General Question

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Does political correctness sometimes have the opposite effect of the intended result?

Asked by DrasticDreamer (23974points) May 11th, 2009

I believe, overall, that political correctness is a positive thing. I also believe that if taken to the extreme, it can have a negative effect, like alienating groups of people, instead of uniting them.

What is your take on the matter and why do you feel the way you do?

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24 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I have found that when some people accuse me of being too PC, they’re just mad that I will not allow for their racism, sexism, what have you…when, in reality, I am trying to be more inclusive, they think I’m being obnoxious, but it’s usually in regards to groups they think either don’t matter or don’t exist…this ‘you sound too PC’ usually goes along with ‘you have no sense of humor’ because, again, I refused to laugh at some awful joke or whatever

missingbite's avatar

Almost always.

gambitking's avatar

only around 4:20 for some reason

Jack79's avatar

Yes, sometimes it does, because it fights the symptoms and not the illness. It fights words, rather than ideas. And has a “feelgood” factor, in that it makes us believe we’ve solved the problem by shoving it under the carpet. It is also de facto incorrect to call anything “correct”, assuming that we know what correct is to start with. Which is my biggest problem with PC.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Jack79 I agree with you but what if someone like myself also fights ideas, not just words, and has activism to back it up…and what if people still don’t listen, because, apparently, it’s even worse when you KNOW what you’re talking about

DarkScribe's avatar

I have yet to find a situation where it has any real effectiveness at all. I am decidedly “Non PC” often referred to as blunt. That doesn’t not mean that I can’t be gentle or nice, as in the days before the concept of PC evolved – it means that I don’t do it response to a predefined set of rules.

rooeytoo's avatar

I can’t see that PC has changed anything except the names, now we have “little people” or “Downs Syndrome”, “vertically challenged.”

A lot of it seems silly to me but I guess if it were me being called something I didn’t like, I would be supporting the change.

aprilsimnel's avatar

There’s no need for “political correctness” if people have manners.

Manners are about being empathetic towards others because they’re human like we are, deserving of civility and the opportunity to be listened to the way we would want for ourselves. It’s sad that true manners are seen as so much elitist BS today.

Jack79's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I was answering the original question without reading your post.

My point is that I wouldn’t care if people call me “black” “coloured” or “nigger” for that matter, as long as I get real, equal opportunities anywhere I go. By putting the N word in some sort of “forbidden words list” we have in no way reduced racism. People make fun of my curly hair the whole time, and I’ve been teased at school and elsewhere about all sorts of things, but I always got any job I applied for. Which is a lot better than the polite and civilised rejection. (I’m not black btw, just a bit darker)

I have a friend who’s black. Everyone is nice to him. But when he was dating this rich white girl she didn’t want her parents to find out. And this is the real divide. People who pretend to not have a problem with you, but at the same time would not let you marry their daughter.

And this of course applies to other categories as well (I just used racism as an easy, clear-cut example).

wundayatta's avatar

I think that conservatives are pissed off that liberals have cornered the concept of political correctness. They are trying to turn the tables by dismissing any liberal position as just political correctness: i.e., liberals don’t think for themselves; they just parrot the party line.

In my opinion, this is just the same old, same old. Conservatives and liberals are both smug about their righteousness. We like pushing each others buttons, but it doesn’t matter what we call it, we’re not going to see things the same way. If the goal of political correctness is to unite, not alienate, then it works no better nor worse than any other tactic.

It’s hard to pursuade people to unite. They just don’t all see their interests as being the same. Black feminists have different problems and agendas than white feminists do. There are a million more examples.

The idea of pc is no better nor worse than any other idea as far as using it to bring people together. PC vs Evangelism—both want to do the same kind of thing, just around very different sets of policies. There’s going to be alienation, no matter what. It’s going to be difficult to bring folks together, no matter what. PC is just a tactic, and like most tactics, it works a bit, and doesn’t work a lot.

Although, IMO, PC was originally a kind of in-joke among feminists. At least, that’s how the group of feminists I was working with back in the late 70’s and early 80’s were using it. It was kind of to make fun of themselves. I think the term took on a seriousness it didn’t mean to have when conservatives latched onto it and took it seriously. They thought feminists didn’t have a sense of humor, but from the feminist point of view, conservatives have no sense of humor.

tinyfaery's avatar

Can you give me an example in which being PC had an alienating effect? I cannot think of one.

Dorkgirl's avatar

Sometimes I think being PC can hamstring us in communication. What’s the right identifier for a certain group of people? If I say I saw a black person on the bus, is that “proper” or is it African American? Native American or Indian? Asian? Hispanic or ??? When I was growing up in S. California, I went to school with Chicanos. That’s what they called themselves and that’s what we knew them as. Are they “latino” now? It gets very overwhelming when you are constantly trying to be “right” and not offend.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Dorkgirl maybe, but what is the cost of not trying?

