In Defence of ‘Political Correctness’ and ‘Being Offended”

by | January 6, 2016
filed under Feminism

Ujjal Dosanjh

Ujjal Dosanjh

Hey, have you heard? A man has a groundbreaking new opinion that, “Sadly, political correctness afflicts much of the world; in particular the Western world.” In The National Post, former Premier of B.C. Ujjal Dosanjh offers that equality is all well and good in moderation. “But,” Dosanjh continues, and there is always a ‘but’, “there are storm clouds on the horizon that endanger the continuing pursuit of true equality.” Gasp.

“On matters of race, religion, culture and national identity of Canada the white men are reduced to either silence or non sequiturs…If the white men of Canada can’t overcome the fear of rebuke from the enforcers of fear, Canadians can’t ever have an honest debate.”

And in our overly politically correct society, nobody has dared voice the controversial opinion that political correctness is running amok…

Except this gross dude currently running for president of the United States.

Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

And the Toronto Sun editorial board, this senior CBC correspondent, Margaret Wente (not even going to link to her, but she refers to political correctness on campus as “the triumph of hysteria.”)

And the occasional best-selling author.

And, you know, a bunch of high profile comedians.

And, well, pretty much anyone who has been called out on some bigoted crap.

The idea that political correctness – which is currently being used as a catch-all term for oppressed people speaking out about oppression – has gone too far is not a revolutionary opinion. When it is held by so many people, in such high positions in society, it’s because it reinforces the status quo.

I have personal experience with the status quo argument. People love to tell me how easily offended I am, especially people on the internet. Those people also love to go on long tirades about how political correctness and easily offended people like me are ruining society. If you don’t like something, they’re fond of telling me, just ignore it. Just keep scrolling and move on with your day.

This has always irritated me. (Weird, right? Kind of meta and multi-layered, that I’m bothered by these people being bothered that I’m bothered.) So I thought I would break down just exactly what is happening when I act like a total killjoy about something.

Firstly, here is a list of things that offend me, on Facebook and real life, that I don’t get in people’s faces about, that I actually do just scroll right past:

When I say these things “offend” me, I mean it in the sense that I just kind of hate them as a gut reaction, and for whatever reason they make me cringe. I’m not going to jump down someone’s throat for a post with a minion saying: “It’s wine o’clock somewhere,” even though that’s seriously, ugh, just, ugh, so awful. I mostly ignore them, or utilize the options to block those posts and the profiles that share them from my feed.

You know why? Because these things don’t really hurt anyone or affect me in any way. Minion it up; I’ll survive.

In contrast, here is a list of things I take very seriously (that might be familiar to those currently fighting the valiant fight against political correctness):

Yes, even when it’s “just a joke” or when it’s “pushing the envelope” by being intentionally inflammatory. Because this kind of thing actually does hurt people (and, hey, some of it actually does personally affect me).

When I see, for example, a post making light of rape, I am offended (and quite heartbroken and, frankly, so, so tired). I go through the proper channels to report it, and depending on the situation, I might voice my concern. Rape is a serious epidemic, and joking about it only silences victims and empowers perpetrators. Seeing you joke about it also, on a personal note, wrecks my whole day.

BUT: I don’t think it should be taken down just because it hurts me personallyThis kind of garbage offends me because it causes real harm and I don’t think it should exist; it’s not that I think it shouldn’t exist because it offends me. It’s an important difference.

When you take it upon yourself to stand as the last bastion against the scourge of “political correctness,” you’re actually reducing misogyny (or whatever other very real problem) to the level of a wine-drinking minion post.

But, but, but, but, again with the but’s. You might be about to say that political correctness is an attack on everyone’s free speech, right? If we’re constantly worried about “offending” people, we won’t be able to talk. Important voices will be silenced. Think of all of the valuable opinions that will be lost. (Side note: does being offended actually silence bigots? It hasn’t worked for me.)

Here’s a thought: if you can’t express yourself without offending oppressed minorities, you might be speaking from a position of privilege (and/or you might be kind of a jerk), so maybe you should have a seat and listen. Maybe. Just try this simple exercise (proposed by this hilarious Google Chrome extension): replace every instance of “political correctness” with “treating people with respect” and see if you sound like a Care Bear villain.

The_Care_Bear_Stare_in_the_colors_of_the_rainbow

But even if literally everything you say offends the poor feelings of thin-skinned feminists, that doesn’t actually stop you from talking. You are confusing consequences for your actions with censorship. Society is changing, but if you want to continue to spout bigoted nonsense, the PC Police can’t actually stop you.

