In the Fox News debate of early August, moderator Megyn Kelly remarked about the ways in which Donald Trump has referred to women— as “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, disgusting animals,” and that “[his]Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women’s looks.” She went on:
You once told a contestant on the Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president? And how do you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton – that you are part of the war on women?
Trump’s response, more or less: I don’t have time for political correctness. The country doesn’t have time for political correctness.
I have some ideas about that. It turns out I’m not the only one.
Amanda Taub has an article, “Donald Trump just gave a master class on how to get away with sexism,” in which she cites the dismissal of political correctness as one way “to belittle and dismiss women’s discrimination claims and enable a hostile work environment.” All five steps to accomplish such misogyny, according to Taub:
Step 1: Claim that the complaint is an exaggeration in order to imply that the complainant can’t be trusted;
Step 2: Dismiss demands for respect and equality as mere “political correctness;”
Step 3: Insist that this complaint is too minor to bother with when there are more important things to worry about.
Step 4: Say it was just “fun;”
Step 5: Pretend the complaint is really just about personal animosity.
Which Trump did, with Megyn Kelly. Every last step.
In another piece by Taub on political correctness per se, “The truth about “political correctness” is that it doesn’t actually exist,” Taub responds to an article in New York magazine by Jonathan Chait (“Not a Very P.C. Thing to Say”).
(A few salient quotes from Chait’s essay: “Political correctness is a style of politics in which the more radical members of the left attempt to regulate political discourse by defining opposing views as bigoted and illegitimate;” and “Under p.c. culture, the same idea can be expressed identically by two people but received differently depending on the race and sex of the individuals doing the expressing.” And: “Politics in a democracy is still based on getting people to agree with you, not making them afraid to disagree.”)
I’ll admit to some appreciation of the last statement, as I have been humiliatingly and quite publicly “schooled” on the topic of Caucasian feminism and am, as a result, now somewhat afraid to disagree with certain points of view. However, Taub brings this all to a little greater, more empathic light, I think. She says,
But political correctness isn’t a “creed” at all. Rather it’s a sort of catch-all term we apply to people who ask for more sensitivity to a particular cause than we’re willing to give — a way to dismiss issues as frivolous in order to justify ignoring them. Worse, the charge of “political correctness” is often used by those in a position of privilege to silence debates raised by marginalized people — to say that their concerns don’t deserve to be voiced, much less addressed.
I am a WWOCP (white woman of considerable privilege, although I am old) and I guess what I’d like to say is that it’s not so hard to see that people who have the most privilege, the ones whose voices are already heard the loudest, are more likely to dismiss “political correctness” as unnecessary— immaterial at best and poorly cloaked censorship at worst. People who already enjoy considerable power, respect, wealth, education–any number of gifts and accomplishments in their lives–have (although only in some ways, I think) the least to gain from political correctness.
But that is precisely why they need to take time for, need to school themselves in…what? Could we just say empathy?
While entirely humbling, it may occasionally be useful to be called out like I was the day I was scolded (in a small group discussion involving women writers of color) for being too loud and not listening particularly well. It was a couple of years ago and it still stings. But you know what? I learned something. I kept my mouth shut (for a change, and not always since) and listened. And I’ve taken stock of my own privilege.
That’s all anybody is really asking. To have a little grace about yourself and what you have, a little consideration for others who may not have as much or be heard as well.
What if we try to look at the glass half full? Here’s Neil Gaiman’s take:
I was reading a book (about interjections, oddly enough) yesterday which included the phrase “In these days of political correctness…” talking about no longer making jokes that denigrated people for their culture or for the colour of their skin. And I thought, “That’s not actually anything to do with ‘political correctness’. That’s just treating other people with respect.”
Which made me oddly happy. I started imagining a world in which we replaced the phrase “politically correct” wherever we could with “treating other people with respect”, and it made me smile.
You should try it. It’s peculiarly enlightening.
I know what you’re thinking now. You’re thinking “Oh my god, that’s treating other people with respect gone mad!”
How about we all go overboard on treating each other with respect? Imagine what the world might look like if we did.
Swati Avasthis’s thing