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  1. ronmatt
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    ronmatt Member

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    political correctness

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by ronmatt, Jan 26, 2010.

    Has PC invaded the writer's freedom of expression? Are there words, phrases, descriptions etc. that are taboo because they are not politically correct and 'could' prevent a work from being published? If so, why? Should a writer be limited in their 'mode' of expression because that 'mode' could potentially offend someone?

    I can't help but notice how PC has invaded almost everything, these days. The other day, I was looking up the time Avatar was playing at my local theater. In reading the film's disclaimer I saw "this film contains some smoking". I was blown away by that. I had to question; 'at what point does this end?'. How did we ever get here? It's like a kid on a soccer team getting a trophy for 'showing up'. or the last MVP award.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That's certainly one way of looking at it. Another is to recognize that communications do have impact upon people, and that an increasingly large part of te population lacks the skills of critical thinking. Messages are absorbed and internalized witout being questioned, so we who generate the messages need to be responsible about the content.

    Sticks and stones may break my bones, but the scars from words are much harder to heal.

    NOTE: I'm moving this discussion to the Lounge, because it is not really about writing issues as much as it is a social commentary.

    Keep the discusion civil. There will be zero tolerance for flaming.
     
  3. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    It has, but there's no law that makes you follow it (this is in the UK, run by that famous collection of champagne socialists, the Labour party - I doubt other countries have it any worse, but I'd check if I were you) other than those that deal with what you wouldn't use, anyway, i.e. racism, and sometimes that's acceptable as long as it's an important part of the plot and character development.

    I'd also think hard about what actually is racist. Many of the things that are now branded as offensive are not - the groups concerned don't often care, and use them themselves. There's always the possibility that you'll offend someone, but that's the same with any piece of writing. For example, if someone tells you that writing 'a town with lots of black people' is racist, then you can tell them that it isn't, as it does not discriminate against a particular group of people on groups unrelated to their individual personalities.

    Sorry, political correctness in writing is a bit of a problem with me. Free speech is free speech, no-one forces you to listen. But my advice is to have some common sense, and to know your definitions.
     
  4. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    IMO - People who cringe over the "n" word, or off-color jokes or challenges to their PC concepts like global warming...these folks have become emotionally weak. I fear we're creating whole societies of fragile egos, people that an aggressor can paralyze by mere choice of words.

    As far as writing, I do not, and will not, exercise PC in my writings. Let the chips fall where they may. I am currently writing a realistic Vietnam war story. People used the "n" word in Nam. My best friend in those days was black...he called me "honky-m-f'er". I called him "boy" or "n@%#&*-boy" We were like brothers and no insult got a rise out of either of us. It was not uncommon for soldiers to sprinkle the "f" word in every sentence. Should I avoid portraying reality? I think not. Might I offend some fragile-ego PC freak who cringes at the mere mention of the "n" word? Don't really care.

    On the other hand, in my sci-fi story there is no swearing...it simply did not fit the story.

    As far as movie warnings, most people have become so jaundiced by the PC idiots that those warnings are not even noticed anymore. Well, maybe "XXX" rating is one that gets a little attention, but that's from people seeking it out. LOL
     
  5. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's a shame that efforts to popularize a liberal, gender-free, non-racist lexicon resulted in normal phrases which were innocuous becoming outlawed. Language reform driven by the 'ınstitution' nearly always seems to end up horribly like an Orwellian nightmare whatever the intentions were/are. A writer should just keep within the bounds of common sense and try to keep an untrammelled vocabulary that isn't needlessly offensive.
     
  6. Carmina
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    Carmina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Personally, I try to be a politically correct person in my interactions with people. With select people, I can use less correct terms. One of my nicknames for my friend Eric is "the Holy Homo." But if I am talking to..or writing for an audience that might take offense, I will refrain from that sort of thing. However, in writing realistic characters, sometimes less than PC manners of speech fit a character. In the narration of a story...I will be PC, but if a character would talk a certain way, I am not afraid of writing it that way. That's my take.
     
  7. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Wow, this is exactly what I was trying to think of when I was fretting over whether or not my story set in pre-Civil War America would be offensive cause it has slaves.

    In my case, I'm afraid of backlash. I know that I'm not a racist, and I know that in my book, some characters won't be very nice to the poor slaves, and I know that pretending slavery didn't happen in a book set in the time in America where, yes, we DID have that system is stupid...

    I think in my case, for a beginner writer, PC-ness has me in a death grip. I'm afraid of backlash.

    For example, we all know slavery is bad, obviously, and most if not all slave masters were not kind to their slaves. Suppose I had the MC talk to a slave owner that is decent to his slaves. PC-ness has me worried that by having this, I'm actually being PRO-slavery when really, the book doesn't revolve around slavery.

    I mean, that I keep talking about this is a defining example of how PC is crippling my creativity. I KNOW the book is not 100% about slavery, it's just something in the background, yet thanks to PC-ness, it's all I ever think about, so the soul of my story pretty much diminishes and I'm all worried about how I can protray slavery so it's not inoffensive. The mysteries (which IS the soul of the book)? I've set that in the back burner of my brain.

