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.