I was watching the video above yesterday (if you have just over an hour and a half to spare, go and check it out), about political correctness and how it’s killing debate and harming academia in American colleges. And you know what? I actually AGREED with most of what was said.
Political correctness – at least the way it often is – does stifle debate. I agree with the overall sentiment that all the panellists kept coming back to: if you don’t agree/ like what someone’s saying, rebut it. Don’t silence it. Of course, there is a line. Not one of the panellists advocated for hate speech or inciting violence. That’s not what this was about. In regard to political correctness, one of the panelists, self – described feminist and Democrat supporter, Christina Summers acknowledged that “political correctness” , as in respecting people’s requests to use respectful language, was fine. The problem with modern – day feminism – and colleges/ Universities in general, was that people – ironically including those who were supposed to be “protected” were being attacked – sometimes violently (e.g. an African American student was being attacked for opposing the #BlackLivesMatter movement).
Another topic that was talked about was “trigger warnings”. I’ve argued that trigger warnings on blogs can be useful when writing on – line, and I still stand by that comment. However, I believe that they should be used sparingly, and should not be used to avoid mere offence. In an education context, I can see that this may be harder. Some texts do explore traumatic events, and these should not be censored. They should be able to be talked about with sensitivity. I don’t believe in throwing people who have been traumatised by abuse, etc should be thrown under the bus. But sensitivity shouldn’t lead to downright censorship.
I want to tell you a personal account. When I was at school, we studied two texts: one was a play “Property of the Clan” and the film adaptation “Blackrock” by Nick Enright in Year 10 Drama and “The Shawshank Redemption” in Year 11 Advanced English. Both texts featured rape or rape threats. I remember that our teacher warned us about the content and allowed us to process any negative emotions we felt. I remember crying during “Property of the Clan” and “Blackrock”. We still read through the whole play, but we did skip the rape scene in the movie (I think that may have been mainly because it was MA 15+ rated). I can’t see why universities can’t talk about topics such as what I wrote above, while being sensitive to people’s emotions.
One criticism that the panellists pointed out what the hypocrisy of the Left and how their, often abusive, speech isn’t silenced. Abuse should be condemned full – stop. This doesn’t do feminism or any other cause, for that matter, any favours.
Misinformation doesn’t do anyone any favours either, and gives feminism in general a bad name. If you look at the video, for example, Summers debunked the often quoted statistic that 1 in 5 female students in American colleges suffer sexual assault while on campus. She explained the methodology and how they got the result and why it was not reliable. She said that the rate was between 1 – 2%; 1 in 53. Any advocacy work relies on facts. Feminists can only expect backlash and less support if they get people to rely on false information. The rate of abuse, whether on campuses, in marriages/ relationships, etc. should be zero. Any decent human being knows that. Lying, or at least tampering with the truth, doesn’t do anyone any favours.
If feminism and any other form of advocate wants to be supported, they need to be relevant and factual or risk losing public support. With speech, unless it’s outright discriminatory or incites violence, it should be permitted. Unpopular ideas should be at least up for debate. Topics like rape should be able to be talked about in an educational contexts while being sensitive to people’s reaction and experiences. Lastly, respect needs to be granted on both the progressive AND conservative sides. Verbal/ cyber and physical abuse should be condemned, REGARDLESS on where people sit on the political spectrum. It’s time feminists and the Left end the hypocrisy. It’s beyond a joke.