fake washingpoweder ad

Photo: Screengrab

Fake washing powder ad uses homophobic slur and almost nobody complains [video]

A fake washing powder advert was aired on South African TV earlier this week. The ad featured a homophobic slur and was part of a campaign to redefine the language used to refer to sexual minorities in the country.

fake washingpoweder ad

Photo: Screengrab

When you live in a country with 11 official languages, all with their own unique colloquialisms and intricacies, things often slip under the radar.

The Find New Words initiative recently wanted to test just how sensitive South Africans are to slurs.

Khanyi Mpumlwana and Nobantu Sibeko launched the campaign in 2017, to try and raise awareness off how violent some of the terms are.

“The existing words, such as istabane or imoffie, are insulting, violent and are based in ostracism and a culture of shaming,” says Mpumlwana. “In TshiVenda for example, people are labelled as matula/matudzi (‘bad omen/something unacceptable’). So we need to create or reclaim LGBTQQIAP+ identifying words and phrases in South Africa’s languages that are humanising, instead of offensive.”

Recently, the campaign screened a fake washing powder advert as part of a social experiment.

Using the word istabane, a derogatory term for ‘gay’, the advert was broadcast during Uzalo on Monday night. The campaign leaders wanted to see if there would be a reaction from the millions of people who watched it.

The response was shocking – with only a few people on social media picking up on the term.

MambaOnline reported:

The unique social experiment aimed to gauge if there would be a reaction from the nearly 10 million people who watched the ad. Incredibly, there were less than a hundred comments on social media about the use of the word, mostly from members of the LGBTQQIAP+ communities.

Mpumlwana and Sibeko said the lack of outrage reflects how sexual and gender minorities are seen in South Africa – and underscores how much work still needs to be done.

“If this was something racist, the whole country would have been up in arms,” said Mpumlwana in a statement. They added, “There might be sensitivities around istabane, but using it is not illegal. We want to change that.”

The campaign began workshops earlier this year to find terms to better describe sexual minorities.

Academics, historians, anthropologists, sociologists and communities throughout South Africa are all engaging on finding better terms.

MambaOnline further reports:

Suggestions included changing verbs into nouns or combining two words together. During one workshop, for example, a group proposed the term Sekgele sa Mookodi for queer, which is derived from the words ‘umbrella’ and ‘rainbow’.

“To-date we’ve found over 150 words in 8 of our 11 languages and now want all South Africans to add their new words, or vote for their favourite ones via our website. Once that process is complete, we’ll engage with academics and linguistic experts to commence the process of vetting and refining the words to make them suitable for use in language,” continued Mpumlwana.

Watch: Fake washing powder advert uses homophobic slur