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Get your Political Correct

Steve Campbell

As you may know, if you follow the countylive.ca blog, I took a lot of heat for referring to the girls at the CIBC bank next door as the girls at the bank next door. I vainly tried to explain that this was not a degrading term, but a term of affection. I asked the females concerned, Tina and Heather, and they said they were not remotely offended, as I suspected.

Being the kind of fool who sticks his head into the mouth of a lion to inspect the sharpness of its teeth, I’m going to elaborate more on this.
Political correctness has its ups and downs. It has removed some clearly hateful words – such as the ‘N’ word – from our vocabulary. Surprisingly, in the age of rap and hip-hop, black people use the word in reference to each other. I certainly wouldn’t try it because, lion-mouth aside, I’m not that stupid. I think they were flashing back to George Carlin’s famous “10 Words you can’t say on TV” … the more you use a word, the less meaning – and power – it has.

PC also has its rough side. My buddy Ian was a crime reporter for the Toronto Sun, a right-leaning, cop-friendly newspaper. He had a good rapport with the street cops, and related an issue of great concern. The new police chief ordered a politically-correct policy in which race and gender were not to be included in dispatch announcements.
The intentions were good, as racial profiling is a delicate issue in the police world. But in practice, it didn’t work so well. Instead of police on the scene looking for a ‘black female’, they were looking for a ‘person with black hair’. You can see the problem. The police need specific information in order to know who they’re looking for, and what they’re walking into.

In another example, a member of a known Vietnamese car-jacking ring was witnessed stealing a car from a driveway. The dispatch reported the suspect was “5’2 with dark hair”.
As the cop said wryly, “If we were given a proper description, we could have been standing outside the chop-shop in Scarborough and caught him driving in.”
This kind of broad treatment with ‘words’ has caused some annoyance in our society. Many well-meaning people try to strip the language down to its basics, in order to be inoffensive to everyone.

But the offense is in the eye of the beholder. This is why the Y-chromosomed, carbon-based life forms in the bank next door did not take offense.
Meanwhile, the bloggers were struggling with the perfectly appropriate way to designate these estrogen-based, occasionally-reproductive humans.
‘Women’ seems to be a favorite. Although when does a girl become a woman? Should we have a test of some sort? And how do women become ‘ladies’? Traditionally, a ‘lady’ was a person of high social standing. Should we have a test for this? Maybe some financial statements, or a family tree showing proper breeding?
On the other hand, “Ma’am” is unacceptable by just about every human female above the age of 20. So we got that one nailed – the ‘M’ word.

While the bloggers are polishing up their keyboards, let me offend everyone with my main point.
Being politically correct is pointless. Calling a library a ‘resource centre’, and calling a janitor ‘custodial personnel’ changes nothing. A chairman is someone in charge of a meeting, regardless of sex. Chairperson is ridiculous, and I refuse to call someone a chair, or any other article of furniture. Would you say someone who is a craftsperson shows good workpersonship? Freaking out every time those three letters appear in that order is a useless exercise. (Unless it improves the actual description, as in ‘firefighter’, a much better word than fireperson, which sounds like someone who starts fires, not stops them!)

But mostly, changing words does nothing. True change is in action.
It’s not about words, it’s about discussion and conversation. Putting words into a blender, so everyone is comfortable, is not the way to go. Then we all ease back in our easy chair, and think the world has been fixed. But it hasn’t. It only drives the haters and the ignorant underground, not able to say what they really think.

I remember when protesters tried to stop a rally by the neo-Nazis in Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto. But I say let them speak. I don’t want them to be quiet and muzzled and invisible, meeting in basements to whip each other into a hate frenzy. I want them to be out front and visible. Know your enemy, or you won’t win against them.

This may disturb you: I don’t believe in International Women’s Day. I also don’t believe in Gay Pride Day, St. Patrick’s Day and, despite my heritage, Robbie Burns Day. Perhaps I should say I wish we didn’t need these days, to make our presence known and have a few brief hours to cheer.
Still, it’s one day: women march, gays go on parade, Irish get drunk, and the Scots eat something even ketchup won’t save. But it’s one day. Then everyone goes back to sleep until next year. Lots of noise in 24 hours, signifying nothing.

History tells us it’s action, not words, that make real change. It takes time. The rise of black rights in the U.S. can be measured in centuries. Acceptance of gays has taken decades, but accelerated in the last few years through media and cultural shifts.
And women? For some strange reason, their centuries of progress have moved at a snail’s pace. Throughout history, and around the world, other matriarchal systems have been accepted without question – including our own indigenous natives (who don’t mind being called Indians, by the way. I checked thoroughly while researching their chapter in our County History book).

We now celebrate the day women got the vote in Canada. Celebrate? To me it’s a national embarrassment that this did not happen a century earlier. How many people do you need? How loud do the voices have to get before we have true equality across the board? Equal pay and equal respect along with equal vote.
Frankly, I don’t care if you call them girls, women, ladies or anything else. If you want to help them, do something! Apparently the Powers That Be only listen to men. What does it take to break the “Good Ol’ Boys Club”? Or perhaps I should say the ‘Organization of self-serving, relatively-mature, testosterone-equipped humans’.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElseSteve Campbell

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  1. Susan says:

    What’s wrong with a “Boy’s Club”? How dare they call those 75 yr old men boys! Shame.

