Thoughts on Political Correctness
What is it about political correctness that is so reprehensible, even to some people on my side of the political spectrum?
The definition of political correctness is: the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalise, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.
The people who most often denigrate political correctness are those who are rarely if ever discriminated against. What exactly is the nature of their opposition to it? A lot of so-called political “incorrectness” is not illegal. The racial discrimination act has certain preventions in it, and admittedly some of them are considered to be in the interests of political correctness, but it by no means covers the entire spectrum of political incorrectness. In any case the RDA only safeguards against public pronouncements that denigrate on the basis of race or religion. So, people are free to be as politically incorrect as they like in private and only slightly less so in public. Let’s put it another way. People are protesting about something that doesn’t substantively constrain their freedom of speech.
It seems to me that what they really hate about political correctness is the framework it provides for labelling their deplorable attitudes. They want to be able to vilify people on the basis of race, colour, religion, gender or sexuality but not be branded as racists, bigots, misogynists or homophobes. They want to utter outrageously insulting things and not be regarded as arseholes. I refuse to grant them that wish. Political correctness is about treating people with respect, regardless of their race, colour, religion, gender or sexuality, full stop. Let’s take sexuality. People want to denigrate others on the grounds of their homosexuality, but don’t want to be labelled as homophobes. Freedom of speech must work both ways. If you have the freedom to say something I find offensive, I have the same freedom to retaliate in a manner that makes clear how I feel.
There is another reason for people’s strident opposition to PC. The discriminatory attitudes it calls out are often strongly connected to how some people identify themselves and define their self-worth. They are proud of their bigotry, their misogyny. Their anger and hostility are worn with pride. They cannot abide being told that their attitudes are antiquated and have no place in a modern, equal, inclusive society. Unscrupulous politicians and media people tap into that anger.
Maybe political correctness is an unfortunate term. The allusion to politics invites criticism. But the significant word is “correctness”.