Spacefem (spacefem) wrote,

We're wrong on the history of political correctness

I got curious about political correctness with some friends over dinner, we did some quick reading about why it was labeled as such and did some reading and kinda blew my mind a bit.

Here's what I thought happened:
1) Some over-zealous do-gooders brought up the idea of being politically correct, provided education on how to do it, made a movement, it became a big deal
2) Major backlash against it when people didn't like their words being policed

Here's what actually happened:
1) The term was used very rarely - by communists a bit to talk about what was good for the party, then by liberals actually warning each other not to be too orthodox. was never a big thing. we were not providing pamphlets telling people to use "african american" instead of "black".
2) It was picked up by the media to sell newspapers with stories about this huge "controversy" - liberals wanting people to be politically correct on college campuses.
3) Conservative authors blew it up as a cautionary tale and lead to its first widespread use. They wrote whole books about it, gave interviews, provided the stories, acted like the left was coming at America with pitchforks and torches over political correctness, when in reality it was something we'd barely mentioned.

In other words, it was pure backlash. Not a real backlash against something - it was never a big part of discussion on the left. And now where are we?

I was telling a friend that the term is just so hard to debate. You tell a guy "hey, don't be a jerk?" and he responds with "oh you want me to be POLITICALLY CORRECT huh?" and you know that nobody likes the term "politically correct" - it means you can't be funny, honest, normal, rational. But how do you backlash against a backlash?

Although I must say, LOLGOP has a pretty good take as always:

If you want the short gist of the history, wikipedia has a very thorough and well-cited article on it:

So yeah - it's so easy to say "oh please let's not go overboard with the politically correct speech here!" or "hey I might not be politically correct but I'm funny right!" But when we do that we're giving into the botched-up version of the story that politically correctness was something people really cared about at one time - it wasn't.

It's a lot like feminism in that the wrong side has shaped people's perceptions and taken over the story, when I hear people say "Well I'm all for women's rights but I'm not gonna burn my bras okay, settle down feminists!" when we looked into it and found that bra burning was never actually a thing.

We need to tell the honest version of the story here. When someone wants to use an offensive term, and justifies it by saying they're fighting the good fight against political correctness, don't give them that. Political correctness was an accusation thrown with no evidence to support it. It's really a conservative idea - not a liberal one. I never asked anyone to be politically correct. I asked them to stop being assholes.
Tags: politics

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