Why You Shouldn’t Be “Politically Correct”

It has become commonplace to hear the term “politically correct” tossed around in all sorts of circles.  The way I see it, non-PC statements are only a problem because they are indicative of a deeper problem in the way people think. But staying politically correct does not solve this or any problem.  In fact, by eliminating discussion and acknowledgment, we have created a bigger problem.

Political correctness

Enforcing political correctness is censorship. If we believe certain racist, sexist, and otherwise insensitive or discriminatory ideas and behaviors are bad, it makes sense that we want to stop them.  But by forcing people to use specific terminology or avoid certain conversation topics, we are going about it all wrong. Staying “politically correct” is not medicine for the problems that exist—it’s a band-aid to cover up the wounds.

In addition, its goals are all wrong. Political correctness doesn’t teach people to be mindful of problems in the way they think; it teaches them to avoid “offending people.”

What’s wrong with this, you might ask? Isn’t it noble to avoid offending people? Isn’t that the point?  No.  It is not the point.  The word “offend” in the definition of political correctness is used in a more abstract way than people think.  “Offending political sensibilities” is different from offending people.

Here is the kind of offense the definition of “politically correct” refers to:

offend-def1

Here is the kind of offense people typically try to avoid by being “politically correct”:

offend-def2

By focusing on hurt feelings, discomfort, or anger provoked in people instead of focusing on the moral transgression or underlying mistake, political correctness is discredited.  On the scale of societal importance, feelings are way lower than morals.  Taking offense is deemed petty. As soon as we made political correctness a game of feelings, we allowed people to diminish, laugh at, or become angry about anyone who takes offense.  We allowed people to stop caring about political correctness, and thus, to stop caring about the problems which inspired it.

So there are two problems with political correctness:  it is unattractive and unpopular and therefore rarely upheld, and when it is upheld, it does not accomplish the right goals.

Case in Point: 

Take for instance the following holiday song performed by Brad Paisley, in which “non-offensive” and “politically correct” are tongue-in-cheek impossible ideals, because they require simply not saying a multitude of words like “white” and “Christmas” (since not everybody is white or celebrates Christmas…duh).

Avoiding personal offense is both ridiculous and ridiculously hard and people know it.  This song points at “political correctness” and roars with laughter.

If you’re on Tumblr you’ve heard of “social justice warriors,” people who enter a space or conversation which is meant to be fun and “take offense” where none was meant.  These “white knights” try to stick up for every marginalized group everywhere, potentially without full understanding of the issues they raise and potentially for reputation purposes or just to feel better about themselves for being sensitive and aware.  Sometimes they appear more ignorant in trying not to be, like in this movie clip.  They are often criticized for trying to “out-politically-correct” other people.

Recently I’ve encountered several Facebook arguments vaguely about this concept, the crux of the problem being that some people want a fun space where they can feel free to post statements without being attacked for insensitivity and other people want a mindful space where they can feel free to respond negatively to a post without being attacked for over-sensitivity.  (Which seems pretty simple to me.  The solution is: don’t attack people… for any reason! But whatever, nobody listens to me.)

Political correctness is a bad term and a bad idea.  We do not live in a “politically correct” world, where race, sex, religion, and gender issues don’t exist, so we cannot live in a world where we don’t mention or talk about them.  Nor can we always avoid offending someone’s feelings or comfort. That simply is not realistic or practical.  There is always the possibility that a conversation will make somebody upset, but we cannot be responsible for the feelings of everybody in the world. We can, however, be responsible for our own attitudes and actions. The answer to solving problems is not to stop talking about them. It’s exactly the opposite.

Instead of being “politically correct” and censoring your language to avoid sensitive words and topics, we can be mindful of how our attitudes and actions are influenced by prejudices, privileges, and stereotypes, and also how our words actively influence the reinforcement and embodiment of those prejudices, privileges, and stereotypes.

Suggestion: if you catch you or someone you know using the term “politically (in)correct” for any reason, either to censor or to mock, stop yourselves and

  1. Consider why the subject at hand has been labeled “politically incorrect.” Here’s a tip: the answer is not because it will hurt someone’s feelings. Think of the moral or divine law it transgresses, or the way it makes assumptions about, disrespects, or diminishes a person or group’s identity.
  2. Consider your own associations and beliefs surrounding this concept, where those beliefs came from, and how your current actions/words/thoughts both influence and are influenced by those beliefs.
  3. Don’t stress about it. Create a mental file folder for this issue and continue the conversation the next time something comes up.

