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We Prefer The Term “Two-Spirited Inuit”

This is Corky and the Juice Pigs performing their song “Eskimo.” If you’re not familiar with the song, or if you haven’t heard it in a while, then Torontoist should warn you: this clip may be offensive to the Inuit, gays, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Ric Ocasek, seals, and anyone without a sense of humour.
This comes up, not because Torontoist was jonesing for novelty songs from the mid-90′s, but because we recently learned that a high school student in Inuvik, NWT was told that she could not perform this song at a school fundraiser. The reason she was given was that her Inuvialuit elders find the word “Eskimo” offensive.
At Torontoist, our first thought was that “Gay Eskimos to World: Don’t Call Us Eskimos” would have to officially be The Most Quintessentially Canadian Story EVER, narrowly beating out “Dispute Between Canada and Denmark Ends Peacefully.” But maybe we’re just insensitive. So we decided to look into the use of the word “Eskimo” a little further.
Most Canadian schoolchildren have grown up being taught that “Eskimo” is a pejorative term meaning “eaters of raw meat.” Well, it turns out that this etymology is widely disputed. In fact, the northern people of Alaska generally prefer “Eskimo” to “Inuit,” since they are not speakers of the Inuit language.
Of course, Torontoist supports the right of people to be offended by whatever they want to be offended by, but it does not seem like “Eskimo” should be placed in the same category as other racial epithets that have been used to marginalize or express hatred for various groups throughout history. No one says “Eskimo” with the intent to offend and it certainly is not a word that should keep a student from raising money for her school.
Oh, and we should also point out that many aboriginal people prefer the term “two-spirited” to “gay” or “queer”, just in case you want something else to worry about from a political correctness perspective.

Comments

  • markus

    course i can spend the whole day saying the word fu(k with no intent to offend. however,all it takes is one person to get offended to rationalize the meaning.
    cute video!

  • Ken Hunt

    The difference, of course, is that plenty of people do use the F-word with the intent to offend or shock, even if some people don’t use it that way and are not offended by it. When people say ‘Eskimo’ they are either unaware that it is offensive to some people, or they truly believe that it is the more correct term.
    ‘Eskimo’ seems to have been deemed offensive (and become offensive to some northern peoples) arbitrarily, almost like some radical feminists tried to teach us that ‘history’ and ‘woman’ should be offensive words.

  • Marc Lostracco

    Considering the context, which already pokes fun at stereotypes (whaleskin tights, fetish for rubber), I think it falls under that “excuse”…in fact, some might even be more offended if the line was “only gay Inuit.” Corky and the Juice Pigs were equal-opportunity parodists, and some of their best improvisational pieces were bits making fun of celebrity PSAs (“Hi, I’m Gary Coleman. Some of you may remember me as the little black kid on Diff’rent Strokes…”), about charitable organizations for little kids with no arms and no legs. They’ve also done songs about burn victims, babies with rabies and being molested by the school janitor.
    The greater message embedded in the song alludes to the crushing loneliness that some gay people feel, and that coupled with living in the isolated northern wilderness makes it both funnier and more tragic!

  • Ken Hunt

    All very true, Marc. And CatJP were at their absolute best when poking fun at REM…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEKVJZa_gdE
    I could watch this all day.

  • Mixed

    What a backwards, ignorant article.