Why political correctness sucks

So here’s a disclaimer: this is not what my first post was meant to be about.

I was going to write about patriarchy, about what it means to me and why I think it’s so destructive. But lo and behold, the power of Facebook intervened when I clicked on this fateful link.

For anyone who can’t be fucked clicking on it, the woman in this TED talks video is Sally Kohn. She’s a liberal Democrat lesbian talking head on Fox News. I’ve never heard of her in my life, but I decided to put this up because she basically sums up something I’ve been trying to put into words for a long time: an idea she calls ’emotional correctness’.

I hear and see a lot of people complaining about the so-called ‘tyranny’ of political correctness in our society. These people usually identify as conservative and I nearly always disagree with them, but in this case I think they have a point. Realistically speaking, our language is so littered with insults and colloquialisms which aren’t PC that if we cut all of them out, we’d probably talk like fucking robots. (I’m sure there’ll be someone out there who’d consider that offensive to robots.) Plus, as Kohn points out, it’s not uncommon for someone who’s expressing a point which is technically PC to come across as a condescending douchebag, thereby pretty much negating the point of being PC in the first place.

What Kohn advocates instead is emotional correctness. It’s basically empathy – putting yourself in someone else’s shoes before dismissing their ideas or opinions, thinking about why they have those beliefs. It’s also about the way in which we say things – Kohn says she doesn’t care if someone calls her a dyke, what matters is not the use of the word but the way you use it. It is about “the tone, the feeling, how we say what we say, the respect and compassion we show one another.”

I cannot tell you how much I love this idea, or how important I think this is. It’s sickeningly frustrating to see the way people dismiss each others’ views simply because they don’t immediately understand them; or don’t make the effort to communicate their own ideas in way that ‘opponents’ might want to listen to. It’s almost like as a society we don’t give a shit who listens to us, as long as our voice is the loudest in the room. Sometimes it seems like we’re losing the art of intelligent debate; losing the ability to see the people who disagree with us as real human beings, forgetting that a good debate is meant to produce a solution and not just entrench existing ideas.

The reason I put this up is because that is how I want this blog to be. I want myself and people who think like me to put forward our ideas, but I also want to be able to listen to the ideas of people who fundamentally disagree with me. It’s why I check out websites like Return of Kings and Men Going Their Own Way – I disagree with almost everything on these sites, but I also truly want to know why these writers think that way. Underneath a discourse that can sometimes appear seriously misguided at best, there seems to be an undercurrent of real distress. You can see it if you read the comments, some of these guys really do feel like the world is slipping away from them and that feminism is largely to blame. What’s happened in their lives that’s given them that perspective? It sounds hokey, but I don’t think it’s possible to change someone’s mind unless you try to understand them first.

Strange as it may sound, political correctness is not always appropriate. Perhaps we need to care less about being right, and more about being understood. It doesn’t matter how good your ideas are; nobody is going to care about your opinion if you make them feel dismissed and disrespected. At the risk of stating the bloody obvious, nobody will want to listen to you, if you won’t listen to them too.

Thanks for reading guys!

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