place though, that's just counterproductive.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:48 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


OK, BU might be someone's manager, and I got that backward, so restating it:

BU isn't the employee of anyone in this discussion.
posted by muddgirl at 12:48 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of the big robots in Pacific Rim was called "Gipsy Danger". What was up with that?

It sucked, and was a big cringe-inducing turd in the middle of an otherwise thoroughly excellent movie, is what.
posted by KathrynT at 12:49 PM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


I await your response to the other 3 commenters who responded to the exact same line in your original comment.

OK, but by my count there were only 2 that I had not commented on.

Someone who snaps at you after having endured a lifetime of abuse is not him/herself an abuser. I believe in good manners, I believe being polite is important, but there is a massive, massive, massive difference between 'ill-mannered' and 'abusive'.

Indeed there is a massive difference between ill-mannered and abusive. I contend, for example, that in this thread samofidelis crossed that line when they said "Forget it. Just go be bigots, I guess." It was by all means mildly abusive, but it is clear that "go be bigots, I guess" was intended in no other way than to be hurtful.

If you come up to a person and unintentionally use a very offensive term in reference to them, there's a good chance they're not going to sit you down and have a polite conversation on why that word is bad. They might tell you to go fuck yourself because there's only so many times people can throw an offensive term at you until the default reaction becomes hostility. That's not abuse and bullying. That's just a person being fed up and you being the straw that broke the camel's back that day.

Their anger is entirely justified -- but being subject to a disproportionate amount of anger simply for being "the straw that broke the camel's back" is abuse whether it's a person lashing out after having suffered abuse and mistreatment or whether it's a mom who finally reached her boiling point with a toddler. Intent DOES matter. Mens rea DOES matter. Just because someone can't avenge themselves upon previous abusers does not justify attacking me beyond the scale of my transgression.
posted by chimaera at 12:50 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


One of the big robots in Pacific Rim was called "Gipsy Danger". What was up with that?

Two answers from here:

1) "The Jaeger draws that half of her name from the de Havilland Gipsy engine. It's intended as an article of WW2-era nostalgia."

Kind of esoteric, but OK.

2) "In the original screenplay, Gipsy Danger was named after a pinup decal featuring a "buxom Gipsy riding a bomb"; its pilots were referred to as "Roma 1" or "Roma 2".

What the hell?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:53 PM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you are speaking English and you say "You GYPSY!" you are probably saying something declarative along the lines of "You Norwegian!"

Google "gypsy."
posted by sweetkid at 12:53 PM on October 15, 2013


zaelic, I'm trying really hard not to get spittle on my monitor, so I'll just ask this:

Are you seriously telling me that your professional academic opinion is that I am not really offended by a thing I have said offends me?
posted by Etrigan at 12:54 PM on October 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


God forbid anyone be called a bigot!
posted by muddgirl at 12:54 PM on October 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


Sweetkid: Yes, I know. Try googling "Jew" as well. Doesn't mean thye word is off limits.
posted by zaelic at 12:55 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't think it's an ally's job to hold anyone's hand through the very simple process of saying exactly what you mean rather than using a slur to say it.

But if someone truly didn't know that? Here in NYC people call the black cabs 'gypsy cabs' all the damn time, and they honest-to-god would be shocked to discover it's a slur. If you come across someone who says it and tell them to go fuck themselves for using a slur... I mean, why do that when it is likely that they have no idea it's offensive?
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:56 PM on October 15, 2013


What the hell?

The giant nuclear-powered robot from Russia had the same root word in its name as the location of one of the worst meltdown disasters in history.

I mean at least the Australian one wasn't called AYERS ROCKBOT or something.
posted by griphus at 12:56 PM on October 15, 2013


"go be bigots, I guess" was intended in no other way than to be hurtful

I read it as a tired and resigned quip by someone who has had too much.

I also read your taking it personally as hurtfully meant for you as a repeated behavior I see in a lot of people who get unduly offended by criticism (especially about wording and word choice around minorities who have suffered a history of oppression). This is a mechanic that is oft-discussed on Metatalk so I won't belabor it except to say that taking unmeant offense is also on the not-assuming-good-faith spectrum (something you seem to be pretty good at leveling accusations at others about).

does not justify attacking me beyond the scale of my transgression.

As an activist and activist-ally, I get on the wrong end of this kind of anger all the time. My response? I have a therapist. I bite my tongue and I get through the hard part and I go bitchcomplain/vent to my therapist and I chalk it up as a hard lesson well earned.

I don't complain about it and I don't call it abuse. Because I know that I have it (generally) better than the minority that just blew up at me. And it'll average out. And I won't (as in I am not interested in doing so) contribute to the problem by blowing up right back at the minority who blew up at me.

That seems to me to be ungracious.
posted by kalessin at 12:56 PM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


One of the big robots in Pacific Rim was called "Gipsy Danger". What was up with that?

Named after the de Havilland Gipsy airplane engine, apparently. Not sure what the etiquette is on using/not using the historical namesake, I've seen some fans straight up rename it, others use something like "G*psy" to indicate they're aware it's a slur but it's still the thing's proper name, and others completely ignore it. I for one am fond of the alternative name "Gringo Menace" someone coined in a movie recap. I think I've also seen fanfic writers call it "Lady Danger" instead.

But the post in question is not about the Gipsy engines, and the movie's title doesn't include "Gypsies," so I don't think it's comparable. I'm hoping flapjax will be amenable to having his post edited to reflect both the common American understanding of "gypsy," and how that understanding is problematic. Would that be an acceptable solution and/or community guideline? To acknowledge the word's common and historical usages when necessary, but to otherwise use Romani, Roma, or Traveller as appropriate?
posted by yasaman at 12:58 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you come across someone who says it and tell them to go fuck themselves... I mean, why do that when it is likely that they have no idea it's offensive?

What? No one told anyone to go fuck themselves here. I'm really really confused.
posted by muddgirl at 1:01 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Gypsy" simply doesn't have enough of a history as an insulting epithet in American English beyond "I gypped him."

Whoa, that is not my experience at all. Again, maybe this is a regional thing but as nadawi suggests, you can Google "gypsy driveway" and find horrifying stuff originating in the US.

Some time ago I heard on the 6 o'clock local news an announcer saying that a string of crimes had been committed by people who were "allegedly Gypsies." I don't know, is that enough? I do think simultaneously, there are people around the US who have no idea that "Gypsy" refers to anything other than some semi-mythical character in a movie and a lot more people who have a little bit of this impression and therefore can't bring themselves to take this term/problems with this term seriously.
posted by BibiRose at 1:01 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mean, once you learn that it's offensive, just stop using that word. I used to call things "gay" that were just frustrating and stupid. Now I call them frustrating or stupid. I didn't put on a big production of not knowing what I meant to say when I called something "gay." I just stopped.
posted by muddgirl at 1:02 PM on October 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


Von si yek baro, patshivalo manushen taj butfeder lacho bashaldar mai dzanalas ande kodo bari Lumea, te del o svunto devla te na phendeav o cacipen andar mo puro ilo! If you can figure that out... that is Romani ... then we can vakeran.

I don't speak Romani because some of my family were murdered by einsatzgruppen and the survivors had to arrange a very complicated system of interlocking lies under which they lived in Britain, where they reached a social equilibrium that allowed them to escape any substantial persecution (it was decided that my grandfather, for example, was not a Rom, although his brother was -- same parents, both of them). There are huge gaps in what I know about our family. Can't be helped; that is how history happened. So. I have no idea if I want to vakeran with you, but I guess you've proven some kind of bonafides.

To be honest, I could give a shit if someone called just me by an ethnic slur, really; I enjoy a ton of social privilege. But I suppose you could say that I'm concerned about others who would take offense. I don't like to talk about this because it's personal history and it's not germane. What is germane is that there is an ethnic slur on the front page of Metafilter, and people who don't know what the Porajmos was are trying to tell me that it's not a big deal.
posted by samofidelis at 1:02 PM on October 15, 2013 [18 favorites]


Doesn't mean thye word is off limits.

The word to describe a single person of jewish origin? Okay. Pretty sure it would be unacceptable if someone called a $_thing a JEW $_thing. For example: people who think it is funny to call New York JEW YORK.

Do you really not understand how the meaning of words differs depending on the speaker and their intent?
posted by elizardbits at 1:03 PM on October 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


Sure muddgirl, but you had to learn it was offensive somehow.

Obviously anyone in this particular thread has the resources available to do that, cause they're here. But there seems to be a pervasive assumption that anyone who uses a bad word is being willfully offensive.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:04 PM on October 15, 2013


One of the big robots in Pacific Rim was called "Gipsy Danger". What was up with that?

In the US and some other English speaking countries, some parents have actually named their daughters Gypsy so...

2) "In the original screenplay, Gipsy Danger was named after a pinup decal featuring a "buxom Gipsy riding a bomb"; its pilots were referred to as "Roma 1" or "Roma 2".

What the hell?

Name it after the damn rotary engine they put into the Pemberton-Billings Zepplin fighters. Then we'd have a giant robot called "Gnome Danger" and it would be awesomified.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:04 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Etrigan... my opinion is anything but academic. I am sure you can be offended by a lot of things. It just seems that I don't understand why a lot of my acquaintances - who loudly may self identify as variously Gypsy/Cigany/Tsigan/Yiftoi and on some occasions and situations as "Rom" don't seem to express themselves as vehemently as you do on the question of how badly they percieve certain of these ethnonyms to be insulting.

I have written about some of my friends - Ukrainian Gypsies - with whom I can only communicate Romani - do not like being called "Roma." They resreve that term for a different group of what they would call "Gypsies" or "Cigany". But if the fiddler tells me this in Romani... then he uses the word "Rome."
posted by zaelic at 1:04 PM on October 15, 2013


I think the confusion about the mod policy here is that, while they've stated editing a post is off-limits, they delete posts all the time. It seems to be no big deal, even if there's already comments in the thread.

It's not clear why they're not just deleting if they agree in principle that the post is problematic because it contains an ethnic slur, which – unless you're quoting something – is understood to be not acceptable on MetaFilter.

Maybe if a mod explains why this is a case in which simple deletion isn't an option, a lot of the rancor will die down.
posted by ignignokt at 1:05 PM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Incidentally, I really, really doubt Flapjax is an antiziganist, FWIW.
posted by ignignokt at 1:06 PM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]




Sweetkid: Yes, I know. Try googling "Jew" as well. Doesn't mean thye word is off limits.


That's moving goalposts. What you said was that calling someone a gypsy is as neutral as calling them Norwegian. It's not.
posted by sweetkid at 1:07 PM on October 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


I tend to agree, ignignokt.
posted by samofidelis at 1:08 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Obviously anyone in this particular thread has the resources available to do that, cause they're here. But there seems to be a pervasive assumption that anyone who uses a bad word is being willfully offensive.

That is not an impression I get from this thread at all. Personally, this thread has been very educational to me about the Roma, travelers, and the word "gypsy", and I never thought that anyone was calling me willfully offensive for not knowing the whole history prior to this morning.

I feel like we're getting into another intent argument, where we have to prove that Flapjax intended to be offensive to say that a word is offensive. We don't. Racism or bigotry more often stems from ignorance than from intent. Doesn't change the fact that it is racist or bigoted.
posted by muddgirl at 1:08 PM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


Sweetkid, I think zaelic's point was that if you intended to be insulting by calling someone a gypsy you would be making a nonsense statement. Not that it isn't used as an insult. Also zaelic is not from America, I don't think, so may generally not be aware that it is used as a weird insult mostly unconnected to ethnicity.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:09 PM on October 15, 2013


samofidelis: “Cortex, I'm really sorry that antiziganism has caused you so much suffering -- this friction you speak of,... It sounds awful.”

Man, that is a pretty cutting and hurtful way to talk to somebody else. It's hard, because in saying that I feel like I'm making a tone argument when I say that, even though I think it's true.

So I guess I should say that I think samofidelis is largely right. I agree that we should default to deleting posts with this ethnic slur in them. I don't see how anything could be lost if we did so. I think there are a lot of distractions in this thread – yes, we don't need to talk about "cracker" here, but we also don't need to talk about "eskimo." It doesn't matter that some portion of this people has adopted the slur as their own; it's still a slur, and us outsiders ought not to use it. And there is very little lost if Metafilter moves to a policy of deleting posts immediately with such slurs and then asking that they be re-formulated without them.

That said – samofidelis, I also believe you are missing part of what's going on here. You asked a question:

samofidelis: “It has been mentioned that moderation occurs on a case-by-case basis. Why are you behaving so rigidly in this case? Is it because you don't understand the seriousness of this problem? Surely you've had time in the several hours since the post first went up to acquaint yourself With these issues.”

What you see as "rigidity" is careful, measured caution. And it's a caution borne of many years of moderating a large internet community. I appreciate the fact that you believe that it's absolutely imperative that a slur be removed from the front page immediately, and you can't see any harm that would come if it were just summarily deleted, but I can think of a few reasons why one might want to keep it up long enough for us to have this conversation.

The main one is this: Metafilter is a community. We talk about things. The fact that we have conversations about policy like this one is an essential thing about how we do things here. It's something the mods allow and encourage.

I appreciate that it seems simple enough to just flatly delete a post. But that could easily set a dangerous precedent and lead to some confusion about how things work around here. For one thing, it might lead people to believe that the mods just reacted because someone was offended, rather than because there was a legitimate reason do. I think the mods want to have the community's weight behind them; and they deserve to have that.

If this thread were deleted immediately and without discussion, there'd be long, drawn-out battles, and certain people would probably find themselves feeling that they'd been overruled by fiat. But if the mods leave this up long enough for us to discuss this, let flapjax authorize a change or choose to delete and repost, and then come to a broader consensus on site policy, that can be a huge thing for them to stand on. They can delete posts containing this word instantly and confidently, knowing that we all had a community discussion about it, we all thought about what the word means, and we all came to at least some sort of consensus about it.

Working to drag the community along like that seems utterly essential if we're going to preserve it, I think. I know it may seem tempting to say "no, you all shouldn't even talk about this, it's obvious that it should be deleted without discussion," but – well, we need to work to bring people along and make sure we're on the same page. That's the only way to make progress here, to improve the ways people interact with each other. And it's also the only way to preserve a community that is actually collaborative and cooperative.

(Mind you, I don't know exactly what the mods are thinking – they generally speak for themselves here, obviously – but these seem like good reasons to me.)

One last little thing:

Slarty Bartfast: “It never would have occurred to me to call these people Gypseys (or Roma, or whatever -- my inlaws referred to them by their caste name which now escapes me) until just now.”

samofidelis: “There is no 'whatever' ethnic group. We do not say 'whatever' to an ethnic group or culture. This is an issue freighted with a lot of baggage, and the idea that people concerned about antiziganism are some kind of PC police is a concept that should have expired a long time ago.”

I'm pretty sure Slarty Bartfast really had no idea what to call this ethnic group. And I'll be completely honest – neither do I. I have had people say it's offensive to call people "Roma," too. I'm not making excuses for the g-word, which I avoid, and which of course I think is generally inappropriate. I'm just wondering what word to use. Maybe none is appropriate across the board.
posted by koeselitz at 1:11 PM on October 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


I think zaelic's point was that if you intended to be insulting by calling someone a gypsy you would be making a nonsense statement.

Right, but it's a factually incorrect statement to say that the word gypsy is not used as a slur in Europe. I heard it used in this manner many, many times, at least 50% of the time not even towards a member of the related group. There is no nonsense to the statement at all.
posted by elizardbits at 1:12 PM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


zaelic's point was that if you intended to be insulting by calling someone a gypsy you would be making a nonsense statement.

If that is zaelic's point, it's a nonsense point because it's not true that gypsy is a neutral term like Norwegian. Also, switching focus to "Jew" is moving goalposts.
posted by sweetkid at 1:12 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


it's not true that gypsy is a neutral term like Norwegian.

Well that is the very thing under dispute, he says it is a totally neutral term and both of you making opposite statements about it isn't very useful.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:15 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe if a mod explains why this is a case in which simple deletion isn't an option, a lot of the rancor will die down.

My feeling is mostly that the post is fine except for the seemingly-well-intentioned use of a word that's nonetheless problematic in other contexts, and that we've already reached out to the poster about amending that the way we normally handle this stuff. Deleting it is basically switching to a different process after the process has already started; I think it makes more sense to stay on the same track we're already one, which is one already aimed at amending the situation in this specific instance. In the mean time, people are having a good discussion about the the larger general case, and I think that's the more important and more useful-for-the-long-term thing.

