Saturday, April 30, 2011

Don't be a kiki

(Hat tip: Yuey)

What should be a source of mild amusement becomes a gigantic facepalm due to one person's ridiculous oversensitivity and an over-zealous bureacracy's strange need to indulge a busybody. From The Daily Telegraph:

A NSW woman says she is being relentlessly pursued by state road authorities because her personalized number plate means "vagina" in another language, reported Wednesday.
The Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) says the number plate bearing the name - "Kiki" - is the same word used for vagina in the Filipino language, Tagalog, and wanted them removed.
Kristen Perry, a lawyer from Newcastle, said she was informed of her "offensive" nickname after first receiving her personalized plates five years ago as a gift from her husband, the Newcastle Herald reports.
"At first I thought it was a joke, but then I realized it was actually quite serious and that my number plates would be taken off me if I didn't respond appropriately," Perry told ABC.
"Quite frankly it's a bit of a funny thing, but at the same time quite a bit scary that we've got people that can just report a number plate that seems quite inoffensive to 99 percent of us out there, but one percent have an issue with it."
The RTA has said it received a complaint from a Tagalog speaker who found the number plate offensive. The Tagalog people is an ethnic group in the Philippines, making up 28.1 per cent of the Filipino population.
Perry said that Kiki has been her nickname since childhood. ''I rang my father last night and said, 'Do you know you have been calling me vagina all my life?'''
This afternoon the RTA relented.
"The RTA has a responsibility to investigate complaints about personalised plate content, but we recognise that in doing this we must take a common sense approach,’’ a spokeswoman said today. "We recognise in this case a common sense approach was not adopted and Ms Perry will retain the content of her plates."
I really, really hate this sort of fuss-making over nothing.

Now, I'm no spokesman for the Filipino-Australian community (I'm not Filipino for a start), but I'm going to take it upon myself to speak for them here. Do you know how many people of Filipino origin there are in Australia? Something like 160,000. But how many of those would actually be offended by seeing "KIKI" on a license plate, and would think it such an important matter that they would lodge a complaint about it?

A handful at most. The vast, vast majority would probably just chuckle to themselves about it.

Think about it - just say you were in, say, Iran and saw the personalised license plate of someone with the unfortunate name of Mr C**t. Would you ring up the Iranian traffic authority and complain? No, you'd laugh, and take a picture to show your friends back home.

In fact, years ago, I was watching TV with my girlfriend of the time, who was Filipino, and she started laughing at a cat food ad that featured a cat named "Pookie", which also sounds like puki, another Tagalog word for vagina. (It strikes me that Filipinos have a lot of words for vagina.) She certainly didn't ring the TV station to complain, and I'm sure no one else did either.

But all it takes is one busybody to spur the RTA into action. Thank goodness common sense prevailed. Although with the number of people dying from crashes on our roads, I'm rather concerned that anyone at the RTA has the time and resources to moonlight as the Tagalog manners police as well.

But aside from being a waste of everyone's time and a poor reflection upon the sole Tagalog-speaker who was so terminally lame as to lodge the complaint, there's another reason why we need to make sure this sort of thing doesn't happen.

This sort of story inevitably gets into the papers, and witness the responses it engenders:
Jim diGris of Dungog Posted at 6:01 PM April 20, 2011
1 person complains and causes a stink. This country has gone mad with political correctness and pandering to minorities
Comment 2 of 21

MB of Cairns Posted at 7:24 PM April 20, 2011
Another case of the minority trying to dictate to the generally silent and sensible majority. So relieved Kiki took the mindless bureaucrats to task over this.
Comment 7 of 21

TCK Posted at 8:05 PM April 20, 2011
It might surprise them but this isn't the Philipines, it's Australia and Kiki is not offensive here. how many other cultures, nations etc are we expected to cowtow to? The old story, if you don't like something about Australia or Aussies...GO HOME, don't expect us to change to suit you.
Comment 10 of 21

RichardC Posted at 8:31 PM April 20, 2011
The RTA is staffed by arrogant fools. This is Australia, we speak English and KIKI is not an offensive word in Australia. In fact my daughter, whose name is Kristianne was called KIKI when she was small because that's how her brother pronounced it. If some foreigner doesn't like life in Australia then they are welcome to go somewhere else. SOON!
Comment 11 of 21
And so on. You'll notice how the complaint of a single easily-offended Filipino-Australian has suddenly become "Another case of the minority trying to dictate to the generally silent and sensible majority."  One person = a whole section of society? And the reality is that the above comments reflect a pretty widespread view. Their perception is that the ethnic lobby and the politically correct brigade are out to interfere in the most mundane aspects of the average Australian's life over some petty bullshit.

The above commenters seem fairly douchey, and while I don't really care what they think, all that is achieved by stupid cases like this is that more regular folk begin to acquire those sorts of attitudes. It's unfortunate, but when a member of an ethnic minority does something objectionable, it ends up reflecting on all ethnic minorities, in the minds of a lot of people. That's not right, but it's reality, and it just feeds prejudices. And one day, when we have serious, real problems to raise a fuss about, we might be taken less seriously since we are perceived as a bunch of whingers.

Other examples:
Banks no longer giving piggy banks to kids for fear of offending Muslims. The vast majority of Muslims wouldn't be offended at all by piggy banks (it's not a real pig, therefore it's not unclean), but it just fuels the perception of Muslims not wanting to integrate and wanting to take away the freedoms of the majority.
The Korean-American woman who attempted to sue Miley Cyrus for $4 billion, after the teen starlet was photographed making the "chinky-eye" gesture at a party. Now, a lot of people were offended by that photo, and fair enough too, but to sue Cyrus for any amount of money, let alone $4 billion, is so ridiculous that it's beyond ridiculous. And it just encourages ignorant people to think that Asians are just too sensitive.

So by all means, fight for your rights, people. But when it comes to the insignificant stuff, just get a life and move on. You're making us all look bad.

And to the companies and government departments that indulge this nonsense - you're part of the problem. Grow some balls.


  1. Do you know a brand of cookware named "Silit"?

    In the Javanese language, silit means (literally) the hole in your butt. A lot of my Javanese friends chuckle everytime they air an ad for Silit (e.g., "Huahahahah kompor silit!"). Some even proceeded to tell their Australian friends the meaning of the word "silit". I now have quite a few Australian-born friends throwing out words like "SILIT!!" every now and then... which is quite fun, I guess. Except when they do it in Indonesian restaurants.

    It's amazing how our reaction towards a potentially "offensive" stimulus can either bring people closer together or push them further apart. Having a good sense of humour helps a lot I think.

  2. @ Ant:
    Wow, I had no idea. Even if no-one takes action to get Silit products banned on obsenity grounds, such a revelation could prove damaging to the company's sales and reputation. After all, no one wants to eat food that's been cooked in an anus.

    I once read that Ford motor company was perplexed by the poor sales of the Pinto model car in Brazil, until they found out that "pinto" was Brazilian slang for "small penis". And no one wants to drive around in one of those.

  3. @ES:

    There's also another word for vagina in Filipino and it's pek pek. And you're right about the majority of Filipinos chuckling over the word "kiki." In fact, I'm chuckling right now as I'm typing this post. :)

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