Halloween has passed, and as this site predicted on October 2nd, the media was overflowing with criticism of politically incorrect costumes- the CBC published almost a dozen. CBC Regina reported on a teacher who was “really surprised” an American company sold “inappropriate” costumes and subsequently showed them to her elementary school students. CBC BC reported on a Thompson Rivers University social work instructor who claims he noticed the problem shopping with his sister and nieces.
CBC News showcased a Toronto protest led by a couple who assisted a defrocked United Church minister as he lied to Six Nations elders about discovering a mass grave of residential school children, and a woman who assisted as he pulled the bones out of his pockets at an Occupy Toronto meeting. All three stood by him long after APTN proved they were animal bones (a story I proudly assisted with). Annett was one of the most notorious cultural appropriators in Canadian history.
Most of the CBC’s stories focused on a couple of large-scale seasonal costume retailers. They were textbook examples of lazy and uncreative journalism but – to be fair – the company’s decisions to market products with names like “Reservation Royalty” is tasteless to the extreme. CBC Winnipeg took a different approach, attacking a family-owned startup for selling a relatively innocent kids costume. Adding insult to the injury of putting the owner’s fledgling new business at risk- the story focussed on a mistake, an allegedly racist typo on costume’s price tag.
Teghan Beaudette Boldly Fights the War Against “Racist” Typos!
On October 22 CBC Winnipeg reporter Teghan Beaudette filed what just might be one of the most shameless and manipulative cultural appropriation stories ever. It all started when a typo was discovered on Halloween costume price tags at a small business called Once Upon a Child. The costume’s brand name was “Rubies”, the typo added an extra “b” spelling “Rubbies”.
It turns out that “rubbies” is a pejorative used against chronic alcoholics. Store owner Dave Dunlop said he learned about the mistake after waking up one morning to find his wife “bawling her eyes out” after discovering complaints on their Facebook page- probably out of fear of seeing her new business being destroyed by brigades of PC warriors.
Beaudette’s story reads more like advocacy journalism from an ethically challenged website like Rabble.ca than an article from a taxpayer funded national news agency. She starts off with a quote from a First Nations woman who claims to be the first to identify the typo. Curiously, she referred to the woman as a “grandma”, a fact that doesn’t appear to have any relevance to the story.
Then there’s this sentence:
“Rubby or rubbie is an offensive term for a person who uses rubbing alcohol as a cheap liquor substitute”
The word “rubby” is listed in the dictionary as a Canadian pejorative about alcoholics. The American dictionary definition of “rubbie” is an acronym for “rich urban biker” (weekend warriors who buy their motorcycle “choppers” rather than building their own). The price tag data was entered into the computer by the franchise’s head office in the US, the Winnipeg owners just recently stocked an entire store- it’s unreasonable to expect either would have caught the mistake.
There’s also a very important fact that’s been omitted. The misspelling wasn’t limited to only an aboriginal style costume but was every costume made by the same manufacturer. Beaudette mentions that there are other costumes affected but her story doesn’t make this clear.
Reading From The Same Script?
When Beaudette interviewed the “grandma” who allegedly discovered the price tag she was quoted saying:
“That’s a traditional dress or clothing we wear. We don’t wear it to go out trick-or-treating. We wear it to powwows…It’s only for occasions where you go to a powwow and dance.”
CBC Aboriginal’s October 30th editorial 4 reasons to leave the ‘pan-indigenous’ costume behind this Halloween aggregated quotes from the Regina and BC stories and outlined why first nations people might be offended when people go trick-or-treating in indigenous costumes. One of the story’s most important points is that it’s inaccurate to make broad assumptions about indigenous culture. The above quote is a classic example
I spent half my youth living a few hundred meters from a Vancouver Island W̱SÁNEĆ reserve and can tell you from experience that there are first nations people who’ve worn traditional dress to go trick-or-treating. Traditional clothing has also been worn for political meetings, non-indigenous ceremonies like Canada & Remembrance Day, and educational events. Pre-contact indigenous communities wore traditional clothing every day of their lives.
Interestingly, the quote in Beaudette’s story sounds incredibly similar to one published in CBC Winnipeg’s annual Halloween story in 2014 ‘Pocahottie’ Halloween costume offends aboriginal woman:
“It’s my culture and we dress up in regalia when we dance at ceremonies and stuff, so I feel like people are disrespecting aboriginal people.”
It’s a curious coincidence. The two CBC Winnipeg stories are the only examples claiming that traditional clothing is limited to dances and ceremonies. Is it possible both women were speaking from the same set of talking points?
A Question of Journalistic Integrity…
One of the most important considerations when judging a story’s journalistic integrity is to ensure that the public’s interest in knowing what happened outweighs the potential damage that might be caused by publishing it. In this case Beaudette made the judgment that the public’s interest in learning about a typo on a price tag and a handful of relatively innocent kids costumes outweighs the potential impact on a small family run startup business.
Searching through social media, there’s zero indication people were talking about this incident anywhere other than the company’s Facebook page (which has since been cleaned up). Beaudette’s reporting amplified this incident from a few people complaining on Facebook to a story that’s been read by people across the country.
It’s hard to understand how she rationalized making this decision, and seriously alarming that the story wasn’t killed by CBC editors. The perversity of a government owned agency putting a small business risk over petty and half-baked political correctness infractions is hard to ignore. Not only is this unacceptable use of taxpayer money- but it’s equally as tasteless as a Reservation Royalty costume.
Pot, Kettle, Black?
One of the challenges one faces escalating the war against politically incorrect thought crimes is that there’s always someone else ready to escalate. There was an excellent example in Glasgow this year where PC warriors jumped the shark trying to ban drag queens from Pride for fear they might offend trans women. Beaudette promoted a Winnipeg drag queen party last year so it’s safe to assume she’d disagree with this. She needs to wake up and realize she’s playing a dangerous game.
In her biography for an online publication called TheGaze Magazine Beaudette makes what appears to be a veiled attack on men:
“Teghan can often be found having drinks with her lady friends and her least masculine man friends after a long day of procrastinating and agonizing over insignificant social interactions”
Based on my personal perception it appears she’s implying that masculinity is the basis of the bad things some men do. It’s possible I misperceived what she was trying to communicate (unlike PC warriors I refuse to make absolute assumptions about other’s intentions), but if I’m right then I’m deeply offended. Statements like this are equally as sexist as men who make ignorant claims about women being limited by their menstrual cycles.
But regardless of how much I’d be offended if her intention was to degrade men, as long as she’s not making these statements on the publicly funded CBC, I firmly stand for her right to say what she feels. If Teghan Beaudette wants to make bigoted statements she has every right to do so. It might feel good to shut down a person who makes ignorant statements, but it will be harder to identify and avoid toxic individuals if we force them to go underground.
I’ll be taking the contents of this article and compiling them in a letter to the CBC ombudsman later this week. Personally, I think this case will be an interesting test of our national broadcaster’s integrity- if they can’t see how horribly misguided it is to make petty and emotionally charged attacks on family-owned small businesses then it’s time to defund the CBC.