Friday, February 3, 2012

Anti-oppression vs. Political Correctness or PC

I've got other, more involved posts I want to write on here, but I promised myself I would write all my school assignments first. Plus my manager had me slog through a ton of busywork, diminishing the time I may have spent on this pursuit. But I would seriously like to address some of the presuppositions on which this blog is based, which shouldn't take too long to churn out.

Thinking back to the ire of the commentariat during the Great Blackface Wars of 2012, as well as the Nachtzimahrsogynist Controversy, a lot of people hurled accusations of "PC" and "political correctness" at my fine colleague's contributions. And you know what, I think I speak for both of us when I say FUCK PC. Seriously, bro, fuck political correctness; both the concept and the motivation are totally different from anti-oppression.

Short version: PC intends only to tell people not to be assholes. Anti-oppression seeks to understand the pain and loss of dignity that accompany hurtful and marginalizing discourse and behaviors, with a long term goal of ending the ouchy kyriarchical social conditions that are so thoroughly fucking over so many of us.

I didn't want to pull the history of PC out of my ass, so I did the responsible thing and looked at wikipedia. As I suspected, it emerged from the New Left movement of the 60s/70s. Those folks were a mixed bag for sure, but the legacy of PC is a prescriptive discourse. Don't say this. You can't say that. I believe they prefer to be called _____.

The average human product of our dominant culture who has not done much in the way of seeking understanding of socio-cultural paradigms and how these dynamics intersect and enact themselves on the lives and bodies of our most vulnerable citizens may well interpret the above corrections as authoritarian. Perhaps with a healthy sense of self-preservation, the response many of us deploy in a number of situations is I DO WHAT I WANT.
I got a manager here who is a very nice liberal white lady with a master's degree, very apt to talk about how bad racism is and how certain words or current events are racially unkind. But when her co-manager thought that Kim Jong-Il Looking At Things featured "the guy from the Hangover," she snapped, "You're Chinese! You're supposed to know who he is!" This example attempts to illustrate that someone concerned with political correctness may not be on top of their game when it comes to culturally sensitive racial discourse. But I sure as shit wasn't about to say anything to the boss lady.
Image description: Cartman from the show South Park wearing a yellow dress, pink gloves, blue eyeshadow, and holding a lollypop saying "Whuteva!! I do whut I want!!%@!"
I guess what I want the reader to take away from this is that when talking about the oppression and marginalization of women/queers/trans folks/people with disabilities/people of color/people from non-Anglo backgrounds/anyone else getting the shit end of the stick, particularly if you are not a member of the group/s in question, do your damnedest to be sensitive and aware of their plight. A good method of deciding whether you should be using certain terminology is if you would feel uncomfortable using it in the presence of a number of the people under discussion. If not, maybe it's not fit for any audience. For example, condemning someone/something as "lame" if there are non-ambulatory people present, "retarded" if there cognitively impaired people around, or derisively calling someone/something "gay" when in the company of queers. And so forth.

Also, just because your buddy talks shit about a group to which they belong doesn't mean it's ok for you to go forth and repeat their shit. Sometimes it's playful in-group fun-poking, which falls under the Richard Pryor Exemption (the best explanations of which have disappeared from the internet), but other times, when it's exerted outward, such as when a woman is calling another woman a "cuntface" like it's a bad thing, or people earnestly demeaning other members of their group solely on the basis of group membership, that's still oppressive, definitely hurtful, totally sad, and it doesn't make it better because Your Black Friend said it.


  1. Likes. And you do speak for me when you say fuck political correctness, because I am a queer, and we fuck everything. SEE WHAT I DID THERE?

    Good post.

  2. PS example of decent people in the world: This is from a record label, sent to me by a supportive dude One of their bands appeared on this blog (though I exclaimed I loved the music and disliked the name) and they still posted positively about the need for discussion. There is hope. A little bit.

  3. Yayzers, that rules! And I love this Misogyny Is Not a Music Genre button

    I also loved that Skuppy cover and similarly squeamed at the Dead When I Found Her name. While it's obvz open to interpretation, as a survivor of terrible gender violence, which included what seemed to be earnest attempts on my life, that's immediately where my mind goes every time I look at the band name.

    1. Same here! I was thinking of someone walking in on a fucked up scene. I didn't think of it as anything else and have trouble thinking of it as anything else. But I didn't ask the artist either what his intentions were.