This discomfort you’re feeling, this anger, is probably less about “free speech” and more about the fact that your opinions, and the status quo, are being challenged and examined more closely than you would like, and that feels weird. When you ask people to shut up and stop being offended, you are actually making a plea for your view and your opinion to be prioritized above those of others.

But whether or not you feel that is actually the case, I have a solution. It is a solution that has been offered to me dozens of times, and I’m sure it will work for some people. If you’re offended by people being offended by bigoted crap, maybe just keep scrolling and ignore it.

 


  • JoyceArthur

    Really great article, thanks a lot!

  • Michael Fairney

    Talk about missing the point.
    I’m going to try and break it down for you exactly what the issue is with political correctness.
    To begin with the idea of political position being correct or not is, in a democracy, impossible. We are all free to have any opinions or thoughts we want, therefore there is no “correct” opinion, only opinions.
    The idea that only racists are against political correctness is also ridiculous and is the basic smear which we complain about.
    The problem is that when you are labeled a racist, whether the accusation is false or not, the conversation stops. Take for example the issue of carding. If you try to argue, for instance, that black people get carded more because black people commit a lot more crime, you are labeled a racist. this is silly. If you disagree with that opinion, try arguing facts; say, black people do not commit more crimes, or, say, yes, black guys commit more crime, but that doesn’t mean that all blacks commit crime, and thus It is unfair to stop all black people. Or say counter argue that carding is not an important police technique, or anything else, but don’t shut down the conversation.
    In my view, we all have lots to learn on any issue, and exploring all arguments in detail is the way to learn and to come to rational conclusions.
    Another example- trump says lets not let in any more muslims- he is called a racist and the idea is not even explored. Why not? lets have a real discussion about the legality of such an exclusion, the level of potential terrorism in the muslim community, the fact that law abiding muslims have as much of a security interest in excluding potential terrorists as anyone else, and so on. maybe trump has a point, maybe he doesn’t , but if we make the topic a no go zone, we will never find out.
    Another example- Global warming cannot be debated, anyone who disagrees with global warming is a shill for the oil companies. This is literally saying the debate is not allowed.
    Campus rape epi8demic issue- to challenge that idea that there even is an epidemic generally is met with the accusation that you are a mysoginist- can’t discuss it , can’t challenge the stats, or methods of statistical analysis.
    It is the labeling of sexism etc, that leads to the shutting down of genuine debate that is the problem. .
    We should be willing to accept challenges to any position and be willing to defend our positions.
    But what happens on campus when a conservative speaker gets invited? Instead of healthy debate, activists try to get the speaker disinvited, time and time again.
    People make off hand remarks in private and they lose their jobs without any chance to explain their remarks.
    comedians make jokes that intend no offence and they are forced to make grand public apologies to maintain their careers.
    People complain about “micro- aggressions” which are both petty by nature and with no offence intended and they are made to be a huge deal.
    people can’t wear silly Halloween costumes without fear of offending people.
    Any one who claims the least little offence is taken seriously and there are consequences, when really an adult should be able to accept some psychic offence now and then- we set the bar way too low in terms of placating the offended when we should be encouraging people to by emotionally and psychologically strong, not weak.
    The defenders of PC. take the moral high ground and will not concede the good will or good intentions of anyone but themselves.
    Long time supporters of PC causes themselves are attacked and vilified for the stupidest things ( think Ru Paul)
    People are attacked viciously from all sides for the smallest offences, which in turn naturally induces self censorship ( think Chrissie Hyndes comments on taking some responsibility for her own rape- She was viciously attacked- one of the pioneers of women in rock, a woman widely respected for decades by men and women the victim of such nonsense- )
    We lift high the most sensitive and live in fear of being told we are not sensitive enough- we lionize the weak and attack the strong.
    Furthermore , so called Political correctness comes directyly from Soviet Marxist practice in the 20ies. It was designed to silence enemies of the party. do we not know our history? do we not know about Stalinism, about the gulag? We are repeating this history and the current young generation seem to have no idea of this history or what sort of dangerous game they are up to.
    It is not about what is correct or not, it is not about bigots wanting simply to insult people, it is not about frat boys wanting the freedom to rape; it is about freedom of thought. Freedom of speech is not just about what the government does, it is a practice and a way of thinking; to think uncensored, to view issues from all sides before making judgments, to allow for every argument , to challenge every proposition and so called fact, and to have the grace and patience to allow that procedure, and to have respect for everyone- to presume the best of everyone, even when they are questioning issues that you may consider beyond debate. To put freedom of thought above political positions. to not put unnecessary pressure on people to toe the line.
    Every generation has had intellectual no go zones. To have proposed, in 1950, that gay marriage was a good idea, would have lost you your job, now, to say that you do not support equal rights for gays will lose you your job. We do not need to be enforcers for our thoughts, we only need to have the freedom to think out loud without worrying about consequences to our jobs or our families.
    that is what freedom is and that is my particular concern about so-called political correctness.
    I truly hope that anyone reading this might understand what I am saying and support it and stop telling people to shut up all the time. Invite debate, if someone disagrees with your position, offer to buy them a coffee and ask them why, and if you don’t like their reasoning, offer your own arguments. This is what civilisation is supposed to be.
    I eagerly await your thoughtful responses.

