Is ‘political correctness gone mad’ a myth?
RECENTLY some of Australia's high profile names have come out and called for an end to 'politically correct madness'.
This is in response to recent decisions including but not limited to the plastic bag ban, universities marking down students for using gender-specific terms and of course these same institutions creating safe spaces for marginalised students.
And yes, as a whole and from afar, it can appear to be madness.
For many, it can feel like an attack on free speech or pandering to a "minority politically correct sector" as former NSW premier John Fahey puts it. It can feel like something that you once had is now being taken away for no good reason. But is this really true?
Let's consider this, are we Australians imagining this adversity when we really have nothing to complain about? Because it sure feels like it.
Take the plastic bag ban. Part of the idea is to reduce plastic use in order to prevent more unnecessary non-biodegradable waste landing itself into the ocean and killing sea life. In response to the ban, retailers like Coles and Woolworths are offering slightly thicker plastic bags which you now have to pay 15c for.
I see how this looks like a cash grab by money-hungry companies, how we're still falling into the same lock-step that is killing sea creatures, but this time we have to pay our hard-earned cash for it. Is this bullsh*t? Probably. But is this political correctness gone mad? No.
To say political correctness is to blame is to take the easy, defensive option. I had to reconsider what political correctness even meant, as it's used so flagrantly and often.
But attempting to reduce waste going into oceans shouldn't be part of the 'political correctness' discussion. This decision wasn't made to 'pander' to minorities, it's trying to prevent us from destroying Earth too quickly.
"But they're charging for a product that was once free!" you may say.
I may not be able to afford a house in Sydney one day, but I can sure as hell afford to dial down my convenience level at the shops if it means I'm helping to stop killing the fish that I love eating so much.
Moving on to the fear of gender neutral language and university safe spaces, I see how this can be daunting.
Some 40 years ago, language and society was never this considerate on an individual level.
It can seem outlandish that children have the agency to declare what they're feeling about who they are at such a young age.
But is this political correctness revoking our freedom of speech? Probably not.
Here's my hot take: If you don't need a safe space and think it's unnecessary, it probably wasn't made for you, and that's OK.
When I attended Macquarie University there was a dedicated queer space for students.
No dramas for me, because I never felt like I needed it. I never felt like an opportunity had been taken away from me, because every room is a space safe for straight people.
For high-profile Australians, it can be easy to declare a take-down on political correctness when you've never needed "safe spaces" or inclusive language. Another former NSW premier, Bob Carr, says safe spaces "should not be needed", but right now, they are.
I agree, banning the ban isn't just a fun slogan, it's a valid point. It's easy to declare a ban but what isn't easy is dismantling the entire system an issue was built upon. And you may be thinking, "If you're so full of ideas, then what would you suggest?"
Starting at the bottom. Even if it means small changes to our everyday lives like using reusable bags when we can remember to bring them or letting people have a room, even if it's just one on a whole campus, to feel like they belong.