Has Political Correctness Gone Too Far?

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Has Political Correctness Gone Too Far?

In Unit 3 AOS 2, a student will be looking at the notion of being politically correct. Yes, this seems like a bit of time away, but with how much politically correct language that is being used freely in the media at the moment, I believe it would now be a good time to bring this to the minds of upcoming EL students! It will allow you to have a massive head start for 2017 and set those foundations for your essays 🙂

But first, let’s define what political correctness ACTUALLY means:

the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalise, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.

For example, this could include LGBTI people, the disabled, or people of a different race or religion. So for example, rather than saying ‘chairman’, we might say ‘chairperson’ to remove the male stereotypes associated with that particular occupation. Similarly, we may avoid saying ‘hermaphrodite’ and instead say ‘intersex’ to be more politically correct.

To give you a context in contemporary Australia, the Victorian Government recently announced and published the ‘Inclusive Language Guide’, which has been designed for use across the public sector.

“Victorian government workers are being discouraged from using “heteronormative” terms such as “husband” and “wife” in a new guide to communicating with the LGBTI community.

Instead, the workers are being schooled in adopting gender-neutral pronouns “zie” and “hir”.

The Inclusive Language Guide, which has been designed for use across the public sector, also warns against derogatory terms, such as “dyke” and “fag”, as well as “offensive questions”, including asking a transgender person whether or not they have had surgery.

In his introduction to the guide, Victorian Equality Minister Martin Foley says the government’s responsibility is to keep people safe, including the LGBTI community.”

You can read more about it here: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/state-politics/husband-wife-now-off-limits-says-public-service-guide/news-story/a561abf209b1e25b4d0d2dd3fc909d63

This is a modern example of how the language is being altered to change perceptions, thoughts and behaviour directed towards LGBTI people. But will this even be effective? Judging by the comments and reaction by much of the public, they believe indeed this will not be effective. From a purely linguistic viewpoint, changing closed class function words such as pronouns rarely ever have a widespread effect, so changing personal pronouns to ‘zie’ and ‘hir’ in my opinion will not be introduced to the lexicon of most people.

The guide cautions against “heteronormativity”, described as the assumption everyone is heterosexual. “It is better to use the word “partner” than wife/husband where the gender, sexual orientation, or relationship status of a person is unknown.”

“Centre for Independent Studies senior research fellow Jeremy Sammut said the language guide appeared to have been dictated by “academics wielding their critical postmodernist theory of the world” who were “determined to force (it) on the rest of us”.

“It’s a totalitarian project dressed up as liberation theory,” he said. “I would think it is possible to treat people with respect and respect people’s privacy without resorting to this.”  

Interestingly though, I have anecdotally noticed the increased usage of ‘partner’ in contrast to husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend by much of the public – however, at this stage, I have no concrete evidence to substantiate this notion.

Below you can see a photo of a person responding to this introduction in the comments section of the Herald Sun section:

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Interestingly, the introduction of this ‘politically correct’ language seems to have had the opposite effect. Rather than provide inclusion, it hasn’t really had the intended effect. But only time will tell. As we can see above, the use PC language seems to not actually persuaded ‘Mark’ as the respondent to the article – in fact, it’s further dissuaded him!

What’s your opinion of the new age of political correctness? Are you in agreement or disagreement, or indifferent?


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Has Political Correctness Gone Too Far?