Wednesday, January 10, 2007


I've had too much coffee, I've had a headache for 5 days - seriously, I wake up and go to sleep with it everyday - and I'm still not finished complaining about the whole pc thing. Which is why I didn't respond to comments on the last post.

Julie said that it's done some good and I suppose it has. I'm glad that textbooks no longer have talk about female secretaries and male doctors. Oh right, it's not secretary anymore, it's personal assistant. And it's not stewardess anymore, it's flight attendant. What is wrong with steward and stewardess anyway other than being gender specific? And what's wrong with gender specificity anyway? Because, let's face it, men and women are equal but they are certainly not the same.

Lorraine and Alison and Gina, who all have great blogs by the way, think it's gone too far. As do I. We can't erase our past and pretend it isn't filled with racism and sexism and ethocentrism and many other isms I'm leaving out. Or even our present. Been to the South lately? And I like the South so don't get huffy if you're from there. Convince me something has changed since people started saying African-American. Or Latin-American. Or is it hispanic? See? I can't even keep up anymore. I saw a movie with Robin Williams - he played a mentally disabled person. He says something like, "Yeah, I'm not retarded anymore. First I was retarded. Then in the early 80's I was mentally handicapped. Then one day in April of 87, I became mentally disabled. "

PC has allowed the gap between what is said and what is done to grow. It has allowed people to feel better about themselves without ever having to really change anything about the way they live their lives or the way the vote.


zeb said...

I think that mom had it right when we were kids " do unto others...". Some people spend way way too much time worrying about being PC (not me by the way). Life is too short!!!

gina said...

Nicole, that was a perfect post! I think Robin Williams hit the nail on the head, and your subsequent remark "PC has allowed the gap between what is said and what is done to grow", is on the money. Excellent.

gina said...

btw, you could link to my blog. :)

Nicole said...

Zeb - Yeah, common sense seems a lot better than pc.

Gina - Thanks.

Gina again - I would love to be able to link to your blog within a post, or even to another post of mine, but my html skills or whichever set of skills I need to be able to do that are, um, lacking.

Eric said...

OK here is what you do.
in your admin screen where you write posts, open the template. then do a search for "here's the thing" since it is in your links.
it should (replacing angle braces < with a square brace [ so this will post) look like this [a href= ""]Here's the thing[/a]
simply copy and past that whole line at the bottom of you r links list and replace the address "The http part with gina's address and the title the heres the thing part with ginas title and viola. You will need to republish the template
PS happy new year

julie said...

Sorry about your headache! So many things to say when you are not singing with the choir. Hmmmm, first when flight attendants were stewardesses sexual harassment was part of their job, literally. They had to maintain certain weights, make-up and when they got too old they were fired. The change in name went along with the change in the way they were viewed and their status, there is actually a whole book about it.

As to what is different since the term African American started being used, well for starters the word nigger has to be used behind closed doors now, yes it is still used but it is not debateable whether the shame around it is a good thing. It used to be used around children and on the senate floor, also not nearly as many lynchings.

As for the "choclate lady" (see last post) I would be very surprised if she found a cute comment by a two year old offensive, but if she did, would she have found it more or less offensive 50 years ago? The difference is not that 50 years ago she would have felt more or less offended, but back then she would have had to smile and put up with it and you wouldn't have had to feel bad, and honestly that seems to be the problem that most people in the dominant culture (white, straight, christian and/or male)have with "PC", they are sick of feeling bad.

Sorry I know this isn't making any friends but I hope you can be "pc" about it :)

Nicole said...

Thanks Eric - Happy New year to you too. And I hope you're feeling better.

Julie - I love the voice of dissent, especially when it's yours. I'm very glad girls can be doctors and I'm very glad sexual harassement is no longer part of the job description for flight attendants but...let's say that pc was supposed to be the boat to get us across the river. Now that we're on the other side of the river, we shouldn't be carrying the boat on our backs as we walk, we should leave it on the river bank. It was supposed to be the means and not the end. And when the means becomes the end, we totally lose sight of where we were going in the first place.

charlie said...

It's all top show, as me old granny would have said.

Anonymous said...

