April 10 2017
The Australian government has published an “Excuse Interpreter,” claiming that seemingly harmless phrases actually contribute to widespread violence against women.
The guide, part of a $30 million “Stop it at Start” domestic-violence prevention campaign, claims that common expressions have “hidden meanings” that “excuse disrespectful behavior toward girls.”
“Not all disrespect towards women results in violence,” the guide claims. “But all violence against women starts with disrespectful behavior… Without realizing it, we can sometimes say and do things that make young people think disrespectful and aggressive behaviors are acceptable.”
The guide asks whether readers “have ever thought or said” that a girl is either “a bit of a tomboy” or “a little princess.”
Both phrases are damaging, the guide says, because they communicate to girls that “I shouldn’t be myself,” that they should dress differently and look more or less feminine, and that they are judged on their appearance.
The guide also claims the phrase “boys will be boys” is one of many with the hidden meaning that “accepting aggression is just part of being a boy.” Saying it teaches girls that aggression is “just what boys do—I should get used to it,” and encourages boys not to change their behavior.
The guide has already come under fire for policing language and taking a simplistic approach to addressing domestic violence.
Jeremy Sammut, a senior research fellow for the free-market think tank the Centre for Independent Studies, said that the “Excuse Interpreter” ignores entrenched social problems, instead going for the “low-hanging fruit” of potentially offensive language.
“Everyone agrees that language should be respectful,” he said, “but whether you’re dealing with the issue that drives domestic violence is the debate we should be having. The idea that you can change attitudes with linguistic retraining and turn them into this generation of New Age guys is ridiculous.”
Here’s the full list of phrases the Australian government suggests may contribute to violence against women.