Comedian Jerry Seinfeld is rumoured to have recently said that political correctness is destroying comedy. I disagree. Stand-up comedians are active players in shaping cultural attitudes, and their jokes about rape, misogyny, and domestic abuse, are not helpful or funny. Their homophobic, transphobic, and biphobic jokes are also not helpful or funny … but we laugh anyway because it’s just comedy, right? I’ve been uncomfortable with this for quite some time, and as far as I’m concerned if you can’t get up on stage and be funny without demeaning other humans beings, then you shouldn’t be on stage. Political correctness isn’t destroying comedy, it’s destroying the type of comedy that nobody should have found funny in the first place. But while a very good thing in many ways, has political correctness gone too far? Well no, but also yes.
We live in a time when tensions over division are high. Political correctness is necessary in order to have dialog that is equal and non-offensive. It’s a good thing in that it levels the field, so to speak. The problem is that with high tension comes high sensitivity, and high sensitivity can affect our judgment.
Political correctness has some of us to the point where we jump without knowing the facts of a given case. I’m guilty of this too, but sometimes a straight woman’s tongue-in-cheek comment about her girl crush on Ruby Rose is not a “look how progressive and edgy I am” moment … and sometimes it is. Sometimes a crime committed against a person who happens to be a member of a minority was motivated by something else … and sometimes it wasn’t. Sometimes an asshole is an asshole, and calling them out on it has nothing to do with race, religion, or identity. We need political correctness. It keeps us in check, and it’s useful in calling out bad behaviours. What we must stop doing, however, is finding fault where there is none. Call out those who are at fault, but think first. There’s a lot of false accusation going on, and it’s not pretty.
Let me explain that I’m not talking about taking things lightly. A lot has been written on this site about the power of words, and at times I’ve been told that perhaps I’ve taken things further than they should have gone. I disagree of course, feeling that I’ve always made a good argument in support of my position, and I’ve always been careful to split those I address into two groups. (1) Those who are at fault, and (2) Those who are not. For example, I’m careful to use “evangelical Christians” instead of “all Christians.” I say things like “this doesn’t apply to all, but to those who …” or “if you are one of these, my problem is not with you” (or something to that effect). The issues we address are not to be taken lightly, but they must be issues. It takes a lot of energy to fight social ills, and making an issue where there isn’t one is a waste of that energy.
The full definition of “politically correct,” according to Merriam Webster online, is “conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated.” I agree with this 100%, and Outspoken Ally is about eliminating that very language and those very practices. We don’t extend that, though, to attempting to eliminate what isn’t there.
Every time we jump to false conclusions, the stigma against political correctness grows. We have to use it properly. Call out what’s there, and know what it is before you do. Failing to do that just shuts down communication, closes minds, puts up walls, divides us further. We are politically correct because it is morally correct. Let’s reign it in and use it to its maximum benefit.