Two of the things that I believe have restrained free speech in our modern democratic society were the introduction of what we call political correctness and the term ‘sexist’, which both allude to unfair criticism based on gender or colour.
In most cases, the interpretation of what constitutes a felony under these two manufactured headings is designed to restrict the use of decorative language to describe the subject as he or she appears in the eyes of the observer.
An obituary in an Australian newspaper for the renowned novelist Colleen McCullough has been criticised as sexist after it opened by describing her ‘plain of feature and certainly overweight’.
The article in the Australian was widely condemned and its reference to McCullough’s appearance and weight was described as ‘stupid and unfair’. The obituary began: ‘Colleen McCullough, Australia’s best-selling author, was a charmer. Plain of feature and certainly overweight, she was, nevertheless, a woman of wit and warmth.’
Following the publication, it prompted a series of parodies on Twitter. In an apparent attempt at his own obituary, Neil Gaiman, the English author married to US singer Amanda Palmer, wrote: ‘Although his beard looked like someone had glued it on and his hair would have been unconvincing as a wig, he married a rock star.’
The Sydney Morning Herald said that only women would ever be referred to as ‘plain’ and proceeded to produce a series of mock obituaries for famous male authors. For George Orwell it wrote: ‘He had a stiff upper lip, though one certainly had to see behind that eerily neat moustache. Nevertheless George Orwell gave satire a red hot go.’
McCullough, best known for her novel The Thorn Birds which sold thirty million copies, died on Thursday last week aged seventy-seven in a hospital on Norfolk Island in the Pacific.
I wish more people will have the courage to write what they feel even if that were to cause a storm of abuse by people who hide behind a veneer of hypocrisy, for without the true expression of our inner thoughts, society will be the poorer in terms of honesty and in reaching the ultimate threshold of our cultural dimension.