These days, I can pretty much guarantee that when someone uses the phrase “politically correct,” it’s in the context of someone getting upset that they can’t say whatever they want, whenever they want, without consequences. The pervasiveness of social media as a way for people to express their outrage means that I come across an “anti-PC” rant at least once a day. Usually more.
“Political correctness” is a phrase that started gaining momentum in the early 1990s, when conservative members of the population started to be told by more progressive members of the population that they couldn’t use racial or sexist language or perpetuate various stereotypes unchecked, and it’s only gotten worse in the more than two decades since. Saying “politically correct” has become a shorthand for “Ugh, all those people who are in some way different from me are so sensitive, and I can’t just go ahead and say shitty things about them like you could in the good old days.” There’s a reason for that. The “good old days” weren’t good for everyone. They weren’t good for minorities, and women, and the disabled, and pretty much everyone who wasn’t a relatively affluent white Christian man. And guess who tends to use the phrase “politically correct” most often? Relatively affluent white Christian men. (Well, and the people who want to get in the good graces of relatively affluent white Christian men by throwing the rest of the population under the bus, including groups that these anti-PC crusaders themselves belong to. But that’s a whole other rant entirely.)
I hate the phrase “politically correct.” I think that people who use it manage to show the world some very important facts about themselves in just two words. Facts like they’re intolerant. They’re bigoted. They’re privileged. They’re inconsiderate of other people. And they’re assholes.
So I propose we do away with the phrase “politically correct,” and replace it with “not being an asshole.” Because that’s what it really boils down to. People who are against “political correctness” are upset that they can’t be an asshole without being called on it. Not using racial slurs isn’t being politically correct, it’s not being an asshole. Not saying that women belong in the kitchen, raising kids and being subservient to their husbands is not being politically correct, it’s not being an asshole. Think about it: “I think political correctness has gotten way out of control” can easily be replaced with, “My ability to openly be a bigot is being limited and I don’t like it.”
“But what about freedom of speech?” cry the anti-“PC” people. “The First Amendment means I can say whatever I want!” Well, sort of. And not really. The First Amendment and its close, often misunderstood cousin, freedom of speech, say that, for the most part, the government can’t censor what you say. It doesn’t mean that you can say whatever you want, in any environment, and it certainly doesn’t mean that other people can’t tell you to shut your bigoted mouth. You see, if you have the freedom to express your small-minded and backwards views, then other people have every right to tell you that you’re being an asshole. Freedom is wonderful, isn’t it?
So next time you see someone going off on a rant about how “political correctness” has gone too far and is ruining everything, think about the person saying it. What do they have to lose by not being an asshole? I think you’ll find that, more often than not, the answer is: their entire personality. That person is offended by being told that they can’t say things that are offensive to other people, and I guarantee they fail to see the irony. Why are we wasting our time listening to people like that? If nothing else, the rest of us can use the appearance of the phrase “politically correct” as an easy way to sort people into the “Why should I even bother with you?” pile.