On being PC.

I've avoided writing about a certain popular local blog for a long time, mainly because I'm conflicted about my feelings on the author herself. On one hand, the author's writing voice is very similar to mine, she knows a lot about pop culture, has good taste in music, and is quite articulate and engaging. On the other hand, we have completely opposite viewpoints when it comes to most politics and social issues, and the more radicalized I become, the more I see how this author embodies how white middle-class citizens are perpetuating many of the problems with our country by their scathing rejection of anything that isn't the status quo. Plus, a zillion people read her blog and five people read my blog, and one is my grandma in Ames, Iowa (Hi, Grandma!). The writer in question made a passing stereotypical remark implying that Jews are cheap, and when a person on her boards called her on it, she (and other readers of her board) were up in arms about the PC Nazis. This prompted her to articulate her disdain for political correctness. This, in turn, got me thinking about why being politically correct is important.

Let me preface what I'm about to say with an acknowledgment of the value of freedom of speech. We, as Americans, have the freedom to say and write whatever we want. I do have a problem when those words begin to be hate speech urging hate action, but I will vigorously defend your right to disagree with me. The minute that is gone, we've devolved. In fact, I wish more people would exercise said right.

That being said, there are groups of people who have been marginalized, who have been denied their freedoms and opportunities because of a group they belong to, whether that be based on class, gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual identification. Those groups have specific derogatory stereotypes attached to them. When those people who are members of the majority use stereotyping language in reference to marginalized groups, it categorizes people and facilitates a community where marginalized members are not seen as individuals.

By voicing objection to stereotyping language, I am trying make people think about how they describe others and how they think about people who are not like themselves. When you have to refer to people based on their own individual merit rather than their membership in a group, it's a lot harder to discriminate against said person. It's a lot easier to hate "them" as opposed to "you".

So, when I say that I want to base my opinions of people on their own actions, rather than their membership in a certain group, that includes not using stereotyping language. And if I don't voice my concern when I see people using derogatory stereotypes, to me, that indicates that I am fine with their perpetuation of marginalization, which I am not. I encounter this all the time with my kids, who can't seem to go a day without saying, "That's so gay," when they really mean "stupid", or "frustrating", or "unreasonable", not "men who are attracted to other men", and I call them on it. Every. Single. Time. To me, it's the equivalent of lazy writing. Describe what you mean. Don't rely on ignorant stereotypes to do it for you.

People have every right to not be PC. But it makes them sound awfully ignorant. What harm comes from being sensitive to the struggles of groups to be recognized as individuals? What harm comes from acknowledging people as individuals whose individual traits come from who they are as a person and not demographic groups to which they belong? I know black people who don't like chicken. I know women who could knock the shit out of any man. I know strong men who cry. I know hoosiers from the city and sophisticates from the country. I know gay conservatives and churchgoing members Allies. They're just people. And I know that the tiny bit of effort that it takes to be considerate of how I refer to people is one demonstration of my own attempt to perpetuate compassion and inclusion and show my refusal to perpetuate the status quo of exclusion and discrimination that plagues our world to this day. I don't want to live in a world like that. I don't want my kids (biological or students) to live in a world like that.

So yes, I nitpick when it comes to offensive language, because it's something I firmly believe in. I ain't on some liberal bandwagon. Bitch, I drive the liberal bandwagon. Don't get me started on NBC's "Green Week".

Nothing like some light banter on a Friday afternoon, eh?

1 comment:

Jennifer Lance said...

This is so well-written, and you express your ideas clearly. You say it so well!