Have I made myself clear? Please stop trying to be politically correct, and admonishing those who are not. Instead, consider earnestly the ways you think and act and have mindful, respectful conversations about it. I’m out.

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178 responses to “Why You Shouldn’t Be “Politically Correct”

  1. Whilst not disagreeing – time moves on! Those of us who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s had a real reason to take up the banner of political correctness. It was the alternative to entrenched and largely unchallenged institutionalised racism, sexism and other offensive mindsets. For my money, while people like Ricky Gervais still think it’s okay to call people ‘Mongs’ and Kat Von Dee think ‘retard’ is an acceptable epithet then political correctness still has its place. It is important to challenge people who think it is alright to say things that they themselves aren’t offended by, and to stand up for those unable to do it themselves, wether you call it PCness or give it another name, it’s all our responsibilities.

    • But if someone chooses to be ignorant and hurtful then they show who they are. Personally I tr not to offend people but I also shouldn’t worry about offenses that shouldn’t be. An example I am not Christian but when someone wishes me a merry Christmas I nod and wish them the same. What is offensive about that? To many people are to easily offended too. To many today “look for a reason to be offended”. So there are things like calling my people redskin that is offensive because it was meant to degrade and dehumanize the native peoples of these lands. But using the medical term mentally retarded isn’t meant to descriminate but to catagorize or define a medical condition. We have to tip toe around to much these days. Which is simply not right as well. It’s not your right to tell everyone else what is or isn’t offensive but i understand some words are..

    • Steevbeed, If you would of been born before the 70’s you would of known the truth about racism,sexism, and other offensive mindsets. First of all the liberals from the 60’s brainwashed everybody they could trying to get people to see things their way. Did you ever hear of Woodstock in Central Park ? That was one big drug taken orgy(free sex) party in protest of what they considered bad. I am not saying there was never racism, or sexism in this country’s past but political correctness is a group of people trying to force their own point of view on society regardless of how harmful it might be. Try talking to people who was not raised in the 70’s and 80’s and find out what it was like. We could walk down a street without fear of being attacked. Now criminals are let free because the crime they did wasn’t VIOLENT enough or they claim to be incarcerated just because someone don’t like them. Most of the comments seem to come from people under 30 years old, who hasn’t got any life experience.

  2. Your post makes me think of something I said in a group setting where the topic was freedom of speech. My comment was that our society believes in freedom of speech until someone disagrees. Then, of course, it’s not okay. Good thought provoking post!

  3. Thank you. It’s always floored me how often PCers brandish their feelings like clubs, and treat their wishes like facts. At the same time, your own feelings or wishes don’t count.

    Nope. I don’t live like that. If someone likes me even if we disagree, we’ll be friends. If someone hates me because we disagree, we won’t be friends. It’s that simple.

  4. Right up my sleeve.
    Being offended is a very subjective feeling. It depends on your upbringing, cultural and religious beliefs and so forth. Everyone has the right to be offended, as everyone has the right to believe in his version of religion. But nobody has the right to force it’s religious or offended views on others.
    Political Correctness is a weapon used against unwanted or uncomfortable ideas. Those who speak these ideas, are individuals or groups with a tendency to cling to outdated ones and those with a tendency to create new ones. Forbidding the one side to speak their mind freely, opresses the other one automaticly. Therefore extremely conservative opinions are weakened as are the far progressive leaning ones. Are both unworthy of being stated as they are ideas?
    Political correctness is as you stated a form of censorship, consequently in direct opposition to freedom of spech.
    Thanks for the good read and have a nice day.

  5. It’s interesting. The timing is remarkable. I put out a blog post on the same subject about a week or two ago. Although my thoughts and feelings were expressed very differently, my conclusions were similar.

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  7. A very interesting post…half of the conversations wither off as people realize there’s not much to go on without talking about sensitive topics which then leads to arguments/long faces and scarred relationship. So sad that we try to split hairs when there is no need for it.

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  10. “I also fail to understand how insulting, hurtful language is the only way to engage in discourse?”

    The author never claimed it as the only way only that we shouldn’t ban it. The 1st amendment was put in place to protect language we don’t want to hear. The KKK is protected the same as the NBBP is protected. Both hate groups are allowed to be and show their stupid hateful ways. Why? Because the first amendment protects their right to first be thought a fool and then open their mouths and relieve all doubt.

    When someone calls you or your father hateful names it only demonstrates their insecurity as a person. They need to insult you to feel in some way superior. Think about how lame they must be to need to degrade a fine person like yourself just to feel good about themselves? Yeah they are pretty lame aren’t they. So let them be ignorant who cares they are stupid and the world and you know it.