Again, I totally understand that not everybody agrees with that choice. I'm not even of the position that they're wrong to disagree, I just also don't think that it's a clearcut situation where that alternative process is better, either, and personally I'd rather see this one through. I can appreciate the frustration with that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:15 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Etrigan... my opinion is anything but academic. I am sure you can be offended by a lot of things. It just seems that I don't understand why a lot of my acquaintances - who loudly may self identify as variously Gypsy/Cigany/Tsigan/Yiftoi and on some occasions and situations as "Rom" don't seem to express themselves as vehemently as you do on the question of how badly they percieve certain of these ethnonyms to be insulting.

Emphasis added to point out that you are using a tone argument against someone who has tried very hard not to be a bomb-thrower in this discussion.

You know people who aren't insulted by the word "Gypsy." I know people who aren't insulted by it either. Hell, I find myself resorting to it in most discussions of my ethnicity. And yet, the existence of people here on MetaFilter who are offended by its casual use would seem to indicate that maybe it should be a term that the community here on MetaFilter should be more aware causes offense to some of their fellow MeFites.

And if you think that "Gypsy" is as neutral a term as "Norwegian" in the U.S., then you have not been exposed to some of the conversations I have.
posted by Etrigan at 1:16 PM on October 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


I heard it used in this manner many, many times, at least 50% of the time not even towards a member of the related group.

In English? Or in another language?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:16 PM on October 15, 2013


Screenwriter Travis Beacham's response to concerns about the use of the name Gipsy Danger in the robot monster wars movie:

Candidly, it was meant to be a nod to the de Havilland engine. The pejorative context isn’t a usage I’ve had much cultural experience with. But I certainly wont presume to tell anyone what should or shouldn’t offend them. I can only apologize for my ignorance, offer my assurances that it was not our intent to propagate any hurtful stereotypes, and promise to be more careful in the future.

That's about as unambiguously an apology as I have ever seen.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:16 PM on October 15, 2013 [41 favorites]



it's not true that gypsy is a neutral term like Norwegian.

Well that is the very thing under dispute, he says it is a totally neutral term and both of you making opposite statements about it isn't very useful.


why on earth is that not useful?
posted by sweetkid at 1:18 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I see that we are veering toward analyzing a person's feelings and trying to determine whether those feelings are spurious or not. Can we not engage in this rhetorical gambit please?
posted by kalessin at 1:18 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Deleting it is basically switching to a different process after the process has already started

So? I don't understand why that narrow procedural concern outweighs the harm of having an ethnic slur on the front page.
posted by dialetheia at 1:18 PM on October 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


In English? Or in another language?

In English, from people who speak English as a first language, towards Moroccans, Algerians, and North Africans in general, as well as towards the Andaluz. Occasionally towards the Euskara as well, oddly enough.
posted by elizardbits at 1:19 PM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


In English? Or in another language?

I've heard it used as such in English, in the US and the UK. Does that count?
posted by rtha at 1:19 PM on October 15, 2013


Thanks that's informative.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:19 PM on October 15, 2013



between being kind of a jerk in here and repeatedly sending us crappy WHY ARE YOU PRO-RACISM contact form stuff this morning

Someone complaining about a racist term is a jerk here on metafilter ? That's totally unacceptable, you should have sorted this out in five minutes. You don't though and here we are, watching the guy get increasingly upset whilst goading him about getting upset.
posted by sgt.serenity at 1:20 PM on October 15, 2013 [15 favorites]



I've heard it used as such in English, in the US and the UK. Does that count?


So have I. Particularly about the people (usually women) who come up to you with signs in the NYC subway that say they don't have money for food, don't talk and point to their mouths. They are usually carrying small children. No idea if these people are from Roma communities or not, but I have heard them referred to as 'fucking gypsies" a. lot.
posted by sweetkid at 1:22 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


it often takes the form of ridiculing or mocking Roma for what is seen as 'folksiness,' and a belief that their culture is essentially an artifact to be consumed.

I learned here, on Metafilter, not to use that word, and I'm grateful about that. I never thought of it as derogatory at all, unlike the N-word. But ok, you are the boss of it, total respect! Hey, I'm Italian American, can you imagine the lifelong, constant, pervasive effort it would take to fight against stereotypes being consumed? I say my last name and people say, Oh, are you in the Mafia? I have to swallow the The Sopranos, the Jersey Shore, etc etc etc, on and on and on ad nauseum. I was raised Catholic, and that's daily fodder too. And I'm in my fifties, welcome to that reviled club.

I guess all I'm saying is, patience, just a little bit, and perspective and if you can manage, a touch of love for those of us with good intent. Vast cultural changes are happening, people are listening anew, thanks to the internet, and consciousnesses are being raised. I for one, embrace the learnings and respect them and look forward to hearing them applied to all.
posted by thinkpiece at 1:24 PM on October 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


Recently a friend of mine posted a link to a Social Justice/Cultural Appropriation Callout tumblr that censored the word "eskimo," and I snickered.

But then I realized -- they're right. That whole scene is on the right side of history, and generations from now this argument about whether it's right to use the word 'Gypsy' will seem exactly as primitive as 'Negro', 'Oriental' or 'Redskin.' I'm not sure what right we're trying to defend -- the right to make some amount of people feel shitty so that we can have a slightly richer vocabulary?

So much of our contemporary lives will seem grotesque and brutal to our decendants -- the way we turn a blind eye to the cruelty that powers our economic system -- but we recognize that this is a compromise, that we are exchanging some part of our humanity for clothes and iPhones. Yet here's one thing we can give up and make the world a better place, for basically zero cost, and there's a frigging debate about it?
posted by modernserf at 1:24 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


When people started using the Word "Gypsy" in English in (in what? The 15th century?) they meant it to be a descriptive ethnonym. They thought these were Egyptian pilgrims fleeing oppression. (The term actually derives from Athinganes... Google it.) So, just as Germans do not actually refer to themselves as "Germans" - and the Greeks do not actually use the word "Greek" in their lanugauge - we don;t have to argue that they are actually Deutsche or Ellinikoi or Romaioi and then worry about whether their detractors might use these terms in a pejorative or hurtful intention. (Try writing a book about World War Two where the usage "The Germans attacked" is not in an unfavorable light.)
posted by zaelic at 1:24 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


kalessin: "Also "Could you educate me" is troublesome because on top of the context of the oppression the minority is facing, you are also asking that person to teach you something you could probably learn yourself by doing just a very small amount of research."

Ironically(?), if this were a question on AskMe about relationships, it would be pretty much universally agreed that if someone is doing something you do not like, it is up to you to ask for the behavior to stop and be willing to discuss the reasons why so that a shared understanding can be reached. It seems bizarre to me that this is too much to ask of someone seeking to change another's behavior.
posted by wierdo at 1:25 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sweetkid, I think zaelic's point was that if you intended to be insulting by calling someone a gypsy you would be making a nonsense statement.

But... but... we have people in this very thread who are insulted by it.... Telling them they can't possibly be because... of anything, really... is, well, not the right thing to do.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:25 PM on October 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


It seems bizarre to me that this is too much to ask of someone seeking to change another's behavior.

The reason that this is problematic with respect to asking a single complainant minority to do has been discussed at length both here on MetaFilter/MetaTalk for many minority groups but also extensively discussed on blogs and other activist and educational online resources.

I'm willing to point you to some links if you can't find them yourself, but that's about as far as I'm willing to go with respect to this derail.
posted by kalessin at 1:27 PM on October 15, 2013


Someone complaining about a racist term is a jerk here on metafilter ?

What? No. Two things happening together doesn't make them one thing; I think sometimes people act like jerks on the site in how they communicate, and that's independent of whether or not I think the thing they're arguing or feeling is righteous. If anything I am more likely to agree than to disagree with someone here about whatever the thing that's bugging them is in cases where I think they're going about it in a not-so-great way.

Complaining about stuff you think is problematic on the site is in an of itself completely fine. The idea that we consider it to be otherwise in general is bizarre in the face of the work we've done on this site, and it takes a wildly uncharitable reading of the stuff we've said in this thread to get to what you're asserting about us.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:29 PM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


Ironically(?), if this were a question on AskMe about relationships, it would be pretty much universally agreed that if someone is doing something you do not like, it is up to you to ask for the behavior to stop and be willing to discuss the reasons why so that a shared understanding can be reached. It seems bizarre to me that this is too much to ask of someone seeking to change another's behavior.

It's not ironic, there are just different standards for acceptable behavior for two people who are in a mutually loving and caring relationship than two people who are total strangers.
posted by KathrynT at 1:29 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ironically(?), if this were a question on AskMe about relationships, it would be pretty much universally agreed that if someone is doing something you do not like, it is up to you to ask for the behavior to stop and be willing to discuss the reasons why so that a shared understanding can be reached.

If I'm in a relationship with somebody and they call me a Kike, I will ask them not to and explain why it's a problem; actually, I won't ask. They'll stop or the relationship will.

If I am not in a relationship with somebody, I might throw a bottle at them.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:31 PM on October 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


koeselitz: Man, that is a pretty cutting and hurtful way to talk to somebody else. It's hard, because in saying that I feel like I'm making a tone argument when I say that, even though I think it's true.

Yes, it is, isn't it? It seems almost as though the way we use language can have a destructive effect on people's lives. I wonder how far we could extend that hypothesis. Thank you, though, for generally agreeing with the idea that the use of ethnic slurs is unacceptable in this community.

I'm pretty sure Slarty Bartfast really had no idea what to call this ethnic group. And I'll be completely honest – neither do I. I have had people say it's offensive to call people "Roma," too. I'm not making excuses for the g-word, which I avoid, and which of course I think is generally inappropriate. I'm just wondering what word to use. Maybe none is appropriate across the board.

Wouldn't it have been fine to say that he or she didn't know the name of that group of people? But instead, the handwavey Roma... or whatever is offensive.
posted by samofidelis at 1:31 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


When people started using the Word "Gypsy" in English in (in what? The 15th century?) they meant it to be a descriptive ethnonym.

Oh, the word wasn't offensive (just wrong) six hundred years ago? I guess I'm not actually offended by it anymore.

Mods, you can close this thread up. Those of us who were etymologically incorrect in assuming that we were offended will get on the phone with all of the Gypsies and explain that the history of the word is more important than our feelings. samofidelis, can you take A through M?
posted by Etrigan at 1:32 PM on October 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


I have never heard anyone use it to mean anything other than "A person who is Roma" or "a Janis Joplin type". I have heard people say negative things about Roma, and refer to them as gypsies, but that isn't the same as using the term pejoratively any more than racists saying "fucking ____ Blacks" makes the term Black pejorative.

I know that a ton of horrible racist shit goes on towards them specifically in Europe, but I thought there were special racist words that went along with that discrimination.

Anyway here are some interesting comments from a video about "Gypsies/Roma/Travelers".


George Boswell
posted on Jul 22, 2013

The term "Traveller" is confusing to many people, including to some Gypsies. The term "Traveller" covers many different, unrelated groups of people in Western Europe. "English Travellers" ARE Romani Gypsies, but Irish Travellers are NOT Romani/Gypsy. Norwegian Travellers ARE Romani/Gypsy, but the Yenish are not etc. etc. Some populations refer to themselves as "Traveller" because nomadism is an important part of their culture, but they might still be ROMANI/GYPSY.

George Boswell
posted on Jul 22, 2013

The term "ROMA" commonly refers to the Eastern European wing of the Romani people. The original Western European Romani populations do NOT identify as ROMA. My father is an English Romani/Gypsy, my mother is a German Gypsy (Sinti). We would agree that we are ROMANI, but we do not call ourselves ROMA. That word means, to us, simply our distant cousins from Eastern Europe, the Roma people. All Roma are Romani, but all Romani are not Roma. All Englishmen are British, but all British people are not English.


posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:32 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


"A person who is Roma" or "a Janis Joplin type".

I can't even sing, though, and I've got a crewcut and I didn't go to A&M and (etc).

You get it, right? You see the thing happening there?
posted by samofidelis at 1:35 PM on October 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


One of my favorite things about MetaFilter is it's like being on the cutting edge of linguistic social change. Thanks to you guys, I got a jump start on using "heteronormative" and "cisgendered" before it was cool, and TIL that "gypsy" is an offensive slur to some people and that "Romani" is preferred. Noted, and I will be careful to use the latter going forward.

I genuinely appreciate learning things like this so thanks for this and all the similar Meta discussions.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:37 PM on October 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


Von si yek baro, patshivalo manushen taj butfeder lacho bashaldar mai dzanalas ande kodo bari Lumea, te del o svunto devla te na phendeav o cacipen andar mo puro ilo! If you can figure that out... that is Romani ... then we can vakeran.

That's a bit too "some of my best friends are Pakistani..." for my liking.

It just seems that I don't understand why a lot of my acquaintances - who loudly may self identify as variously Gypsy/Cigany/Tsigan/Yiftoi and on some occasions and situations as "Rom" don't seem to express themselves as vehemently as you do on the question of how badly they percieve certain of these ethnonyms to be insulting.

And this is exactly that.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:38 PM on October 15, 2013 [13 favorites]


I assume it's because they know he's an ax-grindy pedant who won't care about their feelings.
posted by elizardbits at 1:40 PM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


People are upset about the language in the FPP but not that the filmmaker's work has been uploaded to YouTube without his permission. I think that's a bit skewed.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:40 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


You get it, right? You see the thing happening there?

I see why it is offensive to use the term gypsy (lower case g) to mean "a Janis Joplin type" yes, totally. But that's not what you're talking about here right? You want us to ban the use of "Gypsy" (capital G) to mean "Person of this ethnicity or connected group".
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:42 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


That has never bothered anybody ever in the history of MeFi, so find another thread to grind that hobby horse in.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:42 PM on October 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


Jacqueline: "TIL that "gypsy" is an offensive slur to some people and that "Romani" is preferred. "

But it isn't preferred, not by all members-of-the-groups-that-commonly-get-referred-to-as-"gypsies", as has been discussed in this thread. Some of those people are Romani and want to be called Roma. Others of those people aren't Romani and don't want to be called Roma, any more than (as suggested above) somebody who's Sioux would want to be called Cherokee.
posted by Lexica at 1:43 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


The point isn't that Roma or Romani or Sinti or traveller (or Traveller) isn't a perfect replacement for "gypsy" as catch all term for "vaguely Eastern European people travelling in caravans selling knives yadda yadda" (and all the negative stereotypes the word is associated with, including what I just sai), it's that in all those cases it's better to actually talk about people in the terms of what they themselves would like you to call them, and rarely is that gypsy.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:46 PM on October 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


Some Cher to lighten the moment. And I suppose "Half-Breed" is now off limits too.
posted by buzzman at 1:47 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Another part of that point is that some of those people are standing right here, thanks, and have expressed a dissatisfaction with that particular word in its various capitalized, uncapitalized, verbed and other uses.
posted by Etrigan at 1:47 PM on October 15, 2013 [16 favorites]


I see why it is offensive to use the term gypsy (lower case g) to mean "a Janis Joplin type" yes, totally. But that's not what you're talking about here right? You want us to ban the use of "Gypsy" (capital G) to mean "Person of this ethnicity or connected group".
posted by Potomac Avenue at 15:42 on October 15 [+] [!]


Can't I find the use of the term offensive along multiple dimensions?

We have been told that moderation of Metafilter posts occurs on a case-by-case basis. In this case, there is no clear reason why deleting that post until tomorrow causes any substantial injury. Ban? Perhaps it would result in no one using that term again, though I don't know if it has to be codified in a ban -- that's what the case-by-case moderation scheme is for, right?

The Metafilter moderators have said they will not consider deleting this post. I do not know why. I suspect that they think antiziganism is somehow less vile than other forms of bigotry that would have merited an immediate deletion.
posted by samofidelis at 1:48 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Its offensive to use the term gypsy because people are offended.

"But- but- then I'm letting someone else choose what words I can use!"

No, samofidelis and Etrigan aren't going to make you stop saying it. But maybe you should, cause you're a decent person and your vocabulary isn't worth hurting their feelings?
posted by modernserf at 1:49 PM on October 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


I suspect that they think antiziganism is somehow less vile than other forms of bigotry that would have merited an immediate deletion.

I can see why you'd think that at this point in time, but it's rather more a combination of the general reluctance to actively moderate this way, with other trigger words like cunt also being considered on a case by case base and a genuine confusion about how harmful/hurtful the word is.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:50 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


"But it isn't preferred, not by all members-of-the-groups-that-commonly-get-referred-to-as-"gypsies", as has been discussed in this thread. Some of those people are Romani and want to be called Roma. Others of those people aren't Romani and don't want to be called Roma, any more than (as suggested above) somebody who's Sioux would want to be called Cherokee."

