Written by Luna Webster
A great way to invalidate the experiences and feelings of oppressed groups is to force the phrase “political correctness” down their throats whenever they try to speak up about them. A great way to defend your hateful comments against said groups is to cry “political correctness” when people complain. Where Peter cried “wolf” in an attempt to spread fear within the villagers, Farage and other old white men with media power cry “political correctness” in an attempt to convince the people of this nation that their free speech is being taken away.
But of course, like the wolf, political correctness is too a myth. It is merely a poorly coined phrase designed to protect the free speech of the already privileged whille silencing those who suffer. The only people who seem to care about political correctness gone mad are those who are desperate to voice their racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic opinions without actually having to engage in an intellectual, mature discussion.
Let’s think about the LGBTQ community for example. Those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, have faced oppression since the beginning of time. Gay rights for one have only really started appearing in the last 40 years. When people use slurs (such as “faggot”) against LGBTQ people, it is dehumanising. The word “faggot” was first assosiated with gay men in Nazi Germany, when they murdered homosexuals and set fire to them, comparing them to firewood. You can believe in equality as much as you want but the origins of this word still refer to the slaughter of an entire group of people. It is not “political correctness” to be told not to use words like these when they carry such a tragic history. It is the encouragement that you display a little respect to groups that have been persecuted in this way for years – have a little humanity.
When my Dad saw that Nicola Sturgeon’s cabinet was 50% female, 50% male he called it political correctness. He couldn’t understand that this representation of women in politics could send out an amazing message nationwide that the glass ceiling CAN be shattered, or that having half and half men and women could better represent the women that have struggled to have their say throughout their lives. Instead, he saw the equality as a negative thing. Why is this? This is a man who has denied the existence of the glass ceiling and the patriarchy many times. After a lot of thinking, I do genuinely believe that the reason for all these old, straight white men seeing the search for equality as “political correctness gone mad” is because their privileged has blinded them so much that they don’t actually see the inequality.
If this is the case the only way forwards is education. Maybe it is too late for the older generation. Perhaps we will just have to wait until their time in the limelight is up. But in the mean time, we have the power to educate younger generations on a lot of issues that need to be brought to the mainstream. LGBTQ issues have to be discussed in schools. Some parents argue that it is their decision if they teach their children about LGBTQ people but this belief only encourages ignorance and hatred. However, if they think that their free speech gives them the right to call gay people disgusting, for example, surely free speech gives schools and teachers the right to educate young people on LGBTQ rights and issues, and ideally, discourage violence towards them. The same applies to education on religion, race, and women.
Racism, sexism and homophobia have not been somehow eradicated. Young people deserve to learn about recent history and how it has affected them – not just Kings and Queens in the 1700s. If we can help society see that all people of all sexual orientation, gender, race and background are equally as important and valid, perhaps we can discourage the myth of political correctness and the silencing of real struggles that comes along with it.