Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Political Correctness On Steroids

I consider myself a sensitive person.  Certainly not too sensitive, but sensitive enough to know when someone is trying to insult or diminish me.  However, anyone who knows me would attest to the fact that I am also not an adversarial person, and that if anything, I give some people too much of a benefit of the doubt to a fault. 

So what am I trying to get at?  I’m saying here that if someone said anything offensive to me, I would definitely be one who could detect it.  I may not react, but I would definitely know it.


Now here’s the thing.  Say, you were at a play lot with your preschooler and one of the moms your child plays with blurts out, “Wow, your daughter is tall.  She’s really growing up so fast!”  Would you take offense?

Well, a friend of mine happens to be the one who made the remark and guess what she got for what she said?...a reprimand from the other mom, labeling her spontaneous and might I add, innocent remark, a form of harassment and even bullying.  According to the other mom, what my friend said could potentially make her daughter feel self-conscious and that such comments about the child’s height highlights a difference and is therefore politically incorrect.

I don’t always understand everything that happens in this world but last time I checked, bullying has everything to do with intent.  It’s intended to instill a sense of power imbalance and therefore it aims to intimidate.  It also involves aggressive behavior and negative actions and/or derogatory remarks.  As for political incorrectness, an act has to have the intent to marginalize and promote intolerance to fall under this category.  Mere acknowledgement of differences does not make someone politically incorrect precisely because political correctness is about promoting plurality or acceptance of the existence of such differences. 

I don’t know how commenting on a child being tall could be construed as harassment, bullying and politically incorrect when (1) being tall is generally accepted as an asset, a desired or valued trait in most, if not all, societies; and (2) there was clearly no malicious intent when the observation was made. 

I’m a liberal and am all for political correctness.  But it frustrates me when people invoke political correctness so quickly that they forget about common sense.  Claiming any statement that talks of any sort of difference as ‘politically incorrect’ is simply neurotic to say the least.  Would this mom still be so upset if someone remarked, “Your daughter is so smart and so advanced”?  If she were not a hypocrite, she should feel offended just the same.  Either way, she’s still neurotic in my books.  I feel sorry for her daughter.  Maybe this parent does not realize that by prohibiting anyone around them to say anything that highlights any trait that sets her daughter apart, she is also diminishing her daughter’s humanity.  Sure, she may think that she’s protecting her daughter from insults, but she could also be depriving her daughter from fully realizing her uniqueness and ‘special-ness’.  She’s also not giving the child the opportunity to learn how to discern which comments are objectively harmful, and which ones are merely supportive.  I believe in active and involved parenting.  But I know when something is just too much and when a parent just needs to get over herself/himself and get a life.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this.  How would you have responded to the situation?

***Photo credit: Creative Commons