Political correctness is a commonly debated topic, especially near the time of the American elections. Though some individuals may think being politically correct is a hassle and claim censorship to be one of the many tragedies modern societies face, there is a suggestion that may help these individuals deal with an increasingly PC world:
Have you ever tried just not being a jerk?
There is an appeal to someone who speaks their mind, of course. With the influx of media that people are bombarded with in the digital age, it is refreshing to come across someone who you know isn’t scripted. To hear pure, unedited thoughts is becoming a luxury in a society where everything someone does or says is recorded and will follow them for the rest of their life. The problem is, why do we believe that bigotry is the only way to be honest?
When I was younger, I used to laugh at jokes that were sexist and rude towards women, believing that they were no big deal. If someone was upset by these jokes, I assumed they were uptight and no fun and that they weren’t okay with people speaking their minds. I never realized how harmful a simple joke could be, especially since I legitimately found humour in these types of jokes and even made a few myself. A few friends I had in particular made jokes about sensitive topics any chance they got, and I never thought twice about it until I noticed the way they treated other people.
The boys who joked about women’s rightful place being the kitchen turned out to be the same boys who put their girlfriends down and laughed at the opinions of their female classmates. The kids who made racist jokes were the ones who would only choose white kids to be on their team in gym class and would want all white kids in their group when we did group projects. My classmates who used gay slurs distanced themselves from the LGBTQ+ kids in my class, and I don’t believe it was a coincidence. Individuals in my class who weren’t straight white males ended up having their opinions valued less, having low self esteem because of never being chosen first, and being excluded from activities both in and out of school which caused actual harm to these people for factors beyond their control. Though largely subconscious, it was almost as if joking about these sensitive topics justified behaviour against the individuals that were the targets of the joke. Once the same boys whose jokes I’d previously laughed at started putting me down for my opinions, making comments about my body, touching me when I’d asked them not to, and acting like I wasn’t equal to them on any level, it made the jokes much harder to laugh at. These same jokes that I used to take part in eventually made me feel sick. The normalization of such harmful topics such as abuse and discrimination to the point where it becomes a joke isn’t safe for the individuals who are the targets of the joke, and to ask someone not to joke about a person’s identity isn’t an attack on personal liberty.
I don’t believe it is a coincidence that the individuals I know who claim political correctness is an awful thing are the same individuals who treat people terribly. If you can’t speak your mind without offending someone around you, it isn’t because you’re not being “politically correct”, it is because you’re being a jerk. People who say bigoted things are likely bigoted people, so before feeling upset that you’re expected to be politically correct, consider whether or not you’re actually a racist, sexist, homophobic person.
There are plenty of funny jokes to be made that aren’t at the expense of a whole group of people. Changing one word out of a sentence can change the attitude held towards minority groups on a large scale. Being aware of the language you use isn’t about being “politically correct” and censoring your thoughts, it’s about considering the possible impact your words can have and being accountable for your own thoughts and actions towards others. Political correctness isn’t just a trend, it is a reminder that your words have impact and influence, and how you choose to use them makes a difference in the lives of those around you.