A Crash Course in Being Politically Correct
It’s simple to just draw a line in the sand and set up some “do not cross” tape, but we really aren’t willing to admit that barrier does nothing – abstract or not.
I cannot undersell the value that I place on the open expression of opinion (i.e. the free speech provided to us through the First Amendment), but at what point in spoken word, print and action do we really set a limit of what is “okay” as a society?
The not-so-recent phrase, political correctness/politically correct, or PC, relates directly to this concept. Whether we are talking Donald Trump or not allowing a child to bring a Wonder Woman lunchbox to school, we seem to have a perverted or overly-sensitive idea of how we should behave.
Consider this a crash course.
2001: A Survey of Reality
There are a few camps of thought on political correctness. One general side of the map believes the term is a method of silencing marginalized people that renders the “creed” irrelevant. Move to another range and you’ll find PC is needed, but for the wrong reasons. Some even believe it’s a way for conservatives to bash liberals for being liberal, but surpass that and you’ll find the term likened with common sense.
Obviously PC is more of a concept than anything, as it remains incredibly fluid and has also gone through a complete meaning reversal. I have to argue specifically for the camp that suggests political correctness runs parallel to logic.
The term should not suggest extreme sensitivity; I wouldn’t be able to tiptoe over every word, nor should anyone want to, but the concept of a filter on what you say and the situation you say it in is incredibly important in order to not sound like an ignorant asshole.
I’ve heard fellow UF students suggest that TA’s who are foreign are somehow bad or lesser – even that they shouldn’t be teaching as they treat their accent like some sort of handicap.
I’ve heard derogatory comments about transgender individuals during the UF Student Government spring election, displaying zero sensitivity about the inclusion of more all-gender bathrooms on campus.
I’ve heard a whole slew of negative comments made about women and men alike, specifically based on gender.
I’ve heard of girls feeling incredibly shamed by the anti-abortion groups that come to campus every year.
And I’m sure you’ve heard your fair share as well.
It’s not just about being annoyed by such narrow minded statements, it’s the fact that similar speech festers between homogenous populations — i.e.: it’s okay to say certain things around people who feel the same way – and that has incredibly harmful effects.
Multiple discussion points can be had within the concept of political correctness and I am here to break it down for you.
I’ll keep this one short, I promise.
The idea of abortion in relation to political correctness is to understand that your body belongs to you and only you.
At what point does the ability to protest abortion by coming to university campuses or even standing out front of Planned Parenthood infringe on the rights of others? Your free speech cannot and should not overlap some one else’s – at the point of intruding upon others, it turns into harassment.
Such a touchy subject? Five star “need for PC” rating.
Culture is such an all-encompassing term and as such, the multi-faceted nature should be respected and appreciated. However, cultural appropriation is today’s buzzword and we mostly observe it among celebrities.
Such as when Katy Perry decided she was into Japanese culture and declared “I’m so obsessed with you, I wanna skin you and wear you like Versace!” I have to imagine it as satiric, it’s just so belittling.
Cultural appropriation:“when white media trivializes and adopts aspects of cultures without proper recognition, representation, and respect.”
Cultural appropriation and cultural exchange are two completely different beings – cultural appropriation creates a power dynamic that cultural exchange does not. Although they are not the same, cultural appropriation is more similar to forced assimilation.
And to clarify, forced assimilation is Sarah Palin saying that we should all “speak American.”
Moreover, in the same turn Trump threw a dis at Jeb Bush for speaking “Mexican.”
It’s hateful, it’s hurtful, it’s derogatory and it’s biased. Language barriers can be difficult at times for both parties, agreed, but you are entirely unaware of an individual’s circumstances.
Overall, shaming, selective appreciation and the suggestion that one should become “like everyone else” are never politically correct.
Truthfully, it isn’t very hard to realize what is acceptable here.
There is a common misconception that feminism is somehow bad – that it denotes weakness, that it focuses too much on “potential victimization”, that somehow feminism is creating social norms rather than dispelling them.
When you have female journalists (among other career paths of course), being threatened with death simply for expressing themselves, it is a sign we still need feminism.
There is still a wage gap between men and women, women can’t walk alone at night without being gawked at, women can’t even wear what they want to without being a ‘slut’; moreover we are expected to fit this dainty little niche – and if we are too masculine, we are invalid.
There is also a need to acknowledge that non-Caucasian women often face different barriers. This concept relates to intersectional feminism. To keep up your PC, realize that there is not a “one size fits all” kind of feminism.
Statements like the one Trump made about Megyn Kelly remind us all that we do need feminism.
