A Nice Gesture by Jeroen Arendsen

Various personal interests and public info, gesture, signs, language, social robotics, healthcare, innovation, music, publications, etc.

Category: Insults and Vulgarity Page 2 of 3

Lehmann’s Perfect Finger Camouflage

Here is one of the nicest ‘Fingers in camouflage’ I have ever seen on video.

Offside Bundesliga: When confronted Lehmann said: “It’s nonsense. I’ve never done anything like that”. It supposedly happened after one of Lehmann’s risky trademark excursions outside of the box, during the Germany – Cyprus match on Saturday (4-0). The crowd in Hannover started Robert Enke chants. Enke happens to be Hannover’s goalkeeper and Jogi Löw’s current third choice behind Lehmann and Hildebrand.

Lehmann, whose workout was also a bit ambiguous for some, has shown himself a true master of the camouflaged gesture. Playing into people’s increased sensitivity he manages to insult those he wants to insult, while he can claim innocence in public. Bravo, a perfect grasp of the perception of insults.

Much better than Joe Nedney, who got a $7.500 fine (which is average, see these other fines for similar offences) for his lousy camouflage attempt:

Nedney ginving the finger
Clearly the man is scratching his head (source)

The only examples I have of an even more subtle camouflage is when a man painted an abstract work of art, a huge cactus, on the side of his house facing his (complaining) neighbors. They were highly offended, but he got away with it (and eventually removed it).

Buckingham Palace Plonker

There is a funny little gesture story in the news these days. It is about a guard who is making little gestures (and doing a little dance) while he is supposed to be standing very still.

Buckingham Palace Plonker
The peak of the stroke of a wanker gesture? (source)

On the YouTube: Buckingham Palace Plonker. “Shocking behavior by one of the Queen’s Guards in front of Buckingham Palace. Exclusive footage never seen before in front of Buckingham Palace.” (little dancechecking time)

Elsewhere the Telegraph reports: “The video clip shows him turning his head – apparently to catch the attention of a colleague – before shaking his right fist up and down. Perhaps realizing that he is being watched, he quickly morphs the gesture into a more typical if slightly camp wave, before resuming his sentry duty.”

That is a nice and detailed analysis of the gesture that the Foot Guard is making. A wanker gesture that is camouflaged by morphing it into a wave. I concur. And whoever made the analysis, please keep up the good work.

Update 1 hour later: It could also be a combination of ‘wanker’ and ‘hurry up’, possibly sending a message like ‘hey wanker, hurry up”. Maybe his colleague was slow on his routine? (see the comments in the Sun)

Gesturing Monkeys and Sexual Harassment

Thanks to Alexis Heloir, a fellow PhD working on gestures, for sending me this story: Wild Vervet Monkeys Wreak Havoc in Kenya (or check the BBC which is the source).

The most interesting part of this nice story (which tells of a group of vervets monkeys stealing food from a village and threatening specifically the women) is the following quote:

“The monkeys grab their breasts, and gesture at us while pointing at their private parts. We are afraid that they will sexually harass us,” said Mrs Njeri.

Well, that is an interesting statement by Mrs Njeri. In the picture below you can see vervet monkeys:

Vervet Monkeys (source)

It must be said, these monkeys are not very big and the idea of ‘sexual harassment’ seems to me at first glance to be a tale of imagination gone wild. What are they going to do? Pinch a ladies bottom? Squeeze a boob? Certainly that is as far as they can go? Or is it? Perhaps I am thinking in the wrong direction.

Perhaps sexual harassment is more like psychological warfare? Indeed, wikipedia states on sexual harassment that it can include many types of behavior and has a variety of purposes, most of which appear to be psychological rather than directly involving sexual intercourse. Dominance and humiliation can be important parts of it.

From wikipedia we also learn that Vervets seem to “possess what has been called the “rudiments of language”. Vervet Monkey alarm calls vary greatly depending on the different types of threats to the community. There are distinct calls to warn of invading leopards, snakes, and eagles.”

Now, there is an excellent web page on The Phallic Threat: Giant Penises and Similar Threat Devices. From it, I gather that the idea of a phallic threat is not unheard of, but instead common in both men and monkeys. Specifically on Primata (with a good overview of the Vervet’s signals) it is stated that Vervets have the folllowing use of the penile display.

penile display: This is when an adult male vervet monkey will present his erect penis and scrotum so that a neighboring group will see them (Estes, 1991). This display is used to demarcate territory (Estes, 1991). red-white-and-blue display: This display is used to communicate dominance by one male over another within a group (Estes, 1991). The male walks back and forth with his penis and scrotum in full view for the receiver to see; the sender will encircle the receiver (Estes, 1991). Occasionally the sender will stand on his hind legs and present his penis and scrotum to the receiver (Estes, 1991).

Moreover, the pigmentation of the Vervet Monkey’s scrotum is a vivid blue that pales when the animal falls in social rank. In other words, Vervets may perhaps refer to their dominance over someone else by referring to the color of their genitals.

