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By: Rachel and Megan Goodland/ WGEN
We often hear that our society is becoming too “politically correct”, or “PC.” It is true, that it is not uncommon to see trigger warnings on potentially upsetting content, and in many communities we see the elimination of oppressive language from everyday conversation. This has inspired a confusing amount of rage from people that feel that we are becoming too “sensitive” or “weak” as a culture — especially us young folk. As two people who are trying to uphold this “PC-ness,” we would like to apologize to all of those reading who feel bothered by this new social standard of caring.
Actually, we’re not sorry at all.
Take a second to bear in mind that changing our language to be inclusive is not, in reality, difficult. Why is it that the second we ask people to check themselves when saying “gay” or “whore” in a negative context, they look at us as if we have asked them to aspire to sainthood? If we can exchange one degrading word we use to make people around us feel more comfortable, then why wouldn’t we? And to be honest, if you don’t care about making the people around you feel at ease, then may we suggest you consider speaking less in general.
We know what you are thinking: “I have the right to free speech so I can say whatever.” Very good, that is a valid argument, and to that we will respond that free speech does not protect you from facing the consequences of the things you say.
Freedom of speech does not mean you can bypass the critical backlash you may encounter if your words are hateful. So if you say, “I have a right be offensive,” then we could respond in turn, “I have a right to be offended and make it known that I am offended.” You see the interesting cyclical pattern here? We do admit that considering your words more carefully may be slightly inconvenient, it may even involve reflective critical thought (a horrendous task). No one can change their language in a day — it involves making many mistakes along the way. But we promise you that it’s worth it.
We would like to present an example of one phrase in particular that is popular in Western vernacular. Have you ever heard someone refer to a woman as a “crazy bitch”? The answer is almost definitely a resounding yes. There are a few major issues with this phrase. When a woman is called a crazy bitch she is left to question the relevance or importance of her own words and feelings. In many cases, a man will call a woman crazy because he does not want to acknowledge that she is upset for a legitimate reason.
If you don’t care about making the people around you feel at ease, then may we suggest you consider speaking less in general.
Another issue with calling someone crazy? It involves the use of a word that calls into question mental stability, therefore making one feel that their opinions are less important as a result. There are words, such as “mad” or “crazy”, that are problematic. They are open for reclaiming by many communities — as delightfully demonstrated by the Hamilton Mad Students Collective — but using them in an insulting context to bring someone down perpetuates stereotypes about the mentally ill and is not a way to get a point across. We argue that this is nothing more than a thoughtless way to shut someone up and make them question the validity of their feelings, in lieu of taking the time to consider and address their concerns.
So here we are, in this new standard of “checking ourselves” before we speak. Does it involve effort? Just a bit. Are we being sensitive? Sure. But does it make a difference? More than you know. If your right to casually use oppressive words and phrases is something that is very important to you, perhaps the small shift in language is not the real problem here.