My friend Dave Freer, over at Mad Genius Club has a blog about Political Correctness in literature. I confess I have agreed with him ever since I was first trying to break into writing and found myself reading manuals on how to be politically correct in my writing.
I’ve learned to use the execrable he/she or worse, they instead of he in the type of sentence that now goes “one shouldn’t do that, lest they” simply because it’s not worth to endure screams of outrage over what’s at worse inelegant and agrammatical. And the type of person who thinks her worth lies in not being referred to under a generic “masculine” pronoun – as dictated by the rules of most indo european languages — inevitably also things screaming about it is an act of civic duty if not virtue.
However, the more serious issues of the thought-binding rule of political correctness over literature have come to disgust me.
It is hard not to stand and cheer at Dave’s comments, including:
What neither of these definition set out is that PC is prescriptive, imposed from above, decided on by a self-selected group (usually those who shout loudest, and have a stake in establishing ‘victim’ status, and yes, by those in power. The PC-police – especially to writers, are the self-elected judges, juries and executioners. They can destroy your career, your livelihood at a whim, there is no appeal, or due process in the first place, and their hate campaigns will indiscriminately attack you, your friends and your family. You have no redress. You’d be far more fairly treated as a woman accused of adultery in Pakistan, let alone by any better justice system.
Their rules are intrinsically imposed – because if it was by broad consent or popular, you would not have to police it or even suggest it – which is why the Zuky interpretation comes in as wholly inaccurate. No-one had to tell everyone to wear yellow ribbons, or jump on anyone who didn’t. Nor were the controlling powers (ruling politicians, and in our field, publishers and editors, decreeing this. They followed a popular sentiment for their own ends, not enforced the sentiment). Of course, reading a little more of Zuky’s posts heesh probably didn’t share the sentiment, and thus felt that anyone else being able to express them shouldn’t be allowed. Yes, tolerance at its best.) Which is another defining feature of the way this operates: It is one way traffic. Those selected for deliberate non-offence are free to abuse those declared ‘bad’, as is anyone else. It sets up a clear hierarchy of who has most ‘right to redress’ (AKA privilege) as a victim. It has no sunset on those privileges. If your great great grandmother was a designated ‘victim’, and you – with just 1/16 of her blood now live in a mansion and enjoy special privileges as result, which set you far above Joe Average, your grandchildren will still have that 1/64 of DNA outvoting the rest and insuring that they can stand in front of line. And to those who have set the orthodoxy, even the questioning of individual points, let alone the concept of top-down prescription, is not PC and must be disciplined away. Very Stalinist, and a little historical research should show why that is a bad idea.
I can’t do Dave’s article (or his books) justice here. Please read the whole thing.