I absolutely wasn't, was I?

(66 Posts)
hazleweatherfieldgirldetective Tue 11-Dec-12 16:52:47

I recently volunteered to help out with my local girl guide group and last night was my first meeting with them. At the start they all played a game where one leader would call out a statement followed by an instruction such as 'if you have brown hair, move four chairs to the left'.

This went on for a while and in the end, the other leader was running out of suggestions, so the girls got a bit silly and started shouting out their own. One girl shouted 'Move one chair right if you're American!' to which the leader laughed and said 'No one here is American X!'. Another little girl, with a strong north-easter accent piped up 'I'm American!'.

'Yeah right! And I'm Japanese!' Responded the leader, placing her fingers at the corners of her eyes and pulling them tight cue much raucous laughing from the girls and the leader.

At this point I interjected, and told the girls it wasn't very nice to laugh at an entire ethnic group because of a physical feature. The girls went quiet, the other leader glared at me viciously, there was a short pause and the game continued.

I doubt very much I will be allowed back. But I wasn't being unreasonable, was I?

hettie Tue 11-Dec-12 16:53:55


MadSleighLady Tue 11-Dec-12 16:54:44

Nope. Well done for saying something, I'd have been too shock

firawla Tue 11-Dec-12 16:54:58

no you're weren't, thats quite bad

Chelvis Tue 11-Dec-12 16:55:55

Did you say you went to a girl guide group or 1910? because that was about the last time that sort of thing was socially acceptable. My God!

JamieandtheMagiTorch Tue 11-Dec-12 16:56:32


You were quite right to challenge it, many would not have done so. I suspect it will not have gone down well because the leader will have felt embarrassed, but then if you'd raised it with her later - would she have apologised to the troupe and explained why it was wrong? Possible I suppose but maybe not.

hazleweatherfieldgirldetective Tue 11-Dec-12 16:56:59

I know, I couldn't believe it. This is supposed to be a nice, Christian group. I assumed those in charge of the girls would be a teensy bit more sensitive. I don't for a second think she intended to cause any offence, however, that doesn't stop it from being horribly offensive.

peeriebear Tue 11-Dec-12 16:59:05

I'd find that a bit uncomfortable too!
I kept DD1 off Brownies once when they were supposed to dress as homeless people for "a tramps' party" hmm It wasn't even in a Dickensian way.
Brown Owl even suggested that they could 'cut up old clothes' yes, because homeless people walk around in tattered rags...

Purple2012 Tue 11-Dec-12 17:09:40

Good on you for challenging it. That's pretty bad behaviour, especially in front of impressionable kids that could then go on to repeat it somewhere else.

CheeseandPickledOnion Tue 11-Dec-12 17:15:12

Awful. And then leaves some poor parent wondering where on earth their child got such awful ideas from.

meboo Tue 11-Dec-12 17:26:05

Your first night and you challenge the Leader in front of the girls???? I personally don't think that is acceptable and that you should have spoken to the leader separately. Somehow I don't think you will be going back.

MadSleighLady Tue 11-Dec-12 17:31:03

There are some things that should always be publicly challenged no matter how much of an authority figure they come from.

In fact if anything it's more important to publicly challenge an authority figure on stuff like this. The people they're in charge of will follow their lead.

Sallyingforth Tue 11-Dec-12 17:33:54

You certainly weren't. Well done!

Narked Tue 11-Dec-12 17:34:51

Well done.

Groovee Tue 11-Dec-12 17:36:10

:-( I'd be horrified if another guider did this!

BerryChristmas Tue 11-Dec-12 17:37:18

Oh FFS - the sooner we all look the same, talk the same, and act the same the better.........then no-one will have anything to moan about !!!

Brodicea Tue 11-Dec-12 17:39:15

Well done you for speaking out! Here here MadSleighLady

phantomnamechanger Tue 11-Dec-12 17:40:28

Hmm, tricky.
She was bang out of order, and I speak both as a guider and parent in thinking that should not have happened, or be seen in any way as acceptable.
But how to handle it is tricker - you have created an uncomfortable atmosphere now, so it is unlikely that she will welcome you back, apologise and publicly tell the girls she was in the wrong. More likely that they will be laughing about you behind your back - do you remember that helper we had once....
Whereas by simply not laughing, and then explaining if/when someone asked you, you could have stayed involved with the group and offering another adult POV in situations like this, showing a better example - maybe even some of it rubbing off on the other leader.
Depending on how you feel about making waves and how keen you really are to volunteer, you might consider contacting the division commissioner about it - but then again this person is a known, and may have many friends in guiding who will back her against a newbie. Difficult sad
On the plus side, maybe one of the girls took to heart what you said, and was only going along with the laughing to fit in?

