You won’t read the slurs in this post again on the Village Aunties, unless it’s under very particular circumstances. The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted the following clause in the Village Aunties guidelines page, Take Heed:
Village aunties challenge language and actions that reinforce oppression.
Use of language on this blog that reinforces sexism, heterosexism, racism, transphobia, and class oppression (to give but a few examples) will not be tolerated. Not taking heed will get commenters summarily banned according to the sole discretion of the village aunties.
This includes such terminology as “ned”, “chav”, “pikey”, “white trash” and other insults regarding people’s position in the class structure. It also includes “teuchter”, “weegie”, “Gaelic mafia” and other terms (including sectarian slurs) used to insult people according to where they belong in Scotland’s cultural landscape. Exceptions will be made only for individual village aunties who rightfully claim a label for themselves, and for the use of words from Scots or other languages in the context of that language, as long as they are used non-pejoratively. For instance, self-identified ned feminists are more than welcome; as are posts written in Scots that use the word “teuchter” in its original sense.
Many readers may be shocked, puzzled or annoyed to read the second paragraph. The white people among us (which includes me) know we can’t use “the ‘N’ word” or “the ‘P’ word”. Most of us understand why. There are a range of words in between these almost universally acknowledged slurs, and general insults like the lovely Kiwi insult “ya egg”, where the degree of taboo, offense or potential hurt or exclusion are debated.
Many well-meaning people will have used some of the Village Aunties’ banned terms in daily life without realising they may be offensive, demeaning or hurtful to some. I certainly have in the past. This is not about shaming people. It’s about making the Village Aunties as comfortable a place as possible for the broadest diversity of people to come and discuss Scottish issues in a feminist context, and feminist issues in a Scottish context.
And with that in mind, it’s also about creating a space to discuss how we can move Scottish society toward being a less oppressive, exclusionary, or discriminatory place. Village aunties challenge ourselves and our culture to be better, without shaming, guilt-tripping or bullying.
Microaggression: A framework for understanding how we can be good allies to each other
I recently came across the concept of “microaggression“, which started out as a way of understanding and describing some of the more subtle ways that racism works in the daily lives of marginalised ethnic and racial groups.
I quickly grasped how that idea could be applied to my own experiences as a woman, a bisexual woman, a woman in a same-sex relationship, an immigrant to Scotland. Of course, others had got there long before me. Here is a good summary of the concept and why it’s important (the video is under 5 minutes long; transcript coming soon):
One of the great contributions of the feminist blog-o-sphere (and feminist ‘net in general) is in working out how we should treat each other online. Village Aunties aspires to the very best of this tradition of creating a good place for all to come.
So, it’s not just about noticing microaggressions against us but being mindful of how we may be perpetrating microaggressions against others who are different from ourselves. Hence the guideline.
Languages of Scotland, language in Scotland
There are many pejorative terms in use in Scotland, some of them native and some of them borrowed from England or the US.
The Village Aunties blog supports all Scotland’s languages: Scots in all its local dialects (including Glaswegian Scots), Doric, Gaelic, Scottish English, and any of the other languages that have developed here or taken root here more recently. Contributions are welcome in these languages.
How does that fit with banning the use of a fine Scots word like “teuchter”? Well, people posting in the relevant languages can certainly use such terms, as long as they are used in their original meanings and not as pejorative terms. But we ask that everyone consider the guidelines, and the issue of microaggressions, carefully before doing so.
‘Weegie’ as one contentious example
I’ve had and been witness to a number of arguments about the use of “weegie” to designate people or things Glaswegian. Some people (generally not born and bred Glaswegians in my experience) think it’s simply a harmless nickname like “Kiwi” for a New Zealander. Some Glaswegians think it’s OK as long as it’s being used in a friendly manner and not in an abusive way. Some people who live in Glasgow think it’s OK to “reclaim” it, despite the fact that, as far as I know, it was never claimed by Glaswegians in the first place. This last argument raises all the same issues and arguments about “reclaiming” words like “slut”. Who gets to use it, and how? Who decides?
The discussion over “weegie” also carries a class issue within it. The association of “weegie” with demeaning descriptions of working class or poor Glaswegians is strong, if not universal. This may affect who experiences hearing it as a microaggression, who as a fun joke. We’re taking the side of the former here at the Village Aunties. So, you are free to use whatever words you like in your own life but please don’t say “weegie” here.
‘Ned’ as an example of right-on class hatred
The fact that there’s a feature film that uses the term in its title doesn’t change the scathing, seething, sneering that usually infuses use of this term in daily life in Scotland. Not unlike the term “slumdog” as in “Slumdog Millionaire”, which is also pejorative and sparked protests in Mumbai.
I have to say I’ve never heard one word so commonly used as a term of abuse amongst so-called right-on people as “ned”. I wish I could find a self-identified ned feminist to post, but I’m a typical sheltered middle class person in Glasgow; I don’t actually know any neds, unless some of my friends are keeping themselves in the closet about it.
It’s very difficult to make any discussion space genuinely open to voices from across the social class spectrum in Scotland. Village aunties will do their best while working within this most pernicious and fundamental system of oppression and hierarchical domination. We’re making a feeble start by banning the use of “ned” and words like it, while knowing this is barely even pissing into the wind.
A word on gendered language
While we’re pissing into the wind, some of the inaugural village aunties are irritated by the encroaching Americanism of using “guys” to refer to groups which have girls or women in them. Your author today is a New Zealander, and hence has always lived with “guys” as gender neutral, however, the great Glaswegian comedian Limmy has the final word, so take heed about addressing women as “guys”:
I would also like to reduce referring to women as “girls” but feel I don’t even have any piss left to send into the wind.
A final word on microaggression and Village Aunties as a transgender ally blog
You’d have to have been living under a rock for the past 20 years to not know that the issue of supporting transgender people in their self-identified gender is one of the primary schismatic faultlines in feminism today. Village aunties is not a woman-only blog; people of all genders who are on board with our manifesto are welcome to post and comment here. And this goes much deeper than just an issue of words, even though the argument manifests sometimes as the question “What is a woman?”
However, I want to finish this post with a note about the effect of microaggressions on trans people, and affirm that there will be no such exclusion, oppression or hurtful behaviour on this blog.
Today as I was looking at the micoraggressions.com website for material for this post, the following item had been posted by a trans woman:
For once, I feel beautiful and free and comfortable in my own skin. I smile as I walk down the path along the creek near the center of town, delighting in the feel of a warm breeze through my skirt, my hair grazing against my bare shoulders.
A groups of three strong young men walks in the other direction, exuding confidence, looking as happy as I feel. As they pass, one greets me:
“Hey, *MAN*, how’s it goin’?”
He sneers and laughs. I’m a woman in my early 30’s, about a year into my gender transition (male to female, if that wasn’t obvious). I feel alone and scared, and I just want to get home so that I can cry. I pray I won’t be beaten or raped or murdered.
Microaggressions underlay and reinforce the threat of real violence that all of us face as a potentiality in our lives within this culture and political system.
Village aunties reject microsaggressions as perpetrators and as victims.