Political Correctness: the Oxford American Dictionary defines it as "the avoidance... of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people." Okay, we can get behind that. But what does it actually mean in reality?
|Wanda Sykes - Politically Correct|
Okay, so political correctness is not the most effective way of improving the lives of other people (or animals, or baked goods, as we'll see). In moderation, it's an easy way of not being a dick. When it's abused, it's a way to split hairs and be self-righteous while not actually doing anything. Taken to extremes, it's just fodder for humorous articles like this one.
This list probably could have been populated entirely with the headline-grabbing antics of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Generally known for their self-righteous and extreme protests (such as wearing KKK outfits to protest dog shows), PETA recently has launched its campaign against fishing. Rather than calling attention to the effects of overfishing on marine environments, or how exhausting populations of certain species can effect entire ecological food chains, they have instead begun a PR campaign to rename fish as Sea Kittens. "Fish need to fire their PR guy — stat," states the website. "You've done enough damage, buddy. We've got it from here. And we're going to start by retiring the old name for good."
Right. Good luck with that one, PETA.
Okay, so not all mailmen are men. Not all firemen come equipped with hoses, if you know what I mean. In some ways, it makes sense to not make jobs and titles gender-specific. However, we draw the line at desserts.
In 2006, a regional manager for The Baker's Oven, a chain bakery in England, decided it was time to modernize some of their baked goods. This wasn't the 50's anymore, by golly, and saying "Gingerbread Man" was exclusive and misogynistic. All the store employees were instructed to start calling the cookies "Gingerbread Persons". Not only that, but the manager insisted that they actually correct the customers if they dared asked for a gingerbread man.
Who exactly were they trying to protect here? The Gingerbread Women, who were sick of being marginalized? The Gingerbread Genderbenders, who refused to adhere to the Gingerbread Binary? Just to make sure, nobody was pulling down their gingerbread pants and actually checking their gingerbread genitalia, were they?
Ho Ho No
In another front on the war against profanity, Santa's famous laugh came under fire. In 2007, the Westaff firm - which supplied Santas for malls across Australia - told its Santas-in-training not to say "Ho Ho Ho", as the word "ho" is American slang for a prostitute.
Even a director for the group Kids Free 2B Kids, which campaigns against the sexualization of children, called bullshit. "Gimme a break," she said. "We're talking about little kids."
Besides, it's Santa! An old fat guy who knows when you're sleeping or awake, good or bad. You sit on his lap and tell him all your secret desires, and in return, he breaks into your house and leaves you gifts. There's no way to not make Santa sound like the ultimate creeper, and making him say "Ha Ha Ha" won't help. You might as well just learn to live with it.
The Black Viking
In the years leading to the passage of the Affirmative Action Bill, popular media began its own kind of half-assed inclusion revolution. It started introducing token characters of color into television programs and movies. These characters were usually incidental to the plot. They were generally there as a kind of nod to the Civil Rights movement. The worst - or funniest - example is probably from the 1978 movie The Norseman. In it, Deacon Jones, a black football star, plays a black Viking. His anachronistic presence is explained by saying he got picked up by the crew after a raiding mission on the African coast. (It also explains that he cut out one of the other crewman's tongue, but apparently, that was forgiven.) Thrall, as the character is called, gets a whole ONE line of dialogue, and serves no other purpose in the film but as an excuse for the executive producers to pat themselves on the back. Nowadays, with the growing awareness of Tokenism in media, television and film producers have started avoiding obviously anachronistic characters.
The Black Friar
Okay, or maybe not. The popular BBC series Robin Hood cast David Harewood as Friar Tuck. The character - generally portrayed as a fat, balding, drunkard - was reinvented as an ass-kicking African monk with a revolutionary spirit. While his character is a vast improvement over Thrall the Silent's, it's still an obvious ploy by the show's producers to appeal to a larger audience. Never mind that the majority of Northern Africans were, in fact, Muslim (remember that whole Crusade thing that was being fought at the time?), and that most monasteries probably wouldn't have accepted a black monk - racism was alive and well back in the 12th century.
Even David Harewood thought it was faintly ridiculous. "I actually laughed,” he said, when he got the offer.
Kid's Clubs - Now Accepting All Members
When tokenism is taken to extremes, it results in what the popular site TVTropes.com refers to as a "Five Token Band": groups that are made up of an unlikely mixture of people, the sort of which is rarely seen in reality.
Burger King's "Kids Club Gang" - a marketing ploy created in the 1989 - is one such band. Its cast of characters include a tomboy named Boomer, a Hispanic boy named Lingo, a short, redheaded nerd named I.Q., a black boy named Jaws, and a kid in a wheelchair named Wheels.
Yes, you read that right. The paraplegic boy is called Wheels. This was before sensitivity training, apparently.
The happy and unrealistically diverse gang is led by a white boy, whose fashion is inspired by too many Flash comics, named Kid Vid. There's also a dog, named J.D. We suspect that he belongs to Kid Vid, because of its matching goggles and because the gang leaders always own the dog.
The Kid's Club Gang is still going strong, though its territory is now restricted to - for unknown reasons - Middle-Eastern Burger Kings. You can still see them in action in the website for the BK in Qatar.
Banned Bonfires in Berkshire
Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot...
Guy Fawkes night is a traditional British celebration of burning stuff and blowing shit up -- or rather, the commemoration of a failed assassination attempt against King James I. Its history goes back over 400 years, and is celebrated with bonfires, fireworks, and the burning of effigies (traditionally of Guy Fawkes, but also of whatever political figure is in the public's crosshairs at the time).
