Monday, 31 October 2011

"Politically Correct That!"

Having been involved in quite a few online protests and discussion about various issues the last couple of months, I’ve found I need a place in which to vent my frustration.  My interest lies largely in the realm of feminist issues, including management of rape and sexual abuse survivors and ‘prevention’ campaigns. 

It seems that wherever and whenever a person or a group attempts to complain about something that strikes them as wrong, there is a hoard of people ready to make the following arguments.  As you may gather from this article, I don’t think much to any of the following as grounds for defending something that someone feels is offensive, harmful, sexist or hateful.  This is a very long rant, however, to have on individual threads addressing multiple people.  Especially when such responses are inclined to make me so angry I can’t type.  So I will post up my general reply here, and forward people in this direction as necessary.  Please feel free to do the same.

Standard ignorant arguments about people who complain:

“Don’t Choose to Be Offended”
People don’t seem to realise that offense is an emotional reaction.  People do not have a choice about it.  It’s like finding something funny.  You can’t choose to find a joke funny.  You can choose to pretend to find it funny to appease those around you, but whether you genuinely find it funny or not is down to your personality, experience and emotional reaction.  I would like to state here, that I am not a liar.  If I have an objection to make, if I say I find something offensive and can give a reason why, those reasons are genuine.  This could be because of my life experience.  For example, I am a woman so I get offended about sexism.  I have been sexually abused, so I get offended about victim blaming.  HOWEVER, I don’t think you only have a right to be offended about something if you have personal experience of that particular thing.  If something goes against your moral principles, it is the right thing to do to complain about it as loudly and directly as you can.  Because let’s face it, the people who say ‘you choose to be offended’ are probably the same people who say, “Why are you complaining and not doing something about it?”  In the consumer world, complaint and protest the few effective weapons we have.

“Political Correctness Gone Mad”
Every time I read the sentence “Political correctness gone mad”, I literally want to punch the person nearest to me and scream, “POLITICALLY CORRECT THAT!” in their faces.  I don’t, obviously.  But I usually really really want to.
This is a really wonderful umberella for people to hide under, as a reason they’re right and the ‘liberal lefties’ are wrong.  Because when said (or typed) in a smug privileged voice, it really really sounds like they’re right.  But they’re not.  They’re gaslighting.  It is the most frustrating response I have ever come across, because almost the only reaction is an emotional one – which just further lends to their ‘point’. 
What this particular group of words actually says, when used in the context of a debate, is that the person saying these words either cannot or does not want to answer the argument in place.  This person does not want to think about why someone would be offended by the word ‘mong’.  They cannot imagine a world in which a woman would be offended about poor old Eamon Holmes telling a rape victim to get a taxi next time.  They simply cannot see far enough outside of their own glass bubble to consider why someone else would find this offensive, and deal with that person’s feelings.
In my house, we have a special name for this sort of person.  It is: RUDE!  A person who cannot be bothered to understand why someone else in upset or offended, and tells that person to quit whining and get on with it? That is a RUDE person.

“If You Don’t Like It, Don’t Buy It/Watch That Show/Follow That Person”
Ah, if only the world were this simple.  Remember Nazi Germany?  Remember the death camps?  Remember how you were taught in school that normal, every day people worked in those camps, just like me and you?  And they were tried after the war, weren’t they?  Remember what they said?  They said, “I was just following orders.”  And I’ll bet you sat there disgusted, with your look of disbelief.  How could anyone possibly sit and do nothing? Worse, play along and pretend that what was happening was OK?  You’d never do anything like that! Right?
I know I wouldn’t.  Do you know how I know?  Because when I see something that I think is wrong, I say so out loud.  Sure, there aren’t any Nazis using gas chambers any more (Least I bloody hope not!) but I was brought up to have principles, based on logic and empathy.  When I see something that goes against my principles, I stand up and say, “That’s not right.”  Quite often, that’s all I can do.  But I have a right to say it, and I exercise that right (I’d like to add that, when I see something that’s very right, I also fling my whole-hearted support behind it.  Despite what this article might suggest, I am not one of life’s whingers!)  I’ve been flamed for this on several occasions.  It’s very hurtful, I won’t lie to you, to be told you’re a ‘stupid bitch’ because you point out that making fun of Down ’s syndrome is offensive and hurtful.  What’s more angry-making, however, is to be told to just avoid these people.  I’m not in Primary school, I’m a big girl.  I’m not going to ignore the bully.  I’m going to call them out and try, in my own tiny and insignificant way, to make the world a slightly better place.  If that makes me a stupid bitch, then I guess I can live with that.