    I agree with NaCL and Gallowglass. Freedom of speech is freedom of speech. If they don't want to read the book, don't read it. If the book's too offensive, find another one.
     
  8. Nonnie
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    Nonnie Contributing Member

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    I'm completely against PC. Its ridiculous and it should never influence what people write.
     
  9. MCWhite
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    MCWhite Contributing Member

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    Completely agree. I don't think writers should worry about whether or not their work is PC. What better way to ruin a good story? Toning down your writing is the same as ruining your writing. My vote is, don't hold punches, just go for it. At the end of the day, if you look back and find some controversy in your writing, it's the better for it, not worse. A writer shouldn't be afraid to write.

    Stephen King put it best: "If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered."
     
  10. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think there is a difference in a writer deliberately having a character use language that isn't PC, and a writer being UNAWARE that some language she uses offends people because it comes across as e.g. racist or anti-women.
     
  11. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Granted, I'm going to try and be as inoffensive as possible, meaning I won't go out of my way to protray a people as stupid or use sterotypes or generate controversy just for the heck of it. However, if, say, a character is a sexist, he's not going to treat women with respect and it'd be out of character if I forced him to do so.
     
  12. MCWhite
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    MCWhite Contributing Member

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    That's why I say a writer just shouldn't worry about it- write naturally. There are very few people, if any, who aren't familiar with PC phrasing. It seems to be Hollywood's new obsession. The choice to be PC or not depends almost entirely on your intended audience. I wouldn't intentionally go around and step on toes, but I never plan on writing for an audience that's going to be overly concerned with PC, so I don't worry about it (though there are just some words I don't see myself ever using). In fact, I'm only conscious of PC when I'm writing something for school.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    "Political Correctness" is a slanted term. You can take it to extremes, but what it really comes down to is respect toward other people.

    The extremes, on the other hand, are also used to demean people, by emphasizing the differences in a passive aggressive manner.

    Freedom of speech is also sneeringly used to justify hatred, disguising it as "honesty."
     
  14. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is exactly why I don't pay any attention to what I write when I'm writing it, the view that what you have to say is 'less correct,' or wrong, because it is in public. It makes sense, I suppose, but the idea of not being allowed to say something in public just so the beaurocrats can tick a box doesn't appeal to me.

    As what I hope will be an interesting way to see exactly what people think is acceptable, we should reveal the extent of political correctness in our characters (which will convey our own opinions to the audience more than our narrative). Think of the most politically 'correct' characters you've created - has anything they've said really made you think 'I should edit that before I get published?'

    I fully agree. But people don't believe books that promote extreme views, unless they are already inclined to that opinion. In fact, I doubt that, without controversy, they will even buy them - most extremist books are obvious, because of the language that extremists have a penchant for using.

    Political correctness can be used to claim that something is hatred when it is simply another opinion. In fact, I think that's what it's now used for.
     
  15. Nonnie
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    Nonnie Contributing Member

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    Thats the beautiful thing about free speech, it doesn't have to be true!

    But as far as PC goes, it's good to have tact and not just disregard peoples feelings. In writing though? Never, I mean, the world is a big scary place and a lot of the people are mean, hateful fools, so if they happen to be in your story, so what? When people get offended by a book then they have sensitivity issues and their life is probably a bitch.
     
  16. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Political correctness" has become a social standard for communications, one contrived by college-based intellectuals, adopted and imposed by genteel society on all others. IMO - it is just as disrespectful to impose the PC agenda on people, as it is to ignore an individual's sensitives. Respect works both ways. Fortunately, many blue collar and middle class people are not willing to be dictated to by class snobs and they push back, as they should.

    Funny story...just last week, one of my clients told me he was frustrated by his employees poor work habits. In an attempt to guide their job process, he posted detailed instructions on the walls of his tool and supply shed. They did not follow the instructions, so he called a meeting at the end of the week. He expressed his frustration and pointed to the signs, asking them why they didn't comply. Their response, "We no read English." My client shook his head and said, "Stupid Beaners!"...what's so funny about that? My client is also a first generation Mexican-American. We both laughed.

    I don't mind if someone wants to live without vulgarity, racial stereotypes, etc. I begin every new relationships assessing what a person's standards are. Then, I adapt to their values...regardless of PC or vulgarity. To me, that is the proper way to show respect.
     
  17. ManhattanMss
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    PC is nothing more than what passes for respect defined by committee. Of course, there are plenty of folks who wouldn't recognize respect if it smacked them in the head; and, so, they apparently need to be pointed toward some kind of sign post in order to learn how to behave in public. Personally, I don't see that as the job of the fiction writer (that's what parents, and maybe teachers, are for). Political correctness has no place showing up in writing a compelling or realistic piece of fiction. Ironically, it does have a place as a guide for publishers who rely on such things in order to avoid painful consumer boycotts and costly law suits (by parents, say, who are aghast at the latest children's book that might be a story about two gay dads and how they deal with their teenage son who's just joined the gay club at his high school).

