It isn't “political correctness” to ask you not to be an asshole. (Image: Thinkstock)
It baffles me that the term “Social Justice Warrior” is used as an insult. Two of those words are indicative of equality in terms of privilege, wealth, and opportunity, and the third word is a noun for someone who routinely fights and kills their enemies. All things considered, that’s pretty fucking rad as far as insults go.
However, anyone who publicly advocates for “social justice” will inevitably find themselves mocked or dismissed by a specific type of person. Usually, this person will be someone (a straight white male, more often than not) on Facebook you’ve kind of met twice. They’ll be easy to spot by their sharing of “TRIGGERED” memes and how quickly they come to the defense of white cops shooting unarmed black men. The most obvious red light, though, is an offhanded comment they’ll make at some point to “let you know what kind of person they are”
“I just have to let you know now; I’m NOT the PC type. If you want political correctness, stay away.”
Let’s completely ignore the fact that the term “political correctness” isn’t inherently a bad thing. Let's also ignore the notion that the anti-political correctness movement in the late 90s turned out to be nothing more than a national scare about censorship that nobody really took too seriously.
It isn't “political correctness” to ask you not to be an asshole. It isn't “censorship” to ask that you consider the basic human rights and feelings of others before spewing your toxic, hateful, inconsiderate bullshit for the world to see.
Let's use this opportunity to run through a few examples of how your cries of “social justice warriors trying to censor” you are actually just thinly veiled excuses to be kind of shitty people.
“It just seems like everyone is so sensitive now. Does EVERYTHING need a trigger warning?”
This complaint has never made sense to me. Content warnings have existed nearly as long as media has - the little notifications before TV shows warning you that “viewer discretion is advised,” or the letter on the bottom of a video game box warning you that this game is basically mowing down dudes with an assault rifle for eight hours, and maybe your six-year-old shouldn't play it.
Furthermore, what we think of as “people becoming more sensitive” is actually just an evolution in discourse. People have always had traumatic experiences that trigger them, but only recently have we established a space safe enough for us to talk about them and ask that they be considered.
It's akin to how it suddenly seemed like everyone started going to therapy in the past 10 years, when in reality people have been going for decades. The culture doesn't as harshly demonize mental illness the way it used to, no longer necessitating we keep these things secret.
Ultimately, putting a trigger warning on something you share barely takes as much effort as a hashtag. So if you can take the time to let us know your selfie has #NoFilter, maybe you can take a moment to warn us if the article you're sharing graphically describes rape.
“I don't care what his chosen name is now that he's a woman. He was born a man and that's what I'm going to call him.”
It's so disappointing how many people I've seen say this, especially since Caitlyn Jenner.
Now, personally I'm no fan of Caitlyn’s, but that really doesn't matter here. Regardless of my personal feelings on someone, they deserve to be referred to by their name and pronouns. That's what we call “basic human decency,” and as a general rule of thumb we don't really get to pick and choose who we give that to.
Using the name someone chose for themselves when working out their gender identity requires literally no more effort than using a nickname, and is far more important to that person.
Remember in junior high school when you decided it was time for “New Year, New Bradley” so you insisted everyone call you “Brad” now, instead? Remember correcting every person who used the wrong name until it stuck?
Imagine that, only now, every use of your birth name feels dismissive of an identity you've endured hardship for and struggled to create for yourself.
What is this “I'm going to use the name and pronouns they were born with” bullshit trying to prove, anyway? That you're too stubborn to put in the tiniest bit of effort to validate someone? If we were forced to be loyal to the things we were as infants, I'd still be shitting my pants and crying when I was hungry.
... I still cry when I'm hungry, but my point stands.
“I can't believe I'm not allowed to call someone a [insert racist/homophobic/transphobic/other offensive term!] What about my freedom of speech?! They're JUST WORDS!”
I'm so tired of people bringing up freedom of speech in order to defend their right to be a shithead.
Do you think that when the Founding Fathers fought in the trenches and attempted to establish an independent nation in the face of immeasurable odds, their biggest concern was “making sure Gary is allowed to say the N-word when he sings along to Ludacris?”
Freedom of speech exists to ensure that no one in this country feels voiceless. It was established in a time when those who were subjugated by a powerful ruler had no right to representation or a say in the fate of their homeland. Freedom of speech defends the human right to express thoughts and ideas without fear of government consequence.
Using freedom of speech to defend your right to call your friend Jim a f*ggot when he admits to liking Taylor Swift is kind of like using the “fan” setting on an air conditioner. Technically you have that option, but that's not really why you have it in the first place.
Anyone who claims “they're just words” is either lying to themselves or has never been in the fifth grade.
Language is the means through which we can most easily communicate our thoughts and feelings with the outside world. Everyone inherently understands this, to the point that we treat the words of others with a certain degree of seriousness, even when we know they're completely joking.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is a bullshit metaphor we tell to children in order to get them to brush off cruel words instead of confronting their hurt feelings. Words possess a power that can irrevocably alter how we see ourselves, and once they're heard they can't be unheard. That demands a certain level of responsibility.
Why do you even want to say those words, anyway? They're hateful, painful words used to subjugate people of different cultures, to dehumanize and demean them in order to help them remain docile. When people of those cultures use those words, it's said ironically to remove the power and negative connotations those words have had on people of their culture for centuries. Those words are spoken in the same way someone with clinical mental illness (like myself) jokes about being crazy — they're survivors trying to co-opt hateful language to weaken the power of those problematic ideas the language is used to promote.
If you want to be a bigot, that's fine (actually, that's specifically not fine but I'm trying to make a point so just come with me on this journey,) but don't do so under the guise of being some kind of rebellious freedom fighter refusing to be corrupted by the impending doom that is political correctness.
Be honest about what you are: inconsiderate, lazy, and more willing to add toxicity to a culture already permeated with negativity and hatred than you are to stop using “gay” as an insult.
We won't respect you anymore, but at least you'll be more obvious and therefore easier to avoid.
Now if you don't mind, this social justice warrior needs to go sharpen his blades. That's something warriors do, right? I'm not sure, I was just trying to be poetic.