  2. Marnie says:

    It is depressing to contemplate that microaggressions are supposedly “hindering” and oppressing us girls in life. With all of the depressing, aggressing and oppressing we could use a girls’ night out and some girl talk. It’s the microaggressions that will get you every time. County Steve must be watched closely. With that sly transgression so cleverly woven into his column he may have set back Women’s Lib by a decade. If he is not monitored his next bold move well could be reference to a hen party.

  3. Ian says:

    J:

    It’s not offensive to refer to someone as a “girl” if the intent and context is respectful. You may personally find the term offensive but your blanket pronouncement that the term itself is offensive suggests that you consider yourself in a position to dictate to everyone else how they will communicate with one another. Isn’t that the height of oppression?

    Different regions can ascribe different meanings to identical words. It’s called semantic differentiation. In rural regions of Eastern Ontario, “girl” and “boy” are both used as pronouns denoting familiarity and conviviality. They are often used self-referentially (eg. “I’m going out with the boys.”).

    Your last post attempted to justify the suppression of free speech based on your “intention”. Are you not willing to give the same benefit to others?

  4. Olmanonthemtn says:

    You can have a variety of intentions for the term that has nothing to do with oppression if you choose that as the default motive then you will apparently take offence regardless of
    who, when or why it was used as Prasher commented PC “has stifled frank exchange of ideas and has made debates one-sided and pre-concluded.”

  5. J says:

    Oh and it’s not that difficult if your intention isn’t to oppress people.

  6. J says:

    Ian, my apologies my sarcasm didn’t read clearly- text makes it more difficult. I identified the gender and race of the author because he stressed how important it is in profiling offenders.

  7. J says:

    I am a woman and I am telling you it’s offensive. These constant everyday mircoaggessions hinders us. That someone refers to us using a word designated for a child is just one of many offenses.

  8. Olmanonthemtn says:

    “Everyone is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.”

    ― Winston S. Churchill

  9. Marnie says:

    J – You make the point that perhaps women could have a say in how they are represented. If you re-read the posts in this thread you will not find a single woman complaining about Steve’s comments. Tell you anything? He might have referred to male bank employees as “the guys at the bank” or “the boys’ as you have suggested but only a pompous or insecure man would be likely to object be being one of the guys – or boys. Those who constantly look for reasons to take offence are bound to find it. Here in the county most of us have better things to do.

  10. Olmanonthemtn says:

    “Whether you find the word “girl” offensive or not depends, as ever, on context. Is it being said by a man or a woman? What is the age of the female being called a girl? And what is the “INTENTION”(my emphasis) behind the use – is it belittling, affectionate, or purely descriptive?” from Is the word ‘girl’ offensive? by Naomi McAuliffe the Guardian May 2014

    One wonders if the indiscriminate reference to mysogny [SIC]: “a hatred of women” without consideration as to the particular social context of how girl was used is a case of “misandry”. I could say so if I’m determined to impose personal prejudice, use the term to control and stifle debate and belittle someone who doesn’t share my opinion and should I consider women who use the term between themselves and men as unenlightened sellouts. Social life is complex yet political correctness resorts to meaningless simplicity

  11. Ian says:

    Dear J:

    Your invectives are ironic.

    No one except you raised the issue of race. No one except you made a sweeping generalization about a person based upon their race and gender.

    The fact that you consider the suppression of free speech “not that difficult” is instructive.

    You have no idea what privileges or disadvantages anyone has enjoyed or suffered.

  12. Marnie says:

    Most county women are not that uptight about being called girls. We have more important things to occupy our minds. There are some people who are eager to take offence. They can’t wait for a perceived slight in order to complain. Rock on County Steve.

  13. Zev says:

    Umm, if the ‘girls’ at the bank are indeed ‘Y chromosomed’, as you wrote, then I surmise they have more pressing concerns to deal with than how you choose to refer to them…..

  14. J says:

    Susan, I do not like being referred to as a child. Would he have referred to them as the ‘boys’ at the bank? No. He wouldn’t. Mysogny is so ingrained he doesn’t even consider that perhaps women could have a say in how they are represented. This mindset limits women on a day to day basis and even though he claims knowledge in this area I guarantee Steve is not an expert in this area to even be speaking in this regard.
    But yes, freedom of speech gives you lots of opportunities to mainsplain things to us Steve.

  15. Susan says:

    Need to lighten up. I know a ton of women who enjoy being called girls!

  16. Dennis Fox says:

    J – thank you for speaking up on this issue. I too have found this “county comfort level” to be totally out of sync with modern thinking and something not to be proud of. If I can say one thing that I don’t agree with you on is the “white male” comment – being one myself I can only say that I found the article and those comments supporting it offensive too. I worked all my life to bring people of all backgrounds together – this trite idea(as expressed earlier) that political correctness is fascist in nature to be ridiculous. What many haven’t come to terms with is the fact that political correctness is simply the right thing to do because it respects people. If anyone doubts me, then look south of our border.

