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The ‘Bigger. Fatter. Gypsier.’ backlash

Posted at 4:30 pm, February 24, 2012 in News

Protest Last week, the London Gypsy and Traveller Unit (LGTU) mounted a protest in Hackney to protest against billboards promoting Channel 4’s documentary ‘Big Fat Gypsy Weddings’ featuring the slogan, ‘Bigger. Fatter. Gypsier.’ The group says the posters are offensive to the gypsy and traveller community. A letter was hand-delivered to Channel 4’s head office in Westminster. ‘What does ‘Gypsier’ mean in this context and what do the images say about being a Gypsy?’ asked the letter. ‘The stereotype promoted is that of apparently alluring girls and young women and of menacing young men. It is hurtful and damaging to use the correct descriptive term for an ethnic group as a sly dig at that group,’ it continued. ‘We wonder if Channel 4 would have been so ready to use adverts with similarly compromising images and phrases like ‘Jewisher’ or ‘more Asian’ or ‘Blacker’?’

In a statement, Channel 4 said the campaign built on the ‘celebratory nature’ of the first series of ‘Big Fat Gypsy Weddings’. ‘The word ‘Gypsier’ refers to the fact that this series offers even greater access and insight into the communities featured…The terms ‘Gypsy’ or ‘Gypsier’ are not being used in a negative context,’ it said. We spoke to two Irish Travellers and one Romany Gypsy who live in the capital and asked them what they thought about the posters:

Tracie Giles, 39, Newham Travellers site
‘It is offensive and racist to travellers. The people depicted are Irish Travellers, they are not even Gypsies, so as a Romany Gypsy myself, I find that offensive as they are not even referring to us correctly. I don’t know one person who thinks the programme or the recent posters are good for the traveller community. It is just peddling stereotypes. Only a handful of people in our communities look like that, and it is just using sensational images of young girls to sell the programme. Most travellers live in houses and they can’t tell their neighbours, friends or employers of their background because responses to this are usually overwhelmingly negative. Since the programme started I have heard cases of bullying because of the sort of images it promotes.’

Bridget (not her real name), a housed Traveller, Hackney
‘I have already heard of children being called names because of the  series. Last time, some that I know had to be taken out of school because there were very negative responses towards travellers during the last programme. Channel 4 should realise what they are doing by all this – or don’t they care? These adverts are stigmatising by the words and pictures they use. This programme is turning us into something we are not.’

Tom (not his real name), a housed Traveller Camden
‘What do they mean by Gypsier? Maybe it’s  clever and funny to others, but to us who are Gypsies it’s mocking the word Gypsy which is our identity’. Would they use those kind of words for any other ethnic group ?’ Rebecca Taylor

Racist? Offensive? What do you think? 

Watch Tracie below:

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