NU at all! I don't care of she was the leader and it was your first time- that is irrelevant, racist behavior should be challenged wherever possibleangry good for you for setting a good example to the children in your care!smile

BoffinMum Tue 11-Dec-12 17:41:02

No, something needed saying. I think that leader is stuck in the 1970s.

pingu2209 Tue 11-Dec-12 17:42:49

Well done you for speaking out!

SledYuleCated Tue 11-Dec-12 17:43:25

BerryChristmas Would you like to elaborate on your comment?

TheCortanaThatStoleChristmas Tue 11-Dec-12 17:51:09

YY MadSleighLady!

YADNBU and well done. Takes some courage to challenge someone like that with an audience when they are in a perceived role of authority. Good on you.

SageStuffingYourOrifice Tue 11-Dec-12 17:55:15

I think you were right to challenge & publicly because to not say anything makes you complicit. Just because something might make waves & leave you feeling uncomfortable, it shouldn't put you off doing it. Yes you're possibly not going to be welcomed back but would you want to work alongside a guider who holds such dated (and racist) views? I wouldn't want my daughter to be in her pack!

goralka Tue 11-Dec-12 17:57:57

well done OP thanks there is too much of this .....behaviour....that goes unchallenged.

toomuchturkeyatendofthedinner Tue 11-Dec-12 18:03:01

I agree, well done for challenging this thoughtless racist action. I hope you get to go back ...

Adversecalendar Tue 11-Dec-12 18:03:06

Well done and a very personal big thank you from me because this kind of racist crap made my life a misery as a child.

LyingWitchInTheWardrobe Tue 11-Dec-12 18:12:34

I think you could have handled it better, OP. Yes, it should be challenged, this kind of thing always should be challenged BUT you were dealing with an adult, a peer and she needs to maintain authority over the children. It would have been better, I think, had you gone over to her and spoken about it quietly, expressing your disgust, and giving her the chance to apologise to the children herself, saying that this wasn't the right thing to do and that she was wrong.

I don't know how effective telling a group of children that 'it isn't nice to do that'. Quite wishy-washy and caused discomfiture with no real message.

You were caught on the hop though, perhaps many would have done the same - or nothing.

Lilithmoon Tue 11-Dec-12 18:31:58

YWNBU. This sort of horrible, casual racism needs to be challenged.

hazleweatherfieldgirldetective Tue 11-Dec-12 18:45:11

Just to clarify, I didn't intend to cause discomfort for anyone involved, I didn't even think about what I was saying really, I was just completely shocked at her actions and blurted out the first thing that came to mind.

And, to be honest, if I'm not welcomed back simply because I challenged a racist remark, then its not the kind of group I wish to be involved with anyway.

ClearlyConfused Tue 11-Dec-12 18:49:56

(I) told the girls it wasn't very nice to laugh at an entire ethnic group because of a physical feature

Surely that isn't what the girls were laughing at though?? confused The 'joke' they were laughing at was surely the fact the leader was claiming to be a race that she clearly wasn't.

Surely racism is portraying a race in a negative or inferior way neither of which she did. It is a fact that those of Asian origin and particularly Chinese and Japanese have an eye shape which is different to Caucasian eyes. In fact don't a lot of Caucasian women spend time with make-up trying to recreate an Asian eye shape with make-up????? They hardly do it to mock an entire ethnic group.
I thin everyone went quiet because they thought you were deranged thought you were accusing them of something which they hadn't done (laughing at an entire ethnic group because of a physical feature).If the leader had been Japanese and they had then laughed at her because of the shape of her eye then you would have been right to say what you did.

Having said that I do think the leader was ill advised to do what she did because of people like the OP and others on thsi thread.

