When I was growing up, my understanding was that political correctness meant those words you weren’t allowed to say. “Visually impaired” instead of blind, “African American” instead of black, “vertically challenged” instead of short, etc.
I often find myself accused of being the PC Police. Which sometimes strikes me as odd, because I’m pretty sure I’ve never told someone what words they could or couldn’t use … whereas I often feel like I’m being told there are certain words I shouldn’t use, and that by doing so I destroy all meaningful discussion.
I’m calling this the New Political Correctness, and I’ve come up with a few examples to illustrate.
Racist – I’ve been told that accusing someone of being racist is worse than being racist. This is one of those nuclear words that is unacceptable to the NPC Police. To call a person or their actions racist is to attack and bully them. The fact that one SF/F collection after another claims to represent the best of the genre while including almost exclusively white authors isn’t racist, because the editors are colorblind and only interested in quality. So from now on, please use the NPC term “chromovisually impaired.”
Sexist – I remember the first time someone told me there was no sexism in the SF/F genre. After all, the women in publishing outnumber the men! Even though women get paid significantly less. Also, romance! (Because in every one of these conversations someone is required to point out, “But girls write more romance novels!”) Bottom line, calling someone sexist is a no-no, and will get you labeled an instigator or a devotee of fail fandom. So the next time someone mentions that works by men get disproportionately reviewed over works by women, don’t call it sexist! These numbers simply “fulfill the masculinity quota.”
Bigot – Calling someone a bigot is like running over an old lady in your Jeep, then stealing her kitten and feeding it to a velociraptor. Don’t do it. (Though if someone else uses that word, you can call them a douchebag, dick, or pretentious asshat, as these are all NPC-approved terms.)
Privileged – Some people find this word so offensive that they’ll refuse to read any post or essay that uses it. This is a bad word. A naughty word. A word that likes to be tied up and spanked hard. Shun this word, or bring shame to your family! Remember, if “those people” would just work harder, they’d overcome all societal and institutional barriers. Because everyone’s equal! So instead of describing someone as privileged, please use the family-friendly term “disproportionately equal” instead.
Homophobic – Would you believe that in the unenlightened past, it was acceptable to use “homophobic” to describe statements and actions that reflected a fear of the damage homosexuality would do to our great nation? Fortunately, we in 2011 are civilized and have moved beyond such hateful terms. So the next time someone suggests the people should overthrow the government if it ever sanctions same-sex marriage, remember — they’re not homophobic. They’re “Takei adverse.”
I hope it’s obvious that this is all rather tongue-in-cheek. I know people disagree with me on all sorts of issues, and that’s fine. I get that sometimes words are used imprecisely, that some words are more powerful than others, and that the internet can be a hotbed of accusations and counteraccusations. But dude, when you accuse me of being the PC Police and then turn around and suggest that nobody should use the word “racist” because it’s such an ugly term? That scores about a 9.6 on the eye-rolling scale.