Over the last few decades, we have become curiously, annoyingly and extremely politically correct and certain words have become absolutely taboo. That which was once acceptable is now considered offensive and there are times when you just don’t know what to say for fear of offending anyone or everyone around you. In the early 1970s, I was bussed to an all–black high school. “Black” was the acceptable term then, whereas now, “African-American” is the new black, replacing what was once the new “colored”. My ancestors are from Russia and Poland, do I walk around saying I am Russian-American, or worse, Polish-American? We are caught in the quagmire of what is the “right thing to say” and quite frankly, I see no light at the end of this tunnel – not even a glimmer.
The expression “politically correct” or “political correctness” can be traced back to 1920s Germany, when communist academia sought to impose their views on students. The term became more frequently used in the 1960s and 1970s by suburban bleeding-heart liberals, feminists and progressives who were intent on impacting the media, while leaving an emotional imprint on the Baby Boomer generation. As Boomers became adults, they clung on to the notion of being “politically correct”, however, adapting some of the initial ideas to surprisingly new and often meticulously planed-out hidden agendas.
What we now have is a wide-ranging group of hypocrites in charge of the media and most industries, where everyone is expected to play nice in the sandbox. The climate of corporate politics suggests that you “keep your head down” while those in higher positions, do as they please regarding dubious hiring practices, stealing, or worse, illegal activities as in the case of the banking culture and while I am at it, the Catholic Church. I refer to this group as the “nouveaux-hypocritical”. In light of the recent attempted terrorist attack on Christmas Day in Detroit by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (a.k.a. “The Underwear Bomber”), there’s a renewed outcry for stricter airport screening regarding “certain types”, or, as it is more commonly referred to, racial profiling. Then again, at the risk of sounding like a total bigot, is that actually such a bad idea? The Muslim Public Affairs Council calls racial profiling unconstitutional. But from where I’m sitting, it is equally unconstitutional to sew explosives into your Calvins to bring a plane down on Christmas Day.
When Richard Reid (a.k.a. “The Shoe Bomber”) was captured, we automatically started checking everyone’s shoes… even old ladies’ with large, unsightly corns. Umar’s bomb was hidden in his underwear, so now what? Will security guards start pulling down our pants? Random wedgies? There’s some fancy detective work for you. Isn’t it easier to identify a certain type of individual that we can all look at cross-eyed? The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is claiming invasion of privacy and rejecting the controversial full body scans. Feel free to check out my ass in order to secure safe passage. How about that recent case in Saudi Arabia where the Al-Qaeda member had an explosive stashed in his anal cavity. What next, proctologists moonlighting for the sake of airport security? Immediately after 9-11, while working with a writer on her promotional book tour, we had to continue the planned nine-city schedule. This involved several plane rides, one of which was to Kentucky, where one of the reported terrorists had lived. Believe me, we were doing our own version of racial profiling aplenty. It was more anecdotal than a serious bid to rid evildoers, but I found much comfort in giving the evil eye to a host of “certain-types”. Was I being politically incorrect? Thank you.
To see the list of things you simply cannot say…
When Oscar de la Renta said, “You don’t go to Buckingham Palace in a sweater” after Michelle Obama wore exactly that while visiting the Queen of England, it was the day the fashion planet came to a standstill in shock and awe. Political incorrectness hit an all time high. During the presidential campaign, the fashion brigades declared Michelle Obama the next Jackie O. I never got that comparison from the get go. Did that make her more palatable somehow? Was she now the “politically correct” wife? Every designer, editor and publicist started tripping over themselves to schmooze their way into the good graces of the Obama camp and into Michelle’s closet. But here is where political correctness got in the way of why Michelle Obama was amazing way before Vogue’s André Leon Talley introduced her to “fashion society”. The fashion industry was thrust on Michelle for publicity but what makes her so dynamic has nothing to do with frocks. That was Jackie’s strength. Michelle is a bright career woman and super mom who, besides her arms and dresses, made great choices such as supporting military families and raising awareness to children’s health and obesity issues. And we all know how much the fashion industry loves that, in the hopes that they never have to see another fatty for generations to come.
As we have evolved (for lack of a better term) as a society, our language has become more prudish and the return to our puritan roots seems to have accelerated. No longer are we allowed to say what we really feel for fear of being excommunicated from the fashion flock, distanced from our peers or worse, being considered “out” by the “in” crowd. Our language has shifted exponentially. There are expressions that you can no longer say and on the same token things that you have to say…or else! Here is a list of the most important ones, to ensure you stay politically correct in these confusing times:
- Worldwide no-no is the N-word.
- People with intellectual disabilities no longer can be called Retarded. Whereas I find it most applicable in the case of Umar, that retarded member of the Lucky Sperm Club who tried blowing up Flight 253 on Christmas Day.
- African-American, Asian-American, Latino-American, Corporate-American.
- Child-Obesity is the politically correct term for Fat Kid these days. As an ex-fatty, call me fatso any day over “You obese baboon”.
- Tranny hookers now must be referred to as Transgender Sex Workers. As a past resident of the Meatpacking District in New York City back in the 1990’s, I can assure you; “tranny hooker” is how they referred to themselves. It was the uber-political correct LGBT Community Center that put that glamorous title onto them and consequently killed their business.
- Homosexuals became really Gay around the time of the Stonewall Riots in the 1969, birthing the Gay Rights movement. Whereas in England, Fags are the correct term for cigarettes.
- The women’s equality movement escalated in the 1970’s demanding equal pay for equal work, which also birthed the Bitch in the Workplace.
- Midgets must now be referred to as Little People, even in the Wonderful Land of Oz and Munchkin Land.
- Secretaries needed an ego boost and the only option was a title as opposed to a raise, so they settled for Administrative Assistant, which sure beats Mistress.
- Housewives once they heard that their husband’s secretaries were getting a verbal promotion, quickly jumped on the bandwagon and demanded to be called Domestic Engineers. Those who survive Fucked Up Upbringings, which is most of us, can now say we came from Dysfunctional Families.
- Someone Crippled became Handicapped, which evolved into Disabled and now is officially Physically Challenged…until that will be simply unacceptable.
Now matter what you say or do, there is always a 50% chance that you will be utterly, terribly and embarrassingly wrong. So, either we just stop talking and communicating altogether or rather, say whatever we want and let the chips fall where they may.
This article appears in the spring issue of the European lifestyle publication by Stefan Hottinger-Behmer, Gatsby Magazine.