So yes OP I do think YWBU

hazleweatherfieldgirldetective Tue 11-Dec-12 18:52:49

By your theory Clearly there is nothing wrong with someone going out in "black face", is there? Methinks your name may be very apt...

JamieandtheMagiTorch Tue 11-Dec-12 18:53:38

That's what I thought hazle - I think when you are shocked by what someone has said first instinct is to say something there and then.


is it "Political Correctness Gorn Mad"?

Sunnywithachanceofshowers Tue 11-Dec-12 19:25:55


I used to be an assistant leader and had to have words with our brown owl about that kind of thing too...

MardyArsedMidlander Tue 11-Dec-12 19:29:11

Bloody well done!
By stating something in front of the children, you also let them know that this sort of 'teasing' is not acceptable. And as the other poster said, this sort of bravery from an adult would have made my childhood so much easier.

cumfy Tue 11-Dec-12 19:55:45

.....told the girls it wasn't very nice to laugh at an entire ethnic group because of a physical feature. The girls went quiet

I think they went quiet because they weren't in fact laughing at an entire ethnic group.

They were laughing at the interplay of one girl lightheartedly trying to gain an "unfair" advantage in a game and playfully being "caught out" by the leader.
They were, IMO, highly unlikely to be laughing at the unfortunate racial stereotype.

You appear to be conflating the superficial stereotype with the underlying dynamic of the "joke".

You are technically correct, but you are PC and way way OTT.

greenandcabbagelooking Tue 11-Dec-12 19:57:11

Errr, Guiding isn't, and never has been, Christian organisation....

Other than that I think you right to challenge her.

xkittyx Tue 11-Dec-12 20:00:27

Well done. She deserved to feel uncomfortable, that was a shocking thing for her to do. Not "PC", racist.

juneybean Tue 11-Dec-12 20:01:58

Doesn't the brownie promise mention god?

cumfy Tue 11-Dec-12 20:02:39

Just out of curiosity what would you have done if the leader had put on a huuuge fake Texan drawl and said:

Oh yeah I'mmmm an American; I'm so American I'm taking 2 steps forward

That's clearly just as "racist".

GlaikitFizzogTheChristmasElf Tue 11-Dec-12 20:05:22

The promise swear allegiance to god and the queen. Ok so they are changing it now to non believers, but in my mind that makes guiding an organisation with Christian values.

greenandcabbagelooking Tue 11-Dec-12 20:10:41

Glaikit -you promise to "love my God" so not necessarily a Christian god. My brownie pack currently comprises two Hindu girls, a few Catholics, a few C of E, and lots who are undecided/undeclared.

GlaikitFizzogTheChristmasElf Tue 11-Dec-12 20:18:35

Ok, any god, hand up you win.

GlaikitFizzogTheChristmasElf Tue 11-Dec-12 20:20:28

Sorry that's sounded PA, I didn't mean it that way. You are right. I just alway associate guide, brownies rainbows etc with the church as my pack were linked to the local Catholic Church, used their hall, fundraiser with them etc.

hazleweatherfieldgirldetective Tue 11-Dec-12 20:22:18

Actually cumfy, that wouldn't be racist, as Americans are not, in fact, a race. Unless you're talking about native Americans....

slambang Tue 11-Dec-12 20:29:14

I'm surprising myself by actually finding you a bit U.

I massively commend your sentiment and wish there were more people around in the world like you with the guts to speak out against casual racism.

But actually I think you publically humiliated the leader in front of her charges. A private word afterwards would have been probably just as effective but not undermined her in front of a room full of probably difficult to manage and over-excited pre-teens.

cumfy Tue 11-Dec-12 20:32:55

Hey, see what you did there; neatly side-stepping the point.

See, you do have a sense of humour.

And I guess we'll never know whether the girl who asked Americans to take a step forward, was referring to native Americans.

hazleweatherfieldgirldetective Tue 11-Dec-12 20:34:55

I don't see your point though cumfy. Had she responded in a Japanese accent, I wouldn't have found it offensive. But she didn't, she chose to poke fun at a physical trait.

ChaChaDigregorio Tue 11-Dec-12 20:37:30

Is anyone who thinks the original poster of a different ethnic origin? Ever been on the hard end of the horrendous insidious racism that often rears its ugly head? No? Then shut up.

