What's the point of political correctness?

I always thought it was basically about being polite; not hurting other people’s feelings for no good reason. But some things I’ve heard recently made me wonder if I was wrong and there is more - or less - to it than that. What say you, Dopers?

Could you give us examples? It could go anywhere from not-being-a-scumbag stuff like not being homophobic to insisting on calling homosexuals “same gender loving persons” which is a bit much.

A lot of it as it’s used in the media is likely to do with the language not getting in the way of the message by using terms which are least likely to be offensive.

…it depends on who is defining what is and isn’t “politically correct.” Are you labelling an action as “politically correct” or is it somebody else self-defining an action they are doing as “politically correct?”

You’re close, but not quite. It’s a pejorative accusing people of being too polite and too worried about the feelings of others. And it only applies in a leftward direction, like when it’s about minorities and such.

A lot of what is so labeled isn’t even politeness but facts that are to the left of what the person using the term wants to accept.

When I say “political correctness is just basic politeness”, it’s more that I’m trying to recontextualize the branding. I’m putting a positive connotation on what they gave a negative connotation.

If someone actually is being too polite, the solution is just to be less formal. But, most often, the issue is that the person is trying to be less bigoted, and may err on the side of caution slightly. While those saying you’re “too PC” tend to err on the other side, at best.

Political Correctness is entirely about acknowledging respect for ones humanity as that person expects it.

Right. About five years ago, I started this thread in The BBQ Pit about people complaining about political correctness. Personally, I’m with you on it just meaning recognizing other humans as, in fact, humans.

there is such a thing as being too PC. For example; a faction in Birmingham City Council, trying to stop “Christmas” on the grounds that it might offend other religions.

Historically they have put up decorations etc, but the intention was to call it “Winterfest” or some such nonsense.

It took a deputation of non-Christian shopkeepers, fearful of reduced profits at their busiest time of the year to stop the idea in its tracks.


So essentially whaaaaa, fuck those non ppl because I can make more money from “real” people.

I’m not really asking about how people use it who are opposed to it, but what the people who support the concept hope to achieve.

Some examples of politically correct language:

Say ‘he’s Jewish’, instead of ‘he’s a Jew’.
‘Down syndrome’ instead of ‘Down’s syndrome’
‘Firefighters’ instead of ‘firemen’
Don’t say ‘negro’, say ‘colored’. Don’t say ‘colored’, say ‘African-American’. Don’t say ‘African-American’, say ‘black’…
‘A person with diabetes’, instead of ‘a diabetic’.

Then there’s stuff that’s not about language, like declaring that dressing up in a kimono for Halloween is racist, or a white person shouldn’t get their hands painted with henna for some reason.

Other people are welcome to give their own examples if the reasoning behind the different cases is different.

“Political correctness” has basically become a slur for a certain type of politeness. Not politeness in general, but politeness of the type that takes into account the history of oppression and discrimination, both major and minor. As if it’s somehow wrong to take this into account when expressing one’s self.

Oh, good! Demontree, I was hoping you’d open another thread on political correctness!

The point of “political correctness” is twofold:

  1. To slur, intimidate, and silence people who are trying to make the world better, by calling their efforts “political correctness.”
  2. To inoculate a blatantly awful belief against criticism by pre-emptively declaring that you’re not gonna be politically correct. Jon Oliver had a wonderful example on his latest episode, where a sheriff declared that he wanted to build giant warehouses for black men (he didn’t say that “black” out loud, because he still had a grain of goddamned sense left, but there was no question who he was talking about) who committed crimes and who also had too many children; imprison them there until they died; then turn them into Amazon warehouses. He stopped his astonishing diatribe at some point to recognize that he wasn’t being “politically correct.” Gee, thanks dude.

That’s the point of the term. Unfortunately, we can’t really discuss the point of the concept, because it’s so fuzzy.

Maybe this thread will be the one where you make a real case against political correctness, given the failure to do so in your, what, three previous threads on almost exactly the same subject?

That has nothing to do with political correctness. It’s about preferred spelling. John Langdon Down was the doctor who first described the syndrome, but he didn’t have it, so it’s technically not “Down’s syndrome”. This is about English usage, not political correctness, and not a big deal either way.

That indicates that the person is not defined by the illness they have. They’re a person first, and someone who has diabetes second. Diabetes is not who they are. It’s not a defining characteristic that puts them in a separate group, though they may have different needs because of an illness.

The same goes for other illnesses.

Similarly with Jewish instead of Jew. It emphasises someone being a person first, following a religion second. They are not 100% defined by their religion. Historically ‘Jew’ was almost always used in a disparaging way.

I disagree about “Jew”. I’m a Jew. In fact, I identify more as a Jew than I do as Jewish. To me, Jew is more of an ethnic identity, Jewish is more a religion.

Like Hansen’s disease?

In fact, I’m also a Jew by ethnicity, but totally non-religious.

So I certainly see your point about defining ‘Jew’ as describing ethnicity, and ‘Jewish’ describing actively following the religion. But many people, both within and without the Jewish community, still use ‘Jewish’ for ethnicity, regardless.

The intention of the usage is to emphasise that someone is a person first, and their ethnicity/religion second. Whether it gets that right is another question.

I didn’t say I agreed with it!

I was making the point that it’s about grammar/English usage, not political correctness, whether we agree with the usage or not.

Half of it is justifiable “stop using obvious slurs,” and the other half is defining new slurs out of the blue and taking things out of context in order to protect your self-perceived position at the top of the moral high ground.

Don’t hold me to those percentages.

People who use the term for themselves are just reclaiming the pejorative. It still means the same thing.

It’s not generic politeness to everyone. It’s specifically about people who are disadvantaged. I’ll quote the Google definition:

    the avoidance, often considered as taken to extremes, of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.

It’s not some general “you should be polite to everyone” statement. It cannot be used, for example, to say that you should be polite to the people in power.

I’m not saying you can’t be polite to those in power. Just that this isn’t what the concept means. The concept is directional because the slur is directional–it’s used against people on the left for caring about the feelings of the disadvantaged.

Yeah, I agree on your first percentage but not on the last: only around 5% of examples I can think of have that certain combination of both extending language needlessly and taking offense at those that don’t follow. The other 45% are a mixture of marginal cases and complaints that don’t have to do with primary PC: stuff like totally making up new PC terms, and first- and second- hand complaints about people changing their behavior in fear of consequences which may or may not have happened had they not.