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This node is presented for information. The orginal, ranting version is presented, complete with the odd pipelinks, at the bottom of this WU.

Ethnocentrism in your write-ups is bad. Everything2 is (in principle) here to inform the users about all aspects of life. To assume that a reader is familiar with institutions or conventions with a limited geographical extent is to do your own work a disservice. This applies particularly to Americans, who form the majority of the users and therefore feels reinforced in their cultural attitudes. Nothing wrong with that. But to make your information truly accessible you need to explain (not remove) elements which are stongly culture-dependent.

Whizkid explains the essentials of this in A Couple of Tips for Noders. - so what have I got to add?

Specific examples and advice. Here's a selection, which I will keep adding to, of cultural pointers for Americans, Britons and others who want to make their nodes inclusive. I'd encourage people to enact this by linking their text to the other nodes explaining concepts not directly associated with the topic under discussion, and by presenting background to any new disucssion of a local issue.

  • The residents of most democratic countries outside the USA do not swear a pledge of allegiance to a flag, or feel special reverence for their national flag or any other, except when used appropriately as a national display. Many are not aware that this is the case in the USA. So, when presenting your ideas on the flag burning amendment or the oath of allegiance, make sure you provide a little context. (Both of those nodes do provide that context, by the way.)

  • A lot of anger has been expressed on Everything2 about the role of the Christian religion in the state life of the USA. Independent of the validity of this anger is the point that the establishment and observance of religion is not consistent the world over. The United Kingdom has a church established by law (the Church of England or Anglican church), but it is very rare for a senior figure such as the Queen or Prime Minister to mention religion, unless on a personal note. This contrasts sharply with the United States tradition of putting 'In God we Trust' on currency and being told 'God Bless the United States of America' after presidential broadcasts.

  • The names for certain signs are not universal. In particular, the down-pointing fork in a circle known to many nations as the peace symbol is known in Britain by its original name: the CND badge. And this sign - # - is called 'pound' in America, but hash in most other places. The dot at the end of a sentence is known to Americans as a period, but in the UK 'period' means a woman's menstrual cycle, and the dot is called a full stop.

  • The cultural attachments of festivals are not universal. The USA regards Hallowe'en very differently from most of the rest of the world. In the UK there is a certain amount of dressing up, but trick or treat is comparatively rare and costumes are expected to have a certain gothic horror flavour. In other countries the traditions are yet more ancient. The Brits are not exactly fans of the Great Pumpkin. :-) In the UK, the expression 'Kris Kringle' for Father Christmas is unknown. The Easter Bunny is not a common symbol in some parts of Europe. In the UK, Veterans Day is called Remembrance Day. And so on.

  • Some festivals are completely culture-dependent. In Britain, Harvest Festival is celebrated (if at all) at least six weeks earlier than Americans mark Thanksgiving, and many Europeans are unaware of the significance of Thanksgiving. Citizens of the United States may let off their fireworks on the Fourth of July, but in Britain fireworks are saved for the Fifth of November, to mark Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot. Former colonies have retained the British firework tradition, but moved the display to other days of the year again. In Scandinavia, fireworks are only normally used on New Year's Eve. In Sweden and other parts of Europe, Whitmonday (the day after Pingst/Pentecost/Whitsunday) is a public holiday. In certain countries - Norway for example - Christmas Eve is the date for major Christmas celebrations.

  • Some English-speaking countries have different names for the same things. In Britain, elevators are generally called lifts, and fall is called autumn. In Britain, while both arse and ass are terms of abuse, the latter usually carries the meaning of 'donkey' or 'fool' rather than 'buttocks'. In the UK, the word 'wank' is considered far more offensive than in the USA. In Britain, 'fag' means a cigarette, not a homosexual, and a faggot is a spicy meatball or a large log for burning.

  • American politics are not necessarily readily comprehensible to others. It's not immediately apparent what, in a democratic republic, parties called Democrats and Republicans might stand for. Nor is it necessarily obvious which countries' Liberal parties are genuninely liberal, which socialist, which centrist and which right-wing. Don't assume that your reader has heard of Alan Greenspan, Peter Mandelson, Göran Persson or Gerhardt Schröder.

  • On a related note, don't assume that your reader is familiar with your nation's history. I may know all about Harald Hardradi or the Prince Regent, but not everyone will. Not even Queen Victoria is as well-known as many British people would like to pretend. Karl (or Charles) the Twelfth of Sweden isn't taught in British schools. Not everyone recalls which King of France was executed in the French Revolution, or who signed the Treaty of Utrecht. Provide background.

  • Not every nation has the same literary icons. Until joining E2, I had only heard the name Ayn Rand mentioned once, in an imported American novel. Her works are not taught in British schools, or for that matter very often sold in British shops. Most non-French readers won't know the difference between Alexandre Dumas père and fils

  • Local terminology is not widespread. Don't expect everyone to know what hub man, jock, sassenach or gaijin means.