ChaChaDigregorio Tue 11-Dec-12 20:38:17

Thinks the original poster is being unreasonable. Sorry.

JamieandtheMagiTorch Tue 11-Dec-12 20:41:54

considers self told

kirstytate Tue 11-Dec-12 20:46:23

Well done for saying something - although I also wonder about the girl that spoke up. I have two dual-national DDS who might have been put in a similar position just because their accents don't match other people's expectations.

cumfy Tue 11-Dec-12 20:50:37

Hazel now you're really confusing me.
Surely accents are just as obvious traits as physical characteristics.

And I maintain you're still avoiding the central issue of the dynamic of the joke versus the racial stereotype.

whiteandyelloworchid Tue 11-Dec-12 20:53:42

phantomnamechanger, is it really bitchy amoung the volunteers then?
are they into gossping about people?

hazleweatherfieldgirldetective Tue 11-Dec-12 20:54:03

I'm sorry cumfy, its just I expect jokes to actually be, well, funny I suppose.

Also, no, an accent isn't a defining trait. Were my DS to move to Nigeria, he would grow up with a Nigerian accent. However, that would not lead anyone to refer to him as black African.

I don't see your point though cumfy. Had she responded in a Japanese accent, I wouldn't have found it offensive.

Why would that be any more acceptable?

maddening Tue 11-Dec-12 22:17:06

I thought girl guides and brownies were Christian - is that not why they "pledge my allegiance to god"?

greenandcabbagelooking Tue 11-Dec-12 22:22:15

Maddening - no! See my post up-thread.

Sorry, I get very worked up about this. People see Girlguiding as a white, middle class, Christian organisation and it just isn't. We are for all girls and women.

maddening Tue 11-Dec-12 23:18:32

Oh sorry with the pledge and ours was very church orientated I found so that's why i was under the impression but maybe that was just our pack. I only stayed a year after brownies smile

Redorwhitejusthaveboth Tue 11-Dec-12 23:23:52

Yanbu - I also imagine you might be considering making a formal complaint to the girl guides association?

Lifeissweet Tue 11-Dec-12 23:36:50

I am a bit shock that do many on here seem to think that making 'Japanese eyes' is acceptable. I also can't believe that people are trying to claim that it isn't racist!

Saying that people of certain ethnic origins have certain physical characteristics is fine. No one is saying that pointing out differences in people is racist - but actually pulling a face to represent a physical characteristic in an attempt to be funny is an entirely different matter, surely. You can see that, can't you?!

NishiNoUsagi Tue 11-Dec-12 23:42:36

As a mum to 2 half-Japanese dcs, thank you for standing up and saying something! can't believe people think it's acceptable to say that kind of thing - and if front of kids too confused

I am a bit that do many on here seem to think that making 'Japanese eyes' is acceptable. I also can't believe that people are trying to claim that it isn't racist!

Depends. I use BSL at work, and one of the regional signs for Chinese still in common parlance is predicated on this - you don't stretch your eyes as such, but the sign clearly indicates this (not explaining well!). It could be perceived as iffy to non signers.

hazleweatherfieldgirldetective Wed 12-Dec-12 07:13:18

But she wasn't doing BSL, Pumpkin. She was poking fun at a physical trait to a group of white girls in a very non ethnically diverse area.

The girls should be educated, not encouraged to laugh at someone they perceive to be "different".

Lifeissweet Wed 12-Dec-12 18:40:56

I know about non-pc BSL signs. I have a deaf DS, but this is entirely different.

I would suggest that if a Japanese child had been part of the group that she wouldn't have made that joke. That is because it is offensive.

I work in a school with quite a few Vietnamese and Chinese children. If I did something like that I would be facing a disciplinary, I can guarantee it - and quite right too.

phantomnamechanger Thu 13-Dec-12 16:50:42

not all guiders are gossipy/bitchy no, whiteandyellow - but the possibility is there that the "word"/opinion of a newbie would not be taken against the word of an established, experienced & well known leader. They might just be seen as a trouble maker rather than having the best interest of the girls and the organisation at heart, IYSWIM. I can see senior guiders letting this go as they dont want to rock the boat and lose a valuable trained, experienced guider. Wrong, but true in some places I am certain.

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