When you see this picture, what comes to mind? I see champions, symbols of victory, the greatest players in the world celebrating after winning gold. We’ll at least that is how most American’s perceived it. The magazine, viewed round the world, had many negative comments because of the hand gestures by the players. In fact, some were outraged. What you say! How can someone take three great basketball players posing on the front of a magazine offensively?
While we may see what we see in a particular situation, others see something completely different. Larry Bird’s gesture in most of Latin America, West Africa, Greece, Russia, the Middle East, and Italy basically means “up-yours.” It’s so offensive in several countries in the Middle East that it’s giving this symbol is an arrestable offense. In Germany, Brazil and many other European or Mediterranean countries Magic Johnson’s hand gesture means you think the person you are talking to is a zero or worse an anus. And well… Jordan delivering the two finger gesture to many means victory or peace, but can be a solid insult in Great Britain and several other European countries. It all depends on which direction the outside of your hand is facing. If the gesture is palm-out – you’re okay. If the outside of your hand is facing your target, you’re calling someone a vagina. Who knew in some countries “vagina” was an insult.
So I guess it is easy to be misunderstood especially when other perceive you and your culture through their eyes. Communication in all forms is essential. What are you communicating with your life?
Next time you are in Asia and don’t want to be invited back for tea, flash “the fig”.
Oh, by the way, the magazine was viewed by millions all over the world and some believed the director of this cover shoot knew exactly what he was doing with these hand gestures.