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Is There a Better Way to Fight ‘Political Correctness’?


The current discussion about political correctness is the result of a perfect storm. Changing gender norms, new social media platforms, and deepening class divisions have led to a renewed conflict over language.

In a number of intimate and sensitive areas of life, cultural and moral norms have changed dramatically. Eight years ago, a democratic presidential candidate opposed the idea of same-sex marriage outright. In 2016, such opposition is regularly condemned as bigoted, even violent.

Changes in public perception of transgender politics have occurred even faster. In just over a year and a half we have gone from one ordinance about the use of bathrooms by transgendered people in Houston, Texas (ultimately struck down), to a national directive from the president. Similar shifts in public conversations about race, class, and religion have brought with them new and ever-evolving rules about language.

For many, mislabeling or intentionally not referring to someone with their preferred name and pronoun is a direct insult to how they define themselves. In effect, such an action says, “I do not accept your identity.” Given the tremendous significance of defining, discovering, creating, and displaying our identity in modern society, to publicly renounce or deny someone’s identity can be deeply hurtful, on an existential level. It can be felt as a direct denial of one’s basic humanity.

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