Monday, July 02, 2012

In praise of......political correctness

"Political correctness gone mad" is a phrase used to describe an apparently barmy action, often by a local authority, to rename manholes "personholes", or call black bin bags "refuse collection sacks", apparently in an effort to avoid offending any race or gender. More often that not, these stories are either made up, or result from the actions of an over-zealous and misguided individual. The stories usually appear in the more right-leaning press, such as the Daily Mail, and are regularly mocked by the left-leaning Guardian.

So where does the truth lie? I'm not entirely sure, but I do find the incidence of people using "political correctness' as an insult to be widespread. The term "political correctness" was used as far back as 1793, but its use in the modern era dates to the 1970s, when it was adopted by left-wing activists to suggest non-discriminatory language.

In the last 20 years or so, "politically correct' has been adopted and used by the political right to argue against changes to language and behaviour that they regard as wrong. People sometimes say that they are proud to be "politically incorrect", in order to distance themselves from using new descriptions and terms.

But surely we should speak out against "political correctness"? Take these headlines from the Daily Mail, for example, all published in the last couple of years:

- "Barnet Councli ban mother-in-law jokes"

- "Citizens Advice Bureaus ban the word 'blacklisting'"
- "Brighton libraries ban Christian posters"

Outrageous, eh? Perhaps they would be if they were true. A little research into each story reveals that they were all false. I haven't noticed any apologies from the Daily Mail as yet.

For me, being politically correct is not about ludicrous re-naming of objects, or banning things that are inoffensive in the first place. It's about showing respect to everyone, regardless of colour, creed, gender or sexual preference. I see nothing wrong with that. What say you?

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