Then shouldn't it be my job to learn and use the correct terms for those different groups instead of lazily conflating them all under a term that at least some of them find deeply offensive?
posted by Jacqueline at 1:51 PM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


I can see why you'd think that at this point in time, but it's rather more a combination of the general reluctance to actively moderate this way, with other trigger words like cunt also being considered on a case by case base and a genuine confusion about how harmful/hurtful the word is.

If that were the case, wouldn't other such offensive language be permitted to remain on the Metafilter front page until the author had agreed to edit it?
posted by samofidelis at 1:52 PM on October 15, 2013


I think part of the problem here is that there are some people saying "I don't think 'gypsy' is all that offensive and therefore the post should stand" and there are others (including, I believe, all of the mods who have weighed in thus far) saying "I get that it is an offensive term, but just because a word in the post is offensive does not mean the post should automatically be deleted" and those two groups are being conflated a bit by people that do think the post should be automatically deleted. There are, as I think jessamyn said above, no words that are never allowed on MetaFilter. The post in question, as a whole, was clearly not intended to be offensive, and if we go down the road of deleting otherwise non-offensive posts due to the use of individual offensive words, we are opening a significant can of worms.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:52 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Because I am boring enough to argue both sides of an debate, here are some links to things:

Anti use of word:
http://www.utexas.edu/features/archive/2003/romani.html
http://www.religioustolerance.org/roma1.htm
http://sciway3.net/clark/freemoors/index.html

Many many links in this thread
http://gypsyappropriations.blogspot.com/2010/04/problem-with-word-gypsy.html

Pro/neutral on use of word:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/22/opinion/global-agenda-magazine-the-gypsy-in-me.html?_r=3&pagewanted=all&
http://www.smithsonianeducation.org/migrations/gyp/gypstart.html
http://www.grtleeds.co.uk/
http://myamericanmeltingpot.blogspot.com/2008/04/is-gypsy-racist-word.html
http://www.gypsyloresociety.org/additional-resources/gypsy-and-traveler-culture-in-america
http://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/voices/gypsies-roma-travellers-animated-history
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/4368791.stm

posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:53 PM on October 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


...wouldn't other such offensive language be permitted to remain on the Metafilter front page until the author had agreed to edit it?

As far as I know, that is in fact the case.
posted by neroli at 1:55 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some Cher to lighten the moment.

Just want to be clear - in that song, Cher is saying: "We'd hear it from the people of the town, they'd call us Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves, but every night the men would come around and lay their money down." IE, during the day they would insult us by calling us gypsies, but they needed no urging in the night to patronize our services.
posted by muddgirl at 1:55 PM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]




Because I am boring enough to argue both sides of an debate, here are some links to things:


are you trying to convince people in this thread who are offended by the word that they should not be offended?

They are allowed to be offended.
posted by sweetkid at 1:55 PM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


The post in question, as a whole, was clearly not intended to be offensive, and if we go down the road of deleting otherwise non-offensive posts due to the use of individual offensive words, we are opening a significant can of worms.

Yeah, and that's the part I disagree with. Since moderation occurs on a case by case base anyway and is actively steered through discussions like this one by the community as a whole, this post could've been deleted without fear of a slippery slope, as future posts would again be judged on a case by case base. The mods aren't forced to delete future posts just because they deleted this one.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:55 PM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


are you trying to convince people in this thread who are offended by the word that they should not be offended?

They are allowed to be offended.


People can be offended by whatever they want. That does not make the thing that offended them de facto an offensive thing.
posted by kafziel at 1:56 PM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Jacqueline: " Then shouldn't it be my job to learn and use the correct terms for those different groups instead of lazily conflating them all under a term that at least some of them find deeply offensive?"

Yes, that was what I was attempting to suggest. People shouldn't spend time looking for "what word can I use instead of 'gypsy' to refer to these people*"; people should pay attention to how the people in question would like to be referred to. If somebody's Roma and wants to be called Roma, call them Roma. If they aren't and they don't, don't.

* Especially since it seems that in many cases, the people referred to by the term in question have been grouped together mostly due to the prejudice of outsiders and not due to common heritage, as has been discussed in this thread.
posted by Lexica at 1:57 PM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


I am trying to understand whether the offense that some people in this thread have expressed about this word is universally shared by other people of the same group.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:59 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


People can be offended by whatever they want. That does not make the thing that offended them de facto an offensive thing.

If they are offended by a word directed at their group, they have more say in what's offensive than people outside that group, who have just heard that some people find it offensive, and go off and post a bunch of links about this controversy that they just heard of.

I mean really.
posted by sweetkid at 1:59 PM on October 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


I am trying to understand whether the offense that some people in this thread have expressed about this word is universally shared by other people of the same group.

What if it's 85% shared. What if it's 19% shared.
posted by samofidelis at 2:00 PM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


is universally shared by other people of the same group.

no group is a monolithic entity with identical views. My brother and I don't even agree on what's offensive toward Indian Americans, and you can't get much more ethnically similar than we are.
posted by sweetkid at 2:00 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Universally? No. Shared by others in the same group? Yes.
posted by elizardbits at 2:00 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Universally? No. Shared by others in the same group? Yes.

That checks out.

What if it's 85% shared. What if it's 19% shared.


In the first case I think we should ban it from the front page of the site and in the second case we should allow it under certain circumstances.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:02 PM on October 15, 2013


My opinion is worth exactly 1 (one) opinion.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:03 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


MartinWisse: Since moderation occurs on a case by case base anyway and is actively steered through discussions like this one by the community as a whole, this post could've been deleted without fear of a slippery slope, as future posts would again be judged on a case by case base.

Sure, but I think they are saying that this post does not reach their threshold of "deleteably offensive". That doesn't mean that other posts using the same word are OK -- they will be judged by the same standard on a case-by-case basis.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:03 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's anecdatal, but my Gypsy family, having lived in North America for almost 400 years, have always identified as Gypsy, both within and outside the group. They consider it an insult when informed their ethnic designation is a 'slur'. It's not up to someone who's not Gypsy (who instead identifies as Lom or Dom or Sinti or what have you) to determine whether the term is offensive to someone who is Gypsy, and proud of it. No one wants to be routinely, lazily mistaken for some other ethnicity, especially one so frequently historically put-upon, but that doesn't automatically make that other ethnicity's preferred designator a slur. It's all in how you use it.
posted by perhapsolutely at 2:05 PM on October 15, 2013 [17 favorites]


Again, the New York Times uses the word "gypsy" to refer, neutrally, to Roma people. It probably shouldn't, and at some point in the future, it probably won't. But the fact is, this word has not yet been universally acknowledged as a slur in the US. I agree it likely should be. But to say this site should go on Red Alert, and circumvent usual protocols when someone uses a word considered acceptable by the New York Times is not realistic. We should figure out what the language norms should be by discussing it -- exactly as we're doing here.
posted by neroli at 2:08 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I believe only one person has suggested red alert and several have expressed surprise that the mod protocol for the post did not include post deletion/suspension until f@m could be contacted.
posted by kalessin at 2:12 PM on October 15, 2013


It's anecdatal, but my Gypsy family, having lived in North America for almost 400 years, have always identified as Gypsy, both within and outside the group. They consider it an insult when informed their ethnic designation is a 'slur'. It's not up to someone who's not Gypsy (who instead identifies as Lom or Dom or Sinti or what have you) to determine whether the term is offensive to someone who is Gypsy, and proud of it.

The original Metatalk post is about a Metafilter post that reads:
Whether or not all cultural historians agree with the premise that Gypsies (or Roma, as you prefer) came to Europe originally from India
If the post was about North Americans who identify as Gypsies, this would be a completely different discussion, but the original post was clearly about Roma, not about Gypsy families in America. So yes, it seems like in this case the use of Gypsy was an (unintentional?) slur.

and circumvent usual protocols when someone uses a word considered acceptable by the New York Times is not realistic

Why does the NYT get to decide what's appropriate on Metafilter?
posted by muddgirl at 2:13 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Should have said "but the original post was clearly about Roma" in Europe.
posted by muddgirl at 2:15 PM on October 15, 2013


The Metafilter moderators have said they will not consider deleting this post. I do not know why. I suspect that they think antiziganism is somehow less vile than other forms of bigotry that would have merited an immediate deletion.

In addition to what Cortex already said above, I'd also point out that context and intent matter. flapjax at midnight is a stand-up guy praising Romani art. He clearly does not intend the term as slur.

This is, of course, not to suggest that you can't be offended by his use of the term or that you shouldn't say anything about it. It is only to say that the moderators are taking into account the context of f@m's proven character and good faith in their actions.
posted by JDHarper at 2:16 PM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Would he suffer some kind of injury if his post were deleted until he could be found to edit the language, then reposted?
posted by samofidelis at 2:19 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't think that's appropriate, no. But I think having this conversation about using the word in FUTURE posts is appropriate.
posted by sweetkid at 2:20 PM on October 15, 2013


Would he suffer some kind of injury if his post were deleted until he could be found to edit the language, then reposted?

It's been said repeatedly, by the mods even, that the community would suffer an injury if this became the default practice.
posted by kafziel at 2:22 PM on October 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


An open note to Restless Nomad, Lobstermitten, Goodnewsfortheinsane, Jessamyn, Cortex and Mathowie (and any future members of the MeFi Mod Team):

In the future if any post I make inadvertently incorporates a slur, please feel free to:

a) Edit the post to remove the slur. You have carte blanche to do so without bothering to ask me for permission beforehand. I know this isn't typical site policy, but that's okay. Please simply assume that I would be grateful for your edit.
or
b) Delete the post. I can always repost something that (hopefully) won't offend people in 24 hours.

Thank you.
posted by zarq at 2:24 PM on October 15, 2013 [15 favorites]


And the mods have said that posts are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, so there is no risk of this becoming a precedent.
posted by samofidelis at 2:24 PM on October 15, 2013


Muddgirl, the North American Gypsies I refer to came there from Europe and share the ancestry in question. There are no native North American Gypsy populations. And since we're considering the appropriateness of the broader use of the designator on an international site, I'll go ahead and stand by my anecdatum.
posted by perhapsolutely at 2:24 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is why the discussion is difficult to fully understand.
posted by Omon Ra at 2:24 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why does the NYT get to decide what's appropriate on Metafilter?

The NYT doesn't get to decide what's appropriate on MetaFilter, thankfully, but the NYT is a good guide to what mainstream US usage conventions are. Hopefully, our conventions (not rules but conventions) will be more socially aware and less damaging than that. All I'm saying is that language that conforms to mainstream US usage conventions is a good baseline from which to start discussing other norms. But treating standard NYT usage as if if it's a priori heinous hate speech is hyperbolic.
posted by neroli at 2:25 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


In Canada the term of first resort is now First Nations. Among other virtues, the term reminds us that (for example) the Mohawk and Haida peoples are culturally distinct. Really culturally distinct. The main thing they have in common is having been colonized by white Canadians.

Would Kennewick Man then be Zeroeth Nation?
posted by Tanizaki at 2:25 PM on October 15, 2013


For visibility's sake, I just copied my last comment into my profile.
posted by zarq at 2:26 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


First they came for the word "gypsy," and I did not speak up because I was not Cher...
posted by entropicamericana at 2:26 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is why the discussion is difficult to fully understand.

because people used the word "Gypsy" in the past (one of those links is to a book written in 1970) and some people from cultures historically described as "Gypsies" self-refer in that way? No, it doesn't make the discussion difficult to understand. Language changes, and terms people use within a community have a different context outside it.
posted by sweetkid at 2:27 PM on October 15, 2013


zarq, I appreciate the sentiment but it's impractical for us to note and incorporate individual exceptions into our moderation practices on a site with tens of thousands of users, so in the case of a weird edge-case where we'd contact as user, we'll probably still contact you.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:28 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


If that were the case, wouldn't other such offensive language be permitted to remain on the Metafilter front page until the author had agreed to edit it?

It is the case, and other such offensive language is permitted to remain on the Metafilter front page. The mods tend not to delete posts on the basis of a word without that word being used contextually to injure. I am well aware that the word is injurious regardless. Whether or not they should delete those posts is a different question than "do they", because no, they generally don't delete posts just because the headline or description contains a racial slur.

I don't think they should delete posts simply because they contain a racial slur. I also don't think people should use racial slurs in general and "gypsy" in specific without very good and considered reasons. I don't find those positions to be contradictory.

First they came for the word "gypsy," and I did not speak up because I was not Cher...

Dude, there are people in here talking about the actual Holocaust/Porajmos and the direct influence of pervasive slurs on its perpetration. This is a wildly inappropriate time to start down this road.
posted by Errant at 2:28 PM on October 15, 2013 [18 favorites]


You're right, I apologize.
posted by entropicamericana at 2:36 PM on October 15, 2013 [13 favorites]


Please note, again, there are people who are offended at the suggestion that uses of the term 'Gypsy' constitute a slur. Just because some Roma or Kale members of the larger international group find it offensive is no reason to ignore the preferences of people who call themselves, and who prefer to be called, Gypsy. Here's a clue: if you don't identify as Gypsy, you're not, and references to people who are Gypsy are not germane to you, whether you've been called/mistaken for Gypsy in the past or not.
posted by perhapsolutely at 2:37 PM on October 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


First they came for the word "gypsy," and I did not speak up because I was not Cher...

Wow. Learn to read the room.

On preview, I see you've apologized. Never mind.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 2:38 PM on October 15, 2013


Muddgirl, the North American Gypsies I refer to came there from Europe and share the ancestry in question.

I guess I'm confused about your point. I don't think I ever argued that Gypsies in the US don't share heritage with Roma families in Europe. But I think it's OK, when referring to modern events, to call them different things if that is what both groups desire. Indeed, doing so seems like it would increase clarity, as it seems offensive to assume that the diaspora in the Americas is exactly the same as the diaspora in Europe with no regard for varying cultural experiences.

I'm struggling to make this point without making comparisons to different ethnic minorities, so I will have to leave it there.

Here's a clue: if you don't identify as Gypsy, you're not, and references to people who are Gypsy are not germane to you, whether you've been called/mistaken for Gypsy in the past or not.

Again, it seems like you're arguing that ALL the Romani people who emigrated from India to Spain identify as Gypsies (as that is the subject of the linked post which uses the word "gypsy" to refer to people who emigrated from India to Spain).
posted by muddgirl at 2:42 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just because some Roma or Kale members of the larger international group find it offensive is no reason to ignore the preferences of people who call themselves, and who prefer to be called, Gypsy.

Did you bother to read any of the comments in this thread where people repeatedly stated that they are very interested in calling people by whichever ethnonym they prefer? Apparently not.
posted by elizardbits at 2:43 PM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


entropicamericana, that is a masterclass in how to apologize. It makes you look very good.
posted by samofidelis at 2:47 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I suspect that they think antiziganism is somehow less vile than other forms of bigotry that would have merited an immediate deletion.

I am still puzzled by the simultaneous assertion that the hateful word ignorantly conflates multiple ethnic entities and is an ignorant and hateful blanket term, and yet you're using the word antiziganism, which contains the equivalent, problematic, outside-imposed ethnonym, and you're also using it as a blanket term to describe the discrimination suffered by cigány in Europe and elsewhere.

So you need a blanket term for all of these ethnic and social groups, and you are using a variant of cigány. But no one else should be using blanket terms because we should only group people using specific ethnic identities?

We have relatively unproblematic blanket terms like "Scandinavians" and "Eastern Europeans" which describe commonalities without necessarily conflating ethnic identities. What less-problematic group term are you offering instead that I can use when I want to say "people from groups X, Y, and Z"? Or are you saying that it is not possible to have a group term at all, and it's hateful and bigoted of me to even want one?
posted by Nomyte at 2:48 PM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


Why are semantics always more fucking important than an actual person actually saying in real life that they are being hurt by thoughtless actions.
posted by elizardbits at 2:49 PM on October 15, 2013 [24 favorites]


for fuck's sake
posted by elizardbits at 2:49 PM on October 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


The solution proposed here - that people tread a little more lightly and check to see what their acquaintances want to be called - is so commonsensical and so unfussy that I can hardly believe there's a pushback.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 2:50 PM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


The solution proposed here - that people tread a little more lightly and check to see what their acquaintances want to be called - is so commonsensical and so unfussy that I can hardly believe there's a pushback.

