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September 01, 2011


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"Still feeling all 'RA RA POLITICALLY INCORRECT!'?"


Shame is a terrible motivator. I'm surprised the person responsible for this podcast would be so obtuse on this point.

Look, I'm all for being nice to people but people are too crybaby over sensitive. What else am I supposed to call a homosexual. If they don't like it too bad.

I once had a discussion with a colleague of mine about this topic. He went on at length about his freedom of speech, and told me that if he offends someone that they would just "...have to live with it". I asked him if it would then be ok for me to beat the living dogshit out of him (thereby "dealing" with it) in response if he should offend me. He took a while to think about it and concluded that he had been a jackass about the whole thing.

Oh, and don't start about the whole violence solves nothing, meme, friends... I live in a very different world than most of you.

nice read... keep posting im loving this blog...

Racism, sexism. Don't forget classism. In my experience, some of the most PC of PC folks out there cannot get this shit straight when it comes to how to understand or talk about class differences.

I was in a PhD program in Sociology -- this is the kind of place where using non-PC language was a suicide mission. These people were building CAREERS out of parsing words in pointless ways. And yet--the classism was thick.

Classism, in my opinion, is the last acceptable form of discrimination out there. There is a lot of humor out there that's based on making fun of or distancing ourselves from poor people in one way or another--that they're stupid, have bad taste, are white trash or whatever. And it generally flies under the radar.

But if your sister lives in a trailer--and you nearly did--jokes about double wides aren't so funny. And, bottom line--just like racism and sexism--it's lazy. It's a lazy form of humor just like analogies and answering rhetorical questions are lazy forms of writing.

Well said!

on a lighter note, that shirt was just plain ugly. I mean, it's not like it was even cute.

@daddy files: You wrote "Why pretend there aren't any differences between genders? Most of those differences are great and should be celebrated."

I'm all for that! I love the things that make me womanly.

Another perspective though - if I am the chair of a committee, why is it important to identify myself by gender in my title? Why do we have to differentiate between chairmen and chairwomen? I don't think of the president of my ad agency as "the female president," just the president.

That's what my mom was getting at.

I try to always be sensitive about the words I use, but when it gets to a point where people who weren't the best for the job get hired over someone who was just because a company needed someone of a particular race, ethnicity or age...things have gone way too far.

I'll never understand why some people get so offended about being asked not to offend someone? It's true that what's offensive to one person may not be to another, but if someone makes it clear to you, why would you continually want to insult them?
Brava for writing this, Kristen. The point is the discussion... that's the only way minds are opened... on either side of any situation.

you know, I kinda wonder if the people defending the "I'm too pretty to do homework" shirts were the ones complaining about the "love proudly" t-shirts from old navy. a lot of this really does have to do with what side we're on in the culture wars.

I think one thing we should all try to do more is celebrate what's good. Highlight role models wherever you find them. Give people something to be FOR.

For example, Kristen should be celebrated as an entrepreneur, no matter what people may or may not think about her parenting style, her choices, her religion, or anything else. Kristen works incredibly hard, she's creative, she takes risks, and she constantly strives to improve.

We will never agree 100 percent on what's offensive and what's not. we will never agree 100 percent, sadly, on what's hurtful and what's not. But if we all do a better job seeing and sharing the best in all of us, I really think we can address a lot of controversy around culture and "correctness."

just my 2 cents.

I'm short. It's fine to call me short, because it's the plain, face-it truth.

That said - it's NOT fine to treat me like a child because I'm short. PC and non-PC is more than words. It's in our attitudes and actions, too. Words are attitudes expressed.

