Kathy Manos Penn is a native of the “Big Apple,” who settled in the “Peach City” – Atlanta. A former English teacher now happily retired from a corporate career in communications, she writes a weekly column for the Dunwoody Crier and the Highlands Newspaper. Read her blogs and columns and purchase her books, “The Ink Penn: Celebrating the Magic in the Everyday” and “Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch,” on her website theinkpenn.com or Amazon.
Kathy Manos Penn with Lord Banjo: Above.
Seriously? Yes, seriously. Imagine my surprise when I read that the hand gesture for okay is NOT okay. No, I haven't lost my mind-the PC powers that be have determined that forming an O with your thumb and index finger is somehow associated with white nationalist groups.
I know this how? Because the Wall Street Journal headline "Generation Gap: Woke vs. Joke" caught my eye. Granted no one would mistake me for someone who is woke, but still, the idea that the okay hand gesture is offensive was a shocker.
At the 2019 Army-Navy game, some students flashed the hand signal, and both military academies subsequently investigated the intent of the students. Why? Because the gesture resembled one that the Antif-Defamation League has added to their database of hate symbols. Thankfully, it was determined there was no racist intent on the part of the students.
And so I wonder, is uttering the word okay okay? Who knows? And I also wonder what other previously innocent hand gestures will be deemed politically incorrect next.
Imagine that the thumbs-up sign is adopted by a radical group as their symbol of choice, even briefly. Will Facebook and Apple immediately remove them from their library of fun social media emojis?
What about the sign of the horns, made by extending your pinky and index fingers? Couldn't it be seen as a Satanic symbol? Would the University of Texas have to do away with their chant of Hook 'em Horns? Heaven forbid.
Then there's the Vulcan salute popularized by Dr. Spock on Star Trek. Will "Live long and prosper" suddenly become taboo? What if I don't want to live long and prosper? How dare you encourage me to do something I don't want to do?
Think of all the things we do with our hands to send a message. And, no I am not referring to that universal one-fingered gesture we all know. Think of crossing your fingers for luck or high fiving someone as a way to say "way to go" or congratulations.
Recall the fist bump, even used by President Obama and the First Lady. I mean it's a fist. Couldn't that be construed as somehow aggressive?
If you're my age, you may recall the V sign as a sign of peace. My husband, who is slightly older than I am, reminded me it was used as V for victory earlier. But, neither of us knew that the V sign can be seen as an insult depending on which way your palm faces. Really. If your palm faces inward, the symbol is an insult, similar to the universal gesture referenced earlier. Who knew?
How long before I'm accosted for innocently tapping on my steering wheel or snapping my fingers as I sing along to the radio in my car. Of course, anyone who heard me trying to sing would consider it a crime, but that's a different story. Without a guide book, how is one to know what hand gestures are acceptable vs. taboo?
The more I read about hand gestures, the more I think I should just sit on my hands, lest I offend someone. Right. No more singing in the car. No more waving at friends. In the not so distant future, will facial expressions be similarly scrutinized? Will it be deemed politically incorrect to smile, frown, stick out your tongue, or roll your eyes? Woke vs. joke-you decide.
Find Kathy's new book "Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch"
and her collection of columns, "The Ink Penn: Celebrating the Magic in the Everyday,"
on Amazon and her website email@example.com