So now we may have (1) an ability to communicate a variety of messages, (2) a phallic threat with (3) a reference to dominance. Suddenly it is not so difficult to imagine that it is real. Or at least as real as sexual harassment gets. If the monkeys mean to express their dominance, mark their territory or humiliate the women and the women feel dominated or humiliated then that is a successful (if you will pardon the expression) case of sexual harassment.

Unfortunately we cannot be sure of anything from such a distance. The whole story could just be exaggerated. It could even be an excuse for the villagers to start physically harassing the monkeys.

Elsewhere: Atheism Central on this story A YouTube playlist on monkeys and their penal displays The Colobus Trust website, has more info on pest behavior by vervet monkeys

US Police vs. The Finger

Giving the finger to the police, it remains an interesting case. Earlier I wrote that the Dutch police had booked and fined a man for it, which was overturned in court by a judge.

Now, a similar thing has happened in Mobile, Alabama (USA). Philly.com brought the news: Mobile Appeals $3K Payment Over Gesture.

MOBILE, Ala. – The city of Mobile is appealing a judge’s decision to award $3,000 to a motorist who was arrested for making an obscene hand gesture to a police officer. City attorney Ashton Hill said Wednesday the city is seeking to have Addison DeBoi’s civil suit heard in circuit court.
On July 31, District Court Judge Michael McMaken ruled in favor of DeBoi in his wrongful arrest suit and ordered the police department to pay $3,000.
DeBoi, 56, was arrested by Officer Bristol Hines on Sept. 2, 2005, on a charge of disorderly conduct after he made a hand gesture while the two men were in their vehicles. He was acquitted last year and sued the city for $10,000 in damages, citing time lost from work, the threat of losing his engineering job , which requires a government security clearance , and the embarrassment of being put in jail.
In awarding him $3,000, the judge said police officers must have “thicker skin” than the general public.

The rulings by the judges in the Netherlands and Alabama are along the same lines: the police should be less sensitive about being insulted. Unfortunately, being sensitive to insults is probably required if you do not want your authority challenged. Sensitivity lies at the heart of the perception of insults, which is a very subtle process. If the police are instructed to ‘not be too sensitive’ it probably greatly hinders their functioning. After all, we all rely on their judgment in all sorts of situations regarding aggression, violence, or misconduct, which all require a policeman to rely on his personal perception of other people’s behavior. Why can’t we rely on them to judge whether someone was ‘insulting’?

On the other hand, I was once taught how to referee a football game by none other than Mario van der Ende (a well known referee in Holland). He said that verbal abuse was always flying around on the pitch, most of it directed at him. He recommended to pretend not to hear it the first time (tempers can fly). A second time he would rebuff the perpetrator with a sneer or mocking insult of his own. Only if that wouldn’t take care of it, a booking (yellow card) would be given. I think it made him one of the most respected referees in the competition.

Maybe respect is gained as much from restraint in handing out punishment as it is from punishment itself.

ps. I just finished this post when I saw that the UK police gave a man a 80 pound fine for giving the finger to a speed camera (and/or the cops operating it). I hope Simon Thompson (a respected citizen and school headmaster) will fight the decision, and let it go to court. I wonder whether the UK judge will follow the above examples from Alabama and the Netherlands.

Elsewhere: The legal history of the finger (also showing many examples of verdicts and appeals where fines for fingers are overturned and arrests judged to be wrongful) – Jalopnik

Small Penis Gesture

In the news today: the Australian Roads and Traffic Agency (RTA) has launched a campaign to demotivate drivers from speeding:

No one thinks big of you
The video is good too.

The RTA hopes this small gesture will have a bigger impact on young men than images of bloody car crash victims. I think it probably will.

A Band called Obscene Gesture

I just found out that there is a trashcore (?) band called Obscene Gesture.

Don’t they look all tough and mean? (source)

And then that menacing gesture that is just ‘disgusting to the senses’, and/or ‘repulsive by reason of crass disregard of moral or ethical principles’.

These men-boys will have to watch out for the US laws on obscenity.

A final note: should their music be considered one giant musical gesture?

Serbian Salute by Marija Šerifović

Marija Šerifović recently won the Eurovision Songfestival with a nice song called Prayer.

Marija during her performance
Marija Šerifović (photo by Indrek Galetin)

She is also the main character in a nice story about a gesture: the Serbian Three-finger Salute: The three-finger salute is a Serbian salute with the thumb, index, and middle fingers open.

The origin of this gesture is said to be the orthodox way of crossing yourself, with three fingers instead of the entire hand (referring to the Christian Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

That is not unlikely but the actual othodox crossing is done with three fingers together, not spread. The spreaded Serbian salute could however be seen as an exaggerated version of the hand used in crossing. It is as if the Serbs, in this gesture, stress their difference from people that cross themselves with the thumb touching the fingers in opposition (catholic Croats?).