    • Robert Keaney

      Dear Micheal Fairney,

      I respect your resolve in writing such a well thought out argument. While many people may not agree with you on all your points you still held your own ground and said what you meant to say.

      On a personal note I’m a bit weary of what you are trying to say because lets face it, life isn’t fair. When is there ever going to be a fair argument?

      We’ve got to respect the view points of minority groups, especially those who are oppressed, because other wise they just get buried under a tittle wave of opinions. Also in my personal opinion we should give extra weight to people who are directly affected by a issue.

      Like that point you made about people getting carded for driving while black. Maybe we should focus in on the opinions of people who are being carded. Especially if the issue doesn’t effect us.

      Also I think we should both respect facts and try to analyze causes. There’s no need to rush in and give an opinion. The world wont end if we don’t comment. We can read up about a topic, look at it from multiple perspectives, and then comment.

      Okay, maybe I got off topic. What I’m trying to say is that you are giving a unpopular opinion and allot of people will agree to disagree with you. But you already knew that. So I’m sorry for wasting your time. Its just that I read the part where you said “I eagerly await your thoughtful responses” and took that as an opportunity to argue with you. Sorry about that. Thanks for the opinion though.

      Have a good one and happy new year.

      p.s. Not all of us can afford to buy coffee. So I hope that home brew doesn’t offend you to0 much. Star bucks is just so expensive.

      • Michael Fairney

        No need to apologize. Your response was thoughtful and respectful. I totally invite all sorts of argument.
        to the points you make- umm, I understand the bit about giving the oppressed extra weight.
        I do understand that from an activist point of view, acting up, getting nasty and unreasonable tends to be more effective than quiet debate.
        It turns me off though a lot, particularly when you start throwing in false accusations and attempts to ruin people’s careers. how that is necessary I don’t understand.
        it should be well established by now that revolutions tend to turn on themselves. Which is why evolution is always better- you maintain stability and effect the change you want.
        But as for myself, I am very much into a intellectual free for all-no ideas should be suppressed, all assumptions challenged. It’s how science works, it’s how social science should work too. otherwise we descend into anarchy, and no amount of social “progress” is worth that.
        in my humble opinion.

    • Alison Found

      And labeling and disregarding an informed opinion as “politically correct” does not stop a conversation? It very much sounds like you are arguing in favour of what you call “political correctness” if you say that you value a 2-sided conversation.

  • Joe Cee

    And I have a gut reaction of hate to your easily offended PC sensibilities.

  • Jason Blablablah Brill

    For the record, it is pronounced “Jif”. That comes straight from Steve Wilhite. I’m offended that you didn’t know that.

    Seriously, though… aren’t we really talking about the simple act of being polite? And while the word seems to derive from the same root as political, it doesn’t. One means refined, the other pertains to public affairs. My problem with political correctness is that it is an opinion. For instance, Paul Ryan’s definition of politically correct is not the same as Hillary Clinton’s definition of politically correct. Should Trump win the election, and I’m not knocking on wood, we could see political correctness flow in a whole other direction. This is coming from someone who grew up during the Reagan Administration. “Better dead than Red” was a politically correct term in the 80’s. I didn’t agree with it, I thought it was ridiculously impolite. Therein lies the difference.

    Stephen Fry had a point when he said that laying the claim to offense doesn’t further any conversation. It’s a non sequitur.