There is no pushback about that, afaik. How does that answer the question about the use of the word on the site though?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:52 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


The solution proposed here - that people tread a little more lightly and check to see what their acquaintances want to be called - is so commonsensical and so unfussy that I can hardly believe there's a pushback.

That solution doesn't work for me. I have never used the word gypsy to intentionally hurt others. I've also never had anyone come back to me and say, "Actually, I prefer XYZ."

The answer I see in this thread is "don't use gypsy, it's a slur regardless of what you meant to say." So what I am left with now is saying things like "the Roma, including other people who don't consider themselves Roma, but whom I'm calling Roma for reasons of convenience."

What is the other solution I'm not seeing?
posted by Nomyte at 2:53 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


'Antiziganism' is the term generally used in academic discussions of prejudice against a certain range of people frequently discriminated against in certain circles. It is etymologically based on an ethnonym. I am quite certain it isn't perfect. If you can suggest better language, I will happily use it, but this seems to be the consensus term among people writing about this kind of bias -- writing about it from a sociological perspective, I think would perhaps be the best way to describe their work?

But to try to play gotcha semantics games seems like a waste of time.
posted by samofidelis at 2:54 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I did. Thanks for checking, elizardbits. I'm referring specifically to the people who seem to be attempting to cast the term exclusively as a slur, to be avoided, and reason to delete a post out of hand. Just because Outgroup A decides to use the name of Ingroup A as a slur against Ingroup B does not make the name of Ingroup A a slur, and characterizing it as such is something I think these well-meaning commenters would seek to avoid. I assume you've read all the posts in this thread as well, and so you recognize that there's been a bit of negative connotation associated with the name Gypsy, largely by people who do not identify as such.

Muddgirl, I'm talking about the subject of this metatalk, not the original FPP. Sorry if that was confusing.
posted by perhapsolutely at 2:55 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


That solution doesn't work for me. I have never used the word gypsy to intentionally hurt others. I've also never had anyone come back to me and say, "Actually, I prefer XYZ."

Hello, I find the blanket use of 'gypsy' offensive, and actually I prefer that you use 'Roma' to describe my ethnicity.
posted by samofidelis at 2:55 PM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Why are semantics always more fucking important than an actual person actually saying in real life that they are being hurt by thoughtless actions.

OK... following that line of thought, there is a user here on Metafilter whose name includes the word "Hitler" in a way that is clearly meant to be funny. You better believe I am hurt by the thoughtless use of that name. So... do I get to insist that hir name be changed because I may encounter it on Metafilter? Serious question. Does one person (or a handful) get to dictate site policy?
posted by Wordwoman at 2:57 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


samofidelis: “The Metafilter moderators have said they will not consider deleting this post.”

Like I said before, I agree with you that we should make it our policy ought to be to delete posts with slurs like this immediately. But it's worth saying that this sentence isn't true. Nowhere has anybody said they will not consider deleting this post. They said they won't delete it right this moment and that they won't delete it in response to simple accusations of racism. A conversation has to happen, and we have to come to some sort of conclusion here. And I kind of think that's very different from "they won't consider deleting it."
posted by koeselitz at 2:58 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


but the NYT is a good guide to what mainstream US usage conventions are

This is a good way to explain or contextualize why Americans may be more likely to go "I didn't know it was offensive to [some/many] people."

But it isn't a reason to just go with that usage when people right here in the room would prefer that term not be used on this site.
posted by rtha at 2:59 PM on October 15, 2013



Should have said "but the original post was clearly about Roma" in Europe.

But it's not only about those people: it is about people from (and is filmed in) India and Egypt as well. It's pretty strange to be telling someone of Gypsy extraction that their opinion is not germane to the discussion because they are American. They identify as Gypsy and don't consider the word a slur. Why are people nitpicking perhapsolutely's opinion about their own heritage?
posted by oneirodynia at 2:59 PM on October 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


Indeed. Someone please explain why perhapsolutely's opinion is trumped by samofidelis's. Genuinely asking.
posted by Wordwoman at 3:02 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hello, I find the blanket use of 'gypsy' offensive, and actually I prefer that you use 'Roma' to describe my ethnicity.

Excellent. In the unlikely event that I need to refer to your ethnicity, that is what I will use. What is the blanket term you're proposing for Roma and related ethnic groups?
posted by Nomyte at 3:04 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


samofidelis: “The Metafilter moderators have said they will not consider deleting this post.”

Like I said before, I agree with you that we should make it our policy ought to be to delete posts with slurs like this immediately. But it's worth saying that this sentence isn't true.

Not really

We're not deleting the thread. We've said that. I asked him if he would be okay with editing it, pointed him to this thread, asked him to respond to me. You can decide what you'd like to do with the information we've been presenting to you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:02 PM on October 15 [5 favorites +] [!] [quote]

posted by Reggie Knoble at 3:04 PM on October 15, 2013


koeselitz, pleas consider these remarks:

We're not deleting the thread. We've said that. I asked him if he would be okay with editing it, pointed him to this thread, asked him to respond to me. You can decide what you'd like to do with the information we've been presenting to you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:02 on October 15 [5 favorites +] [!]


Perhaps you're right about the matter of considering deletion. Please reconsider my previous comment to mean that the moderators have said they will not delete the thread, as indicated in jessamyn's comment. The consider part was not essential to what I wanted to get across, which is that they have chosen not to delete the post, that it has persisted on the front page all day, and has been seen by a very great many people.
posted by samofidelis at 3:04 PM on October 15, 2013


I'd like to add that while samofidelis is taking a lot of shit in this thread for his tone, I personally find angry comments like his helpful for burning into my brain that a particular word is hurtful and I shouldn't use it going forward. I don't know if super-polite gentle requests would make as much of an impact. YMMV.

Similarly, I learned more from the fighty trans* threads here than I ever did from reading unemotional articles or discussions about those topics.

I think if we're doing or saying something that is making someone feel hurt and angry then it's good for us to see those consequences.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:05 PM on October 15, 2013 [25 favorites]


Excellent. In the unlikely event that I need to refer to your ethnicity, that is what I will use. What is the blanket term you're proposing for Roma and related ethnic groups?

I suggest that you find out what terms they wish others to call them, and use those terms. It is usually not a very great burden.
posted by samofidelis at 3:05 PM on October 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


"If the post was about North Americans who identify as Gypsies, this would be a completely different discussion, but the original post was clearly about Roma, not about Gypsy families in America. So yes, it seems like in this case the use of Gypsy was an (unintentional?) slur."

How is it used in the linked film? That'd seem an important point for talking about the film, which would likely be a closer source for self-identification for the subjects of the film than our armchair speculation.
posted by klangklangston at 3:06 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Klang, the film has virtually zero dialogue -- the story is told almost entirely through music.
posted by KathrynT at 3:08 PM on October 15, 2013


I suggest that you find out what terms they wish others to call them, and use those terms. It is usually not a very great burden.

You are avoiding the question.
posted by Nomyte at 3:09 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seeing the word "gypsy" here is disappointing. I thought we were supposed to be better, smarter, than that.
posted by Houstonian at 3:09 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just hope that flapjax wakes up and has a really pleasant morning and a nice breakfast before logging in. Maybe he will hug a cat while enjoying his favourite hot beverage.
posted by elizardbits at 3:09 PM on October 15, 2013 [36 favorites]


I feel like this conversation has circled around the target, which is this - there is a group of ethnicities, with ancient origins in northern India, that is traditionally nomadic. This group has a distinctive, easily-recognized language and culture. These people exist.

I understand that samofidelis identifies as one of these people, and prefers that his group be referred to as "Roma". I also understand that other people of this ethnicity do not like the term "Roma", and prefer any number of alternatives, including "Gypsy", which other members of the group see view as a slur.

So, a natural question arises: I'm happy to call samofidelis "Roma", and perhapsolutely "Gypsy", if that's what each of them prefers. But how do I refer to these people and their culture in the general case, so as not to needlessly offend?

The way I see it, I can refer to a Jewish person or cultural artifact as "Jewish" and be a) correct and b) unlikely to offend. It gets a bit more complicated with black people, but generally, "black" and "African-American" are both likely to get the job done without offense. What is this word, for the aforementioned traditionally-nomadic group?
posted by downing street memo at 3:10 PM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


I suggest that you find out what terms they wish others to call them, and use those terms. It is usually not a very great burden.
You are avoiding the question.
posted by Nomyte at 17:09 on October 15 [+] [!]


Not even remotely. I think that finding out what the right term to use to describe someone -- or, if you don't know, to say that you do not know -- is the best course of action. You don't need to do more than that to be civil.
posted by samofidelis at 3:12 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Not even remotely. I think that finding out what the right term to use to describe someone -- or, if you don't know, to say that you do not know -- is the best course of action. You don't need to do more than that to be civil.

I am strongly opposed to the violent persecution suffered by YouDon'tKnows in Europe.
posted by Nomyte at 3:13 PM on October 15, 2013


I just hope that flapjax wakes up and has a really pleasant morning

That's probably unlikely. We're in the middle of the worst typhoon in ten years. There's a good chance that checking metafilter isn't high on his list of priorities.

I'm only online because its been too loud to sleep.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:14 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


"What is the blanket term you're proposing for Roma and related ethnic groups?"

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but part of what I've learned from this discussion is the assumption that these different groups are similar enough to be conflated under a blanket term is also offensive.

It seems similar to how some racists will conflate Sikhs and Muslims under the slur "raghead." There isn't a good non-slur substitute term because you shouldn't be grouping them under one blanket term to begin with.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:14 PM on October 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


I am strongly opposed to the violent persecution suffered by YouDon'tKnows in Europe.

Might you be opposed also to being less passive aggressive?
posted by kalessin at 3:15 PM on October 15, 2013 [21 favorites]


"Klang, the film has virtually zero dialogue -- the story is told almost entirely through music."

I don't want to give the impression that I knew the answer when I asked the question and was being a dick — I'd meant to watch the film later — but I just went and gave it a look, and the intro refers to the subjects as Gitano in French, and Gypsies in the English translation. From there, given that this is made with full participation and support of Romani, it seems like "gypsy" is appropriate.
posted by klangklangston at 3:15 PM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Not even remotely. I think that finding out what the right term to use to describe someone -- or, if you don't know, to say that you do not know -- is the best course of action. You don't need to do more than that to be civil.
I am strongly opposed to the violent persecution suffered by YouDon'tKnows in Europe.
posted by Nomyte at 17:13 on October 15 [+] [Flagged]


Thank you, you have added a great deal to this conversation, I think you've been extremely helpful and people would be foolish to underestimate the value of what you've said here.
posted by samofidelis at 3:15 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Not helping, Nomyte.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:16 PM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am strongly opposed to the violent persecution suffered by YouDon'tKnows in Europe.

Dang, man, you are really being snotty about your ability to call people "gypsy" even if it is seen as a slur by many. Why don't you use whatever word you want, and people around you can just consider you a jerk who uses slurs and possibly avoid you based on that fact. Everyone wins!

(I had no idea that gypsy was considered a slur, although I knew "gypped" was. I'll definitely avoid using it in the future.)
posted by jess at 3:17 PM on October 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


We're in the middle of the worst typhoon in ten years

Ugh, that sucks, and I hope you and yours are all okay.

i hope you have a good supply of pocky for example
posted by elizardbits at 3:17 PM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


DSM, I think everyone in the group, insofar as it is practical to know something like this, is okay with Romani for the collective Gypsy/Roma/Kale/Sinti supergroup*. (I'm not so sure how Lom and Dom feel about this, actually...)

samofidelis'MMV
posted by perhapsolutely at 3:20 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'll say this for samofidelis: I think it's clear that after today, the word "gypsy" will not be tossed around lightly on MetaFilter ever again. I suppose some will consider this a victory for censorship, or "P.C. thugs run amok!", or whatever. (People can be so exhausting...)
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:20 PM on October 15, 2013


> Right, but it's a factually incorrect statement to say that the word gypsy is not used as a slur in Europe. I heard it used in this manner many, many times, at least 50% of the time not even towards a member of the related group.

You're completely ignoring that we're talking about multiple terms in multiple languages. If цигани is a slur in Ukrainian, and "Gypsy" is taken as the English word for цигани, then it will be perceived and used this way. If "Gypsy" is taken as the English equivalent of the French word gitan, then it's not likely to be taken this way (though I'm sure French slang has more colorful and derogatory words for members of the Romani ethnic group, as they do for just about everything).

That the English word "Gypsy" is taken as the equivalent of N-word-level slurs in other languages is reason enough to avoid using it. But this does not mean that every person who uses this word or has ever used it in English is a racist bigot who hates Romani people. It might be OK just to explain that the term is sometimes understood in an offensive way – and explain why it's an issue, if, in fact, you have some understanding of why it's an issue.
posted by nangar at 3:20 PM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Hello, I find the blanket use of 'gypsy' offensive, and actually I prefer that you use 'Roma' to describe my ethnicity.

I'll asterisk the term as you find it hateful. But it is directly equivalent to the words below in other European languages, you know - even less perjorative than tzigane, I would say.

samofidelis, this is the intro to Gatliff's film:

Leaving North West India almost 1000 years ago for unknown reasons, G****s crisscrossed the roads of Europe, Egypt, North Africa. In the course of their long trek from the borders of India, the terms gitane, halab, tsigane, bohemien, g****...were given to the Rom people. (pardon the very basic translation from the French.)

In the voice over, Gatliff uses the word Rom, and Romani, and I think he is speaking Romani, though I'm not sure. Could be some dialect of Arabic - Gatliff was born in Algiers. I do not know if he would use the term G***y to describe himself. A great many of the people in the film would have.

and it is an amazing, heartrending, inspiring film.
posted by glasseyes at 3:20 PM on October 15, 2013


But it isn't a reason to just go with that usage when people right here in the room would prefer that term not be used on this site.

I agree. I'm just saying that maybe it's a reason to wait a few hours and talk among ourselves for a bit and consult the original poster, rather than countervening site policy.
posted by neroli at 3:20 PM on October 15, 2013


Goooo-ooood mooooooorning, Metafilter! I just woke up to some SERIOUS winds whipping the trees around here in deepest shitamachi (means "old downtown") Tokyo, but it's nothing compared to some of the intensity in this thread!

Haven't had time to read the entire thread yet, by the way. It's a long 'un! Folks've been BUSY while we here in Tokyo dreamed through the night!

Anyway, I wrote the mods just now requesting that they edit the post. "Rom" to take the place of "Gypsy". And I hope you all enjoy the music!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:22 PM on October 15, 2013 [70 favorites]


I find it a bit odd, Nomyte, that you're doing this sort of aggressive "PC police" pushback here, when not too long ago you were upbraiding us all in Metatalk for our lack of cultural sensitivity.
posted by dontjumplarry at 3:22 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


The FPP should have quoted Tony Gatlif himself, the author of Latcho Drom and one of the most prominent figures of the Roma culture(s). Gatlif uses the word "Gypsy" liberally and strongly identifies with the name: I am a Gypsy (Gitan). In spite of everything, of the persecutions, of the contempt, I am a Gypsy. I exist, we exist.
Amusingly, in this interview, he actually replies "Gypsy" whenever the interviewer (who is Roma but also uses other terms including Gypsy) uses "Romany". In another interview, Gatlif switches effortlessly between "Roma" and "Gypsy" depending on the context. And that's it. There are Roma people who find the word offensive and others, like Tony Gatlif or Chico Bouchikhi, who really, really don't (at least in the proper context). Roma cultures are diverse and it's not surprising that there are differing opinions about this.
posted by elgilito at 3:22 PM on October 15, 2013 [21 favorites]


Thanks for the great post, flapjax!
posted by neroli at 3:24 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


So in the end, we're taking away the word that director used to describe the subjects, and replacing it with the word the subjects of the film did not use? And that's an improvement?
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 3:24 PM on October 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


Thanks flapjax! Everybody, seriously, watch the movie or listen to the soundtrack. It is a beautiful thing.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:24 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


No one who has met them would consider the tossing around of my family a matter undertaken lightly. Sedentary life takes its endomorphic toll.
posted by perhapsolutely at 3:24 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Done. Thanks, flapjax.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:25 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm sure French slang has more colorful and derogatory words for members of the Romani ethnic group, as they do for just about everything

Well, one of them is Rom (short for Romanichel), which is bitterly ironic.
posted by elgilito at 3:27 PM on October 15, 2013


flapjax: solid. Sorted. And nice post.
posted by glasseyes at 3:29 PM on October 15, 2013


So in the end, we're taking away the word that director used to describe the subjects...

