If You Really Believe That Language Matters – Stop Using The Term “Politically Correct”

There was a dumb NPR story out this week that said something about how the majority of the country thinks political correctness has gone too far. Or some such nonsense. The actual question asked was, “Do you favor the country becoming more politically correct?”

ARE YOU KIDDING ME, NPR? That is the WORST poll question ever unless your goal was to just create an article about political correctness that would piss people off.

Stop for a second and sit back and imagine a group of people you know – unless you live in a blue/liberal bubble then imagine a group of people know – and consider two different scenarios:

FIRST: A news outlet asks the question: “Do you favor the country becoming more politically correct?”

SECOND: A religious leader asks the question: “Do you favor people using language that doesn’t upset the people in their communities?”

Because the truth of that matter is – a person with Dwarfism does not like the term “midget” because it’s been used derogatorily and has no medical connotations and if you kindly talk to a person face-to-face about that they are going to change their language – EVEN IF THEY ANSWERED “NO” IN THE FIRST SCENARIO. Why? Because they are the kind of person who would answer YES in the second scenario.

The term “politically correct” has been weaponized. My kids don’t even know the term because I refuse to use it. However, we discussed proper language choices referring to people with dwarfism after they came home from school with the word “midget” in their vocabulary.

If we talk to people one-on-one about the language choices certain groups int their community dislike, they’re very likely to walk away trying to learn new habits. But if we challenge someone to be more “politically correct” they’re going to dig in.

Here’s the thing – language is always going to be difficult. And not everyone agrees. We don’t use the r-word in our house, it’s a BIG HUGE NO-NO. But, I once saw someone in a conversation on Facebook that said she didn’t mind people using the word in reference to her daughter because she took it literally, her daughter’s development has been slowed. If THAT Mom controlled the conversation in every household things would be different. If you care about your language choices you just try to always listen to representatives from the groups and do your best to choose the language most widely accepted.

And even then, it’s hard. I listen to a medical history podcast that did an episodes about the Americans with Disabilities Act and they kept using the phrase, “Differently Abled.” There were TONS of disabled people in their comments saying that was unnecessary. That they actually preferred “person with a disability” because they worried the term “differently abled” packed less of a punch in terms of difficulty of the lives of the people being discussed. It was a very interesting conversation that a lot of people with various disabilities chimed in on and so now I just constantly think back to that conversation and try to think of each situation and do the best to make the best language choice I can.

Except when it comes to the phrase “politically correct” – I never use that one.

No one wants the government, or politicians, to tell them what to do. And the term “politically correct” sounds like language is dictated by government or politicians. When, in reality, it’s dictated by people like me whose heart breaks when you use the term “gay” as a perjorative. When I ask you not to hurl the word “gay” as an insult to a person or an object, it’s not because the government or a politician told me that. It’s because my heart shatters a little when you use my kid as an insult. Don’t you want to protect my heart a little?

And yes, there are going to be times where someone says, “When you say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, it upsets me,” and I make a judgement call in that moment to accept causing this one person a little discomfort in order to avoid hurting the millions of others who don’t celebrate Christmas. We all make those choices every day.

The point is, it’s never about politics or government and yet the term “politically correct” has been weaponized to rile up conservatives which – in turn – riles up liberals. Whereas, if we all just openly discussed individual preferences in language with the people impacted, most of us would be on the same page.

So my request today is that you NEVER EVER use the term politically correct again. If you are railing against political correctness than replace it with, “empathetic and respectable language choices” and see if you still stand by the statement:

PC culture is ruining this country and destroying the First Amendment!

or

Empathetic and respectable language choices are ruining this country and 
destroying the First Amendment!

See? Harder to stand by that statement now, isn’t it? And if you’re talking to someone, don’t tell them their word choice is not politically correct. Explain to them that the targeted community has come out to request a more empathetic and respectable language choice. Maybe even point out how you didn’t know that either until someone told you! Even if it’s a lie! People feel less shame in a correction if you admit you had to be corrected as well.

Every time someone writes a think-piece or a hot take about PC culture, a part of me dies inside because my goal is that we all think about the language we use and we all learn to be open to correction in order to create more accepting communities. And when you start to refer to this as “politically correct” – 52% of the county (according to the poll) are about to tune you out.

I will say this, I’m proud of the 18-29 year olds who are overwhelmingly FOR the country becoming more politically correct. So maybe the hatred of the term will die out. But right now? In my circle of influence? There are way more people ranting about PC culture than not, so for now that term goes on my blacklist.

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