Those who say we are living in an overly politically-correct society are wrong to say that.
We are living in a self-conscious culture where we understand that our actions and words have consequences to those watching and listening. We are also living in a society where everyone is demanding to be treated with respect. And we will not apologize for it.
When people in positions of power or influence, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation have the privilege of speaking to millions of people words matter.
As a woman, for example, I despise the joke “he throws like a girl.” Although the statement is meant to poke fun at an individual, it also reinforces this idea that women are weak. And while some people might know to take this as a joke, sadly for others it becomes a mantra of their socialization process “women are lesser than men and must be treated as such”.
The point is, it doesn’t matter what you mean to say, it matters how people will interpret it. And unfortunately, society only moves as its slowest members. So while most people can take trivial things said with a grain of salt, unfortunately, for others, it reinforces hurtful stereotypes.
However, those who say that anyone engages political incorrectness should be thrown out of society altogether are also wrong.
Political correctness falls on a spectrum. There are statements that are blatantly racist, sexist or ageist which should under no circumstances be tolerated. But there are others, which can be forgiven, and used a teachable moment.
But the news cycle, which moves fast, and the social media cycle, which moves even faster does not allow for that.
Often there is no time to breathe between the offending comment or action and public reaction. Outrage spreads like wildfire without taking a moment to reflect on what has just happened before demanding an appropriate response from an individual and those involved.
We don’t allow individuals the time to reflect on their actions, engage in meaningful public discussion, apologize, or even allow ourselves to ask questions “why is this still happening?”
When we force someone to make an apology less than 48 hours after an event occurred it will, more likely than not, be insincere.
A demand for instant actions divides us further.
Fear of reprimand pushes those that are less politically correct to become more defensive and vulgar in their actions. They will never learn to empathize with the viewpoints of other people.
So instead, when a person of influence does or says something problematic, allies need to speak up (because groups being constantly attacked should not have to do all the labour of educating the public, it is exhausting) in meaningful ways and generate impactful discussion once we have had time to breathe and process our initial reactions to hurtful statements.
And then, when a person truly and knowingly refuses to acknowledge or change their viewpoint, then it is time for us to decide how much influence we want to allow them to hold in society.
Advocates for political correctness and fairness shouldn’t apologize for trying to make the world better than it was yesterday.
Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
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