We Need Political Correctness in Politics
Written By Maddy Crehan
Now that Donald Trump will soon officially be President of the United States of America, there are a few things we need to watch out for. Respect towards women is likely to decline. Denial of climate change is likely to increase. And political correctness will be seen more and more as ‘censorship’ rather than a progressive tool used to advance the intelligence and diversity of our society.
Political correctness is defined as:
“The avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalise, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.”
Correct me if I’m wrong but making an effort to include and respect others seems like a perfectly reasonable and rational way to live in our diverse and ever-evolving world. Therefore I find it terrifying that the new leader of arguably the most powerful government in the world recently stated “I refuse to be politically correct”. And what is perhaps even more worrying is the number of people who are supporting and mirroring this declaration.
Fox News host Megyn Kelly asked Trump how he would answer the charge that he was ‘part of the war on women’. Kelly stated “You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs’, ‘dogs’, ‘slobs’, and ‘disgusting animals'”, to which Trump responded “I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct” (to audience applause). Not only did he fail to deny or apologise for saying such offensive things, but he implied that he should be allowed to degrade women without scrutiny. And the number of admiring followers he is gaining shows how just rapidly and far sexism is spreading.
In June 2015, NBC, the network that aired his reality show The Apprentice, announced that it was ending its relationship with him after Trump referred to Mexicans as “rapists”. Trump’s team responded by saying that “NBC is weak, and like everybody else is trying to be politically correct.” The labeling of an entire population of people, whatever the label, is racist. Calling an entire race of people ‘rapists’ is barbaric. It is not just ‘politically correct’ to call out such hate speech; it is vital in maintaining a just and civil society.
The hypocrisy of someone complaining about being silenced, while addressing an audience of hundreds of millions of people, and holding one of the most powerful positions in the world, is pretty ridiculous. In fact it is often those who hold positions of privilege who are opposed to being politically correct, for fear of change. But allowing someone the right to be respected and not discriminated against does not threaten the rights of those more privileged. For example women gaining the rights they deserve does not take away the rights of men. It equals them.
A common argument against the use of political correctness is that is it threatens freedom of speech. Yet the very purpose of political correctness is to allow for everyone to have an equal voice and place in society. A politically incorrect statement is often used as a way of silencing, excluding or offending an already marginalised group. Rejecting these offensive comments allows for more thoughtful and inclusive discussion. Political correctness does not restrict conversation; it expands it.
We are incredibly lucky to be living in a nation that values freedom of speech. But this does not grant us the right to use our speech to offend another. Australian law currently declares that “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression” but is “subject to certain restrictions” such as “respect of the rights or reputations of others” and “protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals”.
The term political correctness has been so overused in politics lately that it’s meaning has been completely warped. To be politically correct simply means to be mindful with your statements in order to prevent offending or disrespecting someone. It is used in conversations regarding countless issues such as women’s rights, racial discrimination, religious beliefs; all things that should not be politicised in the first place. Perhaps the word political is misplaced; maybe we should view it as being “ethically correct”.
The reason these restrictions are in place is because language is incredibly powerful. Hate speech fuels more hate speech. Everyone has the right to an opinion, sure, but if that opinion is intended to exclude, discriminate or harm another individual or group, it has no place in civilised conversation, let alone in global political debate.
Our world is constantly becoming more progressive and aware of it’s diversity, which is an amazing thing. Unfortunately with change often comes resistance. We are at a strange point in time where seemingly the more progress we make in terms of equality, acceptance and respect, the more backlash there is from conservatives. Political correctness is not a conspiracy. It is not an attempt to censor people, but in fact quite the opposite. It allows conversation to grow by including more voices.
So in this post-Trump life, keep up the good fight for progress and equality. Be mindful in your discussions and listen to those around you. And let’s create a more ethically correct world.
Maddy regularly writes for Rosie, and is passionate about music, history, art and gender equality.
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