  • This is a serious point: many American-authored write-ups regard Islam as something which mainly affects the Middle and Near East. Here in Britain, it's a major religion these days. There are mosques in many cities, and an increasing number of non-Muslim Britons are gaining an awareness of the faith. The same applies to Australia. Please be aware of this when writing about Islam.

  • The political attitudes of various nations, now and in the past, are not necessarily the same as those of the USA. Anti-communist paranoia was far more pronounced, and still is, in the United States than elsewhere. As a side-effect of this, not everyone understands the Vietnam War. Conversely, most non-Britons know little about the Falklands War of 1982. Many noders are German. Remember that before writing something insensitive about the two World Wars.

  • The racial composition of your local area is guaranteed not to be reflected elsewhere. Don't introduce needless references to visible minorities into what you're saying. The fact that the girl was Japanese may have nothing to do with the case. And if such things do matter, don't forget that we can't see you, and may not know you, and don't know what colour you are, or if your neighbours are similar or not. Personally, I don't think such issues are meaningful - but if you say it, make it clear. Thanks to rougevert, who is clearly red and green, for prompting me to add this section.

Addendum: At the encouragement of dem_bones, I'd like to ask any noders who are not from either the USA or UK, or whose experience touches heavily on countries other than those two, to /msg me with more data that can be used to enlarge and enhance this node. I am myself a creature of my home country, and I'd welcome the chance to learn and to teach more on the subject. Thanks to Sverre and others for giving me a hand with this.

The original form of this node follows. Note that, despite its intention, it is itself ethnocentric, in that it alludes to citizens of the USA as 'Americans' without thought to South and Central America, Mexico or Canada.




The World is not American

The above should be tolerably clear. The whole world is not belong to the United States. If you remember this, you can write better nodes. Sadly, the attitude of many Americans today (more in general than here on E2) is that everywhere else in the world is tiny and insignificant next to the might and glory of the USA. Here are some general pointers:

Not every country requires you to swear an Oath of Allegiance to a flag.
Not every country is blessed by its President (or other head of state) in the name of God after every major announcement.
Not every country has 'In God We Trust' (or, for that matter, 'New World Order') on its currency.
Not every country calls the CND symbol 'the peace symbol'.
Not every country or faith regards Hallowe'en as an appropriate festival for dressing up as Superman.
Not every person uses the expression 'fall' for the season after summer and before winter.
Not everyone associates July the Fourth with fireworks.
Not every person uses the word 'period' for the delimiter at the end of a sentence, and many use it to mean something utterly different.
The oldest democracy in the world is almost certainly not the United States. Depending on what definition you use, it's Iceland, or the Isle of Man, or somewhere.
Not everyone spells 'arse' 'a-s-s'.
Not everyone has read or even heard of the works of Ayn Rand.
Not everyone considers this word inoffensive.
Not every person is ignorant about Islam.
Not everyone means or understands the same thing by the word 'fag'.
Not every country executes its murderers.
Not every country persecuted the communists.
Not every country was on the same side as America in each of the two world wars.
Not every country has a crisis over gun laws.
Not every country believes that the national flag is sacred.

Please take account of this and Node for the Ages and for people of all nationalities.

Of course, all this cuts both ways. It's all very well for me to write this apparently anti-American diatribe, but I too am from a country guilty of cultural imperialism, and I ought to remember that the issues and points I mention above will be important to the target audience, too.

Fog in Channel: Continent Isolated

Let's all be a little more inclusive, shall we?

An excellent wu by Tiefling and I would normally leave things alone but I couldn't stop thinking about one particular problem - the fact that it focuses solely on users from North America and Europe.

While I understand that the majority of the user base may come from these two regions, I also know that there is a healthy "minority" of users from other continents and regions across the world. For E2 to become the truly universal knowledge base that it aims to be, each of us must recognize the fact that we're speaking to and sharing with the world audience and create our wu's accordingly.

After all, "arse" and "ass" may mean something to Brits and North Americans but it doesn't mean squat to the wired kid in Japan.

The purpose of this node is to promote understanding. I originally wrote this for US-Centricity on Everything, but that node is now full of bickering, whereas this one is full of advice. By following these guidelines, noders can gain a better understanding of how things work in the rest of the world, and readers will be better able to understand their nodes.

There will always exist a certain amount of confusion caused by differences between locales. Most people are only familiar with their own country, and people often miss subtle differences between themselves and the rest of the world. Items such as product names, ethnic stereotypes and slang can be meaningless to a reader from a different part of the world. Of course, a writer cannot be expected to know the subtleties of all of the different reader's locations, but by sticking to a few conventions they can make the reader's job easier.