Who's this "we"? It was flapjax's post, and it was his decision to change it.
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:29 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


"There are Roma people who find the word offensive and others, like Tony Gatlif or Chico Bouchikhi, who really, really don't (at least in the proper context). Roma cultures are diverse and it's not surprising that there are differing opinions about this."

Which is why the "antiziganist" stridency seems a bit misplaced and foolish, honestly, and questions about how many people have to find it offensive a bit more salient.
posted by klangklangston at 3:31 PM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


So, now that the question is resolved, I would like to know - had the FPP directly quoted the director's own use of 'Gypsy' in the film as an overarching descriptor for various groups, noting that the director self-identifies as 'Gypsy', would people here still have wanted it removed?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:34 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just want to make it clear, since others have drawn battle lines and placed me in the "anti" category, if I have a need to refer to a group of individuals by a collective noun, I will always, *always* and have always deferred to what the individuals within the group I am directly addressing prefer to be called. The reason I've been unable to walk away from this thread is "FUCK YOU YOU RACIST FUCK delete the post and ban the poster" is a pretty big change from the way this place has always been run, particularly in light of Flapjax being a well known member who included the word Roma in his post, the subject of the post specifically uses the term Gypsy, and this was ultimately a consciousness raising experience for me. Edit the terminology in the FPP, sure. Have this discussion in Meta, sure. But having members attacking other members right out of the gate, putting hateful words in others' mouths, while others are cheering on? I don't recognize this place anymore.

Thanks flapjax for the class.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 3:35 PM on October 15, 2013 [25 favorites]


Some of us, ThatFuzzyBastard, don't have the good sense to know how offensive our name for ourselves is. That's what well-intentioned allies are for--so people like Gatlif and Bouchikhi don't inadvertently shame themselves by identifying as themselves.

Actually, a lot of people in the community are gonna cotton to G***y. It's got sparkles, and we love sparkles.
posted by perhapsolutely at 3:35 PM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


I sincerely do not want to cause offense. So I ask what term would be preferable.

some people call gypsy jazz "hot club jazz", which is historically descriptive and accurate - jazz manouche is another name, but that's a french term for gypsy, and i'm not sure what the offense level is of that

if hot club jazz won't do, maybe django jazz would, honoring the brilliant originator and best practicioner of this style

in defense of flapjax, gypsy jazz is the most common term for this kind of music, commonly used by musicians interested in the style and it is NEVER meant to be a derogatory term in this context, as there is a lot of admiration and wonder among guitarists about those who play this music

but hot club jazz will certainly do
posted by pyramid termite at 3:36 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


How is it used in the linked film?

As glasseye said above, and the DVD packaging used the word Gipsy. Other packaging didn't have descriptive text on it.

Thanks, flapjax.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:38 PM on October 15, 2013


The reason I've been unable to walk away from this thread is "FUCK YOU YOU RACIST FUCK delete the post and ban the poster" is a pretty big change from the way this place has always been run [...] But having members attacking other members right out of the gate, putting hateful words in others' mouths, while others are cheering on? I don't recognize this place anymore.

do you find it at all weird that you put inflammatory words in someone's mouth, quotes and capslock included, and then complained about hateful words being put in other's mouths? it also seems a bit weird to me to ignore all of the discussion and focus on what i'm seeing as one person's reaction (who later approached the thread with a more level head) and then declare that you don't recognize this place anymore.
posted by nadawi at 3:43 PM on October 15, 2013 [17 favorites]


Slarty, I didn't read most of these comments as drawing battle lines or placing you in the anti-anything, and while there were certainly calls to delete the post, I didn't see anyone calling to ban the poster. I am sorry to see that you've punched out and I hope you come back soon.
posted by Errant at 3:50 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


And I suppose "Half-Breed" is now off limits too.

it's off-limits for musical reasons, not just PC reasons - same with just about everything she's ever done, save for "i believe" and maybe "you'd better sit down kids"

still in shock that after 30 plus years making records, she finally made a good one
posted by pyramid termite at 3:51 PM on October 15, 2013


I'm only online because its been too loud to sleep. posted by Ghidorah

Typhoon Wipha is soon to make landfall near Tokyo with hurricane force winds. To all mefites who are in its path, stay safe and know that we're thinking about you.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:52 PM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'll use whatever term y'all want, but I'll be disappointed if it means no more Django Reinhardt, Jimi Hendrix or Stevie Nicks on MetaFilter.
posted by The World Famous at 3:55 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Flapjax, I'll buy you a beer when you get to NYC soon. Because damn.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:56 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I can't help feel that a lot of this post contains an unaddressed , but ever-present cultural imperialism on the site that has come up before, though I grant it rarely causes issues on this scale. I experienced it myself recently in a minor discussion about why I'm uncomfortable using "south" or "east Asian" as a general descriptor. My discomfort was... pretty much dismissed by north American and I think some European mefites. No harm and no foul, but it did - for me at least, like this discussion here - remind me that as a community we are ahead on some things and a little behind on others, and that this community has our own - largely leftist, American, WASP norms - and that despite how progressive we like to think of ourselves, I think we can and do still struggle with diversity in the community, especially racial.

Suffice to say, I will never use the term gypsy on metafilter, and I do wish we could extend the willingness to listen and learn and respect that we generally give trans issues on the site to racial issues, but then that took a few years, too. Hopefully discussion here today has helped speed up the process.
posted by smoke at 4:00 PM on October 15, 2013 [17 favorites]


What's the issue with using the word "south?"
posted by The World Famous at 4:23 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is not the time or place to get into it. Suffice to say it speaks to the general sentiment voiced above about blanket terms, their ability to obscure more than illuminate, what people from various socio cultural groupings would prefer to be called, and my own experiences and thoughts as an Australian.
posted by smoke at 4:29 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Slarty was one of our best. I am sad to see him go. This place is diminished without him.
posted by y2karl at 4:30 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


That is indeed a terrible thing. And flapjaxs, please know that you are also loved.
posted by Toekneesan at 4:34 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Von si yek baro, patshivalo manushen taj butfeder lacho bashaldar mai dzanalas ande kodo bari Lumea, te del o svunto devla te na phendeav o cacipen andar mo puro ilo! If you can figure that out... that is Romani ... then we can vakeran. [quoted from zaelic]

That's a bit too "some of my best friends are Pakistani..." for my liking.


I was going to stay out of this thread, because it's been pissing me off too much, but I can't let that pass. I'm quite sure zaelic has done more for Romani culture than the rest of us put together. Speaking fluent Romanes is not even in the same ballpark as "some of my best friends"; how many gaje do you know who can do it? And the reason he speaks it is that he spends much of his time hanging with Roma, playing and recording their music with them, going to their weddings, and doing everything he possibly can to promote respect for them and their culture. To ignorantly dump on him because he doesn't agree with you on every last terminological position (and bear in mind he knows far more about the facts on the ground than you ever will) reminds me of all the crap I had to deal with back when I considered myself an activist. This is what they mean when they talk about the circular firing squad: "You may have a lot of correct views and do some good things, but unless you agree with me about this point I have decided is crucial, I call thee a (reactionary/racist/whatever) and cast thee out!" I didn't like that shit during Vietnam and I don't like it now.
posted by languagehat at 4:36 PM on October 15, 2013 [84 favorites]


Class act, flapjax.
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:44 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, because a WORD which many disagree on one way or another was on the front page for a few hours, we wind up losing a valued member?


People are ridiculous.

Look, it is okay to be offended by words. But people are more important than words. And kneejerkingly assuming the worst about people's intentions? In my book is just as evil as using a slur, whether unintentional or not. Two wrongs don't make a right.


I believe in calling people what they wish to be called, but as this thread seems to show, the terminology for these people groups seems to be -and in the US most certainly is-very confusing. For those who do not encounter people of this group much if at all, and for those who only know what they read here and there, it is a bit difficult to have a consensus.

I know the history of these people groups in places such as Romania is very sad, and by reason of that many folk are very sensitive to the language they are described by (and rightfully so.) But I think a couple of you on this thread aren't remembering the majority of your audience HERE. The people HERE are disposed to bend over backward not to use slurs of any sort. The site itself has a process by which these things are ironed out. And the disrespect I have seen here by the offended ones? I don't give you a pass for being disrespectful. If being disrespectful is wrong, it is wrong no matter who is doing it. That's my opinion and I am sticking to it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:51 PM on October 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


Classily done, flapjax. Thanks, and stay safe.
posted by Chrysostom at 4:54 PM on October 15, 2013


I have never given much thought to "Roma" tomatoes; but I've done a lot with them. Smaller than a ?regular? tomato, and usually seem more durable for transport ( I bike a lot ). Now, I am almost ?afraid? to read/research on them; and I will for the longest time remember this MeTa next time I am in the grocery.

And now I have to add the late Ronnie James Dio's "Gypsy" to the list of banned songs. Oh bother.
posted by buzzman at 4:57 PM on October 15, 2013


It appears like the moderators changed more than just the word in question. flapjax's original parenthetical acknowledging the possibility of offense is also missing.

That strikes me as too heavy an edit for the post, even if leaving it in would read as a non-sequitur in light of the substitution. We're not even allowed to edit our own comments to that degree.

For this and future substitutions, I'd like to request that posts (and comments) display a more obvious editorial byline when rewritten by the moderators. For example, bracketing the editorial changes [Rom], including strikethroughs or an -ed (or -mod) attribution. Placing a notice 28 comments down is standard policy, but in this case it falls a little short. I don't think it should be quite so easy to hide the evidence of tinkering when you're editing for content.

It's also disingenuous to frame the shotgun editing as the "poster's request." It makes the edit seem more trivial than the community reaction would indicate.
posted by Jeff Howard at 4:59 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


There is an amount of internal conflict that I struggle with about this. I agree that the word should not be used .. but I disagree with the 'scorched earth' approach that I see Samofidelis taking. And to some extent, I feel that his shrill tone and behaviour is likely doing more harm than good for his cause.

This is doubled when I see that we've (hopefully only temporarily) lost a valued member over this. I hope Slarty comes back, and I hope Samofidelis can find a way to make his valid and important points in a less fighty and hurtful way in the future.
posted by dotgirl at 5:01 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


This thread has made me realize that the old Irish song I've known since I was little is probably not a good idea to sing anymore.

(Not that I believed any of it happened, in reference to anything actual Romani would ever do.)
posted by Countess Elena at 5:01 PM on October 15, 2013


Trying to solve a problem with thousands of active participants is often like trying to lay a carpet in a room that's a little bit smaller than the carpet. You can usually get three corners down pretty well, but then that forth corner keeps popping up.
posted by SpacemanStix at 5:04 PM on October 15, 2013


"I hope Samofidelis can find a way to make his valid and important points in a less fighty and hurtful way in the future."

I hope that Samofidelis realizes that he obviously doesn't speak for the subjects of the documentary, and that MetaFilter is a little less knee-jerk about this stuff the next time it comes around.
posted by klangklangston at 5:04 PM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Placing a notice 28 comments down is standard policy, but in this case it falls a little short.

I'm not sure why. Editing for content at this level is such a rarity (still waiting to hear what MartinWisse was referring to) that we're not really planning on developing a way of indicating it because we're not basically planning on doing it. We would prefer not to edit at all. Our official policy is "We don't edit" and the only exceptions we make are extreme circumstances like this one.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:04 PM on October 15, 2013



I have never given much thought to "Roma" tomatoes; but I've done a lot with them. Smaller than a ?regular? tomato, and usually seem more durable for transport ( I bike a lot ). Now, I am almost ?afraid? to read/research on them; and I will for the longest time remember this MeTa next time I am in the grocery.

They were developed in Italy, where Rome is.
posted by Gygesringtone at 5:04 PM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Speaking the language, even doing serious research, whatever, it does not act as something that instantly absolves you of any error. Especially not when there are long histories of people 'studying' minorities who WERE total racists-- it's not a magic wand. You can hang out with members of an ethnic group all you want and you're still not a voice that should be taken as authoritative over members of that actual group about their opinions. It's totally a defense that "I was using this word to refer to this individual or group who prefers to identify with this word", it is not acceptable to say that then all people in the world should be able to use that word to refer to every member of [broad ethnic grouping] and it's not legitimate to be upset by that because I know all about [ethnic group].

The perfect is absolutely the enemy of the good, but that doesn't mean that nobody should ever tell allies that they're over-generalizing, because it's a thing that allies do a lot, for all kinds of groups. I do it. The "some of my best friends" phrasing seems inflammatory now because the excuse has been used so often by people who were just outright white supremacist types, but in more practical terms most of us are allies to some group or another and we could all use reminding that even if we feel like we totally know them, we don't have the same experiences and we shouldn't try to speak as authorities over them. Generally, not just with regards to this particular group.
posted by Sequence at 5:07 PM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Slarty Bartfast sent me a couple of messages, calling me an 'intellectual lightweight' with a couple of 'who the FUCK do you think you are' sentences. Cortex earlier showed that it was ok to bring in ostensibly private communication, so I don't feel bad about saying this. But it happened, and if you still feel bad that he or she left because of this, I can't help you.

I hope that Samofidelis realizes that he obviously doesn't speak for the subjects of the documentary, and that MetaFilter is a little less knee-jerk about this stuff the next time it comes around.
posted by klangklangston at 19:04 on October 15 [+] [!]



I don't know if klangklangston realizes this, but I never said that I did. What I've said was that the language used in the post was considered an ethnic slur. What made this conversation so ugly was the people who insisted that it wasn't.
posted by samofidelis at 5:10 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


It appears like the moderators changed more than just the word in question. flapjax's original parenthetical acknowledging the possibility of offense is also missing.

Yes, that was the edit flapjax suggested in his email to me. Presumably because (a) the post itself was never about the potential offense in the term and (b) the parenthetical suggesting an alternative to the term made no sense when the term was no longer there.

That strikes me as too heavy an edit for the post, even if leaving it in would read as a non-sequitur in light of the substitution. We're not even allowed to edit our own comments to that degree.

I disagree with you on the first bit. And I'm generally very conservative about what I think is an okay amount of editing, for either post or comment; this fell within that narrow realm for me, especially as, again, the post wasn't about the contentiousness of the word "gypsy" and none of the discussion in the thread hinges on the specific phrasing in the post. The note in the thread makes it clear that the wording was changed a little; details are available here.

For this and future substitutions, I'd like to request that posts (and comments) display a more obvious editorial byline when rewritten by the moderators.

Noted but declined.

It's also disingenuous to frame the shotgun editing as the "poster's request."

"Poster's request" is standard phrasing we use all the time to indicate the poster's involvement in an edit/delete. There is this entire metatalk thread, which is linked to from that thread, for anyone who wants more info. And calling it disingenuous is insulting.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:10 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


"FUCK YOU YOU RACIST FUCK delete the post and ban the poster" is a pretty big change from the way this place has always been run,

I'm not so sure about that.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:10 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Roma means, in latin and Italian, Rome or Roman when talking about the tomatoes. Roma is derived from Romani which is derived from rom, which is the Romani word for "man".
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:11 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


What I've said was that the language used in the post was considered an ethnic slur.

By some. By others in the affected group, including the director of the film under discussion, not so much. The way you went about raising your point, samofidelis, was needlessly aggressive and hurtful. Please stop that. Just as others will almost certainly join you and I in not using "gypsy" casually on the site, I hope that you will also change your behavior in the future.
posted by mediareport at 5:15 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


What made this conversation so ugly was the people who insisted that it wasn't.
posted by samofidelis at 17:10 on October 15 [+] [!]


One of the greatest contributing factors to the *ugliness* of this post was your near-hysterical, strident, bossy and overbearing presence throughout.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:16 PM on October 15, 2013 [53 favorites]


I'm certain a great many will agree with you. I do not.
posted by samofidelis at 5:18 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just do better in the future, please.
posted by mediareport at 5:22 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


This result was easily predictable. I don't envy flapjax at midnite being the nexus of the crisis and the origin [or recipient] of storms. His being entirely uncontroversial might have helped though.

No dog in this but as a data point I have a friend who has named herself Gypsy and another friend who proudly identifies as Gypsy [as opposed to the more common method of identifying yourself by nation or work]. The former should be uncontroversial as it is her chosen name and likely not an epithet. The latter can cause trouble but my small sample is one hundred percent positive. The important point is that I asked the name in the former and I asked how she identified in the latter [not in so many words, we were talking about where we each grew up and where we were from].

But we're on the internet and conflating how people communicate on a website with thousands of members with how they relate to individuals will always be problematic.