    Sorry I’ve also dealt with the names and those people just aren’t worth being my friends. I’d rather know who the people are to avoid than have them mask their hatred/dislike because of political correctness. So let them speak, note who is the fool and just avoid them.

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  12. I consider political correctness to be a pop term for simple common decency. When I meet a stupid person I don’t tell them they’re an idiot, it wouldn’t be nice. Same with fat people. I don’t think my right to use any particular word is more important than not offending people. Rights come with responsibility and is not a license to do just whatever you want.

    • Decency is one thing. Refusal to allow disagreements is something else. Too often, PCers behave as if their will be done and not your own. We are the owners of our own minds and lives. That includes decency, but not the arrogance of knowing what’s “best” for another adult with an intact mind.

  13. I read this blog post, hoping to find some commonality. Unfortunately, I found lots of people moaning, as a great percentage – (usually female) are wont to do. (Oops, there I go again – stero-typing.)

    As a species, we classify things by commonality – Men have a penis, Women a vagina. Dogs have four legs, Domestic Cats are smaller etc etc.. It’s how we understand things…

    By the same token, Lesbians and Gays, Heterosexual and Homosexual people have characteristics that we use to classify (and understand) these groups.
    .
    Christians, Muslims and Jews have different religious backgrounds. Their belief systems evolving with their culture, and the more backward looking the belief systems, the more repressive they appear (to me at least) to be.

    In the middle-east, where Sand, Heat by Day, and Cold by night are the norm, wearing loose fitting clothing and covering the head make common sense. On a warm summer’s day in the green-fields of England, they are both unnatural and unnecessary.

    When the temperature is 40degrees celcius in the heat of the day, it makes sense to bury your dead within 24hours. In the chill of a British, Russian, German, Scandinavian (or Canadian) winter it makes more sense to try to spend time to discover the REAL cause of death.

    In 40 degree heat, it makes sense NOT to eat Pork – (it goes off in hours) – In a German, Polish, Dutch or British winter, that Pork makes a welcome addition to the diet, and helps you make it through a lean time, food wise. Science then learned that Salt and Sugar killed the bacteria that caused the spoiling, and preservatives were born. (as was Bacon… Mmmmmmm).

    Those whose biology takes their brain down one sexual route, and their body another, to be addressed later in life, by gender re-assignment deserve our help and assistance.

    But that doesn’t mean that a Trans-gender woman (born a male) or a Trans-gender male (born a woman) are who they claim to be. But neither should they be made to feel any less for their affliction.

    As a young man (with the aforesaid equipmment) I read a book which changed my perceptions and understanding beyond anything I have read since. “Sex and the Brain” by Jo Durden-Smith, and Diane De-Simone took apart the biology of we humans and explained in glorious (or gory) detail and explained what the biological processes are that take the bundle of 2,4,8, 16, 32, 64 cells of the zygote to the fully functioning sexually mature adult around two decades later. And whilst my mother was a lesbian – (so perhaps I am biased) I still recoil when a gay man approaches – it’s my instinct.

    However, unless ALL cultures, ethnicities, religions and groups are willing to examine their beliefs, and until we all have science as a common framework for ideas, (and the science is not politicized) we will always have minorities who are offended by other’s ideas.

    The answer is not to impose political correctness on the rest of us, but to question your beliefs, and get educated..

    • It’s also about learning to have a thicker skin. People say things, sometimes it’s offensive to us. We say things, sometimes it’s offensive to another. Sometimes they are meant to be hurtful, other times not. Either way it’s still a choice to be offended by the words of another. I say if they want to be ignorant let them and I’ll choose to not be offended by ignorant comments. I hope others choose to not be offended should I make one.

      Choose to not be a victim and not be offended rather than dictate to the world what they can and can’t say. An example of how it’s used to divide. A person of color can call a white person “Cracker” and that (though a racially motivated and derogatory term) is protected under free speech. But let that white person utter the N word and he goes to jail for racist remarks that caused the person of color emotional distress.

      This is where PC truly falls apart. It’s not meant to stop hate speech. It’s meant to stop only certain offensive speech. So call me gay, lesbian, bitch, I don’t care because it merely demonstrates your ignorance not mine. I’d rather know who doesn’t really like me than to have them pretend they do anyway.

  14. Speaking on being PC, what do you all think about people (non Native-American), wanting team sports to change their names from Native-American imagery? Do you think they are trying to PC instead of working on a compromise?

