Political Correctness

There are not many things that make me more angry than labelling some argument or position or challenge as mere ‘political correctness’.

As though the only reason you’re being inclusive/fair/whatever is because 1. it’s the correct move politically (interpersonal politics/politeness), 2. because some government is watching you and insists on it, or 3. (this is the really weird one), because it will make them liked by/voted for by/attractive to whomever they’re being inclusive of. That would mean inclusiveness is just a foundation for posturing and lies! ugh.1

It makes me even angrier when people decide they don’t need to be ‘politically correct’ because, say, there are no women presently present. No. False. It doesn’t suddenly make it ok. You still don’t talk that way about women, not just because it might offend, but because it’s wrong, and apart from offence or exclusion it also harms your own perspective: it distorts your view of the abilities, value, or (ugh) ‘purpose’ of women, collectively or individually.

I try to be very careful about the language I use because I’m sure it affects how I think about people and groups. The way I swear, even just the words I use to refer to other cultures, backgrounds, disabilities, etc. I try to use gender-neutral terms where I can, even when it’s maybe not historically correct (they, actor), I try to not use girl when I’m talking about a female person over 20, especially when I don’t know them socially. And so on. Even for things not as obvious as racial slurs or infantilizing terms: Using ‘myopic’ to refer to something unwise, for example.

I also try to avoid making jokes or straw-man-arguments about or another culture, or religion2, or language, or gender (even the minority ones), or economic class, or etc. And it’s not because I’m a humourless bore3, or because I don’t want to offend people[^4], but because I think that it is intrinsically important to be inclusive and understanding and valuing of people - especially those that are different than me, especially when my own privilege hides the little signals of unwelcomeness I unintentionally give out, let alone the intentional ones.

And when those people I’m trying to be inclusive of aren’t present? That’s still not wishy-washy political nonsense. It’s practice. The way you usually talk will affect your attitude and the way you think.

I’m still not excellent at this, there are many times I can’t believe I just said that, and many, many more times when I learn that something I say often can be hurtful or exclusive or belittling. I think it’s important to try, and I don’t think it should be dismissed as political correctness.

  1. I’m really not sure which one of those people mean when they’re talking about political correctness, but none are my motivation for trying to be inclusive. 

  2. Please don’t misunderstand me: having the words ‘religion’, and ‘inclusive’ in the same paragraph does not mean I believe in universalism. I think there is a massive difference between making someone feel welcome, valued and understood, and believing their religion to be correct. 

  3. Although I’m becoming more and more aware of how much I’d be a terrible person to see comedy with. I do think there can be a place for jokes about the unjokeable, but context, people. Sermons, workplaces, schools, etc: not the place.