Homo Consumericus

The nature and nurture of consumption

On the Follies of the Politically Correct Language Police

I am not obese: I am differently weighted!

Earlier today, I was listening to a radio talk show where the topic of conversation revolved around couples who choose to forgo having children. I noticed that the term “childfree” was being used instead of “childless.” One presumes that this is because the former connotes freedom to choose one’s reproductive status whilst the latter is “deeply hurtful,” “offensive,” and “insensitive.” As someone who escaped execution in Lebanon because of my religious heritage (for a brief description of my harrowing past see here), I am baffled by these manufactured first-world problems. There are astonishing injustices that take place daily around the globe against women, members of the LBGT community, religious minorities, apostates, atheists, children, animals, and countless other hapless victims, and yet entitled professional “victims” spend their lives coming up with ways to combat the “violence” of so-called politically incorrect terms. This movement stems in part from two separate ideas: 1) Deconstructionism, a postmodernist framework that purports that language creates reality (see my earlier article critiquing postmodernism here); and 2) Ethos of illusory victimhood, which in this case contends that politically incorrect terms are a form of violent assault (i.e., assault is not merely restricted to the physical realm). Put these two ideas together and you get a recipe for “language police” lunacy.

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I conducted a few quick Google searches to identify some politically incorrect terms and their correct counterparts. Here is a small list of such words:

Secretary => Administrative assistant

Stewardess => Flight attendant

Janitor => Custodial engineer

Garbage collector => Sanitation engineer

Hairdresser => Stylist

Waiter => Server

Prostitute => Sex worker

Chairman => Chairperson

History => Herstory (or hertory)

Women => Womyn

Mankind => Humankind or humanity

Sex change => Gender re-assignment

Terrorist => Freedom fighter

Terrorist act => Man-made disaster

Founding Fathers (of the United States) => The founders

Birth defect => Congenital disability

Mentally ill => Person with mental illness (this is known as people-first language)

Handicapped => Differently abled

Healthy/normal => Able-bodied

Fat/Obese => Differently weighted

Black => African-American 

Oriental person => Asian person

Oriental rug => It is perfectly fine to use the term “oriental” in describing objects but not people

Illegal immigrant => Undocumented immigrant

Eskimo => Inuit

Native Indians (in Canada) => First Nations

American Indian => Native American

[Sports teams with supposedly racist and offensive names: Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Chiefs, and the Washington Redskins]

Older students => Non-traditional students

Merry Christmas => Happy holidays

 

I don’t wish to imply that language is an innocuous mode of communication. Of course, humans have used language since time immemorial to inflict injury and pain on one another. However, while it is incumbent on all decent people to do their best to avoid hurting one another, these politically correct language initiatives are misguided and harmful. They create highly entitled professional “victims” who expect to be free from any offense, and they engender a stifling atmosphere where all individuals walk on eggshells lest they might commit a linguistic capital crime (unbeknownst to them in the great majority of instances). It is not “dehumanizing” to call someone an illegal immigrant if he/she resides in the host country illegally. There is nothing offensive about the word “obese.” It is a descriptor of a person’s weight. Given the current meaning of “African American,” white South Africans and olive-skinned Algerians who are naturalized Americans cannot be called “African-American” even though they originate from Africa. The linguistic idiocy is endless. Of all possible ways that someone might work to make the world a better place, it is difficult to imagine a less worthy endeavor than engaging in endless and somewhat random linguistic samba (is it offensive to use the term “samba” here?).

By the way, I am very hurt that my physician stated that my body mass index places me in the obese category. He is being unduly offensive and is engaging in genocidal fatism. He should understand that in reality I simply have a different but equally beautiful physical form consisting of largely “soft” tissue. As a member of the (visible majority) community of the differently weighted, my feelings should be protected at all costs.

Given the topic of today’s post, it is quite an irony that I live in the province of Quebec where the provincial government has an official language police (l’Office québécois de la langue française) that imposes Orwellian laws to ensure that the French language reigns supreme (see for example the recent “pastagate” incident as well as the case wherein hospital employees were “caught” speaking to one another in Creole). These language police initiatives whether stemming from political correctness gone haywire or linguistic-based paranoia are an affront to freedom.

I wish you all a Happy New Year filled with health, love, and happiness.

 

Source for Image:

http://bit.ly/1dlsIlV

 

Gad Saad is Professor of Marketing at Concordia University and author of The Evolutionary Bases of Consumption and The Consuming Instinct.

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