Equality. Justice. Respect. Diversity.
I am a firm believer in justice, equality, diversity and respect for others.
I am fortunate to count among my friends and acquaintances, people of many different ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientation, races and religions.
I am an unabashed, unapologetic and proud feminist who cannot keep from pointing out to colleagues, friends and even strangers, inadvertent (I’m willing to believe) occasions of gender bias or discrimination.
Looking into the New Year, and having just got through the “Holidays”, I am asking myself if political correctness is leaching the colour out of my life.
Generic or Custom? Make it Meaningful or Don’t Bother.
I celebrate Christmas.
In North American, of which Canada is a large part geographically and population-wise, the majority of the population is “Christian”.
I use “Christian” because while not necessarily a declared member of any of the associated Christian religions, the majority of us have backgrounds resulting in the adoption of the tradition of Christmas. Without getting into the debate about the real meaning of “Christmas”, it has become, for most, more a secular celebration of family and giving than a religious event.
In the last few years, the ubiquitous “Happy Holidays” has almost totally replaced the more specific greeting of “Merry Christmas”.
Do you have a calendar handy? What does it say on December 25th? Chances are, it says “Christmas Day”. It’s become a part of the fabric of society.
So why can’t we acknowledge it? I will agree that it is more economical to just wish everyone the safe, easy and bland “Happy Holidays” whether they are celebrating Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali or Yule, but it is far more meaningful and personal to be wished the appropriate seasonal greeting.
My point is, I’d prefer a sincere “Have a good day” to a generic and rote “Happy Holidays”. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.
Thanksgiving can also be considered a Christian–oriented celebration; it was the Pilgrims, emigrating from their countries of origin due their strong religious beliefs, who initiated the present-day celebration.
Despite the undisputed religious beginnings of the holiday, there does not seem to be any problem with wishing people a “Happy Thanksgiving”.
I’ve even heard it referred to as “Turkey Day” and while that’s potentially offensive for a whole bunch of reasons you’ll understand later, I haven’t noticed anyone really objecting.
So why is the Christmas greeting so polarizing?
Everyday words may now be offensive.
My parents are now in their 80’s. They grew up in a very different time.
I understand why it is difficult for them to understand why once common expressions may no longer be acceptable: “Indian-giver” insults aboriginals and indigenous peoples. “I was gyped”, can be construed as disparaging the Roma people.
Rubbing noses was referred to as an “Eskimo kiss”. The preferred term for the most northern native inhabitants of Canada’s north is Inuit.
Here are some other commonly used phrases and how their origins make their use offensive.
I recently read of a movement to stop referring to restaurants serving cuisine associated with a particular ethnic group as, for example, “Chinese” or “Indian”. They are concerned that this promotes prejudice and a lack of sensitivity.
Seriously? Are we to have dinner at a restaurant with food in the style of the “far-orient” or the “land of the emperors” or perhaps your tastes run to “South-Western Asian” food?
How will we describe “Italian”, “Greek”, “Lebanese” or any other food of specific regional origin?
What about oriental carpets, will they now become “Asian”.
What should my Dutch oven be called?
And the fine china dishes I use for entertaining – will it too become my good oriental dishes?
Can I say someone is a coward or must I pronounce that they are lacking in intestinal fortitude?
Since “black” and “white” are both sensitive adjectives, does this mean that we should now refer to bread baked with bleached flour as “uncoloured bread” and those wormholes in space as “holes devoid of colour”?
Then there is the challenge of those living alternative lifestyles.
Alternative lifestyle used to be the people who rejected the traditional norms of society: get a job to earn money to pay for groceries and services; live in a house or apartment; send the kids to school.
Alternative lifestyle meant groups of people who lived off the grid, communally, sharing responsibility, parenting, teaching, growing and producing their own food and consumables in communities like communes or kibbutz’s.
Now, “alternative lifestyle” is generally used to indicate people whose sexual orientation is other than heterosexual. And the terms used for and by these people change with alarming rapidity. I’m familiar with LGBT, however I recently read that this is not broad and/or inclusive enough, so the most recent generation people coming into maturity prefer “L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.” which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Queer, Intersex, Asexual. Gay, homosexual, queer are acceptable, or not depending on who is using the term and who they are describing.
I embrace the initiate to decide who and what one is, and to create the language around it. I find it hard to keep up and stressful that I might inadvertently insult someone.
It’s just changing so rapidly, it’s a challenge to just stay abreast of what is considered appropriate.
Is language being sanitized?
Is it powerful enough to be motivating to ask people to give generously to the socially disadvantaged? Is the stigma of being poor worse than being “underprivileged”?
Are not, or have not, most of us experienced being “disadvantaged” in some respect at points in our lives?
Do the physically challenged resent having to use handicapped transport because of dated nomenclature?
Apparently, you’re not “unemployed” anymore; you’re just “involuntarily leisured”!
Elderly people are now termed “active adults”. What does that make young people – inactive adults? That doesn’t make any sense.
Are PC constraints making conversation bland and colourless?
I am an advocate of communicating clearly and concisely, of saying what you mean and meaning what you say.
I also believe in being considerate and respectful, however having to navigate the verbal minefield of political correctness is nerve-wracking and stressful.
I try to speak mindfully, carefully choosing my words, however the fear of inadvertently offending someone because I am not up on the latest in ”PCism” is severely constraining my freedom of expression and rendering my conversation bland and colourless.
The general definition of Political Correctness means using words or behavior which will not offend any group of people.
In the desire to avoid offense, we may be limiting dialogue.
My issue with political correctness is that in the desire to not offend anybody, we may are limiting communication and conversation by sanitizing and self-policing our everyday language and cultural idioms to the point where conversation is insipid, boring and dull.
It is important to be considerate and sensitive, however, there is an equal need for tolerance and to avoid actively looking for opportunities to take offense.
A politically correct description of me might be: vaginally-endowed, vertically challenged, light-complected person of a certain age (this is much more elegant in French, from where it is borrowed), with hair that Titian might have painted.
Does this really help you “see” me? I’m not sure.
To vaginally-deprived individuals and those unpossessed of gonads everywhere, from the vertically-challenged to those suffering from breathing thin air, the horizontally gifted to those of various pigmentation, the follicly-challenged as well as the chronologically-favoured or chronolgically-disfavoured, I’d like to believe that what you are called does not make you who you are.
I submit, though, sometimes you just have to call a spade, a spade.