The Serbian salute is made, for example, by fans and players to celebrate sport victories. Members of other ethnic groups, especially Bosniaks and Croats, are said to find it provocative. So, it is effectively a symbol of national and/or ethnic identity.

Now, if you rewatch the footage from songfestival, you can see Marija and other members from her group giving the salute regularly when they receive points, or when they are cheering after their win. The same goes for cheering crowds in Belgrade.

Serbs cheer Marija's victory with salutes

In a way I feel that this salute is similar to waving a little flag, which is not criticized among songfestival contenders. However, one specific occasion sparked a bit of commotion. After receiving 12 points from Bosnia Herzegovina Marija made the Serbian salute. Some people were offended because Serbian troops also flashed this gesture around on their military campaign there, reminding people of the atrocities commited there by the Serbs (and others).

More generally, the Serbian salute was often used as a nationalist sign before and during the Yugoslav wars.

When she was confronted about her salute Marija Šerifović was irritated and said she did not have to explain her behaviour. Serbian commenters on the web are also quick to make light of the matter or suggesting critics to go to hell. Is it justified that the criticism is so easily shrugged off? I think it is not justified. I think Marija and other Serbs are well aware that they offend people with the gesture.

Because it is not the first time this story was told. It all happened before in exactly the same way, in 2003, with a Serbian basketball player in the NBA called Vlade Divac. He also flashed the Serbian salute to cheer or greet his countrymen. And when he was confronted by critics he also downplayed it and shrugged it off, much like Marija now, although he seemed to be well aware of the meaning and use of the gesture in the wars.

Read the full story for a good background on how to interpret the modern use of the Serbian salute. It also gives a good impression of how it was used by the Serbian militia. Here is a paragraph that I think captures the essence:

The symbol is associated with the Serbian Orthodox Christian Church, and experts say it represents the Christian Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But, through decades of ethnic strife, the gesture took on a nationalist meaning. It is also associated with the “Three C’s” from the nationalist slogan “Only Unity Will Save the Serbs” (In the Serbian language, the words “unity” “save” and “Serb” all begin with the Cyrillic letter “c” the equivalent of “s”) It became used as a threatening weapon, an “in your face” gesture aimed at terrorizing non-Serbs.

So, are we to believe that people like Marija, who appears to be an intelligent, informed Serbian, are not aware they are causing offence with the Serbian salute? I find that very hard to believe. Sure, the songfestival stirs up feelings of national pride, and a lot of flags are waved. But this should be mixed with growing respect for eachother. That is the purpose of such events, much like the Olympics. I can only see this gesture as a childish boasting of her own Serbian identity mixed with a display of contempt for neighbouring peoples. Not illegal perhaps, but quite rude and highly offensive.

The only justification that could be made is that history is not as we think we know it, that the Serbs were actually also victims of the war, that this should be acknowledged, and more of such excuses. But even such a view (which I do not share) does not take away the childishness and rudeness of the act. It just hurts the eyes. Elsewhere: Samaha

Montoya fined $10.000 for a playful finger

I agree with some of the comments on YouTube that the Americans have a strange fear of the finger. They will not even show it unscrambled in this video clip. In general US media do not show pictures of people flipping the bird or making what they feel are insulting or obscene gestures.

I believe that the finger is not really obscene, but in most cases a gesture of defiance. It can also be a playful gesture of outsmarting someone or being smug to the competition, as it is in this case, which is related to defiance.

But there is hardly ever any sexual connotation at all. Nor is there always an insult. Unless you feel insulted by the open defiance. Perhaps some people simply cannot stand other people showing their defiance. Do they have difficulty accepting gestures of defiance? Somehow this is turning into something alltogether too much political and too close to current events.

Not a Nice Gesture by Baros

Lyon striker Milan Baros will face a disciplinary inquiry about his “go away, you stink” gestures to Rennes defender Stephane M’Bia with during a Ligue 1 match.

Was it racist or just obnoxious on a personal level?

My friend Gael said that if you make reference to an existing racist or discriminating stereotype, such as “all grubbers (fictional race or country inhabitants) stink” then this should be considered racism or discrimination. I agree with Gael (don’t tell him though), and find that this gesture is as much a reference to stinking as any words you could use.

Morrison fined $25,000 for giving the finger

Adam Morrison, a Canadian basketball player, was fined $25.000 for giving the finger to a nagging fan.

Finger in happier times
Well, it was probably another finger but nobody is hosting an image of the incident anywhere… (source)

Is this fine fair? Here are some exactly similar cases to help you decide a fair punishment:
* Zach Randolph (basketball, USA) was fined $133.333
* Mark van Bommel (football, Germany) was fined EUR6,200
* Michael Vick (American football, USA) was fined $10.000
* Ron Artest (basketball, USA) was fined $10,000
* Natasha Zvereva (tennis, Wimbledon) was fined $1,000
* Juan Pablo Montoya (NASCAR, USA) was fined $10,000

More on fines and jailtime for gestures

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