Saturday, April 13, 2013

Quick Thoughts - "Political Correctness"

Bloody hell, an opinion piece on real-world events. What is this world coming to? Anyway, this should only be short. She says.

This weekend, the Twit-o-sphere went a bit crazy after a self-published-now-majorly-signed author was discovered to have written a blog post full of misogynistic language and attitudes - including the support of violence against the person in question - over what can simply be described as overbearing, tactless public behaviour. It was easy to see that, truthfully, both sides were in the wrong on this, but the much-delayed 'rebuttal' helped feed the problem. The post was eventually deleted after a barrage of comments, followed by an apology, which was then also removed and replaced with a second apology.

Of course, myself and others decided to leap in (as you do) and say that irrespective of the author's intent, the language was utterly uncalled for. This was done via comments on the post itself, some bloggers took to their own sites to offer their views, I did the similar-but-opposite thing on my Twitter feed (i.e. described the author in the same way they described this woman, to make a point), and there were numerous conversations about the author's behaviour. Yet legions of this author's fans descended upon us and defended his actions. We were over-sensitive, this woman needed to be slapped, we were attacking him for making a funny post, so on and so forth. But one term in particular kept cropping up.

We were being politically correct.

Politically correct. What a vile, slimy term. It suggests bubble wrap, cotton wool, patting people on the head, being patronising and so forth. It's a scapegoat term used by people who don't want to admit responsibility for their actions. Instead of the post's author being at fault for using terms like "bitch" and "she-devil", we were somehow at fault for taking umbrage at his attitude. Heck, apparently his comparison of his target to someone on the "autism spectrum" was supposed to be a compliment! Yes, he really did make a comment along those lines in the original post. But apparently "bitch" isn't a gendered insult, and even if it wasn't, the post used terms like "she-devil", and it even criticised her appearance (so she wasn't just a "bitch", she was an "ugly bitch"!).

But do you know what I realised? Whenever someone says it's "political correctness", it's an attempt to shift the blame. It becomes the fault of whomever is offended, not the person who was offensive. To further prove my point, it almost always comes hand-in-hand with terms like "over-sensitive",  compounding the belief that you have a right to be offensive but not a right to be offended. Of course, you do have a right to be offended. We all do. If you find something offensive or distasteful, you have every right to kick up a fuss and say it's not on. How else would we actually get anywhere with improving the treatment of women, LGBT people, those of colour and so on? And can we really, really believe for a second that if the person in question was male, that this post would have been made with the same level misandristic language?

There were plenty of good tweets and posts about this situation - Sam Sykes, for example, made a comment about how if your audience isn't laughing at the joke, it's because you're not funny, as well as pointing out that calling someone a "bitch" just isn't funny on any level. You had authors like Tobias Buckell giving an excellent deconstruction - without having seen the full piece! - that puts some of the actions in context (and I also suggest you follow the link to Harry J. Connolly's piece).

And the worst thing about this? The very worst thing? The author still has not made a public apology to the woman he eviscerated on his blog for everyone to see. You could talk about how it's good he's realised that his blog isn't an insular place where he can openly say what he wishes without people pointing out where he's gone wrong, or that he's taken it down. Fine. But all of that counts for naught when the apologies are directed at the readers of the blog, and not at the one person who truly deserves one.


  1. The woman he eviscerated, indeed, has no voice in this entire affair. Her point of view has been completely drowned out in this whole mess. We touched on this in our podcast discussion last night.

    1. Of course, that's assuming she's an actual person and not a construct created for the post - something I've only just realised may be a possibility. But if so, then the first thing he should have done is made that clear in an apology, yet no such comment has been made to my knowledge. And let's not even go into a discussion of what sort of a person you'd have to be to make that up.

      But yeah, it's become less about the victim (after all, that's what she is in this) and more about the language used and the context in which it was, well, used. And that's a problem in itself, because there still - to my knowledge - has not been an apology to this woman, whomever she may be. Irrespective of whether she'll read it or not, it's the decent thing to do.

      I don't want an apology aimed at myself (and others like me, including yourself, Paul) for what he said. I want an apology for her.