PS Any sociologist worth his (or her!) salt would say that most people do not, in truth, operate in accordance with strict rules (as defined). They are endlessly inventive in the way they circumvent or simply ignore rules which those with power choose to promote as both laudable and which are enforceable by sanction. The smokingof cannabis is one example; the private breaching of PC 'rules' is another. The prescription and/or proscription of socio-linguistic rules will not, of themselves, result in changes in behaviour - and there are many books about this subject too. I could go on and on about social norms and how, to be efficacious, they need to be internalised and affectively charged. It could be argued that strident advocacy of PC has the very opposite effect from that which is desired by those seeking to change things.

Lorraine said...

I said it before and Zeb said it again; if people would just be concerned with speaking respectfully to others and acting with a smidge of common decency, PC would never have happened.

Words have power and changing our language may have the power to change how we look at things but I still maintain the PC labyrinth has done more harm than good.

Charlie uses big words.

julie said...


Since I am married to a sociologist and I think I can safely say that any worth their salt would also never deny that social norms have a profound affect on our behaviours.

It also seems like a bit of red herring to compare socially acceptable language with the smoking of pot. One is norm that has been constructed at a grass roots level and the other is a law.

It also seems that by defintion the change of socio-linguistic norms does change our behaviour, it changes the way we talk.

I guess I have a bit of confusion about what everybody is missing out on. Could people please be specific about what they wish they could say or do in public that is being denied to them by the "pc police".

Alison said...

Oh, thanks for the shout out!

Julie is right about political correctness having done some good. But I still think it's gone way too far.

I don't have anything else to add right now; I've had a sinus headache for about 4 days, too. And I can't think straight. Sorry. But thanks again for the compliment about my blog (heh, from which I am taking a break right now).

Anonymous said...

nicole - i promise to withdraw from this debate before inviting accusations of taking over your blog - once i have answered (briefly) julie's points. if i may take them one at a time:
1. being married to a sociologist doth not a sociologist make. then again, like with most academic disciplines, there are specialisms within sociology
2. i don't use red herrings, not even when cooking
3. i did not 'compare' the smoking of pot with the use of language - it would pay julie to read what i actually did write
4. what she seems to understand by the term 'norm' and what i understand by it appear to be different things. i once wrote a PhD thesis entitled - In Pursuit of the Social Norm: An Elucidation of Its Structure and Function. i say that simply because it is true and i could reproduce all 120,000 words of it here if necessary and if people need to sleep
5. i don't understand what 'grass roots level' means here and i suspect that, if pushed, neither would julie. norms are constructed in a variety of ways and are variously efficacious or otherwise. they have three 'forms' - legal, moral and practical - and endlessly variable content.
6. i will grant her that PC 'rules' have changed the way some people talk and, in many cases, that is all it appears to have achieved - consider the continued existence of the glass ceilings in women's careers and the appalling level of racism still prevalent in the US and elsewhere. i would not attribute the absence of lynchings to the promulgation of PC
7. simply saying that one is Napoleon does not make one Napoleon or even make on act like him. there has to be some sort of 'belief' that one actually is Napoleon. simply saying that air stewards and stewardesses are flight attendants will not, of itself, make people behave in less discriminatory fashion in respect of gender.
8. i say again: people in general are wonderfully inventive in circumventing rules of all sorts, including PC rules
9 nothing i have ever said should be taken to imply that i feel people are entitled to indulge in insulting, discriminatory language and/or behaviour (and, yes, i do understand the nature of 'speech-acts'). julie asks what it is that people feel they are being denied: i have no idea what other people feel. i personally don't feel i am being denied anything - i think and speak as i think fit according to the company i am keeping at any given moment. i use situationally appropriate language, as do most people. as did the rednecks i encountered on my recent visit to the Deep South when discussing niggers and what ought to be done to them. i am analysing, not advocating.

That's all. I shall read julie's response, if she cares to make one, but shan't respond again although i'm fairly sure i could. but this is not really the right forum for prolonged intellectual debate :o)

julie said...

I too am done with this topic, sorry to take up the space Nicole. I will just add that Charlie you write like a condescending asshole and you don't know the meaning of the word brief.

charlie said...

ah, right. that brief enough?