“Is the world becoming to ‘politically correct!?'”
You’ll find no shortage of articles, op-eds, YouTube videos, or television segments asking this very question. Between that, the handwringing over whether or not trigger warnings are a good or bad thing, and accusations of “censorship” (that 99.9% of the time have very little to do with actual censorship), the media (social and professional) is saturated.
I’ve often said that the term “politically correct” is a stand-in for “human decency,” but I think maybe I was wrong. Maybe it’s not synonymous with “human decency,” and maybe we’ve been thinking about this the wrong way.
“The P.C. Police have their lights going, and they’ve stopped at UNC-Chapel Hill,” begins a recent clip on Fox News, complete with a little siren graphic. The segment, “University’s Writing Guide Discourages Use of the Word ‘Man'” laments the school’s decision to release a guide to gender-inclusive language. Now, does the school actually discourage use of the word “man?” No, of course not. But why let the truth get in the way of a little fear-mongering?
What is the school actually doing? Well, it’s asking students to simply be… correct.
Essentially, instead of assuming that every police officer, mail carrier, firefighter, or person is a man, the guide suggests using non-gendered terms when you aren’t immediately aware of what the person’s gender is.
Here’s a screen grab from Fox’s broadcast about these truly horrific suggestions! (gasp!)
Those examples — police officer, mail carrier, firefighter, and person — are all “outrageous,” as the Fox News website displays in all caps as you log on to the page.
So what does the guide suggest? This.
The point of the guide is really just a quick note about how making assumptions weakens the argument being made.
“Another example of gendered language is the way the titles ‘Mr.,’ ‘Miss,’ and ‘Mrs.’ are used. ‘Mr.’ can refer to any man, regardless of whether he is single or married, but ‘Miss’ and ‘Mrs.’ define women by whether they are married, which until quite recently meant defining them by their relationships with men. A simple alternative when addressing or referring to a woman is ‘Ms.’ (which doesn’t indicate marital status).
“Another note about titles: some college students are in the habit of addressing most women older than them, particularly teachers, as ‘Mrs.,’ regardless of whether the woman in question is married. It’s worth knowing that many female faculty and staff (including married women) prefer to be addressed as ‘Ms.’ or, if the term applies, ‘Professor’ or “Dr.'”
Later, it gives some basics on pronouns. Nothing nefarious here; the paper is just explaining how to use pronouns. That’s all. Can you still call a man “Mr.?” Absolutely. Still call a woman “Ms.?” Totally. Also, this is a writing guide, not a rulebook.
“A pronoun is a word that substitutes for a noun. The English language provides pronoun options for references to masculine nouns (for example, ‘he’ can substitute for ‘Juan’), feminine nouns (‘she’ can replace ‘Keisha’), and neutral/non-human nouns (‘it’ can stand in for ‘a tree’). But English offers no widely-accepted pronoun choice for gender-neutral, third-person singular nouns that refer to people (‘the writer,’ ‘a student,’ or ‘someone’). As we discussed at the beginning of this handout, the practice of using masculine pronouns (‘he,’ ‘his,’ ‘him’) as the ‘default’ is outdated and will confuse or offend many readers.”
In other words, this guide isn’t about how to be “politically correct;” it’s simply about being just plain old correct.
If a single woman corrects someone for calling her “Mrs.,” that’s not her asking you to be “politically correct; “that’s her asking you to be correct.
If a man corrects someone calling him “miss,” that’s not him asking you to be “politically correct;” that’s him asking you to be correct.
And that’s the core of “political correctness.” It’s usually just a push for accuracy.
Donald Trump called Mexicans “rapists.” Is criticism about that statement based on him being politically incorrect? No. It’s based on him simply being incorrect to make such a provably false statement.
There’s nothing “politically incorrect” about suggesting that most Mexican immigrants are criminals. There’s simply a lot that’s “incorrect.” To whine about the fact that someone who happens to be of Mexican descent might not be too thrilled that someone running for president is going around saying that your people are awful criminals isn’t an example of “people being too P.C.,” it’s an example of people standing up to lies and assumptions.
The same thing goes for when people misgender or misname trans people.
I did a quick search for the phrase “is still a man,” and found this article over at the conservative website The Daily Caller, about how someone intentionally called a trans woman a man, and called her by the wrong name. The backlash from random Twitter users was enough to set her up as the victim of the “P.C. police.”
This article, by Betsy Rothstein — who once wrote a bizarre post focused on my hair at TDC about a time I was on MSNBC — begins…
“This week came the big reveal. There he was, Bruce Jenner, gracing the cover of Vanity Fair with curves, breasts, smooth, wavy long hair and a new, feminine sounding name.
“While many are celebrating Caitlin Jenner‘s newfound gender, not everyone is buying that he’s somehow now a woman or that he’s a ‘her’ or a ‘she.’ He may be changed all right, says blogger and motivational author Sophia Nelson. But he’s still a man. A changed man.
“Speaking your mind on the topic isn’t advisable.”
This, again, isn’t an example of people being too “P.C.” It’s an example of people correcting you when you are wrong. No, Betsy and Sophia, you don’t get an opinion about whether someone is a man or a woman. Nor do you get an opinion about whether someone’s name is Caitlyn, Bruce, or Beyonce. Because these things are facts. I believe that Betsy Rothstein is named Betsy Rothstein, and I believe she’s a woman. I can do this without demanding to see a birth certificate, and certainly without having to know anything about her genitals. This is how society works.
It’s not that the article isn’t politically correct. It’s that the article (and both Nelson and Rothstein’s views) are factually incorrect.
When someone points out that you’re being factually incorrect, that’s what it is.
They’re not “being P.C.,” “triggered,” “outraged,” or whatever else defenders of the false like to argue. They’re just sick of you being wrong all the time.