“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words…”- George Orwell, 1984.
This morning, a stranger attacked my parenting skills. I was in line at Starbucks when my kids asked me if the mailman had already shown up at our house, because they wanted to mail my dad a card.
“Oh, sweeties. You shouldn’t use that word,” the woman behind us said to my kids.
“What word?” I asked.
“Mailman. You know, they should really be using a gender neutral term because you can’t be sure who will deliver your mail on any given day.” She glared at me like I was a complete idiot.
I run a wellness platform for lawyers and law students, and we talk a lot about mindfulness and taking a beat to think things over. It would probably be bad form for me to lash out, especially with my kids present, so I replied “You certainly have interesting opinions that you like to share,” and left it at that, even though I had a lot more to say.
In the legal profession, entire cases can hinge on a comma or use of a particular word, so I know that words matter. But with that said, we all need to calm the F down.
Many people feel political correctness has run out of control on college and law school campuses across the U.S. A Pew Research Center survey in 2016 found that 59 percent of Americans say “too many people are easily offended these days over the language that others use.”
While the original intent of political correctness is good (to encourage sensitivity to others’ feelings around protected classes like race, religion, national origin, gender, etc), the IMPACT of political correctness has been to muzzle us from speaking.
In 2019, it has gotten to the point where we aren’t even comfortable talking to each other at work or at school. The solution of political correctness is worse than the problem it is trying to solve, which is to protect our feelings. Don’t believe me? See for yourself:
1. Mark Cuban Gets Blasted for Using the Term “Owner”.
This week, Mark Cuban stirred up controversy by using the term “owner” in the Dallas Mavericks media guide. Several basketball players, including Draymond Green, have complained that the word “owner” is racially insensitive. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stated that though the word “owner” is not banned, the league office isn’t using the term “owner” anymore and is using words like “governor” instead. Cuban likely used the word “owner” because he actually owns a business entity in an attempt to profit from its successful operations.
This can’t possibly be a real headline. (but it is).
2. Washington State Prisons Now Calls Their Inmates “Students”
The Washington State Department of Corrections now refers to inmates as “students.” KIRO 7 in Seattle reported that it now applies to all inmates, including the Killer Gary Ridgway, who killed over 90 people. Why are any of us worried about this dude’s feelings?
3.Princeton University Bans Use of the Word “Man”
I had a hard time digesting this one, and it’s not even a new policy. Instead of using “man,” employees are told to use words such as human beings, individuals or people.Other guidelines? Switch out “man made” with artificial, handmade or manufactured. “
Here’s the thing with all this political correctness: how are we ever going to be able to communicate effectively if we are all too afraid to speak without fear of offending someone and being labeled as a bad parent, an insensitive student or worse?
I totally understand the intent behind being politically correct: I am a minority woman who is often protected by such efforts. But I do think we have taken things way too far: I am not sure how today’s students, including my kids, are going to be able to get to know one another and to understand others’ different perspectives, viewpoints and feelings if they can’t even speak without being chastised for some innocuous comment.
I am also not sure how my kids will ever get into Princeton, since they just violated the school’s policy by using the word “mailman”.