Units

In general your usage of units should reflect your need for precision. Here are some pointers:
Time
The standard for measuring time is GMT (aka UTC). Of course, if you're saying something like "We went into Tokyo that night and got back about 4am", that doesn't need to be GMT. However, if you're talking about an event of global importance, "The Hague's verdict will be handed down at 13:00 CET" isn't a sensible approach. Most people can't convert from Dutch time to their local time in their heads. You should also be careful about refering to events by the season they occur in, since the seasons are opposite in the southern hemisphere.
Money
Again, the amount of precison required determines which style to use. If you are saying "what kind of dinner you can get for $3.27", stating your currency is not critical. However, if you're talking about the salary of the Canadian Prime Minister, it's worth clarifying if you're talking about Canadian dollars or US dollars.
Measurement
Most of the world now uses metric, making this a no-brainer. However, if your country isn't metric, stick with the same principles. "I walked up to the 6 foot blonde and said 'hi'" is fine, but saying "The diameter of Pluto is 1400 miles" is mostly useless.

Spelling

Use your local spelling. There's no absolute correct way of spelling colour/color, so just use whatever your comfortable with. Local spelling and langauge adds flavour and style to your writing. If, like me, you've been away from home so long you don't know what your local spelling or usage is, mix and match as you desire, but be consistent. See also learn how to spell

Voting

Try to bear in mind that different events have varying significance to different people. Indian elections may not interest you, but there are a lot of people who are interested. Likewise, if something is old or tired news where you are, don't be unfair to a noder who is still excited about its arrival in their own country.

The word "National"

Using the word "national" should set off alarm bells in your head. If you are constructing an argument, data supplied by the National Rifle Association will be irrelevant to many of your readers, as will statistics supplied by a national census. You can still use these data, but clarify the context, and don't expect your argument to persuade everybody.

Similarly, if your country's name appears in an acronym, expand the acronym or clarify the context. The AMA could refer to the American Medical Assocation or the Australian Medical Assocation equally. The purpose of the RSPCA will be familiar to most readers, but you may have to clarify if your information is specific to New Zealand.

Local Knowledge

The biggest problem with local knowledge is identifying it. You know that only a few people will be familiar with your local shopping centre, but what about celebreties? I know who Jim Lehrer is, but a hardlink makes it easier for everyone. If unsure, Links can flesh out details readers may be unfamiliar with without breaking the flow of your writing.


When in doubt: if you are noding personal things, use your local style, if you are noding for everyone, use international style. Try not to let your bias confuse people.
After reading Avoid Ethnocentrism and realizing that the closest equivalent to this node about heterosexism is the node heterosexism itself. So I'm here to teach you noders a lesson.

While I am not sure that heterosexism and ethnocentrism are necessarily the same thing (or rather that heterosexism is a type of ethnocentrism), this writeup was moved here by an editor so here it will stay, I suppose.

AVOID HETEROSEXISM

Heterosexism in your writeups is bad. Just like ethnocentrism in your writeups. Realize that not all noders/readers are heterosexual. Nodes such as How to pick up men (sorry to pick on this node, I actually found it very amusing, but I need an example) should at least be prefaced with a disclaimer along this vein, "This node is intended for women seeking to pick up men. We do not suggest that men attempt to be 6 foot Asian redheads in order to pick up men, nor do we suggest that they have enormous breasts."

In other words, if you are going to be writing a writeup about relationship advice, relationships in general, or anything that has an impact on people in a relationship (i.e., disease transmission, marriage issues, etc.), be sure that you think to yourself first, "Does my writeup only pertain to heterosexuals? Am I able to add more information that will make it of more use to LGBT people? If not, shouldn't I address that in the writeup to reflect that this node is incomplete and could use more input from someone better suited to address the needs of LGBT people?"

Ideally, when writing a node, one should ignore everything one knows about the context of the node and assume that the reader could be anyone. While sometimes this does not enable one to add any more depth to a node, only clarification, occasionally one will find that there is an entirely separate unexplored topic within a node for LGBT people.

Likewise, LGBT noders should not assume that people reading their nodes, specifically, their gay related nodes, are LGBT themselves. In many ways heterosexism is a type of ethnocentrism. There exist nuances in the LGBT culture that many heterosexuals are unaware of, and therefore even if you are writing a gay themed node you should be sure to thoroughly elucidate any terms that heterosexuals will find confusing or ambiguous. Likewise for heterosexual noders, though there are far fewer words or phrases that will be unknown to LGBT people because of the pervasiveness of "heterosexual culture" (if such a thing can be said to exist).

Also, do not assume that everyone wants to marry or that everyone can marry. This is both ethnocentric and heterosexist. Making a blanket statement such as, "Since gays aren't allowed to marry..." or something is often ethnocentric, because there are countries that -do- allow gay marriage, and likewise, there are parts of certain countries that also allow it.

There really isn't much more that can be said to prevent heterosexism on E2. The main key is to always keep in mind while writing a node that E2 has a diverse audience and that your writeups should take these diversities into consideration, whether they be of sexual orientation/identity, race, religion, ethnicity, etc.

For more information on how one can fix a writeup after identifying that it is heterosexist, read heterosexism.

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