Here we go. Dons kick-arse boots and picks up 17mm Allen key (bought yesterday specifically for this post) to repel all attacks.
So, take care. The 17mm Allen key is one evil bit of kit. Even in my hands.
Now, if you want to read about the history of political correctness, you can find it on wiki. So I’m not repeating it.
Some time ago when I was looking up ‘political correctness’ because I was irritated about people using it as a generalisation for anything they neither agreed with nor understood, I found an interesting article about the historical use of the concept by right-wing parties. Sadly that article seems to have disappeared. Surprisingly.
This isn’t an academic post, I’m looking rather at popular usage of the term. And what is, or isn’t, ‘politically correct – or – incorrect’.
Let’s start with some easy linguistic examples.
My blog post here on Clouds that gets the most hits is what to call someone who chairs a meeting.
To summarise, the options are:
Chairman, Madam Chairman, Chairwoman, Chairperson, Chair.
I’ve done those basically in historical order of usage. Unless you were a member of the USSR where they had chairs a long time ago.
A chair is not just for sitting on (as I once thought). And as I am not a man, I do not wish to be called either of the first two titles when I chair a meeting. The third is gender specific, the fourth is contrived, and the fifth is simple. Easy.
Why is this important? Wait. Some more examples first.
Married names. Or not in my case.
When I got married I didn’t change my name. Elizabeth Taylor was my shining example, so if she didn’t have to do it, neither did I. Plus colleagues on the newspaper kept their
maiden birth names too for professional use.
At one point, I thought I would have a change and use my partner’s name. I started with the building society and they managed to use my married name to send statements to me and my birth name for the account. I rapidly changed back.
So I am not Mrs Roughseas. Or Mrs Cloudyroughseas. I am either Miss or Ms. But as you don’t know my marital status, or you didn’t before I wrote this, why would you assume anything? Just call me Ms thank you. Men aren’t identified by their marital status so why should I be? I’m not a possession from the Middle Ages.
Change of subject. What about people with disabilities?
‘Wheelchair-bound’ is a classic. If you’ve worked with disabled people you may have come across their ire when this is used. I certainly have. The implication here is that their lives are restricted to a wheelchair, whereas the other way of reframing the situation is that they can get out and about and move around with a wheelchair. They are wheelchair-users, or people who use wheelchairs.
Disabled parking spaces. That is just inaccurate. The spaces are not disabled at all. When I was writing patient information leaflets for cancer services we had LONG discussions about how to describe the parking bays reserved for disabled people. These days it seems to be ‘Blue Badge Holders only’.
Then there are all the other health terms – elderly services, old peoples’ services or geriatric services?
There is, or was, a continual debate within the health service about the medical model and the social model.
So, the medical model refers to a diabetic, or an epileptic. The person is being described in terms of their disease.
The social model refers to a person with diabetes or a person with epilepsy. The person comes first here, they are not defined by their disease, rather, the disease is an adjunct. Sure they have diabetes or epilepsy, but it’s not the only thing in their life.
Another of my past lives. Health and safety, which seems to get blamed for everything under the sun these days. But even wiki supports me on this. Changes to health and safety legislation are not due to so-called political correctness. Even back 25 years ago when I was working for the Health and Safety Executive we were having to comply with EU regs. Bureaucratic and nanny state intervention would be valid criticisms but describing H&S regs as PC is ignorant.
What about unemployment?
Why on earth does someone think that it is because of ‘political correctness’ that women get work? A comment from a white British male years ago on a forum was on the lines of, he couldn’t get a job because of political correctness and the white working-class male was being victimised due to the other sex getting priority. Join the club sweetheart. I’ve been in it all my life.
What about wolf whistles from building sites? Banned. In the past I’ve had them (surprisingly). Quite right too. To ban them, I mean. No, it is not flattering before you all say it is. There is nothing remotely flattering in some arsehole who you have never met and would never wish to, sending you a verbal message that basically says ‘Oi, I’d fuck you.’ Because that’s what it is.
I’ll go back to gender-specific language, because much of the debate about ‘political correctness’ is relevant to feminism.
I have said this before, but I will say it again for those of you who have not yet got the message. Language influences our thoughts and behaviour. As do images. Por eso we have advertising to influence us to buy products through a judicious use of words and pictures.
If the slow ones at the back of the class have grasped that idea, let’s move on. (I won’t mention the use of the words women or ladies because I have learned the slow ones know better – they would do, they’re men).
Describing a woman who chairs a meeting as a man, perpetuates the idea that she is an anomaly, and that the norm (and the desired one at that) is a man.
Describing a woman in terms of her marital status (or lack of) does the same thing. She has no independence of her own and needs to be categorised.
Describing a disabled person as wheelchair-bound is defining someone by the way they – don’t – get around. It doesn’t respect the person.
Similarly, describing someone by their chronic long-term condition is looking at them as an object. For scientific or medical study.
The whole issue about ‘political correctness’ is not just wanting to use different words for the sake of it, it’s about trying to change outmoded, prejudiced and disrespectful attitudes towards other people. To dismiss that as a derisory political agenda is to dismiss people who are discriminated against.
A few personal anecdotes.
Some years ago, I was parking my car in a city car park. A big black Rasta man approached me and I thought he was going to knife me.
‘Would you like my car parking ticket? It’s not used up,’ he said.
I figured it was time to stop being racist.
In the same city I met up with the woman with whom I’d travelled around the world.
‘Bloody disgrace,’ said her and her partner. ‘The council only wants to employ black lesbian disabled women.’
I’d moved on a little in my thinking by then. There aren’t that many black lesbian disabled women, and why shouldn’t they get a job? Given how prejudiced we all are. Innately or otherwise.
I said I would write this post about political correctness following a comment on roughseas that referred to a ‘guy’ writing a political speech. Given that there are some good women writers, politicians, political activists, and it wasn’t known who had written the speech, I took exception to this, and said commenter took his bat home.
Guy is NOT a gender neutral term, kid yourselves not. Just like saying, ‘when you read he, that also means she’ – but we are too lazy to write s/he for example. That is using the male default. Why not use she? And while ever the male default is used it reasserts patriarchal society. If you don’t understand the concept of a patriarchal society then I would respectfully suggest you don’t weigh in with your ill-considered opinion. I don’t add my lack of knowledge to discussions about LGBTQ or race, so unless you actually know something about feminism (which I doubt from previous comments on here), don’t waste your time.
You guys, may well be used to address a mixed group of company, and be accepted terminology. It doesn’t suit me however. How many times does a mixed group of people get addressed as you gals?
I’m seriously looking forward to the day that heterosexual men accept being called by a default female term.
IF you know what you are talking about, then please comment. If you don’t, then I would suggest you ask a question. If you are just going to come out with boring old simplistic trash about ‘it’s not my view and therefore it’s wrong’ don’t bother.
Also, I’ve heard the one about ‘you’ve got a chip on your shoulder before’ too. That’s why I’m living in Spain and Gibraltar with two houses.
Open for nice comments. Thank you.