    • The only sports team I wanted to see change their name and logo is the Washington Redskins. If they choose the Washington N*gg*rs wouldn’t you be offended? They used Redskin like the N word on my people. It is derogatory. It’s derogatory because of how it was used to make a people less than human the same as the use of the N word to make people of color “less than human”.

  15. Reblogged this on The College Gay Life and commented:
    This is so on-point I love it. Political correctness is defined by societal norms. But what really is “normal”? Not a lot. As my beautiful Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality professor says, “The only things that are universal norms are eating and shitting!”
    As blunt as she is, she’s right! Sex isn’t even normal. In some cultures, sex is frowned upon.

  16. Pingback: The Incorrect with Political Correctness | musings·

  17. PC is a failed attempt to suppress the opinions of bullies. If I wanted to be a bully, I can just as easily use the English language to belittle someone’s appearance or beliefs in politically correct terms as I can using non-pc terms.

  18. I just speak plainly if you ask my opinion I will tell you exactly what I think even if it offends you thats because I care so to hell with pc.

  19. This is a thought-provoking article. I have always thought you can be too politically correct. I have met so many younger people who stumble across terms for various members of the queer community. They seem to be only concerned about being the most right about terminology. They undermine the actual discussion of discrimination by treating us as a form of trivia. I have had [non-queer] people get on my case for using the word “queer” – even though I AM queer and using it in reference to myself -, whilst not even considering the fact that I have chosen to reclaim that word and that there are few ways for genderqueer people to identify themselves and their sexual/romantic orientations that will make sense to the majority of people.

  20. Political correctness breeds an oversensitivity in people as well as an unneeded tension among business places, schools, and more. With the changing of times I see people more concerned about a fad that should have passed long ago rather than addressing real issues other than “name calling”. Sticks and stones everybody! Frankly if you are concerned about Political correctness you have nothing to do and/ or nothing you do matters! Please don’t be pretentious, like the song says, Everybody hurts, sometimes.

    • As a writer it also means the death of euphemisms, some humor (albeit) crude sometimes and a stricter rejection rate for all submissions.

      • You’re a big fat bigot for claiming all that. You think that it’s all right to go around being a jerk to others? Then be prepared to have your ass handed to you.

  21. All you really did in your article here, wittingly or unwittingly, is strawman political correctness.

    You’re confusing it with not talking about the (race or sex) issues. When in reality the most politically correct people almost by definition constantly bring up those issues. They just do it using more sensitive language.

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  25. There’s a thing called politeness and courtesy and then there’s a thing called political correctness. The former is what normal, compassionate human beings do, WITHOUT side stepping the truth of the matter. The latter is government censorship and avoidance and denial of the TRUTH and is what psychopaths, sociopaths, narcissists, liberals and other deceived or deceptive beings practice in order to avoid having the light of Truth shine on them (thus revealing their darkness/lies, etc.).

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  27. In my day we strove for inclusive language. Instead of saying “Mankind” let’s say “Humankind”, etc. it was an uphill battle. People still don’t understand the reason why this is important nor do some even think about. I still hear people of this generation use the term “mankind” and have not ever been exposed to the idea that we ought to be more inclusive. Furthermore, I know a young woman who belongs to a co-ed fraternity in which all the members are referred to as brothers. It never even occurred to her to question that and when I asked her about it she defended it. I don’t understand why inclusive language isn’t the norm by now.
    The reason inclusive language is so important is because language not only reflects reality but it creates reality. That is similar to the why of “political correctness”. As people’s conciousness was raised about issues of racism, sexism, ageism, mental health etc. they changed their language to reflect that. It was also a way to avoid having to tell people that their jokes were offensive when crudeness and insensitivity erupted in a social group.
    But I think you are absolutely right. Political correctness has been a bandaid. Recent events in our country have given evidence of this. With all the events that led up to the “Black Lives Matter” campaign it has become abundantly clear that not talking about racism hasn’t eradicated it. It’s still alive and well in many places in our country. Shocking. The degree of sexism involved in our 2016 political campaign season is evidence that, despite appearances, there is a lot more misogyny in our country and sexist assumptions than many people would ever think. The Trump phenomenon is heavily based on the idea that political correctness needs to be done away with. In doing so we see that there are huge segments of our population who think it’s okay to make fun of people with handicaps; who think that violence is an acceptable way to resolve conflict; who think women should still be barefoot and pregnant if not vacuuming in pearls and heels–need I go on?
    It is all too clear in this juncture of our history just how much political correctness has merely covered up what are still deep seated, divisive, unenlightened, antiquated belief systems that are still creating problems and rearing their ugly heads. At least “ugly” to a large segment of the population. But clearly not “ugly” to more than we have known about.

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