I think I missed the part where it was stated that being politically correct meant not talking about sensitive issues. In fact, at the beginning of this post, Kristen states: "...rather than what it's all about: using respectful language when we talk about (and to) other people."
While the term politically correct has come to be associated with many other things, to me it means talking to and about others with consideration. Not using offensive terms to describe their race, religion, sexuality, gender or disabilities. Talking about sensitive issues can and should be done, and often. And, you are correct in that we can't always please everyone. Most everything is bound to offend someone, somewhere. But why hurt people with our language intentionally, if we can avoid it?
While I personally think the Woman/Womyn example is kind of odd, if someone was genuinely offended by it and asked me to do it... How is this hurting me? While I don't get it, the same can be said for other terms. I don't really "get" what it feels like to be called a "n-gger" for example, because I am white. Does that make it any less offensive? If, after spending time with people who have downs syndrome, a person decided to stop using the word "retard" because they understand, finally, how it might make these people feel, then perhaps other issues and terms have equally valid reasons. Just because one does not personally understand why a term bothers someone, doesn't make it any less hurtful to that person. Just because you don't get why something is offensive, doesn't mean it isn't. And just because you "have the right to" say something, doesn't mean you should.
To me, when people fight for their "right" to be politically incorrect, they are fighting for the right to use derogatory names and stereotypical generalizations regardless of the feelings of others. They are saying, in essence, "How other people feel does not matter to me." In my book, that's selfish. And not what I'd want to teach my kids. It's not about placating anyone. It's about being decent. Teaching our kids not to judge people, not to label them and insult them.

Politically correct = polite. Why is this so hard to understand?

I'm not defending Bill Maher; I intensely dislike the man.

I am, however, defending being politically incorrect.

You're confusing hate speech/crimes with being politically incorrect. They are not synonymous, not even remotely.

Being politically incorrect means not being constrained by prevailing groupthink and being unafraid to challenge authority. Political correctness is the ultimate in intolerance, and is often a means to stifle dissenting discourse. Anybody who uses the phrase to defend hate speech/racism/etc. is a jerk at best.

And anyone who uses the term to hurl accusations of racism/sexism/etc. (as you did at the beginning of this post) either doesn't understand the theoretical basis of the philosophy, or does and just wants to cast "nasty, hurtful, terrible" invectives.

We can talk openly about race without being cowards, Christine. We can respectful and kind with how we use words and still have the hard challenging discussions.

And we can talk about breastfeeding in public without comparing it to public masturbation (which is what Maher did).

Is that furthering the discussion? Being brave? Or is that just attention seeking and being an fucking asshole?

I think the latter.

My beef is that we throw this "BE POLITICALLY INCORRECT! YEAH!" without really knowing what that means.

Daddy Files: I think it sucks that you got chastised for using the word "women." For me, it's a great segue into an awesome discussion and not necessarily a way to say "OMG this has gone too far!" My guess is that we need more people to push the envelope but also not chastising people who aren't necessarily there pushing with us.

Appreciate the banter, folks!

So lemme get this straight? If something---anything---is offensive to someone, the rest of us should bend over backwards to placate that person in the name of civility and "not being an asshole?" Sorry, I'll gladly wear the asshole label.

Look, reasonable people disagree. And someone will always be offended. But in the example I used, all I said was the word "women." That is not offensive or insensitive. And just because one misguided person thinks it is, doesn't make it so.

If we followed your rationales we'd all walk around all day agreeing about everything and never saying/doing anything controversial. Not only is that unrealistic, it's boring as hell.

I'm all for not using hurtful terms. And even though I've said "retard" in the past, I've stopped because I've met a bunch of great people with special needs (is that one taboo, I'm not sure??) children and seen how hurt they get by that word. So I'm all for altering vernacular when it makes sense, and when people get hurt as a result.

But kowtowing to every single person who whines about ridiculous things like using "womyn" instead of "women?" No thanks.

That doesn't make me a bigot or an insensitive jerk. It makes me someone who isn't afraid to call someone out on things that make no sense.

I've met Bill Maher, he IS a misogynistic asshole. I don't need to watch his show to know that.

Nevertheless, his show is about pushing the boundaries of discussion, not being afraid to have difficult conversations because it might offend, and not favoring sensibilities to the point of censorship. The common understanding of "politically correct" is far broader than your offering of, "using respectful language when we talk about (and to) other people." Like Eric Holder said, we are a "nation of cowards" when it comes to difficult discussions about race...we are afraid to GO THERE.

In this post you linked and chastised specific people for stating they aren't afraid of being "RA RA POLITICALLY INCORRECT!"? thus essentially calling them racist, misogynist, ready to mock the handicapped, etc. That's pretty harsh talk from someone who claims to want respectful language to be used when speaking to and about other people.

While I can't speak for them, I'd bet those you linked weren't advocating racism, misogyny, ethic slurs or religious persecution, but rather a shift from tip-toeing around difficult discussions towards being unafraid to engage in uncomfortable topics. I suspect they were echoing Holder's sentiments about not being cowardly about our discourse.