An assumption of good faith where the matter is subtle and where there there is no evidence to indicate bad faith should always be the default.
posted by vapidave at 5:22 PM on October 15, 2013


I don't know if klangklangston realizes this, but I never said that I did. What I've said was that the language used in the post was considered an ethnic slur. What made this conversation so ugly was the people who insisted that it wasn't.

I think you should at least own that some of your own contributions did not exactly help. For example. And here. Here and here and here you basically straight out accuse the mods of being racist, when they explained time and time again that they were following established processes (which did achieve your desired result in the end).

I understand that you were upset, and you came back later with a more measured approach but, in my view, you definitely contributed to the ugliness you describe.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:24 PM on October 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


The moderators were wrong. You can curry favour with them if you like, but they could have -- according to their own case-by-case policy for moderating posts -- dealt with this post much more effectively, and chose not to do so. No one was stopping them.

I'm sorry that pointing out antiziganist language strikes so many people as hysterical, bossy, strident, and whatever else. But choosing to ignore this post on the front page all day was the wrong choice.
posted by samofidelis at 5:29 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


By the way, samofidelis, now that you have achieved your desired outcome, will you be removing the statement "Metafilter's moderators condone antiziganism" from your profile page?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:30 PM on October 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


Jeezuz... it's like dealing with Ted Cruz here. It's as if by hook or by crook, you're determined to get your way, regardless how many people acting in good faith you drive off. This thread makes the youtube comment section proud. You shat the original thread almost right out the gate, and continued the tantrum over here.

What pisses me off is the possibility that this behavior will be rewarded in the end.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:30 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


By the way, samofidelis, now that you have achieved your desired outcome, will you be removing the statement "Metafilter's moderators condone antiziganism" from your profile page?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 19:30 on October 15 [+] [!]


I don't know, do you think I should? They were willing to leave that post on the frontpage all day long instead of deleting it and letting it run tomorrow. Why? Because it hasn't been done before? So what?
posted by samofidelis at 5:32 PM on October 15, 2013


From there, given that this is made with full participation and support of Romani, it seems like "gypsy" is appropriate.

See also my link, upthread, to the British reality TV show, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding -- a contemporary programme in which members of these groups regularly and persistently refer to themselves as either travellers or gypsies.

It's unusual to hear them refer to themselves as Rom or Romany.

That said, I suspect none of the people in this TV show post on Metafilter.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:33 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


The reason I've been unable to walk away from this thread is "FUCK YOU YOU RACIST FUCK delete the post and ban the poster" is a pretty big change from the way this place has always been run

Before everyone gets back to antagonizing and scolding samofidelis while blaming him for Slarty Bartfast's departure, it's worth pointing out that nobody ever said anything remotely like this in this thread. While it's unfortunate that Slarty Bartfast needed to take a break, his stated reasons for being upset are not at all borne out in reality. As a result, I'm not sure I'd characterize Slarty Bartfast's response as being in "good faith" exactly.
posted by dialetheia at 5:33 PM on October 15, 2013 [15 favorites]


choosing to ignore this post on the front page all day was the wrong choice.

The post used language that you and many other people find offensive. But that same word that you object so very strongly to is a word that many, many people use to identify their own ethnicity. Like the director of the film that the post was about, for instance. Are you going to go after Tony Gatlif for being antiziganist, too, for consistency's sake? Or the people in this thread who are of Romani descent who choose to use a word you object to to describe themselves? Will you attack them as well?
posted by palomar at 5:34 PM on October 15, 2013


I really think this bears repeating:
You also seem to think that letting a post stand grants it implicit approval. It does not do this! But under your proposed system, every post the mods don't edit or delete would in fact have implicit approval. So not only do people get mad at having their post messed with, now the mods are directly responsible for the wording and nuance of every single post and comment on the site. That's simply untenable.
I don't have a bone in this fight, like many others, but do feel very strongly that the mods acted correctly and in good faith in this circumstance.

The moderators were not wrong, they said from the beginning that this is a community process, and over the course of 400+ comments the community has pretty much completely agreed with you (despite the hysterics). And as a result the original poster has agreed to modify the post. Now that the result is what you wanted, you're (right or wrong) upset that it didn't happen fast enough? I feel like the mods and the community said repeatedly that this is a process not an event. Continuing to insist that "they were wrong" and that they were "choosing to ignore" the issue feels like a deliberately uncharitable read on the situation here.
posted by ish__ at 5:35 PM on October 15, 2013 [14 favorites]


samofidelis: "The moderators were wrong. You can curry favour with them if you like"

It is possible to simply agree with the mods' course of action without it being an effort at sucking up.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:36 PM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Before everyone gets back to antagonizing and scolding samofidelis while blaming him for Slarty Bartfast's departure, it's worth pointing out that nobody ever said anything remotely like this in this thread. While it's unfortunate that Slarty Bartfast needed to take a break, his stated reasons for being upset are not at all borne out in reality. As a result, I'm not sure I'd characterize Slarty Bartfast's response as being in "good faith" exactly.

I concur.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:36 PM on October 15, 2013


This is absolutely ridiculous. The word is used by the subject of the post to refer to themselves, why should samofidelis' feelings be more important than theirs? I'm sorry that flapjax felt compelled to change it, it was perfectly contextually appropriate. However, he did, so you can stop being an arse now please, samofidelis. You got your way.
posted by goo at 5:38 PM on October 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


samofidelis: "The moderators were wrong. You can curry favour with them if you like"

What possible benefit do you think that there would be to 'currying favour'? Do you think that the mods grant access Metafilter Prime to users that they like, or something?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:38 PM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Why? Do you need him to turn his key simultaneously to arm a deletion device?

Hey dude. Reasonable people find 'gypsy' offensive, so it should be deemed offensive on metafilter. I totally understand that.

But metafilter is not your website. It's owned by a dude, and he delegates authority to a handful of people who carry out his mission.

I can totally understand you being offended, but the resolution you proposed was kinda shitty. I also thought it was shitty that the mods were unwilling to edit that word quickly. So all in all, all actors involved were pretty shitty in my opinion.

But, looking over the resolution you wanted ('delete thread'), what would have been the effect? The thread gets deleted, and then it comes back up 24 hours later without the use of that slur?

Your goal should have been to get that edit done, rather than ask for a complete deletion. Had it been, you would nave been so frustrated.

You totally could have prevented that. But I'm also REALLY surprised by the mods decision to not IMMEDIATELY delete the slur, and to ask permission of the OP if they could do that.

Weird.

Also, I thought your comment above was unnecessary, but god damn funny.

Take care.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:39 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Speaking of which, has anyone else's Metafilter Prime account been running slow as of late?
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:39 PM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Speaking of which, has anyone else's Metafilter Prime account been running slow as of late?

Didn't you get the CabalMail? They had server problems last night.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:41 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


there is no cabal^H^H^H^H^HMetafilter Prime
posted by ish__ at 5:41 PM on October 15, 2013


What possible benefit do you think that there would be to 'currying favour'? Do you think that the mods grant access Metafilter Prime to users that they like, or something?

Yeah. They ask you if your post can be edited when it has an ethnic slur rather than just deleting the slur.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:41 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


My apologies for the offense cortex. My point was that any poster request made under the weight of a 500 comment MetaTalk thread is akin to saying "I Do" at a shotgun wedding.

This was tangential to my main point about editorial behavior. It's impossible to gauge primarily because the effects are invisible. To jessamyn's point, highlighting the instances allows the community to more accurately recognize the editorial hand at work (even if it's simple copyediting) and discuss whether the current approach is correct. Right now that's not possible. My guess is that it happens more often than is generally acknowledged when typos, HTML edits and link fixes are taken into account along with content fixes.
posted by Jeff Howard at 5:41 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


The word is used by the subject of the post to refer to themselves, why should samofidelis' feelings be more important than theirs?


Quoted for agreement.

Dude, you were really rude and hateful to some of the posters and ALL of the mods. I am hoping you will consider this when you are calmer and apologize to them.

I get it-I know that when I am inflamed about something, I am totally inflamed and in scorched earth mode. But that is rarely if ever useful or helpful and most certainly almost never the way to handle something.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:43 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


By "generally acknowledged" do you mean "generally REALIZED" or are you subtly accusing the moderation team of lying about the frequency of edits?
posted by Chrysostom at 5:45 PM on October 15, 2013


I've used the word "gypsy" before and didn't mean any harm. That said, since it rubs people the wrong way, I'll just recalibrate and stop using it (with sincere apologies).

Because that's how not meaning any harm works, right? If you find out you were inadvertently causing offense, you stop, learn better, apologize, and correct course.

If there's a necessary part of this equation where recrimination and apoplexy fit in, I am not sure how that works.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:47 PM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Slarty Bartfast sent me a couple of messages, calling me an 'intellectual lightweight' with a couple of 'who the FUCK do you think you are' sentences. Cortex earlier showed that it was ok to bring in ostensibly private communication, so I don't feel bad about saying this. But it happened, and if you still feel bad that he or she left because of this, I can't help you.

I don't think he should have said that to you, I don't think he was right, and I don't think he should have left at all. Where I agree with anyone about this topic, I mostly agree with you. But Slarty Bartfast is a friend of mine, and a pillar of the Seattle MeFi community, and damn fun to drink scotch with. Losing him for however long is both personally upsetting and a loss to this community. I could not, at the present time, say any of those things about you, and if one of you was going to flame out, I would not have wished it to be him.

They were willing to leave that post on the frontpage all day long instead of deleting it and letting it run tomorrow. Why? Because it hasn't been done before? So what?

Because that would have been a terrible reason to delete the post, and I would not want them to have done so. If the movie had been called "Dotheads" and had been about indigenous Indian music brought to New Jersey, that would really have bothered me. Hearing that the director and the subjects described themselves in that way would have made that make sense to me, although I would still have disliked it. In none of those instances would I have wanted the post to be deleted on that basis.

Obviously, you feel differently, and you are entitled to feel differently. You are also entitled to believe that anyone who disagrees with you in any particular is currying favor, a bigot, specifically persecutory. You're entitled to believe whatever you want. But the MetaFilter I like is the one where that post doesn't get deleted for this reason. That is clearly not the MetaFilter you like. It seems like the MetaFilter that exists is, in this instance, closer to my ideal than to yours.

You can search my commenting history for use of the word "gypsy". You'll find two: this comment, and one previous in this thread. I very much dislike the word, do not use it, and have not since before joining this site. Arguably, I dislike and am offended by it more than many of those to whom it might refer. And I am saying, explicitly, that the post should not have been deleted and that I'm glad it wasn't. You may now indicate which variant of racist lickspittle you believe me to be.
posted by Errant at 5:49 PM on October 15, 2013 [17 favorites]


The post used language that you and many other people find offensive. But that same word that you object so very strongly to is a word that many, many people use to identify their own ethnicity. Like the director of the film that the post was about, for instance. Are you going to go after Tony Gatlif for being antiziganist, too, for consistency's sake? Or the people in this thread who are of Romani descent who choose to use a word you object to to describe themselves? Will you attack them as well?

I am curious about the answer to the question, and my similar question above. Would you be willing to respond, samofidelis?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:49 PM on October 15, 2013


My point was that any poster request made under the weight of a 500 comment MetaTalk thread is akin to saying "I Do" at a shotgun wedding.

Eh, this is a community website, not a shotgun wedding. If the request was something more onerous the metaphor would be more apt, but if frogs had wings etc. etc. I appreciate flapjax getting back to me when he could and am glad he was cool with the whole thing, but ultimately he knows no one had a gun to his head and this was a "are you okay with this" thing, not a "nice post you got there, shame if something were to happen it" sort of thing.

To jessamyn's point, highlighting the instances allows the community to more accurately recognize the editorial hand at work (even if it's simple copyediting) and discuss whether the current approach is correct. Right now that's not possible.

Seriously, there is almost none. We probably amend at *most* a couple posts a month for very slight wording changes, mostly at the direct originating request of the poster and the balance only after permission from the poster when a mod needs to initiate the request, and in ways that do not meaningfully affect the semantic or aesthetic payload of the post. We also probably tell one or two people a month no about requested more significant changes after the fact.

To the extent that that happens, people who notice are welcome to ask. Generally we leave a note in the thread when we do it.

My guess is that it happens more often than is generally acknowledged when typos, HTML edits and link fixes are taken into account along with content fixes.

When non-content fixes are taken into account, you are taking into account a bunch of things that don't make sense to conflate with content edits. I appreciate that some folks like a wiki-editing-style total information awareness log of that sort of activity, but it's totally unnecessary for mefi to work well and is something we have zero interesting in pursuing. It's makework in the context of this site.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:50 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


My guess is that it happens more often than is generally acknowledged when typos, HTML edits and link fixes are taken into account along with content fixes.

We can run the numbers for you if you want. This is one of the general principles with how the place runs. Folks need to trust that we're basically being above board about this stuff. We don't edit for content as a policy, period. If we ever do for whatever weird and extreme reason we will always leave a note. We do not always leave notes when we fix HTML, typos and other minor stuff usually at the poster's request. As much as we aim for transparency here, having the MeFi community discussing copy edits and HTML fixes increases the friction potential in community discussion and is not a place we're really interested in going

Basically if you don't trust what we're saying, that's fine. But we're truly serious, we don't edit for content without being asked to by the original poster. Even then once a thread is going people who ask for more than minor typo-level edits will get pushback or a flat out "No" from us.

My point was that any poster request made under the weight of a 500 comment MetaTalk thread is akin to saying "I Do" at a shotgun wedding.

My email to f@m made it very clear that this was his choice to make.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:51 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


The word is used by the subject of the post to refer to themselves, why should samofidelis' feelings be more important than theirs?

This was really what I was trying to get at upthread by asking about numbers.

If some proportion of a particular group is happy with a term and insists on using it to describe themselves, what proportion must declare themselves offended by it before I switch from using term a to term b?

And I'm uncomfortable with the implication that has run through much of this thread that to even pose the question marks one out as a bigot.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:51 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't know, do you think I should? They were willing to leave that post on the frontpage all day long instead of deleting it and letting it run tomorrow. Why? Because it hasn't been done before? So what?

I can't tell you how much I don't fucking care.
posted by kbanas at 5:54 PM on October 15, 2013


I honestly, earnestly wonder what the director would make of this MeTa post.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:57 PM on October 15, 2013


Thread, that is. Not just the post.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:57 PM on October 15, 2013


I haven't had anything to say about the use of the word in question here because it's not a subject I'm knowledgeable enough to have any significant input into the conversation, and most of what I've thought has been adequately addressed by others. But this discussion has given me a lot more sympathy for other websites who've been hit by people wanting immediate deletions or action that have taken a little time to move. (cf the current DN Lee/SciAm thread, where the course of action desired was pretty clear but the timing was questioned in the thread)

Flapjax is a scholar and a gentleman and I'm glad he changed the wording once the offense was made known. But calling the mods bigots because they weren't immediately sure on a controversial term (used in the subject matter of the post by members of the group in question) and waited for the usual site process to play out? Harsh and not really warranted.
posted by immlass at 5:58 PM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


'Latcho Drom' was released in 1993. Generally, the use of that epithet is considered offensive twenty years later. A lot can change in twenty years.

As to whether someone has the right to identify him- or herself with a given ethnonym? Sure. Maybe not if that person has no actual ethnic connection to that group, but wears that identity as a badge that he or she can take off -- because it trivializes the identities of people who actually are members of that ethnic group. Wearing certain kinds of garments does not make one a member of that ethnic group. Consider how insulted many members of First Peoples communities are by college kids wearing headresses to parties.

The phrasing in the original post was (if I recall) "Gypsy... or Roma, if you prefer," which I felt was patronizing language. Does it appear in the documentary? Sure. Does that mean that it was appropriately used here? I suggest that it wasn't.

But! Everyone still reading has decided that I'm hysterical, strident, blustery... I can't remember the rest. Surely sooner or later you'll decide what the appropriately transmuted version of 'uppity' is.
posted by samofidelis at 6:00 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


This whole debate is confounding to me, though, and I wish it was just this one.

I personally can't ever wrap my head around fighty MeTas like this, because personally, I tend to think of my fellow MeFites as either friends or friends-of-friends/potential friends.

It's always somewhere between deeply weird and deeply upsetting to me how quick people are to do the AHA! I have unmasked a villain in our midst! thing. For Pete's sake, this is a site frequented almost exclusively by smart people interested in knowing and understanding the world as well and as with as much empathy as possible. If you can't offer a little benefit of the doubt here, who are you saving it for?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:02 PM on October 15, 2013 [41 favorites]


Clearly, I am a desperately naive person.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:04 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Samofidelis: Surely sooner or later you'll decide what the appropriately transmuted version of 'uppity' is.

