User:Woozle/positions/2013/political correctness

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  • This page is adapted from what I posted here. (2010-12-23)
  • Further discussion here (2014-05-04)
  • Things to consider:
    • It seems clear to me that there's a big difference between {using a polilex to make fun of an oppressor} and {using a polilex at the expense of the oppressed} -- but apparently proponents of political correctness do not see this distinction.
    • Is it insensitive to speak of explosions or asteroid impacts in terms of "Hiroshimas" of released energy? Why or why not?
    • "Hurt feelings" should never be used as justification for requiring someone else to stop expressing their position. This is a form of silencing. "Hurt feelings" are routinely used to justify things like blasphemy laws, anti-gay laws, and other religious BS.
    • "Privilege" should never be used as a club to invalidate someone's position. It is at best a way of trying to explain to them that they may have a distorted view of how others have to live. It is then on the privilege-caller to explain what the actual reality is, and to provide evidence thereof.
    • Outrage is not an argument. (Yes, I'm outraged about a lot of things too -- but I'm prepared to explain why.)


I have no problem with individuals choosing to avoid certain word-usages on their own. This is about the idea that failure to do so is somehow hurtful or inconsiderate (and that it's therefore important to discourage others from such usage as well).


I'm going to use the invented word "polilex" to mean "any word that refers to an attribute by which people can be grouped". Examples of such words include "gay", "black", "disabled", etc. (Someone who knows Greek or Latin could probably come up with a better word.)


My understanding was that the premise behind avoiding certain usages of certain words (a.k.a. using "politically correct" vocabulary) was to avoid using polilexes in ways that imply a putdown to the referenced group -- not to avoid using polilexes (or, more precisely, words that have a polilex meaning along with any other meanings they might have) in a negative way.

I don't use words in ways where they might be honestly interpreted as a putdown of some group. That includes obvious ones like [the n-word] and "gay". I only use "bastard" when I'm joking. I don't use "bitch" unless I'm not thinking.

But I will say something is "lame" because it "limps" along instead of being effective and well-designed. It doesn't mean that I think literally-lame people are less deserving of respect. If some asshole politician or pundit had said something like "we can't keep giving our tax dollars for those lames in their wheelchairs", or using "lameist" as a synonym for disabled-friendly -- or if anyone can show me examples of such usage, or could provide evidence that the words "lame" or "gimp" were commonly used as put-downs of disabled people -- I would reconsider.

Maybe part of what "political correctness" is trying to achieve is the same thing as "non-confrontational language" -- which isn't about refraining from using certain words, but more about being careful how you use them.

For instance: I will say someone's argument is stupid (or idiotic or retarded) if it is clearly ignoring information of which they have been made aware. Sometimes, language like that is the only way to get past people's filters, and I reserve the right to use it. However, I try to avoid describing people as idiots or morons or retarded because if they truly were, they would have a legitimate reason for not understanding my point, and I shouldn't be giving them a hard time about it.

If we can use words responsibly, but then allow certain words or usages to be off-limits just because of abuse (and not because they're inherently hurtful or abusive), we're giving the abusers the power to redefine those words -- which would be seriously lame.