Are We Drowning in Political Correctness?

Kevin Hart
Image source: pncradio.fm

In the news recently, Kevin Hart has come under fire from the LGBT community. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Hart re-visited an old joke from his Seriously Funny tour in 2010, where he told audiences about his fears of having a gay son, saying he’d actively discourage it:‘as a heterosexual male, if I can prevent my son from being gay, I will.’

Hart stated in the interview that he’d never tell the joke today because of the sensitivity of our current political climate, saying, ‘I think we love to make big deals out of things that aren’t necessarily big deals, because we can. These things become public spectacles. So why set yourself up for failure?’

The Internet reacted with a very interesting divide of opinion. Naturally, a large proportion of the LGBT community responded with outrage, with questions being brought to his parenting skills, his talent, and even his size – height, of course, we’re not that vulgar to discuss the size of his manhood. However, others defended the comedian, highlighting his profession and using it to counter the claims that he was ‘homophobic’ and ‘discriminatory’. Others stated that he was ‘just being honest about his own insecurities’, and of course, the classic comment in the form of ‘it’s a joke, not a dick, don’t take it so hard’ was brought into the mix, along with the ‘here comes the political correctness brigade!’ statement. But is this really political correctness, or is it just common decency and respect?

The political correctness debate is always a difficult topic to approach. We live in a generation where equality is important to everyone, which is exactly the way it should be. After all, slavery was once legal. Segregation was to be expected, and was overtly encouraged. It was acceptable to discriminate against a minority group. Now, thanks to the hard work of activists, campaigners and pretty much anyone with a positive attitude towards human rights, we’re becoming a better, more progressive society.

However, some may argue that we’re taking things too far. Everywhere we turn, there’s an article about cultural appropriation, about the feminist movement, about things that we’re doing wrong and how we should be making changes in order to make things more acceptable. You can’t say certain words and you can’t refer to someone in a term that could be deemed offensive. We can’t even make certain jokes anymore because it’s no longer deemed appropriate. So. are we going too far, or do we just know better?

I’m pretty sure that everyone has been on the wrong side of an innocent joke. Speaking as a gay man with bipolar disorder who wears dresses and high heel boots – I know, I’m a walking fucking cartoon – I have certainly been there. And yes, I have definitely been offended by a lot of the things that people have said to me, and about me. And there have been times where I’ve retaliated and encouraged said person to educate themselves before throwing around such terms. But there have also been times where I’ve laughed it off, or dismissed it, because I just do not have the energy to do anything about it. For me, it’s calling ‘picking my battles’. I usually have a pretty good idea of when it’s an appropriate time to get involved in a debate – or an argument, if I can sense things are going to get nasty – and also when it’s not necessary, and that’s usually when I’m aware that I’m talking to someone who has the IQ of a scrambled egg.

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Anyone who uses the Internet on a regular basis will know about websites such as Tumblr, a social networking website where people share anecdotes, funny stories and thoughts about general events. Most of the time, Tumblr is absolutely hilarious, if not utterly twisted. But there are a lot of instances where political correctness goes completely overboard, and this is down to the Internet in a lot of ways. The worldwide web has created a mass haven for people who might not have the courage to speak up in real life, but have no problem doing it behind a barrier of anonymity. It can be argued that it’s not the fact that we ‘know better’, but are letting people’s emotions dictate what can and can’t be said because we’re so afraid of offending someone.

Or perhaps it’s far more complex than that. These abundance of articles can explain something that someone didn’t previously understand, and that’s something that we can’t take for granted. In olden times, discrimination was clear cut and easy to see, whereas nowadays it’s more subtle and less obvious. Discrimination should never be ignored or dismissed by anyone – if it was, we’d be taking steps back. And the fact is, I can’t think of a single group that is innocent when it comes to discrimination, but every person is different, and each group is going to have at least one arsehole. And let’s face it, it surely can’t be a bad thing that we’re encouraging people to think before they speak, or to look into cultures and ideals that they might not have even known existed? Thanks to Google, we’re only a few keyboard strokes and a swift tap of ‘enter’ to find anything that we need nowadays, whether it’s to find out the best way to brush our teeth to an article on if political correctness has gone too far (that’s how you found this, right?).

We’d all like to think that no one intentionally sets out to offend people, or cause anyone distress. But we’re going to. It’s inevitable. And all we can do is learn from it, to grasp a greater understanding of the world we live in and a different outlook of the stories we’re told. After all, we’re here for a long time, and we meet so many people, and the wonderful thing about people is that we’re all individuals with different brains and thought processes. But as long as we’re not hostile, we respect each other and we think about what we’re doing, I reckon we’re not doing too bad.

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