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@tinyfaery The fact that it’s widely acceptable for black people to say “nigga” but if anyone else says anything like it, it’s widely unacceptable. I understand that people are trying to turn something negative into something positive, so it’s understandable from that perspective.

But by making a word acceptable for use for only a certain group of people, it’s alienating. If a word is bad, it should be bad for everyone. Political correctness also has the tendency to cause anxiety among people, simply because they don’t know what to say around others without potentially offending them, even if no offense was intended. The anxiety further alienates people by them choosing to simply not interact with each other for the simple fact that no one wants to be labeled a bigot.

Overall, I believe that political correctness is a good idea, with the right goal in mind. But if it’s taken too far it causes the exact thing it wishes to rid the world of.

Dorkgirl's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I’m not saying I don’t try. I’m just saying that it can be a struggle sometimes. I’m afraid of being wrong and offending someone…innocently, unintentionally.
The media has me convinced (since I can’t speak for others) that if I misidentify someone’s ethnicity I will offend them and cause them harm. I don’t want to harm anyone, alienate them, cause them distress, etc. But would I really be making that happen by a simple mistake?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Dorkgirl Of course it’s a struggle, dealing with people different from you is always a struggle…a simple mistake is just that, and people understand that (well most people anyway) rule is to ask how a person identifies in terms of race, gender, sexuality and to preface that with ‘I don’t want to assume that you are ___ so how do you identify?’...a lot of people then look at me like I’m crazy but to the people that that kind of an approach matters, I’ve never gone wrong

tinyfaery's avatar

Issues of inequality and discrimination are difficult. When issues of race, religion, sexuality, etc are discussed, not much gets accomplished without conflict, which is very uncomfortable.

I am not black. I understand the need to resignify the N word. I do not feel alienated by blacks using it. I do not want to use it. I understand the power that word holds when spewing from my lips.

No one can alienate you. You choose to be alienated.

wundayatta's avatar

What I’ve gathered from @Simone_De_Beauvoir and @Dorkgirl‘s comments is that PCness is an attempt to be respectful. Anyway, that seems to be an accurate description of why I do it. I don’t want to offend anyone by using the wrong word, or behaving the wrong way.

In our efforts to try to be respectful, I think that we can look ridiculous to some other people. They laugh at the identity du jour. They don’t seem to see any need to try to use terms that do not offend. Maybe they don’t think the offense is very severe. However, maybe using the offensive term shows they just don’t care about those people.

Sometimes it is confusing. Not all blacks are African-American. Some are Africans, some are Caribbeans, some are Brazilians, etc. etc. Perhaps not all African-Americans are black. If someone thinks that African-American is the only appropriate term, but the person describing them doesn’t know their ancestry, and can’t find out, well, you’ll probably offend them.

So, in an effort to be supportive of various groups, we call the disabled “differently abled” or “people with disabilities.” People are no longer midgets or dwarves, but people of short stature. We don’t have birth defects, but congenital abnormalities. Mental retardation becomes a cognitive disability. Mental illness becomes a mental health condition. Manic-depression becomes Bipolar Disorder or even an imbalance in brain chemistry.

Well, this becomes easily caricatured. It seems like people are trying too hard. We don’t have a clue what term is most respectful any more. There is a move amongst some people with imbalances in their brain chemistry to be called manic-depressives, since that’s what actually happens.

It’s easy to avoid the pejorative terms, I think. I hope. Crip, crazy, homo, fag, cunt, breeder, jap, gringo, pinko, hick, redneck, slut, shiksa, kike, greaseball, dumb blonde, chink, gook, redskin, spic, hymie, frog, coonass, nigger, sand nigger, albino…

Then there are those that aren’t necessarily so easy to know about such as indian, Eskimo, canuck, etc.

Then you have the movements to take back a word with negative connotations and make it a good word: gay, fag, nigger, crazy—ways of showing pride (or not) in who you are. At least it is an in-group kind of thing.

Is it possible to be respectful? Is it possible to avoid offending? Especially when people have so many different opinions? Is it possible to ask each and every individual how they want to be described? Will we look ridiculous when we ask everyone? How far do we go? What is realistic? When does it become a parody of itself?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@daloon I think it’s possible to be respectful, to at least attempt to be respectful even if it doesn’t always avoid offending people…and yes it is possible to ask each individual, because if you care enough about them you care enough to try

SherlockPoems's avatar

@aprilsimnel I could not agree more… sadly, Emily Post died in 1960 and seems to me the US lost its best known arbiter of good conduct. Politically Correct has come to mean “who it is OK to bash”... kinda the opposite of ETIQUETTE don’t ya think?

Mariah's avatar

I once drew a comic on this very topic.

Noel_S_Leitmotiv's avatar

Sometimes? it always does! True believers think that political correctness is a path to some kind of ‘freedom’. It actually has precisely the opposite effect.

SherlockPoems's avatar

@Mariah – you definitely have a ‘handle’ on political correctness BUT (there is that big but of mine) this then proves the opposite for it profiles… c’est pas?

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