Bette Smith, from Dundee says that political correctness is simply another way of saying that people should be treated with respect.
We have all heard someone exclaim “It’s political correctness gone mad!” referring to some petty rule that no-one likes, but let us be perfectly clear what political correctness is, why it exists and what it has done to help our society. The definition is as follows: “The avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalise or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against, especially groups defined by sex or race.” The term has mainly come into use in the latter part of the 20th century and has been given a bit of a bad name, but I think it could be termed as treating other people with respect and agreeing not to be offensive to others, also known as being kind or being a nice person. The author Neil Gaiman has said that political correctness means “not being a d*ck”. Just 50 or 60 years ago it was perfectly acceptable, and even amusing to some, to make disparaging remarks based on gender or racial stereotyping – watching some mainstream comedy shows (I use the term loosely) from the 70s is an uncomfortable experience to us now. I feel like cringing with shame to see how politically incorrect, and quite frankly, unfunny these were. At the time they were the norm but the advent of political correctness has brought an end to this sort of inappropriate behaviour which, at the time, was regarded as harmless fun. This does not mean that there has to be an end to fun. There can still be fun – just not the type that is at someone else’s expense. The kind that, quite frankly, we must all recognise from the playground – the bullying and unkind type of ‘fun’ that we should know better than to take part in. Like laws, political correctness is there to make us behave that bit better than we may be inclined towards at times. It sets a standard, a benchmark that we should all aspire to. Everyone knows that we should behave in a tolerant and civilised manner but it seems to be more difficult for certain types of people. Political correctness has brought us forward in so many ways. We can all think of some words and expressions that were used as a matter of course that are now not only unacceptable, but absolutely revolting to almost everyone. We have matured as a society and this old style of behaviour is now unacceptable in most people’s eyes. Political incorrectness was often born of ignorance and we have all heard people saying they “don’t mean anything by it,” when making an insulting comment or using an inappropriate term. That is all very well but then a change should be made after realising that what you have said is offensive to others. It is the insistence on continuing to use these terms, even once it has been made clear that they are offensive, that is unacceptable and politically incorrect. So, political correctness has brought society nearer to the standard it ought to aspire to – free from discrimination and prejudice. However, we still have a long way to go. People are still abused because of race, ethnicity and sexuality, but when we think how far we have come from the Holocaust and its horrors, to living in a society which agrees, for the most part, that people deserve to be treated equally, we have to thank political correctness for that progress and that fundamental change in people’s thinking. We also need to recognise that political correctness may not have gone far enough. Until we can say with confidence that we, as a society, are kind and act like nice people to all others, that we avoid excluding, marginalising or insulting those who are socially disadvantaged – be they ethnic minorities, women, gay or transgender people, until that time, we need political correctness. And even then, if we don’t keep it around to remind us where our lines have been drawn, we may slip – as is happening right now in some first world countries. So, three cheers for political correctness. It has raised us up from the gutter and made us all better people.
The author Neil Gaiman has said that political correctness simply means, “not being a d*ck”!