Are we, as a society, becoming too politically correct? Conservatives would have us think so. Liberals would have us believe that conservatives are just being whiny brats because they can no longer use slur words. Which is it?
There is a common liberal meme that says you should replace the words “politically correct” with “respecting others.” If you do so, you will quickly see how ludicrous those conservatives look. “This respecting others is getting out of hand” and “Kids today are too respecting of others.”
It occurs to me that this same word swap also creates a great litmus test for what is, and what is not, political correctness run amok. The test is, can you swap the words “politically correct” with “respecting others” in that particular situation? Sometimes you can, other times not so much. For examples lets look at the two areas where the politically correct arguments comes into play the most, labels and trigger warnings.
Labels are always tricky for a couple of reasons. No one likes to be labeled. Even when you self identify with a label, it’s still not an entirely pleasant situation. The second problem is that people do identify with certain labels. How those labels get used become very personal when it’s also part of your identity.
Transgender people self identify with certain labels. They also identify themselves with certain pronouns. Others also label transgender people with certain words and use certain pronouns to describe them. These two things do not always overlap.
Words like tranny, she-male and sometimes even transsexual are considered slur words by many in the trans community. When people use these words, we may speak out. They might, in turn, claim that political correctness is running amok and ruining this country. They might tell us we need to grow, get a thicker skin, or find “a real problem” to worry about.
So break it down. Can respecting others be applied to this situation? I’ve asked you to not to call me a tranny. The respectful answer is, “I’m sorry, I won’t do that anymore.” No, this is not political correctness run amok, this is simply respecting others.
Transsexual is an older term for people who medically transition. It’s not as broad as transgender and it’s fallen out of favor for that reason, and for the fact that it’s more of a clinical term, a term doctors came up with for us, rather than one that evolved from within the community.
That said, many older people in the trans community have identified as transsexuals for many years, before the word transgender became common parlance. I know several who still identify as transsexual. We’ve had arguments in my support group in the past over people who wished to identify as transsexual. In essence certain people objected to others using that term to identify themselves.
This one breaks down a bit differently in my mind. It’s one thing to ask someone to not call you by a certain label. It’s another to ask others to stop identify themselves by a certain label because you don’t prefer it. That’s not being respectful of others and that, in my opinion, is political correctness run amok.
As a side note on that, as much as I hate terms tranny and she-male being used on me, I am mindful that there are transgender women in the sex industry that identify by these labels. If they are comfortable with this and find pride in that identity, more power to them.
The other area where many complain that we have too much political correctness is the subject of trigger warnings. Trigger warnings are a new concept and many older people don’t understand them. The idea is that if a lecture, a book or a movie contains content that might trigger some with PTSD, you should warn those people ahead of time.
“Tomorrow in class we will be discussing the Game of Thrones. The show contains depictions of rape. If this is an issue for you, please be advised.”
Sounds simple in theory, but this one often gets labeled political correctness run amok.
So let’s break it down. A friend says something like, “I don’t want to see a show that has rape in it.” You don’t have to know whether or not they’ve been a victim of sexual assault, or if they suffer PTSD from it. All you need to do is pick something that doesn’t have rape in it. Easy enough. That definitely falls into the category of respecting others.
A more problematic example is when one person wants to use the concept of trigger warnings to stop a conversation that makes them uncomfortable. Survivors of abuse often want and need to talk about it. It’s important to their recovery that they have a safe place where they can talk about what happened and not be judged. They need to be heard and validated.
I have been in the middle of emotional conversations with one person only to have a third person, not originally in the conversation, tell us we can’t talk about “blank” because “trigger warnings.”
That is not being respectful to others. In fact, it’s being harmful. The abuse survivor has most likely already been told, repeatedly, to not talk about what happened. This is part of abuse. And you are now repeating the cycle by telling them they can’t talk about it.
I find it worrisome that “safe space” which once meant a place where you could talk about anything, has become tied to this concept of trigger warnings. Increasingly “safe space” is a place where you can’t talk about anything. People who suffer PTSD or anxiety need safe spaces to get away from triggering events. But they also need safe spaces to talk about the traumas they’ve experienced. How we balance those two separate needs is a work in progress.
So to recap, if someone tells you that they wish to avoid a certain thing because it might be triggering for them, you can respect that. There’s no political correctness involved. If you are coming into a conversation, or into someone else’s space, it might be on you to graceful exit, if they need to talk about something that you can’t hear right then.
(Note: if people are making small talk and just happening to be joking or making light of a situation you find triggering, that’s a completely different situation.)
Those are my thoughts on political correctness. I’m open to any respectful comments people have.