The myth of ‘PC culture’
By Rebecca Peterson, Humour Editor
“Oh, I don’t see race, or gender, or sexuality or anything, I’m really not politically correct. I just care if you’re a good person.”
I can’t count on my hands alone the number of times I’ve heard people say this—liberals and conservatives alike. It’s usually said with an amount of pride, like the speaker has thrown off the shackles that our hypersensitive culture has put upon us all, and that they are part of an elite few who say what they mean, don’t censor themselves, and truly speak their minds.
This all falls apart when you start asking certain questions, the biggest being, “What exactly do you think political correctness means, and who’s enforcing it?”
A hero of political incorrectness might define political correctness as constraints on what they’re allowed to say, to which I ask, “What are you not being allowed to say? And who isn’t allowing you to say it?”
Donald “Tiny Hands McGee” Drumpf has complained about the ideology of political correctness being written into media and politics, citing that political correctness prevents a presentation of fact. In his world, these facts include his made-up stories about Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the fall of the Twin Towers on 9-11, the “facts” that Mexicans are rapists, that black people are killing white people in significant numbers, and on and on with whatever else comes to mind. Fact-checking these claims is political correctness gone wild, in his view, instead of calling bullshit on an insanely xenophobic rhetoric.
That is the extreme of the anti-political correctness movement, of course. A less extreme, more commonly held view is that people are just too damn sensitive these days, and can’t seem to take a joke. “I’m not allowed to say ‘risqué’ things anymore.”
Here’s the thing, though: You are. Under the law, under our rights to free speech, you’re allowed to make comments about how you don’t like gays flaunting their sexuality, how you think immigrants are “stealing jobs” or “should learn to speak English if they want to live here” even when the person you’re complaining about isn’t talking to you. No one is coming to your house and putting you in handcuffs for joking about how women are vapid and emotional, or that mentally ill people just “overdramatic” or “hypersensitive.” You can complain about hate speech laws as much as you like, but it takes an awful lot for anyone to see any kind of punitive justice over a racist or sexist comment. You are, under law, allowed to do these things.
By that same law, I’m allowed to respond. I’m allowed to challenge you, and I’m allowed to debate you. If you can’t stand behind your comments, that isn’t my problem. Saying you aren’t “allowed” to do something because it makes other people uncomfortable is a child’s complaint. You can say whatever the hell you want—and you can accept the consequences of that, too.
There is no organized movement championing the shadowy cause of political correctness. No one proudly proclaims themselves to be politically correct, the way many seem to take pride in being politically incorrect. There are movements that push for the acceptance of minority groups, for education, and for respect. These groups want to be treated like human beings, rather than the butt of a joke or a scapegoat for societal problems. That’s not “political correctness”—that’s civil liberty. That’s human rights.
But sure, go ahead and write an op-ed crying about mean scary liberals policing your free speech, even as you actively exercise it. I’ll be waiting here with a mug of coffee, a rebuttal, and a smile.