“Bloody Keyboard Warriors!”
This, of any argument, makes me laugh hardest.  Because it is almost ALWAYS used in print format.  Apparently whatever has made me a keyboard warrior, does not apply to the person arguing against me.
I have no defence to this except that I don’t believe I am a keyboard warrior.  I post my responses and articles under my own name.  If I’m on twitter, there’s a picture of me and I’m pretty sure you can find my email address if you look closely enough.  I consider myself an activist in ‘real life’, when I have the time, and I’ve contributed articles to feminist publications under my own name.  I express myself best in the printed format, because I’m a pretty shy person.  I’m not good at public speaking.  Shit comes out wrong.  I use print, not because I can distance myself from what I’m discussing (On the contrary, what I say comes from the heart) but because I can edit what I’ve written.  Make it more balanced.  Make it less personal to whoever I’m arguing against.  Draw on a pool of experience from those I know online, which would otherwise be more limited because of my location.  I do not post anonymous or snide comments, or personal attacks.  I’d be a bit hypocritical if I did, really, wouldn’t I?

“Does it Really Matter?”
I understand that I’ve just likened complaining about a well known figure repeatedly using the word “mong” with Second World War ethnic cleansing.  I know, obviously, that the two are poles apart.  I’m not that tweaked.  And I know that in the grand scheme of things, savagely defending equal rights for all might seem like an over-reaction.  I don’t think so, but I can understand how some might think that.  I have several responses to this.
1)      This matters to me.  I’m a busy woman, I have a hectic job and various commitments.  When I’m ranting about women’s rights chances are that, yes, I could be spending my time productively playing with my cat.  You should, in that case, consider that I haven’t chosen to do that.  I’ve been effected enough by something that I’m sat in front of a computer writing a very long piece defending my rights or the rights of people I care about.  If this did not matter to me, I would not do it.
2)      If you have a cause that you care about more than whatever we are discussing, surely you (not I) should be attending to that cause?  You want to wipe out poverty in India?  Make peace in the Middle East?  I am 100% behind you.  You go tiger!  But if you think that is the most important cause in your life, surely you should be off supporting that cause instead of trying to tear down mine?

The things I am arguing for (or against) are not controversial and they are not going to hurt you.  It does not take the brightest person in the world to know that rape is not the victim’s fault.  I’m stating the bloody obvious.  And stating my obvious does not take anything away from you.  If you feel I am taking anything away from you when I say that we should not use a word that has been established as deeply offensive, or when I accuse a group of victim blaming, then maybe you need to look a bit more closely at why you’re so incensed about my arguments.


  1. thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed :)

  2. I’m not in Primary school, I’m a big girl. I’m not going to ignore the bully. I’m going to call them out and try, in my own tiny and insignificant way, to make the world a slightly better place.

    Definitely! Awesome post Vicky, the term "political correctness" makes me want to scream.

  3. Hey Vicky, rad. I would add to #3: Not participating in something does not necessarily mitigate the damage it is doing socially. I always hear this response to porn critiques: "if you don't like it, don't watch it". Which is fine, and I don't, but my not watching it does nothing to address the systematic abuse and degradation of women for the benefit of people who ARE watching it, nor does it do anything to mitigate the persistent and pernicious objectification of women that increasing mainstreaming of porn encourages. This is true of most things I hear that "if you don't like it.." response to. It's individual solutions to institutional problems.

  4. I love this!! I'm off to share the heck out of it everywhere.

  5. I LOVE this in general, although I feel it would have been stronger without the Holocaust references - people see that and tend to just roll their eyes and say you've evoked Godwin's Law and then things just get sidetracked. Plus, I feel that it might be a bit too extreme of an example to compare to other things we might find wrong but don't involve something as severe as genocide. I can see how it's a useful comparison to make because of the Nuremberg Trials, but I just think it's a bit too extreme.