PC, language, and "isms"

Linnea Ista lkista at UNM.EDU
Fri Mar 8 10:35:48 EST 1996

On 7 Mar 1996, Drmarts wrote:

> The discussion here on these issues have been interesting and
> thought-provoking. Here are some of the thoughts it's provoked in me.
> Please note that I'm speaking only from my own perspective as a bisexual,
> white, middle-class woman in the U.S.
> I begin with the given that women as a group are oppressed. We are held
> back from achieving our full potential, soley because we are women. 
> There are other groups in our society that are oppressed for reasons that
> include but not limited to race, sexual and/or affectional orientation,
> appearance and/or size, disability, etc. Some (most) of us are part of
> more than one of these groups.
> I accept that straight, white men suffer under this system, in that as the
> oppressors they are also not permitted to achieve their full potential.
> However, the issues they face as oppressors and the methods and means they
> have access to for eliminating oppression are very different from those
> available to oppressed groups. The most obvious difference between
> oppressors and oppressed is that for oppression to end, straight white men
> must give up privileges they have held for centuries, while those of us
> who are not straight, white and male must obtain opportunities and freedom
> we haven't had in centuries.
> Those of us who are part of an oppressed group face oppression both from
> outside ourselves and within ourselves. We have been enculturated to
> accept as truth things about ourselves, our abilities, our worth (and that
> of other oppressed groups) that are not true. The work we must do to
> overcome oppression must go on both in the world and in ourselves.
> Part of the work we must do within ourselves is to become aware of, and
> work to eliminate, the internalized biases we have against people,
> cultures, lifestyles, etc. that are different from ourselves. As a white
> woman, I am responsible for acknowledging ways in which I speak and behave
> that are racist, and I am responsible for working to be non-racist. The
> same goes for my other internalized "-isms", my biased attitudes towards
> fat people, disabled people, old people, poor people, etc. It's not easy
> work and I don't expect I'll get through it all in this lifetime, but the
> rewards for doing it are immeasurable.
> For me, part of my work in the world is to challenge others to recognize
> their own internalized oppression, to challenge long-held assumptions and
> beliefs. It's not that I want everyone else to think just like me or use
> the same language I use. I just want us all to _think_ about what we do,
> how we choose to express ourselves, how it either perpetuates or helps
> eliminate oppression. If I can get you to think, then it's up to you what
> to do about those thoughts.
> Sherry
I quite agree, and to put in my two cents, I think that all this 
so-called PC- stuff is really about is being polite and treating everyone 
with respect and dignity.  Think about it.  People with privledges, 
because of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or body shape have 
for a very long time have not been expected to watch what they say about 
others not like them. Now that oppressed peoples are beginning to demand 
respect for themselves and their points of view, some people are getting 
upset because they have to work at being more careful about what they 
say.  I remember one time saying to a man who had been expounding his 
point of view to all and sundry, and who was subsequently hemming and 
hawing and fussing and muttering  while a woman was expressing her 
opinion on the same topic "Hey, she listened to you politely! Please hear 
her out!" to which the response was "how dare you!"

Those in the oppressed groups of people have been listening to the 
oppressors politely for centuries. ( Indeed, if we weren't polite we were 
considered "uppity" or "snotty" or "didn't know our place"). It is time 
for others to listen and think!

Thanks for hearing me out!

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