  • Jeffrey Engel

    The revolution begins to eat its own. In the early ’90s, when the concept of political correctness went mainstream, there was a major backlash by the (apologists for) racism, sexism, etc. I was one of those guys, admittedly. No, not a racist, not a sexist, but someone privileged enough to think my attitudes didn’t involve it, when it did. Libertarian, smug, and thought “why is everybody so offended at words?” Then I got empathy. Most of my friends were liberals. I was in art school, after all. As I got older, I saw how horrible and bitter the right wing was. No, really. Who were the champions of the right wing? Horrible creatures like Ann Coulter. Look her up. I wanted nothing of that attitude. I wanted nothing of hatred for liberals, hatred for the poor, hatred for gays. Disregard for life, easily joining wars, easily castigating groups of people. I couldn’t claim to be on that side because every belief in “isolationism” was really tied to an unwillingness to accept. I joined the crusade against this. I found myself drifting left of center on a lot of issues. But I still was a cynic. An optimist… but a cynic nonetheless, which is where my appreciation for jokes and wit come from. Many of my friends had excellent senses of humor as well.

    BTW, that’s another thing you won’t find with hardcore right-wingers: they don’t get humor. They live in a world of fear and anger and bitterness. Every joke, which is usually about them, pisses them off more and more. I, having come from that pyschological “region”, saw it so plainly. We, on the other hand, had the intellect and capability to laugh at ourselves… as well as others. Our places of privilege. Absurdist jokes which borrow racist and misogynist concepts but are so absurd anybody with a brain cell knows it’s a joke. We knew who we were, we could joke about stuff, and we could still fight the fight. Liberals can laugh and know it’s not real, right?

    But now…. something has happened. A new generation. A generation that was never allowed to play unsupervised by their parents. A generation that quickly got swept up into the “everybody’s special” and “you have no right to say anything about anybody” philosophy. The revolution has matured, and this new blood with a totally different upbringing have a zeal that has no room for hi jinx and shenanigans. Don’t joke about this. Don’t joke about that. They’ve parroted every meme, they’ve launched attacks using quotes from books by one or two authors who claim that jokes hurt people, and so on. So, they join the PC crusade, which was a noble one at one time, with a new mantra: “Don’t hurt people’s feelings, or else”. “Be nice, or else”. “Be polite, or else”, basically. No, they won’t hurt you, but the “or else” means that “you are the enemy”. They have become as anti-humor as the right wingers. The revolution is eating its own.

    I was watching Hannibal Buress’s show “Why?” one night and Esau McGraw was on the show. He was asked “Is it racist if you think it but don’t say it?” and Esau replied, “If you think it, and it’s funny, it’s not racist.” In other words, if an audience of people laugh, then people know it’s a joke. You don’t get audiences of right wing racists coming to comedy shows, OK? So the one uniting thing about people who get offended at words: they simply don’t like jokes. They refuse to allow their intellect to differentiate… even though they do have intellect to do it.

    They are brilliant and caring and empathetic people, they are my friends even, but they exhibit all the characteristic of those old humorless right wing and “libertarian” types I remember from 25 years ago, back when “PC” all started. People who couldn’t take a joke that was aimed at them… and now here we go again, coming from the other side. A new generation of PC crusaders who have gone way beyond the threshold and want to quash all jokes about anybody who was hurt. Unless you’re oppressed, statistically, and then you can joke about anything you want. Yes, statistics… You see, they assign every single person a status of privilege, struggle, victimhood, etc. and THEN determine if the joke is appropriate based on these quick calculations. People aren’t individuals anymore. A white guy can’t know systemic racism so he shouldn’t do a racist joke (emphasis on JOKE), but a Black guy can… but also a white woman can because she’s been hurt by white guys as well, so it’s OK. And so on. No, nobody is an individual with their own experiences and struggles anymore. They are members of “blocs” of demographics and everybody should fit within their required parameters of language and so on. The new PC revolution are super anal retentive and obsessed, and this kind of person simply doesn’t do jokes… just like the super anal retentive right wingers who were and still are obsessed with their BS. The revolution has begun to eat its own. PC has “jumped the shark”, in my opinion.

    But they don’t care about my opinion. Why should they? Their crusade is noble and good and I’m just a white guy supposedly protecting racist and misogynist thought. How easy to fight that battle! Tell someone they are racist and sexist and go home. Meanwhile, the *actual* racists and sexists are out there, actually committing real racism and real sexism. But as long as they’ve made me feel bad for not being offended by what Daniel Tosh or Sarah Silverman says, their job is done. Now they can go back to playing Xbox in their high-rent apartment and getting coffee with other white friends at the coffee shop catering to mostly white liberals who think of themselves as progressives in their typical revitalized urban setting that 15 years ago had lower-income Blacks who could have used better jobs that are now available but had to leave when things got too unaffordable.

    But don’t make any jokes about that.

    The revolution is eating its own…