“She gets out and she starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions, and, you know, you can see there’s blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her … wherever. But in my opinion, she was off-base.”
Despite the rant, women and men should understand that feminism doesn’t mean exclusion, but it does mean protection. When it comes to political correctness, the discussion on feminism should continue and various viewpoints are valued.
Feminism is fabulous.
So I said a lot about women, but not men.
If you support one gender, you should support both (as well as gender nonconforming and gender fluid individuals). I think Tumblr made a good point about how supporting women has turned into degradation of men. If one were to type “women are” into the search bar on Tumblr, extremely positive results pop-up, but type in “men are” and you receive suggestions such as “men are pigs.”
Point is, it isn’t very politically correct to degrade one in order to uplift the other, or very nice actually.
Although the stereotypes are age old, why conform?
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Inersex and Asexual community just wants to love whomever they want and be accepted for who they are. Unfortunately harassment and bloodshed are often the answer they receive.
As of February 2015, a transgender person is being murdered every 29 hours despite being less than 1 percent of the population.
Fourty percent of the homeless youth served by agencies identify as LGBT.
Queer women report significantly lower wellbeing than non-LGBT Americans.
As far as political correctness goes, it’s morally inadequate to create such statistics through discrimination. Sometimes coming out can be an incredibly difficult process, and your colleagues could use your support, even if it’s never verbalized support.
Moreover, discussions about sexuality shouldn’t necessarily be common, unless of course there is some form of expressed consent. It’s also incredibly important to respect the pronouns an individual prefers.
MENTAL ILLNESS AND PHYSICAL DISABILITIES
The word “retard” doesn’t belong in your vocabulary at all.
Don’t ignore the signs that something really is wrong.
Don’t dismiss someone over physical limitations.
Don’t undermine depression, anxiety or any mental disorder.
Although this really applies to everything I’ve said, never shame anyone for anything that falls within this group.
We were warned long ago not to split into political parties, but we’ve always drawn this dividing ideological line: utopianism versus realism, left versus right and what have you.
The study of politics is important, but so hotly contested in practice that you’re often better off considering it “out of the question” for day-to-day discussion.
The candidates for the upcoming election do, in fact, need some political correctness, even if they’re pandering.
Where to begin? Perhaps by acknowledging that racism is still extremely prevalent in the United States and it is clearly not politically correct.
Directly related to race and PC is the concept of microaggressions.
For example, color blindness and stating “I don’t believe in race/racism” is a microaggression and suggests the denial of an individual as a racial/cultural being.
I think the “Black Lives Matter” hashtag controversy displays microaggression quite well, as many immediately fired back with the “All Lives Matter” hashtag. The original hashtag was never meant to devalue other lives. The point was that too many black people are dying and our stereotypes on race tend to be too skewed.
A peer defined racism very well in terms of political correctness:
“I want to offer a slightly different approach. In the previous four comments I read the words “dislike”, “inferior” and hatred”, which I think is a too narrow definition of racism. I actually think one of the major problems in American society concerning racism is that far too many people see it as explicitly hatred of another race, and thus fail to recognize its more nuanced and subtle occurrences in our daily lives.
Racism, to me at its core, is having a preconceived, overgeneralized and/or stereotypical perception of someone as different because of their ethnic features. That does not have to be interpreted as inferior per se. For example, the statement “Damn Usain Bolt is fast, but then again, he’s a black guy” is not necessarily a negative statement, let alone one of hatred. It’s a stereotypical overgeneralization that grossly reduces someone’s accomplishments to their race.”
Freedom to practice whatever religion we please is a truly beautiful thing, but as with freedom of speech, your freedom of religion and the practice of your chosen religion should never infringe on the practice of others.
Your religion also shouldn’t allow you to choose which laws you intend to hold up (*cough* Kim Davis *cough*).
I think being open to learn about other’s religions (or lack thereof) is a net benefit to society, especially when religion is to some a moral code. But part of the political correctness is knowing when it is okay and when it is not. Not because it’s “offensive” or “persecution,” but because church and state should be separate. And because respect is important.
Political correctness is centered on moderation, a degree of professionalism and, at its core, understanding. The idea is to treat others the way you want to be treated, not to silence others and not to force all statements to be censored.
None of the statements made here are designed to be exclusionary and will therefore open into a much more extensive conversation about being politically correct.
Overall, appeasement is a useless concept. So if you feel a certain way, you’ll continue to feel that way, but, uh, maybe spare the rest of us and keep it to yourself?
Feature photo courtesy of:BigStock