I am a speech therapist and I work with children with disabilities. In college we learned the phrase "person first language" I am trying so hard to spread this....you never use a label first....the word person first! We are all people first and other "stuff" next...so it's a child with ADHD or a man with a disability...etc....try it :) It's so much more respectful! person first :)

Agreed completely. I've always wondered why people get so offended in being asked to be polite and kind to others. That's really all it is. Taking other people feelings into consideration. You can still be a funny person and be kind.

Wow. I agree with Mom101, we should just drop the political and just call it correct. Or "Don't be an asshole". As a woman, the term "woman" doesn't bother me. But if it bothered someone else to the point that they asked me to spell it with a y for them? Whatever. It's not hurting ME any to be sensitive to other peoples feelings. Being considerate of others isn't self-Censoring, it's "not being an asshole." You want to call your kid a "tard" in the privacy of your own home, I can't stop you. But if you call mine one, I'll stab you with a Spork. In the eye.
I don't get why the whole idea of being decent and respectful is considered a bad thing. That said, people make mistakes and can sometimes offend unintentionally. I think if the intent was good, we should recognize that.
Oh, and yeah, Bill Maher? GIANT douchetruck.

I read this post before I left for work, and the entire drive I was thinking about political correctness. I think it's important to choose your words carefully. I learned a lot about how important it is to phrase things thoughtfully when I worked at a group home for adults with disabilities.

I've always associated PC with being censored. If it might offend someone somewhere, it's better to just not say it, even if it's my opinion. This usually comes up in regards to religious expression. It's been my experience that there are some situations in which you are labeled as being hateful when you have a differing opinion, no matter how respectfully you attempt to convey your thoughts.

I also remembering having a conversation in one of my English classes (I think it was in college) about PC, and the subject of "black" vs. "African-American" came up. I personally have always thought the term "African-American" was silly for people who have lived in America their whole lives. I don't refer to myself as "Europen-American" because that's where my ancestors came from. And not even all of those racial terms seem to encompass their entire group. My cousin's husband from India doesn't refer to himself as "Asian," even though that would be technically correct. But I also know that I may never be able to fully understand something that will never apply to me. I do sometimes worry that all of a sudden the acceptable language will change without me realizing it, like how there are elderly people who use words we no longer deem appropriate. Maybe that's just a frustration I have with language in general, the way you can't always nail down the right term because our language changes as we do.

At any rate, thanks for giving me lots to think about today. It's certainly kept my mind busy.

@Daddy Files - the problem is that you're essentially telling us how hard it is for you to be sensitive to others' feelings. Maybe you wouldn't feel the same way they do, were you in their position, but that doesn't invalidate their feelings.

Instead of defending our reactions to others' feelings, we ought to spend more time seeking to understand those feelings and the reasons for them.

I think for me the biggest shock was where it came from. I might expect this from a t-shirt shop selling wearable zingers, but it doesn't seem appropriate from a department store. A place that has catalogs intended for young children to use to prepare for going back to school. This is as inappropriate as a shirt for boys saying they have more responsibility to the football field, so their sisters are doing their homework.

I fell into a twitter debate with this the other day when I asked people to once again stop using the word 'retarded' as a pejorative.

I was told that I'm too sensitive, too politically correct and personally responsible for the downfall of the English language lexicon.

I'm okay with all of that if it means stopping hurtful stereotypes, one tweet at a time.

Christine - You're right! Because not using nasty, hurtful, terrible adjectives to describe people is totally "self-censorship!"

And have you watched Bill Maher's show? The guy is a misogynist asshole.

OH THE IRONY of someone who proudly proclaims to be "uncensored" but starts a post stating *others* should self-sensor. Not everybody adheres to your narrow definition of "political correctness." Case in point: I'm pretty sure Bill Maher's show isn't based upon perpetuating ugly stereotypes.

@kristen: Actually we can pick and choose. We pick and choose everyday. And frankly, telling me I don't know what I'm talking about simply because I don't have a vagina is pretty useless. That woman who wanted to change the spelling of a word did not have a point in my opinion. The word is what the word is. I don't know a soul who thinks the word "women" is offensive. It is completely separate from racial epithets. I was simply pointing out that anything---political correctness included---is bad in extremes. And that example was definitely extreme.

