New video! It’s a new poem/PSA/collaboration with Linebreak Media about reframing the idea of “political correctness” to be less about censorship and more about choosing to not use needlessly hurtful language. Please share, re-post, blog, etc. if you like it.
Especially since this issue comes up every few months in the media, and pretty much every second of every day for people who pay attention, I’m hoping this piece can be a resource for people who are tired of saying/typing this kind of stuff over and over again.
RELATED STUFF I WROTE:
…plus a few extended thoughts on this piece over at Opine Season.
Okay class, settle down. No you can’t touch my gun. No, none of you are going to get tased. See, I’m not a regular cop, so my presentation today is not going to be about drugs or graffiti. I’m with a special unit… the division of political correctness—yes, the PC police.
And I know we don’t have a good reputation, that everyone thinks we’re just trying to stamp out free speech or, create a world where everyone lies to themselves and it’s all sunshine and lollipops and unicorns. I get that. No one likes being told what to do. But the thing is, political correctness isn’t about being perfect, or censoring your emotions or always being nice to everyone. It’s just about… not being a jackass.
For example… the word “retarded” is offensive to a lot of people because it dehumanizes those with cognitive or developmental disabilities. So when you use that word to talk about the plot of the new action movie blockbuster, or make fun of your friend for forgetting his wallet, you’re kind of being a jackass.
Similarly, rape is a real thing that happens to real people, far too often, so that word should only be used when actually talking about rape. Not in ironically over-the-top comedy routines, not when referring to what a bad 3D conversion did to your eyes, and not when talking about how that video game mini-boss took down your shields in one shot. With all of these examples, it’s not that your feelings are wrong, it’s just that you’re expressing those feelings, like a jackass.
Fun fact: the word “bitch” is a derogatory term for woman. And unless you are a principled third-wave feminist trying to re-appropriate the word, which you’re probably not, it does not matter how you’re using it—as an all-purpose, ungendered insult, as a synonym for “complain,” or as a directionless expletive at the end of a rap verse—it is ALWAYS a derogatory term for woman. You cannot give a chicken-salad sandwich to a vegetarian and say “but it’s chicken SALAD.”
Am I saying that you are a bad person if you use these words? No. Am I saying that I’ve never used these words? No. Am I saying that it should be illegal for anyone to use these words? Absolutely not.
I’m just saying this: Most people use offensive language because they just don’t know any better. Well now you do. But there are others out there, who like to be offensive, because they think it’s cool. Here’s the thing about that: you want to be edgy, you want to push people’s buttons? Talk about white privilege. Talk about drone strikes, police brutality, the foreclosure crisis. Talk about rape culture. Those things will push people out of their comfort zones, more than “using naughty words” every could. You want to go against the grain and be that cool, independent rebel? Good. I’m just saying there are more powerful ways to do that than needlessly shitting on entire communities of people who already have an uphill battle in this society. Using inclusive language is very easy. If you think it’s hard, that’s because you’re not really trying.
Now if I were to say “don’t ever use the letter W because that letter is offensive to me,” then you could get mad. It would be very difficult to go through life without using the letter W. That would be an unreasonable request.
But do white people really need to use the n-word? Is it so difficult to say that you got “screwed” instead of you got “jewed?” Can you think of no better way to register your dislike for something than to call it “gay?”
Shakespeare, once wrote: “A most notable coward, an infinite and endless liar, an hourly promise breaker, the owner of no one good quality. Thy tongue outvenoms all the worms of Nile. Thine face is not worth sunburning.” Now that’s not all from one passage, but still, a glorious, beautiful way to call someone a jackass.
You may have noticed that I’ve used the word “jackass” numerous times during this presentation. That’s because well, I’m a little drunk, but ALSO because even though “jackass” is an insult, it’s the good kind of insult. It’s a word that refers to people who are rude, annoying and thoughtless by comparing them to donkeys. And sure, it may be offensive to donkeys—but who gives a shit?
Class, I’m two weeks away from retirement. I’ve been fighting the good fight since teenagers were calling each other “gay-wads” and politicians were openly using racial slurs in campaign speeches. And I know, you may not have anything against people with disabilities, or women, or the LGBTQ community or anyone, but using language like this—even if you don’t mean it to be offensive, directly contributes to a culture, that hurts people. And sure, we need to do a lot more than just change the way we talk, but… I’m just a beat cop. I hope you’ll all be my deputies. Together, we can say “no,” to being a jackass.