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By Zara Osako – Contributor and President of York Linguistics Society
“It’s PC gone mad”: the dreaded phrase usually thrown about by the twitter oldies responding to a Guardian article condemning some sort of discriminatory language.
But how political, is political correctness?
Despite Donald Trump’s infamous loathe towards PC language, political correctness is not, or at least should not be, all that political; it is simply a case of inclusivity, diversity, and respect; a reflection of society’s progression towards equality.
Last Christmas, BBC’s Radio 1 announced that it would sensor the Christmas classic, Fairytale of New York’s homophobic slur- a minor adjustment that received a major outcry. This is despite the official Twitter account of ‘The Pogues’, the band who wrote the song, coming out multiple times in defence of the lyrics change, going as far as to tell prominent ‘anti-PC’ actor Laurence Fox to ‘f*** off’ over his disapproval. Yet despite this approval by the writers of the song, the influx of “snowflake” name calling still began to surface as, mainly the older generation, deemed the decision ‘ridiculous’, subsequently shunning the opinions of those who have been and continue to be victimized by the slur. But is this a fight between left, and right?
Many of the anti-PC advocates blame the ‘left’ for imposing their radical views upon society: their daring and radicalized view that discriminative language is outdated and offensive. However, their constant blame shifting, and exaggeration simply disguises a desire to continue marginalizing those who slightly diverge from their restrictive norm. And despite this right-wing narrative, PC language is not a left-wing attempt to mass control society; it is ultimately just your black friend asking you to stop singing the n-word, your gay classmate hoping that you’ll stop calling men with emotions ‘gay’, or your female work-colleague hinting at you to stop sexualizing her- it is a fight for equality, not a political ideology.
Language change is a reflection of societal change. It is a natural occurrence that accompanies societal changes in beliefs and values; as our views change, our language changes with it, naturally. Only decades ago, segregation was a societal norm, and subsequently, as were racial slurs. Now, this language use is considered a hate crime- it can, rightly so, end careers and even result in arrest. Not so long ago, to be gay or transgender was a crime, and homophobic and transphobic language was customary. Thankfully, the mere whisper of this language today evokes societal outrage. And although we are not anywhere near complete equality, the adjustment in our language choices embodies our progression towards achieving equality.
Despite this, the overlap of politics and PC language is inevitable, especially with the likes of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson actively diverging from its’ use and the media’s subsequent manipulation of this to support political ideologies. And while there is connection between political beliefs and language use, they are not one. Yes, politics and policy reform influence language, but does language influence politics? Possibly less directly. Despite this, users of PC language and liberal supporters are continuously used synonymously. When policy change occurs to support marginalized groups, the finger is pointed towards ‘political correctness’ and that dreaded phrase comes out from the dark once again, usually accompanied by the inevitable mourning of their “freedom of speech”, otherwise known as socially acceptable sexism, racism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination. Ultimately, it’s not their political beliefs under attack, it’s the loss of the right to abuse and stereotype marginalized groups without consequence that they whine for. While politically correct language can help pave the way for policy reform, it can’t initiate it; it’s not political ideology. The resistance of PC language is not a case of political difference, it’s the result of a loss of historically rooted power and oppression. Stop using politics to excuse ignorance.