    So, I guess the bottom line is just to understand that PC is what it is. Nothing more, nothing less. If you want to write stories for a readership that requires you to pay attention to what's acceptable reading material for particular consumers, then you better pay attention to how those publishers define it. If you want to write stories for a different kind of readership, then write the story you aim to deliver and seek out a publisher who fits. Most of the best fiction I read is written by writers who take huge risks involving all kinds of offense. I think good writers need to accept the fact that writing great fiction takes the kind of courage that probably renders charges of political incorrectness almost laughable if not completely irrelevant.
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Fair warning. This discussion shows every signs of leading nowhere other than friction. Everyone has their fixed opinions on the issue, and no one will budge. This thread will be closed at whatever not-too-distant time that we decide it serves no purpose to leave it open any longer.
     
  19. Carmina
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    Carmina Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that the purpose of "Political Correctness" is simply to try to avoid offending people. The problem is...you never know what is going to bother someone. But, what passes for political correctness is at least an attempt to be respectful of people and groups.

    When writing, I try to use correct, standard English in my narration (unless it is first person in which case I put it in the vernacular). Standard English pretty much precludes using a lot of the slang or coloquial terms for people or ethnicities or minorities. So, by and large...I don't find it an issue in my writing. When I am writing from the perspective of a character or writing dialogue...I will use some less than pc words and terms where it fits with what a real 3-d character would say.
     
  20. Sabreur
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    While political correctness can be a pain in the ass, I think you are incredibly off-base here, decrying the so-called "college-based intellectuals" who somehow manage to enforce their PC agenda on the working man who is just too damn downtrodden to bother thinking for himself, apparently. Saying that educated folk are the reason for political correctness does a great disservice to both those in higher education and those in the blue-collar workforce.

    On one hand, you are painting college-educated men and women as "contriving" some arbitrary set of "PC rules" that in reality, exists only in the minds of people overly concerned with the fragile egos of their fellow men. Just because someone has a Bachelors degree (or, God forbid, their Masters/PhD) does not mean they are part of the upper-class's tyrannical jackboot pressing down the working-class's collective neck.

    On the other hand, you are insulting the intellect of working-class people by claiming that they would:

    A) Let someone dictate their degree of "political correctness" just because that person is more educated or has more money

    or

    B) Be so unintelligent as to not think for themselves and rather let the "educated" think for them.

    Both ideas are preposterous, I hope we can agree on that. The way I see it, political correctness is not "owned" by any one race, class or society. Black or white; rich or poor; Yank or Brit: who started it? Who propagates it? Most importantly, who cares? Does it hurt you when other people are PC? If it does, bring it up with them. If not, leave them alone.

    Victimless crime, in my opinion. If I could eliminate it, I would. Can I? OF course not. So let it be, unless it is clearly a front for something far more insidious, which I believe it rarely is.
     
  21. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I'm not an angry, violent or racist person; I would like to get one with as many people as possible (fact I'm a proud anti-racist: which resulted in me offending a member of this very site a few years back - but it's not like I didn't have reason) so I see myself as having moderate political correctness built in.

    However, when I dislike political correctness is when it starts to interfere with trivia, such as on official documents you can no longer use the phrase 'Ethnic minorities' in the prison service, it must be 'Minority Ethnics' which is, for all intents and purposes, utterly meaningless.

    So, I don't mind political correctness so long as it's thought of, and called ... you know ... moral decency. But too much trivial censoring is just wrong.
     
  22. SonnehLee
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    SonnehLee Contributing Member Contributor

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    I read a memoir where a man decided to become a hobo for 6 months, and at the beginning of the book they put a note in saying that they had modified all the statements not to include racial slurs or foul language, because it was for a Christian audience. Didn't really affect the book that much.
     
  23. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    I may communicate in a politically correct manner, but I think it is damaging to our culture. Contriving labels is worse than just letting them come and go naturally. A lot of these terms are just clumsy or wordy, and have in effect put more divisions among groups of people. Often it is a double standard, where some are allowed to get away with something others can’t. Take the Democratic senator who used “negro.” If he had been conservative, it would have been devastating to him. Or, some groups can get away with what others can’t. And all of this affects when we can and cannot write while still pursuing other things (jobs, politics, whatever)
     
  24. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    This was posted on my favorite bass fishing website by a national touring pro bass fisherman, Clark Rheem:

    "There is an annual contest at Texas A&M University calling for the most appropriate definition of a contemporary term. This year's term was:

    Political Correctness

    The winner wrote:

    'Political correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.' "

    I love it!
     
  25. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Slightly off topic, but related.

    I would like to thank the mods for allowing this contentious thread to remain open. Your decision shows respect for the members of this site who can agree like adults on sensitive topics. Obviously, I would condone closing the thread if attacks became personal, or decayed into profane discourse, as they often do on certain other writing sites. Thanks, Mods.
     
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