Really?
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:06 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


samofidelis, I am sincerely grateful to you for putting the final nail in the coffin of use of the word on this site, and pushing along education (via MeFite ripple effect) to a wider world. I don't use the term, and will now say something when I hear it.

Simultaneously, you've been kind of an asshole in this thread.

Those things are not mutually exclusive! Funny old world.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 6:07 PM on October 15, 2013 [30 favorites]


But! Everyone still reading has decided that I'm hysterical, strident, blustery... I can't remember the rest.

Pointing out that you behaved poorly is not the same as disagreeing with your view that 'gypsy' is a problematic term that should be avoided. Most people in this thread, including the mods and Flapjax when he had the chance, agreed with you regarding the latter.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:08 PM on October 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


samofidelis: "But! Everyone still reading has decided that I'm hysterical, strident, blustery... I can't remember the rest. Surely sooner or later you'll decide what the appropriately transmuted version of 'uppity' is."

You know, I'm capable of simultaneously agreeing with someone's beliefs, and thinking they're an asshole.

To spell it out for you, you talk to us like we're all shitty racists or something, not potential friends and allies, even (especially) the ones who basically are sympathetic to your beliefs. You seem more interested in being "right", than being effective. You don't seem to care to be a part of this community.
posted by danny the boy at 6:08 PM on October 15, 2013 [14 favorites]


Surely sooner or later you'll decide what the appropriately transmuted version of 'uppity' is.

Stop behaving like an ass. The site has almost certainly modified its policies at your request. Go take a walk.
posted by mediareport at 6:12 PM on October 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


DirtyOldTown: It's always somewhere between deeply weird and deeply upsetting to me how quick people are to do the AHA! I have unmasked a villain in our midst! thing. For Pete's sake, this is a site frequented almost exclusively by smart people interested in knowing and understanding the world as well and as with as much empathy as possible. If you can't offer a little benefit of the doubt here, who are you saving it for?

Put into words perfectly what I've struggled to type for the last hour or so. I don't know what it is with this thread in particular. Maybe it's because we are close to the full moon, or the seasons are changing like during "Fighty April" and it's angsting people, or something. Don't know.

MetaFilter is the one place on the Web, sometimes I think the only place on the Web, the last place, where you do read the comments. And always, very nearly always, find that experience rewarding. I hope the several hundred comments of often unnecessary fire within this thread stays more the exception than the rule.
posted by Wordshore at 6:13 PM on October 15, 2013


Folks, cool it all around.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:14 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know what, on review I don't think that there is anything good to be achieved here by continuing to hound samofidelis. He's made his view very clear, everyone else has made their views known. Nobody wants another walkout. Let just call this one.

I'm out, at any rate. Have a good day, all.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:14 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, maybe we just close it up rather than continue the pile on? I think people are just talking past each other. Seems like the nearly universal opinion here was "ok, we'll do our best not to use that word going forward" - is there more to accomplish with the thread here?
posted by ish__ at 6:16 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


cortex and jessamyn, I appreciate your considered response near the end of what has to have been a pretty long day. Just to be clear, I'm not accusing you of threatening to ban f@m or of any type of coercion. And I do trust you jessamyn. I'm interested in the statistics from a systems point of view. Each moderator can only really be expected to notice their own particular slice of the edits, right? If it's something that the data dump can illuminate, let me know, maybe on a day with less going on.
posted by Jeff Howard at 6:30 PM on October 15, 2013


I can totally understand you being offended, but the resolution you proposed was kinda shitty. I also thought it was shitty that the mods were unwilling to edit that word quickly. So all in all, all actors involved were pretty shitty in my opinion.

But, looking over the resolution you wanted ('delete thread'), what would have been the effect? The thread gets deleted, and then it comes back up 24 hours later without the use of that slur?

Your goal should have been to get that edit done, rather than ask for a complete deletion. Had it been, you would nave been so frustrated.

You totally could have prevented that. But I'm also REALLY surprised by the mods decision to not IMMEDIATELY delete the slur, and to ask permission of the OP if they could do that.


I don't think that this is a fair reading of what was going on, but it is a long thread and details can get lost in the back and forth.

The mods have been pretty clear that their policy is not to edit threads without involving the OP. While this was a pretty basic edit and flapjax at midnite didn't have a problem with it, this policy prevents substantive changes that mess with a the post an OP intends. Can you imagine the outcry if the mods rewrote a post, changing something perceived as crucial by the OP and left it up there with a "posted by whoever"?

So they have a choice with problematic posts, leave them up until they can work out an edit with the OP or delete them altogether (letting them be re-posted with different framing later.) There are plenty of deleted posts with a note saying basically; good material, interesting post but maybe try again tomorrow without the problematic framing.

The mods chose not to delete this thread. Different people feel differently about this decision, but saying that samofidelis should have been pushing for an edit, rather than deletion isn't reasonable, given the policy on editing threads.

Jess left a note fairly early in saying that she had sent flapjax at midnite an email and was waiting to hear back. flapjax at midnite is in Japan and was presumably asleep during most of this thread. flapjax at midnite woke up, contacted the mods and requested a change.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 6:31 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I haven't participated in this MeTa at all but as someone who's been reading from the outside, IMO this conversation has made Metafilter look pretty bad. I feel disappointed that even one of the most enlightened discussion websites on the web would mostly rather call someone an asshole than understand where righteous anger comes from when someone's identity has been maligned and trampled in surpassingly nasty and violent ways for years. The vibe in this thread reminds me of basically any oppression-based thread on MeFi, except that a lot of people who usually get it just aren't getting it at all. This shit sucks. This:

In your case, I think it is 'fucking asshole that the site doesn't need'.

is incredibly repugnant nastiness, when someone's only "asshole" behavior has been about strongly disliking an ethnic slur toward them to remain up on the site. I get that Metafilter moves more slowly than some would like. I don't get why people wouldn't understand the IMO very justifiable reasons someone would take issue with that, and not like seeing that post sit there on some string of technicalities. Rules are not always good rules, even when good people make them or good people are following them. The "rules" of this site are amorphous based on the fact that rules often fail people, and in this case they are failing someone, I think. I respect the moderation on this site and I still don't think it's a black-and-white issue that The Post Must Remain until the author comes along and settles it. This whole thread is just an essay in how being called a bigot is the worst thing ever, or how the maligned not teaching you how not to be a bigot is the worst thing ever, or how someone saying "this is bigoted" is clearly calling you, personally, a bigot, and the worst thing they can do on top of that is also be angry. There should be room for discussion about these issues, absolutely, as there will always be different people will different views and backgrounds and different identities and claims to identity, but why reasonable people get so huffy and self-protective when someone else is fielding bigotry that they might have perpetuated is a mystery. As if these reasonable people have something to lose, compared to the person who just wants bigotry against them to stop.

samofidelis made a very on point remark that the way the term originally stood in the OP was extremely condescending. He also made a true (and apparently very enlightening for the population of Metafilter) remark about how the word is used and by whom. If he's been straightfoward about his views (far more informed than most people's here) I would think that would be a relief, for everyone who wants to learn.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:34 PM on October 15, 2013 [19 favorites]


I spent much of the 80's living in the country North of Naples, Italy and had the great opportunity and pleasure of meeting and having "Gypsies", or Roma, as neighbors one month a year during the winter.

My Italian neighbors warned about their thievery and that everything not nailed down would be stolen. The locals would have early morning "duck hunts" during which they would walk the buffalo fields and wetlands to fire off shotguns to threaten our short-term neighbors. The civil police (not Carabinieri) would show up as well, to "collect taxes" accepting bribes for the unofficial "camping".

I wasn't there to learn new prejudices, I was there to learn about the world and the people in it...the "Gypsies" as they introduced themselves to me, didn't disappoint. I showed up at their camp slightly drunk on a Friday night with a couple bottles of Lambrusco and in Italian just asked if they were camping. Yes, we are camping...we are Gypsy!

Sure, I imagine that they may have used that term as possibly the easiest for an American to recognize, but seriously, the didn't seem to give a shit.

The lambrusco was distributed pretty evenly and I was greeted with and shared a bottle of Johnny Walker. When I got drunk a couple of them carried me by the elbows to make sure I made it safely across the field to where my home was.

Only now do I realize why they were so interested in how I felt to be a U.S. citizen. Only now do I realize why "Gypsy" may be representative of being unwanted, left in the cold with no state or citizenship.
posted by snsranch at 6:35 PM on October 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


Each moderator can only really be expected to notice their own particular slice of the edits, right?

We only have six-ish moderators and we communicate constantly. We all have an admin view of the site so that we can see if other mods have made edits on anything. We can leave mod notes about the edits in case we made an edit that we thought might be confusing (a post gets a lot of flags for having a typo and you fix the typo it's worth making a note of some kind so if it continues to get flags you know it's not about the typo anymore) If people email for post or late-comment edits via the constant form, we're all in on that email and the mod response to it. If there's an HTML error flag (which people tend to use for typos also) we all see that flag.

But yeah, ping us later on and we can probably run the numbers and see how often it happens as opposed to how often we think it's happening.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:35 PM on October 15, 2013


Each moderator can only really be expected to notice their own particular slice of the edits, right?

In terms of volume, we have a log that all the mods can review if they're so inclined. I peek at it every once in a while but it's not very exciting. Sorting out deletes and self-edits and from user-content stuff would take a little work, but at a glance at the last few days it looks like on average we're probably touching a half-dozen comments per eight-hour-or-so shift, the vast majority of which would be user-requested typo/url fixes.

In terms of content, we have full changelogs for comments at this point, as a result of the implementation of the user-facing editing feature. We have no such similar logs for posts, but we've got an internal notion system where we can leave a brief note summarizing the reason for an edit record on the post. In the rare case of something more unusual than fixing a typo, we'll also generally toss an email to the team saying "btw, this is a thing that occurred, for reference".

The short version: we've got very high standards for editing behavior and zero incentive to keep anything on the downlow from the rest of the team or users. Again, I can appreciate that general tendency to like and to want to have access to complete data, but there's not much there and no reason for us to go to the trouble of pointedly surfacing it for public consumption. People need to trust us that we're being straight about this stuff, because getting all crowdsourced-bureaucracy about it is not even on the table.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:38 PM on October 15, 2013


is incredibly repugnant nastiness

It was also promptly deleted as being unnecessary nastiness.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:41 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Good, I'm sorry I didn't notice sooner.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:43 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


If whoever wanted to call me the 'fucking asshole that the site doesn't need' wants to touch base with me, just send me a private message and I'll get back to you about my terrible qualities. I missed seeing it the first go-round.
posted by samofidelis at 6:44 PM on October 15, 2013


(Feel free to delete my comment if it's just dragging out the nastiness. I copied it, I can revise and repost without that bit.)
posted by stoneandstar at 6:46 PM on October 15, 2013


there is no cabal^H^H^H^H^HMetafilter Prime

About 15 years ago I was an active member of a thousands-strong online social network. A MOO. We had jokes like this. They were especially funny when folks who WERE part of the cabal made the jokes.

I'm not saying MetaFilter has a cabal but I am saying sarcastic remarks like this don't help reassure the folks who secretly believe or suspect that it does.

Samofidelis is behaving pretty much exactly like I have done in situations where similarly upsetting terms and speech were allowed to stand and when being required and expected to handle that and the pile-ons graciously was new to me.

I'm not condoning samofidelis' behavior. I think it's been kind of assy. But at the same time I think it's kind of understandable. I hope e is able to return to future threads with more aplomb.

Also I don't think it's fair to conflate Slarty Bartfast's decision to take a break with samofidelis' actions or behavior. That's putting far too much on samofidelis and we all know that sometimes we just need a break. I've taken several and so have more loyal and permanent fixtures in our oh so very diverse collective.
posted by kalessin at 6:49 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


When I lived in Romania for a year in 94-95 it was a weird time to be in Romania generally much less be an ethnic minority in Romania. The city where I lived in has a largeish Hungarian population who were disliked and a medium-sized Roma population who were despised. It was really the first time I had ever lived somewhere where people were just flat out racist to your face about other people and to me directly.

We had friends visiting one of whom was a Chinese-American woman who was working on Roma rights issues and while she was trying to keep people from burning down the houses (no shit) of the resident Romani population, Romanian kids were running up to her in the street and saying the equivalent of "Hello Chinaman" and making slant eyes at her. Her boyfriend was a Dutch guy who was learning how to play violin from the local Roma guys who were amazing musicians and he could speak some of their language. Meanwhile Romanian people would make fun of me, like laugh at me openly in the streets because me and my husband "looked Jewish" (he had academicky glasses and a thin red beard). Our language teacher (who was ethnic Hungarian) taught us how to say "I don't like Black people" as one of the sample sentences you could learn to say. The entire situation was deeply upsetting and hard to deal with, though I'm sure the previous decades of the Ceaușescu reign hadn't done much for people's xenophobia.

And, oddly, the people who were nice to me, who didn't point and laugh at me, and who didn't make racist slant-eyes at my friends or cross themselves when me and my then-husband would get on the bus were the Roma who were usually smiley and friendly despite our language barrier (they seemed to be occasionally trying to buy my winter coat off of me) and despite the completely toxic environment that they lived in in Cluj. Not really sure what I am getting at, at this point, except to say that for folks in the US who are just used to the weird borderline passive-aggressive "bless your heart" sort of racist shit, it was really eye-opening to see what it looked like up close and personal and made me view the history (as I understood it then and then later) of the Roma people in a really new way.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:51 PM on October 15, 2013 [48 favorites]


I just wanted to check in and say thank you to the mods for dealing with a hell of a situation with no perfect solution today.
posted by WidgetAlley at 6:59 PM on October 15, 2013 [13 favorites]


(Jessamyn, there might have been people there in or around Cluj that I know at the time you were there. Small world, eh?)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:02 PM on October 15, 2013


Romanians are weirdly vocal about their prejudices, yeah. We met a young Romanian woman out here in the Chicago 'burbs while my mother-in-law (from Romania) was staying with us. We set up a lunch date, so maybe the two older ladies could bond. The other lady's mom cheerfully said she was glad to meet anyone from home, as long as she wasn't a Hungarian. My mother-in-law turned to my wife and said as brightly as she could, in Hungarian, "I think we're done here, yes?"
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:09 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


"The phrasing in the original post was (if I recall) "Gypsy... or Roma, if you prefer," which I felt was patronizing language. Does it appear in the documentary? Sure. Does that mean that it was appropriately used here? I suggest that it wasn't."

I suggest you did more than merely suggesting. I suggest you rather insisted. It's a shame you felt patronized, but as we've seen, you're not necessarily a fair arbiter of a reasonable opinion.

But! Everyone still reading has decided that I'm hysterical, strident, blustery... I can't remember the rest. Surely sooner or later you'll decide what the appropriately transmuted version of 'uppity' is."

Ah yes! No one can disagree with your tone, lest they be antiziganist! I do hope that the general anti-political correctness brigade is paying you well for your burlesque.

As for your complaints about the language of 20 years ago, Tony Gatlif calls himself a gypsy and talks about gypsies even now — he states his last film was about a man saving gypsies from the Holocaust.

Why don't you hector him for a while?
posted by klangklangston at 7:17 PM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Our language teacher (who was ethnic Hungarian) taught us how to say "I don't like Black people" as one of the sample sentences you could learn to say.

This reminds me of how one of the Berlitz "Teach Yourself Russian" books from the 60s had tons of phrases about how much Tatars suck.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:20 PM on October 15, 2013


This reminds me of how one of the Berlitz "Teach Yourself Russian" books from the 60s had tons of phrases about how much Tatars suck.

Whaaat? Even Tatar Tots?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:26 PM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't have anything to say about this.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:28 PM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Tony Gatlif talks about Gypsy history and identity, from August 2013.
posted by klangklangston at 7:30 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Whaaat? Even Tatar Tots?

Best served with Tatar sauce.
posted by Nomyte at 7:31 PM on October 15, 2013


What's your argument, klang, that those of us offended by this term aren't as much a part of the culture as he, and therefore all of us must accept the use of this term? I'm sorry that I don't know more about my ethnic background; like that of many people, it was erased. That is hardly unique.

But the people I do know in that culture deeply disliked the use of that term. They're all the family my mom has, so I feel protective of them.