  17. J says:

    You argue (in a round about way) that political correctness impacta your (white male) freedom of speech all the while condemning another group for their speech.
    If a member of a population asks you not to use a term they find deragtory, dehumanizing or anything else, you stop. It’s honestly not that difficult. The rhetoric I see in your blogs make me ashamed to be from the county. And people who comment that it’s ‘just the county way’ should take a long hard look at that statment of themselves.
    Checking your privilege is uncomfortable, but if you don’t start doing it you’re clearly part of the problem.

  18. olmnonthemtn says:

    some more thoughts
    “Those who are determined to be ‘offended’ will discover a provocation somewhere. We cannot possibly adjust enough to please the fanatics, and it is degrading to make the attempt.”
    “I’m very depressed how in this country you can be told “That’s offensive” as though those two words constitute an argument.”
    ― Christopher Hitchens

    “I am willing to contribute for a grand tombstone for Political Correctness (PC). This mouthplug has made us cowards, afraid to exercise our freedom of expression. It has stifled frank exchange of ideas and has made debates one-sided and pre-concluded. It has given strength to ideas which cannot defend themselves in an open debate. PC may be acceptable in private space but it is diastrous in public space as it makes that public space an oxymoron by making it restricted to only the “acceptable”. Democracy is about competitive ideas and PC is undemocratic as it discounts the possibility of a level playing field. All growth of ideas is through cross fertilisation and PC leads to degeneration of ideas by restricting the process to inbreeding. Only those who use weakness as leverage to gain advantage without effort or have an hidden agenda will root for PC. It is the tool of the lazy and the devious. My offer for its tombstone stands.”
    ― R. N. Prasher

    Does political correctness have a good side? Yes, it does, for it makes us re-examine attitudes, and that is always useful. The trouble is that, with all popular movements, the lunatic fringe so quickly ceases to be a fringe; the tail begins to wag the dog. For every woman or man who is quietly and sensibly using the idea to examine our assumptions, there are 20 rabble-rousers whose real motive is desire for power over others, no less rabble-rousers because they see themselves as anti-racists or feminists or whatever.”
    ― Doris Lessing

  19. Susan says:

    I think it was “Irish get drunk”.

  20. james bondy says:

    Rationally spoken, Steve, and humourous euphemisms. Thanks.

    And to Dennis Fox: Has he not noticed that women are traditionally underpaid and undervalued? I don’t see how that is the result of journalists’ writing.
    And what kind of insult does he intend by referring to the “Irsh” on St. Patrick’s Day?

  21. Adam Ant says:

    The racial slurs at Fenway are a problem. Steve talking like a real county boy not some county want a be who is not from the county , that is not a problem.

  22. olmnonthemtn says:

    Some thoughts:
    “Political correctness is America’s newest form of intolerance, and it is especially pernicious because it comes disguised as tolerance. It presents itself as fairness, yet attempts to restrict and control people’s language with strict codes and rigid rules. I’m not sure that’s the way to fight discrimination. I’m not sure silencing people or forcing them to alter their speech is the best method for solving problems that go much deeper than speech.”
    and
    “Political Correctness is fascism pretending to be Manners”
    George Carlin

  23. Dennis Fox says:

    I am not out to change the world, but only to express an opinion that creates a dialogue – which I have done. I’m finished with this topic.

  24. Marnie says:

    Well said, Steve. Political correctness has gone too far and has become detrimental to the cause. We are expected to tiptoe around fearful of offending with something as simple as an innocent reference to two highly regarded women as “girls”. There will always be those willing to take umbrage at the drop of the hat. Political correctness should mean politeness and respect not a silly word game. “Girls” is not a derogatory word or put-down. Here in the county it means we like you. You are not out of touch but Dennis is definitely reaching for a hot potato.

  25. kevin says:

    Minds overshadowed by ego, hiding behind political correctness and the like. Please, for all of us, keep writing the real stuff that really matters. Thumbs up.

  26. Dennis Fox says:

    I don’t think you get it Steve – celebratory parades are “action” and not just one day when women march or gays march or the St. Patrick’s Day parade as a time for the Irish get drunk.(somewhat of an insult to the Irsh). These events came about because a lot of people worked hard to make their point – often at times when others were prepared to beat their heads in if they opened their mouths. To suggest that everyone goes back to sleep once they are over and that these events signify nothing is simply wrong and proving you to be totally out of touch. You don’t seem to understand that these parades and celebrations have continued for many years because they are important to a great number of people. I believe you are out of your depth on this issue of political correctness. You make the statement – “that for some strange reason, women’s centuries of progress has moved at a snails pace.” Gee I wonder if it could be due to journalists who try to justify calling grown women “the girls?.”

  27. gilles miramontes says:

    As in every argument, there’s one exception: I still keep hearing the term “female mailman”. In print it makes sense but to the ears it’s a conundrum.

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