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Cultural Relativism


People from ‘mainstream’ culture who are grappling with cross-cultural issues often feel that they are always the ones required by political correctness  to make all the accommodations. After all, they reason, if every culture is supposed to be of equal value then my standards are just one set among all the rest. So that means I have to accept everything that goes on in other cultures because there are no objective yardsticks’.

That is the definition of cultural relativism – the necessity to accept every culture’s behaviours because there are no objective standards to judge them by.

But an interculturally sensitive cross-culturalist does not have to give up the right to make reasoned judgments on whether they are prepared to accept behaviours from another culture or not.

I was watching a reality show called Rock of Love, featuring a redneck cretin with hair extensions who for some reason had a dozen or more skanky trailer trash women with bleached big hair and artificial boobs vying for his attention. In order to win a date’ with said aforementioned redneck cretin, the women had to submit to contests devised for them – the one I saw being a hockey game (that would be ice hockey, for all you non Canadians) against professional women players who were permitted to body check and otherwise physically abuse them. The contestants were wearing bikinis and one of them was knocked down and slammed her head against the ice where she lay moaning for more than a minute (on the ice, in her bikini) until someone in a vaguely paramedic injury came out to haul her to her feet – concussion anyone? neck or spine damage?

The winners of this contest were awarded the opportunity to go on a group date with redneck cretin. His idea of a dream date was apparently to take them to a strip club and coerce them into getting on stage and dance for his – and all the clubs other patrons’ – enjoyment. The one ‘winner’ who refused to pole dance or show her ass to the crowd, was chastised as a buzzkill, by redneck cretin, and risked being eliminated from competition and sent home (to her 3 children).

Cultural relativists would say that I shouldn’t judge his behaviour in demeaning and humiliating these women (who for God only knows what reason were clearly willing to do anything to ‘be with’ redneck cretin) because the women were more than willing and in redneck cretin culture, his behaviour and values were perfectly acceptable.

Not so, say I. I’m not rejecting what I saw simply because I think that redneck cretin culture is beneath me and nothing they do could meet my lofty educated liberal middle class standards. I’m rejecting what I saw because I’ve examined my own value system and believe that I am justified in rejecting redneck cretin’s treatment of women as toys with which he can amuse himself , no matter how abusive he is. It just ain’t right. It’s not how one human being should treat another. His behaviour, and the women’s acceptance of it, debases and demeans all humans.

Seriously, what on earth do they see in this guy? He’s a total douche.

Categories: Musings on diversity
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