That is all personal, and not really germane; the argument can stand on its own legs without his opinion or mine. It is clear that to many, this is a pejorative. Do you really think it's worth trying to catch me in some kind of trap and get me to say that my opinion matters more than that of a renowned documentarian? It doesn't. But to many, many people, that term is a vile word loaded with racism. Why are so many people looking for reasons why it's ok to use it, when there are clear ones not to?
posted by samofidelis at 7:32 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is not a vile word. Please stop saying that. You're talking about people's ethnic identity.
posted by perhapsolutely at 7:34 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


perhapsolutely, not to demean your own relationship with the term, but samofidelis clearly qualifies that by prefacing with: "But to many, many people, that term is a vile word loaded with racism."

I think this is pretty much indisputable.
posted by smoke at 7:36 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ok, perhapsolutely, you're right; to those people who identify as 'Gypsy' it is not a pejorative, and that was an inappropriate thing to say. But its use, generally, is not to properly address people who choose that word for themselves. It is very frequently used in contexts where it is pejorative. I apologize. I do not think it is appropriate to argue that it can therefore be used the way that it commonly is.
posted by samofidelis at 7:38 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


It doesn't suit you; you're not Gypsy. Fine. That has nothing to do with what the word actually means to people who identify as such. You don't get to proscribe a word from its valid accepted use just because it doesn't apply to you.

Smoke, that's fine for them. I don't want to call them names. I just want them to stop vilifying a word they admit doesn't even apply to them. It's not their identity. Great. It is someone else's. So maybe cool of with demonizing the word.
posted by perhapsolutely at 7:40 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


"What's your argument, klang, that those of us offended by this term aren't as much a part of the culture as he, and therefore all of us must accept the use of this term? I'm sorry that I don't know more about my ethnic background; like that of many people, it was erased. That is hardly unique."

My argument is that in talking about a movie specifically about gypsy culture by a director who identifies himself as gypsy, who gives interviews to both gypsies and mainstream press and talks about gypsies, that declaring that gypsy is a unilateral slur ignores a broader cultural context.

This has nothing to do with your heritage being erased, aside from you seeming to be insecure about that and perhaps overcompensating.

"But the people I do know in that culture deeply disliked the use of that term. They're all the family my mom has, so I feel protective of them."

Yet other people in that culture don't mind it, when used in the context of this film. Your being protective of your family does not prevent you from acting in bad faith, nor from being supercilious and strident.

"That is all personal, and not really germane; the argument can stand on its own legs without his opinion or mine. "

Or not.

"It is clear that to many, this is a pejorative."

In some contexts; not in others. For example, gypsy doesn't modify jazz in a pejorative way.

"Do you really think it's worth trying to catch me in some kind of trap and get me to say that my opinion matters more than that of a renowned documentarian? It doesn't."

If it doesn't matter more than the opinion of the reknowned documentarian, then accusing people of racism is pretty ill-considered, don't you think?

"But to many, many people, that term is a vile word loaded with racism."

Those people may be invited to recognize context in usage, and refrain from a simplistic, Manichean view of language.

Why are so many people looking for reasons why it's ok to use it, when there are clear ones not to?

Because, as stated prior, the default is to use the language of self-description when dealing with ethnic minorities. The self-description here is gypsy. That you find that a vile slur does not mean that it is, and that you keep implying that people are using it as a slur is unsupported.

And as you've cut no one else any slack in your jeremiad, I feel no real need to cut you any slack now that this has been pointed out.
posted by klangklangston at 7:42 PM on October 15, 2013 [14 favorites]


I don't support the use of any word as an epithet. I'm with you on avoiding those usages. But there's baby in that bathwater.
posted by perhapsolutely at 7:44 PM on October 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


Why are so many people looking for reasons why it's ok to use it, when there are clear ones not to?

I don't have a dog in this fight. I've understood "Gypsy" to be offensive for a while now and do my best not to use it. It seems like this website is going to be stricter about how that term is used in the future, and I'm glad of that.

Nevertheless, samofidelis, there is more than a little testimony here in this very thread about how some groups prefer the term. You've made your point loud and clear that you don't prefer it and find it offensive, and I hear you and support that. But it seems to me at this point that you are oversimplifying something that is not that simple.
posted by gauche at 7:44 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Ok, perhapsolutely, you're right; to those people who identify as 'Gypsy' it is not a pejorative, and that was an inappropriate thing to say. But its use, generally, is not to properly address people who choose that word for themselves. It is very frequently used in contexts where it is pejorative. I apologize. I do not think it is appropriate to argue that it can therefore be used the way that it commonly is."

In the case of the front page post, it was used absolutely appropriately to refer to someone who self-identifies as a gypsy. You then used this as an opportunity to grandstand and accuse anyone who did not acquiess immediately of being an antiziganist.

You made nasty accusations based on your own ignorance. I do hope that you will be more circumspect in the future.
posted by klangklangston at 7:45 PM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


But there's baby in that bathwater.

Is there though? What do you lose by not using this word?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:45 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm really trying not to demonise any word or anyone, and I apologise if you took that from me.
posted by smoke at 7:45 PM on October 15, 2013


And to think that all of this came about because of a post about a wordless documentary about gypsy music.
posted by y2karl at 7:46 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Is there though? What do you lose by not using this word?"

Being able to refer to Tony Gatlif by the ethnonym he prefers, for one.
posted by klangklangston at 7:47 PM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


What do you lose by not using this word?

The person you're addressing has said several times in this thread that they self-identify using this word, so this question seems very weird.
posted by palomar at 7:49 PM on October 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


Maybe I'm misunderstanding something. Doesn't this thing solely apply to those offended by the term?

On preview, thanks for the clarification. I had indeed misunderstood.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:51 PM on October 15, 2013


Is there though? What do you lose by not using this word?

People have a right to self-identify, without other people telling them that they are using the wrong words to describe themselves.

This particular example is complicated because the broader subject is unique and complicated.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:51 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


What do you lose by not using this word?

"my Gypsy family, having lived in North America for almost 400 years, have always identified as Gypsy, both within and outside the group. They consider it an insult when informed their ethnic designation is a 'slur'."
posted by chinston at 7:52 PM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


Ah, okay. Sorry.
posted by chinston at 7:53 PM on October 15, 2013


went to see the gypsy,
to get my fortune told
i said i went to see the gypsy,
to get my fortune told
she told me flap, i quit the business
that's right, i had to fold

"you see i used to hang a sign outside,
said *let the gypsy tell your fate*
oh yes i used to hang a sign outside,
said *let the gypsy tell your fate*
but then some people came and shut me down,
insisted it's a term of hate"

but i said "wait now just a minute,
i'm a gypsy myself, don'tcha know"
yes i said "wait now just a minute,
i'm a gypsy myself, don'tcha know"
they said "uh-uh, that doesn't matter
you better pack your bags and go"

"so you see, flap, I'm outta business now
and man, your fortune can't be read
that's right dear 'jax, I'm outta business now
and man your fortune can't be read
I suggest you go and ask someone
down at MetaTalk instead"
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:55 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


You know what, klang? You raise a good point. I wish you had been here this morning, and I wish that you weren't so intent on sneering at me when doing so.

Do I think you're right that everything that's happened in the world in the fullness of time is my fault? No. And I think that deleting my comment "This term is used by antiziganists" was uncalled for. Roma and other ethnic groups are often reduced to music and dress, which can then be consumed -- the Sami people are trivialized by people who think they're just a source for 'cute' fashion. Nor do I think that one person's opinion about how he wishes to be called should lead to "Gypsy,... or Roma, if you prefer" kind of remarks. And I think that when someone says This is offensive to me, the correct answer isn't No it's not.

I turned up the knob on this really quickly. It's because I felt like this was being trivialized. If you look through the thread, you'll see a number of people stating that this isn't a problem.

And now on preview it appears that flapjax at midnite's latest addition to ethnography is a ditty about a fortune teller. That's a great shit to take here, thanks a lot, it's not at all stereotypical. Proved my point for me, I guess. "I'm a gypsy, too"? Really?
posted by samofidelis at 7:58 PM on October 15, 2013 [23 favorites]


In the interest of calming things down just a scoche...

That jazz band I was asking about, I was only asking about as a way of illustrating a point I was trying to make. But that band does exist, and henceforth I shall refer to them solely by the band name, which is "The Draba Trio."

And here is a clip I found online, which I strongly suspect was filmed on the very same day I saw them on the Ponte Santa Trinita in Florence; I'd wandered over to watch the sunset and there they were and I sat there for about an hour and a half just chillin', and ended up buying a CD and it was excellent, and so here, let's all enjoy The Draba Trio.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:00 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Someone asked way up-thread, as a rhetorical question, "How many people does it take to claim offence before we change policy/law related to these issues?" But, honestly, there has to be some vague line, or, as someone else pointed out, we could not use the word "women" on Mefi. But, again, there has to be some vague line, or the anti-PC brigade will just use this as an argument for "well, if you can't find a perfect word, then any word is OK, no matter how many people it offends!" So policy-wise, I dunno...10% seems about right, but that's just me.

On the personal level (as opposed to site policy), I'm thinking it's best to just look for the Least Offensive Term. No matter what term you pick, you're going to piss off someone. So just try, as best you can, to figure out which term pisses off the fewest. If more people get pissed off by "Gypsy" than by "Roma", use "Roma". If more people get pissed off by "Roma" than "Gypsy", use "Gypsy". Do so knowing and accepting that you're still going to piss some folks off, and they'll accuse you of being X-ist, but if you've picked the least offensive word possible, then that's just the annoying nature of language. They're not a bad person for assuming you're X-ist, and you're not X-ist for using the word.
posted by Bugbread at 8:01 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seriously? A song about "a fortune telling gypsy." This isn't cute.
posted by samofidelis at 8:02 PM on October 15, 2013 [13 favorites]


"I don't know what it is with this thread in particular. Maybe it's because we are close to the full moon, or the seasons are changing like during "Fighty April" and it's angsting people, or something. Don't know."

We'd gone a whole week without a fighty MeTa and everyone was bored?
posted by Jacqueline at 8:03 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


A song about "a fortune telling gypsy."

The American music tradition, particularly the blues tradition, is full to bursting with songs referencing gypsy fortune tellers. If mine got you all het up, I'm sorry about that. But you've been het up from the get go, as many have pointed out. I'd suggest you stay away from Muddy Waters, Furry Lewis, Howlin' Wolf and, well, just about all of 'em, to be safe.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:09 PM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


flapjax, everyone thought you were right and I was just an asshole, and you went and wrote a song about a "fortune telling gypsy." Are you serious. You think that is funny.
posted by samofidelis at 8:09 PM on October 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


flapjax, everyone thought you were right and I was just an asshole

I don't think it's fair to say "everyone" thought I was right.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:10 PM on October 15, 2013


Everyone's going to think you're a bigot, now. Howlin' Wolf died in 1976. This is 2013.
posted by samofidelis at 8:11 PM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, count me among the grossed out. This has moved onto pure taunting of the person who was bothered enough to raise the point, and it's just puerile and awful.
posted by Ouisch at 8:12 PM on October 15, 2013 [48 favorites]


....Flapjax, I may have to re-think that offer of a beer.

....And samofidelis, one time telling flapjax that was a low blow was probably sufficient.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:13 PM on October 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


flapjax, music history is one thing, but in the context of the discussion here, maybe the lighthearted joke is a little out of place?
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:13 PM on October 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


I don't think this thread and issue needs any more petrol. Your gracious initial response to the mods was the right one, jax. Peeps are upset, you know?
posted by smoke at 8:14 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think thread should be closed up probably because oh boy.
posted by kbanas at 8:15 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


No, it's okay to repeatedly point out that he wrote a stupid racist song to make fun of me. I mean no one knows how many Roma were murdered in the Porajmos because the Germans didn't think it was worth keeping records, but hey who cares, fortune tellers, am I right.

Everyone said we should give you the benefit of the doubt, flapjax at midnite. But they were wrong.
posted by samofidelis at 8:15 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Everyone's going to think you're a bigot, now.

Sure, man, whatever you say.

May I suggest, though, that any future points you wish to address specifically to me be done through MeMail, and not this thread?

Peeps are upset, you know?

Yeah, OK. I thought it was a funny tune. Mods are welcome to pull it if deemed too incendiary.

No, it's okay to repeatedly point out that he wrote a stupid racist song to make fun of me.

You're way too self-centered, man. I wrote the tune for everybody. Don't give yourself so much credit.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:16 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


maybe the lighthearted joke is a little out of place?

What's light hearted about this? It's racist.
posted by samofidelis at 8:17 PM on October 15, 2013 [19 favorites]


Flapjax, seriously, you can read the room better than this.
posted by Bugbread at 8:18 PM on October 15, 2013 [33 favorites]


I wasn't even mad at you, flapjax, because I thought there wasn't any bad intent on your part, and I thought it was accidentally offensive. I thought it was shitty that the moderators refused to edit that post. klang makes a really good point that the director of the film uses that ethnic term to identify himself, and I was pretty much convinced that I was wrong, which is hard to say because this shit hurts, but it turns out that you... are kind of racist. And maybe you think Roma are just fortune tellers and musicians? I don't know. It looks like it now.
posted by samofidelis at 8:19 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sigh...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:19 PM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Stick with your later insight, Samofidelis, it was the more nuanced and generous one. I was impressed by how you gave deeper consideration to what is a very upsetting issue to you, in the face of comments marginalising that upset - and you weren't afraid to modify your opinion as more facts came out about the director etc.

That approach is I think better for the community, more effective in encouraging reflection about use of the terms "gypsy" and "roma" here, and I suspect might make you feel better about the whole thing, too.
posted by smoke at 8:23 PM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


klang makes a really good point that the director of the film uses that ethnic term to identify himself, and I was pretty much convinced that I was wrong

can we talk about this right quick

I am one of those open mouth insert foot people that obliviously makes insensitive remarks and the shame gives me insomnia once I am made aware that harm has been caused or that there is potential for offense.

In an effort to avoid that as much as possible in the future, are we agreeing that the refer to the group as they have self-identified thing is site/life etiquette?
posted by skrozidile at 8:24 PM on October 15, 2013


I mean no one knows how many Roma were murdered in the Porajmos because the Germans didn't think it was worth keeping records, but hey who cares, fortune tellers, am I right.

Dude. I am agreeing with you that his song was bad. I am only saying that screaming at him twice within the space of only a minute isn't helping you - give the rest of us a chance to weigh in as well, maybe you'll find that you have more supporters than you think.

And saying that my response was of the "hey who cares, fortune tellers, am I right" ilk is really tone deaf.

Look, dude, you're mad - JUSTIFIABLY mad, but you're mad, and that may be causing you to make a few mistakes as to what people are saying. Maybe sitting on your hands and letting other people make your arguments for you may be what's called for here -because I've seen other people saying those same arguments you've been making.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:29 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wasn't even mad at you, flapjax, because I thought there wasn't any bad intent on your part, and I thought it was accidentally offensive. I thought it was shitty that the moderators refused to edit that post. klang makes a really good point that the director of the film uses that ethnic term to identify himself, and I was pretty much convinced that I was wrong, which is hard to say because this shit hurts,

That's great! No sarcasm: I actually thought you hated almost everyone in this thread, including the people who agreed with you. We seem to have finally moved forward together.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 8:29 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ok, at this point I'm inclined to close this thread. The original post has been edited and the objection to the term has been thoroughly explained.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:35 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


flapjax, music history is one thing, but in the context of the discussion here, maybe the lighthearted joke is a little out of place?
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 22:13 on October 15 [2 favorites +] [!]


You know, given that I thought the moderators here were ignoring a problem with antiziganism, the fact that this minstrel show shit flapjax just took in the middle of the thread is being called "a lighthearted joke"....? What the hell? Really? It's a lighthearted joke, and it's a little out of place?
posted by samofidelis at 8:36 PM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I actually thought you hated almost everyone in this thread, including the people who agreed with you.

I thought so too, because of the tone and substance of most of samofidelis's posts up until that one. But the general accusations of racism and bigotry that the man was hurling before just got specifically narrowed down to yours truly in the latest comments. Which is probably more convenient.

Anyway, samofidelis has now officially called me a racist, beause of the song I posted, and that's his right. He can scream "flapjax is a racist" all night long, til the cows come home, till a new day dawns, whatever. And he just might! Anyway, there it is. If you need me to be your own personal Racist of the Day, samofidelis, go on ahead.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:37 PM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Ok, at this point I'm inclined to close this thread.

PLEASE DO
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:37 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


It was a tone deaf joke and very out of place, yes. We're going to close this up.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:37 PM on October 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


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