In 2007, the city council of a town in Berkshire, England decided to ban the bonfires and burning of effigies at the Guy Fawkes. A huge fuss was kicked up almost immediately; the council was accused of bowing down to pressure to not exclude minorities from the festival.
The council, naturally, denied this. It claimed instead that it had banned the bonfire out of concerns for the environment.
Honestly, we can't decide which is worse: banning a traditional English celebration in England because it might exclude minorities, or banning it because of one night of excessive carbon emissions.
Monkey See, Monkey Sue
Dragons are apparently too dangerous for children to look at. Cooking stoves and ladders are out, too. The publishers for Lindsey Gardner, a popular children's author, asked her to drop illustrations of a dragon toasting marshmallows, a lit stove, and a boy on a ladder. The company cited fears of being sued under health and safety regulations, should one extremely stupid child mimic the actions shown in the book and injure itself.
"I've had books published in Japan, France, Spain and Holland and they don't ask for the same changes," the author said in an interview. "It seems to be in Britain and the U.S. that there are problems."
Only in Britain and the US? Where all of these other stories have taken place? You don't say.
Nursery schools in England came under fire in 2006, after several began altering the words to various nursery rhymes. The song that came under the most scrutiny was, of all things, "Baa Baa Black Sheep", originally written in 1741 to satirize the taxes on exported wool. It goes like this:
Baa, baa, black sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir,
Three bags full;
One for the master,
And one for the dame,
And one for the little boy
Who lives down the lane
It seems fairly innocuous, right? In the nursery schools mentioned in the article, the word "black" was instead replaced with "rainbow" or "happy" or even "bouncing."
A couple of questions: when did the word "black" become inappropriate for children? And who the hell has ever seen a rainbow sheep, outside of some kind of redneck prank?
After America entered the second world war, anti-German sentiment began to grip the nation in a patriotic fever. Bach and Beethoven were no longer played at the symphony. German was no longer taught at public schools. Anyone with German heritage was suspect. It was during these times that some of the first PC renaming campaigns came into their own. Say you wanted a frankfurter with some sauerkraut on it: you'd have to be sure to order a hot dog with some liberty cabbage on it, or you might be suspected of having Nazi sympathies.
The movement didn't end with food. Dachshunds were renamed liberty hounds and German measles were renamed - you guessed it - liberty measles.
Ridiculous, right? It's the kind of thing that could only happen to a nation gripped with paranoia, at the height of a terrible conflict of good and evil...
...Or it could just be an American thing. After the President of France, Jacques Chirac, openly condemned America going to war with Iraq in 2003, the cafeterias in the House of Representatives renamed french fries and french toast "freedom fries" and "freedom toast".
The Republican representative Bob Ney, who was in charge of the cafeterias, defended his actions by calling them "a small but symbolic effort to show the strong displeasure of many on Capitol Hill with the actions of our so-called ally, France."
Timothy Noah, a writer for Slate magazine, reported: "No word yet on whether the House similarly plans to adopt the neologisms "freedom horn," "freedom doors," "freedom kissing," and "freedom tickler."
Wet Leisure Assistants and Vertical Transport Engineers
Big businesses have enthusiastically embraced politically correct language. A recent poll on the BBC's website asked readers to submit their best longwinded job titles. Apparently, calling someone a garbage collector or a tour guide was denigrating and demoralizing. It's much better to be waste management and disposal technician, or a coordinator of interpretive teaching (even if you don't get an actual pay raise to go along with your grandiose job title). A few other favorites include:
Modality Manager (nurse)
Debt Management Officer (tax collector)
Vertical Transport Engineer (elevator engineer)
Communications Executive (telemarketer)
Worldwide Marine Asset Financial Analyst (accountant)
Wet Leisure Assistant (lifeguard)
Welcome to the $*%@! Internet
A group on Facebook is petitioning for a profanity filter to be added to the social media site. An 'article' on the group's Facebook page whines that, "Many people use what they consider freedom to say whatever they want. All that does is take away the the possibility the rest of us can have the freedom to enjoy being out in public without being barraged by crass and foul language."
They are asking for Facebook to block words from appearing on these delicate flowers' computer screens, causing the phrase "Go fuck a llama, you assface" to appear "Go ---- a llama, you ---face."
Of course, should they actually achieve their goal, they might not find it entirely to their liking, as is demonstrated below.
The Scunthorpe Problem
In 1996, the upstanding citizens of Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire, England found that AOL would not allow them to create accounts. Scunthorpe didn't pass through AOL's profanity filters, because it unfortunately contained the word "cunt" in its name. The same problem came up with the towns of PEN ISland, LighTWATer, and CLITheroe.
Fourteen years later, automatic filters are still causing problems. Google's default SafeSearch engine automatically filters out websites with naughty words in them. Too bad for small businesses like ALittleGirlsBoutique.com, or the Horniman Museum.
Problems also arise when the filters contain features that automatically replace words deemed obscene. Which is great, until it turns sentences like "President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by an armed assailant after a life devoted to the reform of the US constitution" into: "President Abraham Lincoln was buttbuttinated by an armed buttailant after a life devoted to the reform of the US consbreastution."
Monkey-Fighting Snakes on this Monday-to-Friday Plane
Unless you've managed to procure satellite television, or are one of the stone-agers who manage to exist without your daily dose of Law & Order, you've probably watched at least one movie that's been edited for TV audiences. The Federal Communications Commission can fine networks and broadcasters for showing obscene material (such as Janet Jackson's breast during Super Bowl XXXVIII). Besides boobs, programs shown on television are forbidden from profane language or extreme violence.
You have the FCC to thank for the image of Miami being like a great big chicken, just waiting to be plucked.