@Mom101: Props to your mom. But actually, the title depends on the person holding it. A man would be a chairman. A woman is a chairwoman. I don't think there's any such thing as a chairperson. Why pretend there aren't any differences between genders? Most of those differences are great and should be celebrated. I'm sure your mom brought many attributes to the table, and some of them were likely unique and refreshing because she was a woman and had a different point of view on things.

The interesting thing is I'm basically agreeing with the post, yet I received a pretty icy reception for reasons I don't quite follow. I guess it's either agree with everything you say or get told to tug on my penis. Whatever that was supposed to mean.

Brava! This is one of the best responses I've seen to the eye-rolling done at political correctness. A lot of time, the people doing the eye-roll are just mad because the can't be so openly bigoted without being called out on it anymore. Because the term has been mis-appropriated so much I wish we could just drop it in favor "polite and respectful".


I remember a time that my mom wanted to change the term from chairman to chairperson. She said, "I'm not a man. Why should I be called the chairman?"

People also told her that she was dumb, and whatever they used to call PC back in the 70s.

Turns out she was just ahead of her time.

I think you nailed it. And I think that most of the time, in real life interactions, people can tell if someone is trying to be hurtful vs. using a word that might be hurtful in ignorance.

But when we see things in a more permanent medium, whether a shirt or a movie or a blog, that's harder to tell, and so those of us who want to be respectful of people's differences need to be more careful.

Daddy Files - We can't pick and choose. "Weird Hippy Girl" has a fair point and one that's easy for you to poke fun at based on the contents in your underwear.

Sure, it might seem like an extreme, but it makes people think about something that we should all be thinking about.

Try having a vagina for a week or two. My guess is that you'll be wishing for your penis back pretty quickly, and not just because you miss tugging on something.

I don't see the JCPenney shirt as a case of political correctness. I see it as dumb, incorrect and awful.

But let's be honest, sometimes people get WAY carried away with being PC. I was in a college class in which some weird hippie girl demanded to use the term "womyn" in order to take the patriarchal "men" out of the word. I'm sorry, but that's just dumb. And obnoxiously PC.

But that's the only PC I'm against, when it goes to a ridiculous extent. Using terms like Kike, faggot, nigger, etc. That's just terrible and hurtful. That's not a matter of being slightly insensitive and politically incorrect, it's being hateful and a human abomination. There's never an excuse for that.

But feeling pressure to say "womyn" and use the gender neutral pronoun "Ze" in order to include everyone? I will happily remain in my politically INCORRECT camp.

I'm a snide, sarcastic, bad-mouthing bitch who can roll with the best of them, but there's a point when the message is watered down with cutesy smiles heading up the charge. Shirts like the JCPenney one are a cutesy way of leading girls down the path of self-confidence destruction.

WELL SAID, Kristen!

Bravo! I was really glad to see your comment on the article about raising sons. I found that point on being politically incorrect disturbing.

It's etiquette. It's polite, it's thoughtful - it's taking others' feelings into consideration. Tell me again why that's bad - or how it has anything to do with politics.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

I am so so glad to hear you write about this. Frankly, the term PC has become a surrogate for "liberal" or "progressive." When people say you're being too PC it's generally more about politics than correctness.

In fact, maybe we should just change the term from politically correctness, to simply "correctness."

People used to joke about me being "vertically challenged" when I was a kid. It was just a joke, and I took it as so, but honestly? How is that better than "short"? Short is an adjective. Vertically challenged implies I'm doing something wrong. My height doesn't challenge me. WTF.

Also, I agree. We should try to be sensitive to stereotypes and judgments. While being open minded to intentions.
(Also, that t-shirt is abominable.)

I read your post Steph. Terrible. And what's sad is that those movies and the words that go with them, continue to perpetuate, at its core, that different is "bad" or "wrong" or "weird."


I think people call PC when they're embarrassed - because they really can't see how those words might hurt.

I think there are many people who would be happy to tell them.

I've had a hard time with this because I was upset about a recent movie preview reference making fun of kids with seizures (I have a child with seizures) and so it's like a punch in the stomach. And then I feel even worse because I feel like the Debbie Downer. It's not like I'm calling for a boycott of the movie, but I admit I'd totally love to never hear someone make a seizure joke again. It's just not necessary. I am not sure anyone would get it unless they really could understand where I'm coming from, and I get that, but I don't think that my feelings should be any less valid because of it.


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