This morning, I was watching The Wright Stuff on Channel 5 and the following subject came up: “Is age a defence against making dodgy comments? If someone who is elderly makes the odd racist or sexist comment, should we let it go or have a go?”
I expected a healthy debate amongst the panel — not just about older people, but society as a whole. However, to my surprise, they were all in agreement that offending people, whether it’s intentional of not, should just be let go.
Then the host, Matthew Wright, took calls from the public (all two of them). I assumed that there would be differing opinions on the topic. But no, both people said near enough the same thing (with the second caller discussing what he saw as the difference between political correctness and homophobia).
This started a discussion in my living room. To give you some context: I suffer with general anxiety disorder, depression and I’m blind in one eye; my dad is a type 1 diabetic; and my sister has Asperger Syndrome. All of us, at some point in our lives, have faced discrimination from our peers, colleagues, family and strangers.
Sometimes, this discrimination can take the form of name-calling. But, and more often than not nowadays, it can be disguised as “banter” or just used against us in professional and personal settings to put us down.
A really good example is a joke that my dad heard on the radio: A comedian asked the audience if anyone was a diabetic, and when someone responded saying “I’m a vegetarian”, the comedian responded “The same thing.”
For my dad, this was not only a ridiculous thing to say, but it was also quite hurtful. It belittled what he goes through on a daily basis. His illness isn’t a choice. So to be compared to a vegetarian, was a shock. And as he rightly pointed out this morning, sometimes you can let comments go over your head and you can be fine, but one day you might not be in the right frame of mind and not be fine.
Which made me think: Why do we use terms that we know could hurt or disrespect people? Another good example, was on The Wright Stuff. The second caller was a male in a wheelchair. He said that an old lady had once asked him: “How long have you been a spastic for?” He had said that he wasn’t offended, because that wasn’t the intent.
Really?! Let’s be honest here, what is the purpose of that word? Well let’s ask Urban Dictionary…
Definition (UK): An incredibly derogatory term referring to people with cerebral palsy, in a similar way retarded is often used as an insult around the world.
So the purpose of the word, used by the typical person on the street, is to be derogatory. To belittle someone. To have power over them.
Regardless of the intent, why is the word even used?
And this is why I want us, as a society, to get rid of the term “political correctness.” People use this term as a way to excuse themselves and others of using lexis that is meant to offend and be derogatory. They name-call people who call them out on their bad behaviour “snow flakes” rather than be accountable for their actions.
It’s also used a lot with expression and free speech. And while someone can have an opinion, there is no room in our society for targeting and persecuting people who are vulnerable or considered different due to their gender, race or sexual orientation. Hate speech is not free speech, and we need to remember that.
So, let’s us all as a society drop the term. Let’s start being respectful to one another. Let’s use language that celebrates our differences, not undermines them.