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Stop calling me “Politically Correct”: A defence of being PC

The other day, I was discussing my concerns about the impending tsunami of cultural appropriation that would be demonstrated in Halloween costumes. In response, an acquaintance said that this was a very typical statement of mine because I am often “very PC about [these kinds of] issues”. Later, when the same acquaintance and I were talking about South Park, he questioned whether I would even watch the programme itself because I was too “PC” for it.

Political correctness has become a term that is used quite frequently. It started to gain traction in the 90s when the New York Times released articles referencing the stereotype of generally young progressives believing in staunchly maintaining their “correct” view of the world. As progressive, feminist discourses have become important talking points in today’s culture, people have started to believe that political correctness has won out over people’s freedoms and interests. Because of this, the phrase has been pejoratively used (generally by conservatives) in the context of someone being overly sensitive when discussing topics that could be construed as being even mildly offensive.

I personally hate this phrase. Being called “too PC” is an attempt to define someone by their character trait of being supposedly overly sensitive or dull. However, this is extremely reductive. This mentality is used as a way to antagonise the person in the discussion instead of the issue itself. For instance, take the issue I have with wearing cultures as costume. As a Japanese female, I would obviously feel personally offended if I saw someone marginalising Japanese culture by wearing a “sexy geisha” costume. However, I feel the same disdain for the appropriation of cultures that are not my own. It is wrong because it involves the oppression of many groups of people by the dominant culture. My understanding is in no way limited by my affiliation with only Japanese culture.

Calling someone “PC” is to label them negatively when they are, in fact, attempting to be respectful. Political correctness is not about self-righteousness. Rather, it is about understanding the perspectives of others who may not have similar privileges as the speaker. The excuse of political correctness is an easy way for those with privilege to create spaces for themselves to feel comfortable with their oppressive values.

The worst thing about claiming “PC” is that it’s plainly unproductive. It’s a boring way of escaping a reasonable discussion about important issues. Rather than ending a conversation through unnecessary labeling, why not have a discussion about the issues involved? If you are the one being called “PC”, ask why the label is being used. Bring up the debates behind the phrase, and use it as an opportunity to engage with the topic. Like most people, I too enjoy a lot of culture that has problematic aspects. Instead of antagonising others, we should create opportunities to view these grey areas of our culture through different lenses.

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