I’m getting a little sick of the term “politically correct” being used as a pejorative. Yes, I’m looking at Donald Trump, but not only him. Anymore, people tend to use the term while simultaneously sneering in disgust. Or worse, it is accompanied with some form of the following sentiment – why do you have to be so offended at everything?
A couple of months back, I commented on a friend’s Facebook status with what was intended to be nice, supportive words because their relatives were not being so supportive. I was informed quickly – by one of those relatives – that they are not offended by anything and that I should find better things to do with my time than fight random strangers on the internet.
I have since grown increasingly aware of this attitude. It’s repeated everywhere – life would be so much easier, peaceful even, if we would all just relax, kick back, and be less offended at everything.
And while I agree that I could stand to be less judgmental at times, I cannot agree that I should never be offended. I’m not willing to ignore the continuing and rampant misogyny, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and slut shaming that pervades our society. And I refuse to be ashamed of being offended. Why? Because fighting these things is important to me. Because people who are close to me, who I love dearly, are affected by these things and their well-being is important to me. Because it’s less about being political for me, and more about being correct. Why would I intentionally use one label with someone when they prefer a different one? Why would I invalidate their identity in that way?
Further, when you say you can’t be offended, I assume nothing is important to you and that makes me a little sad. I also see it as a bit of a challenge. As in, I want to come over and insult you, your favorite parent, or favorite cause.
So what does this mean in day-to-day life? Do I walk around like a raw nerve looking for reasons to be offended? Am I constantly pissed off? Humorless? Absolutely not. I don’t even pick fights with everyone I disagree with on the internet because – well, I need to work and have a life and if I fought every troll out there, I would have neither. And a lot of people simply aren’t worth it.
What it means is that I will not shy away from calling out blatant examples of misogyny, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. Because those things didn’t magically go away just because a few laws were passed, decisions were handed down from the Supreme Court, or we elected a black President. Because male lawmakers are still trying to exert control over women’s bodies. Because femininity is still equated with being lesser than, weak, or inferior. Because some people still shriek when a transwoman or butch woman uses a woman’s restroom. Because symbols of slavery are allowed to persist.
Because, overall, what I want is for people to be educated. The way I was educated. I’ve said it before – I owe a great debt to the diversity of my friends group. I understand so much more about gender, race, color, religion, and everything else that so often divides us than I ever would have on my own.
Because I have attended an A.M.E. church, the shooting in South Carolina a few months back, along with the reactions to it, terrified me. I had to wonder if that small, country church, still populated by people I consider Family would be next. Because I have friends who identify as trans*, agender, intersexed, or otherwise do not fit into the gender binary, I understand their struggles a little more. But I am always learning. About all of it. I have friends who consistently point out perspectives that I would not otherwise consider and I am grateful for it. I would rather be challenged than continue in ignorance.
Call it being politically correct if you want – I prefer to think of it as being respectful and all inclusive. It means taking a few extra seconds to think about how my words will come across and affect others, but it is absolutely worth it.
For example, I recently commented on a friend’s picture of their baby. They posited that the boy would likely be embarrassed someday by how much was being shared of him as an infant. My first instinct was to say “that’s what first girlfriends are for – show them baby pictures and embarrass him!” And then I thought – what if he’s not straight? Why assume that? So I changed it to “that’s what first dates are for.” It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but changing the narrative and how people think about such things is done in baby steps. And if I want others to be respectful of me, I first have to be respectful of them.
This education need not be done with solemnity and harsh tones. Humor is crucial, vital even. See Jon Stewart as well as the other comics he spawned during his time on The Daily Show. Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, and others are incredibly adept at truth telling while also making us laugh. Most of my favorite comics do the same. George Carlin was a master with words.
Another current favorite is Louis C.K. And it’s not because everything he says is “politically correct.” Much of it isn’t. But he pushes those boundaries and manages to express certain ideas in a way that makes it alright. There’s a bit in one of his concerts where he laments that he can’t use the word “faggot” anymore. He explains that, when he was a kid, that was a common insult for him and his friends. But it wasn’t about being gay to them. “You weren’t a faggot because you were gay,” he says. “You were a faggot…for being a faggot.” For them, it was about being as ass or an idiot. And then he expresses admiration for gay men because sucking dick seems like a lot of work to him and it’s not something he could ever see himself doing. To me, he makes it all work and actually manages to get me to laugh at one of my least favorite words in the English language. I understand that he’s not for everyone though.
My point is, it’s not that difficult to call people what they want to be called. Or to recognize that, just because this is the way we’ve always done things, that it was ever alright. We have to listen to each other, not just disregard the words because we don’t understand where someone else is coming from. We have to work to effect change and challenge the accepted norms. And sometimes, we have to take offense so that action can be taken.