Politically Correct

Let’s have a little discussion on what the term “politically correct” means. Fair warning: I don’t normally resort to (much) profanity in my posts, but this one is going to break that soft rule.

If you’re the sort of person for whom “political correctness” equates to cowardice, overly sensitive new ageism, hippie shit, liberal shit, or any variation thereof in which shit enters your calculations, please pay attention very closely, because this is written with you in mind. If you’re the kind of person who scoffs when someone endeavors to be politically correct, please pay attention. If you’re the kind of person who says, “I know it’s not politically correct of me, but. . .”, please pay attention.

If you fall into any of the above descriptions, it’s very possible that you are an asshole.

Here’s what you think I’m doing when I say something is or is not politically correct:

“Stop being a cog in the wheels of the oppressive, feminist, white-hating, pinko, anti-male matriarchy. Be a REAL man.”

Here’s what I’m actually doing:

“I am trying very hard to not be a spoiled, privileged, self-absorbed, entitled, ignorant, narrow-minded asshole.”

If you think that deriding something as politically correct is an example of cutting commentary, it’s very possible that you are an asshole. If you think it’s stupid to be so sensitive and that people should “lighten up,” it’s very possible that you are an asshole. If you don’t see what the big deal is, you may not be an asshole, but it’s very possible that you are somewhat ignorant of the world outside yourself.

Politically correct isn’t a neutering of language. It isn’t caving to some cabal that exists only to strip away all the joy of “being a man” or whatever.

Politically correct is recognizing that there are other people in the world, people who are different than you. It’s recognizing that words have power. It’s recognizing that only ignorant fuckwads wield words without considering their consequences or their implications. It’s recognizing the perniciousness of privilege and how goddamn much privilege needs to go away so we can have equality. Actual equality, not this “hear no evil, see no evil” shadow version that the privileged pretend is the real thing so they don’t feel bad about themselves.

So here’s my message to you, if you’re the sort of person that thinks it’s funny, cool, interesting, or amusing to laud your “I’m not politically correct” nature. Just stop. You’re being an asshole. If people around you are amused, it’s very possible they’re assholes, too.

Would you like to stop being an asshole? Great! All you need to do is realize that differences of genderracereligionethnicitysexual orientation and disability should be treated with respect. Show respect by using respectful language (i.e. politically correct). That’s it!

But what about the jokes, you might be wondering. Hey, if you’re the kind of person who enjoys telling racist jokes, go ahead and keep telling racist jokes, so long as you do so while accepting that this makes you a racist. If you aren’t sure whether a joke is racist, consider whether you would say the joke while a person of that race that you did not know was standing in the room with you. Would you feel uncomfortable? There you go.

Insert the other -ists here where appropriate (sexist, chauvinist, etc).

I’ve written before about a need to engage in diplomacy with those who disagree with you so that you can more effectively win them over to your way of thinking. “Pick your battles, catch more flies with honey, etc.” Those are still valuable policies. They’re valuable when the person you’re talking to is capable of listening. Assholes generally don’t listen; if they did, they wouldn’t be assholes.

More and more, I’ve seen that there are some who don’t want to listen or can’t or won’t. So, here you go: my honest opinion and my honest anger. I’m anti-asshole. People that are assholes should stop being them.

A Woman On Facebook Loves Science? It’s More Likely Than You Think

This is commentary on old news, but I missed it during its life cycle and I think it’s worth discussing. Do you love science? I love science. In fact, I’m prepared to say that I fucking love science. Based on the popularity of this page and the frequency of its images showing up in my Facebook feed, I’m willing to bet that there are many other people who also love science. That’s a good thing.

Less good is the reaction to the revelation that the “I fucking love science” page is run by *gasp* a woman.

If you read through the comments on that page (and good luck if you try, as of this writing the comments are up to about 1,400), you’ll see that a good number of people are surprised that this page is being run by a woman.

Now, there was something surprising to me about this revelation but it’s not that    the page is being run by a woman. I’m surprised that the page is being run by a single person. When you consider the volume of content that comes from that page, it seems like you’d need a staff of at least a few people. So that’s something noteworthy and if that’s what people were remarking on, there wouldn’t be an issue to discuss in the next few paragraphs.

I’m not going to comment on all the commenting on her physical appearance. I’ve made my case for why I think it’s better to just let those slide despite the sexism there.

However, all the comments that are expressing surprise that a woman is running a science page? That’s something worth commenting on, both because of the sexism inherent in the incredulity and what that incredulity says about our society.

First problem: why are you surprised by this fact? Is it because your assumption is that science-minded folk are male? White? Saying “I can’t believe a woman is running this science page” is the same thing as saying “only a man can run a science page like this” and “women can’t do science or like science or promote science” or whatever. That surprise you’re feeling? That’s the problem.

Second problem: the thing is, the surprise isn’t unjustified despite its sexism. It’s the result of living in a culture where science is still perceived as a boy’s only club. People think of scientists as white males because that’s the majority of people we see as scientists (although this is slowly changing). It’s sort of like how people think of US presidents as white males because, with one exception, that’s who’s been getting the job. We shouldn’t be surprised that’s what the perception is. We should be working to change the circumstances that cause the perception to exist.

The solution should be self-evident: more women involved with science fields and stop being so damned surprised when they do. Don’t be surprised when your daughter says, “I want to study physics.” Say “awesome,” “go for it,” or whatever form of encouragement you deem appropriate.