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What Is Political Correctness?

By Alicia Sparks
Updated May 23, 2024
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Political correctness is a type of movement or practice that aims to alter language, policies, and behavior in such ways to prevent the offense, discrimination, and degradation of certain groups of people. These groups include genders, ages, and races, those with mental and physical health problems, as well as those of varying religious beliefs and sexual orientation. Sometimes, people view politically correct policies as necessary safeguards, such as when they prevent the use of hate speech. Other times, people feel politically correct methods are overbearing and counterproductive.

Ideally, political correctness protects certain groups or demographics of individuals from becoming insulted, offended, or degraded. Usually, alterations in language, behavior, and policies that were once acceptable work to provide this protection. Such groups include those with health issues such as mental illness or physical disabilities. Too, political correctness is meant to protect a person from such offense or degradation based on his age, gender, and race. Using politically correct language or policies to prevent offending or insulting people based on their sexual orientation, religion, and even occupation is common, as well.

As such, words and phrases that are considered politically correct fall into certain categories, though many are replacement words and phrases for outdated and seemingly offensive terms. For example, some political correctness focuses on health and medical terms, replacing words and phrases like “retarded” with “mentally challenged," "handicapped," or "disabled.” Many individuals and even manufacturers now refer to “Christmas trees” and “Christmas cards” as “holiday trees” and “holiday cards,” so as not to offend or isolate people who have religious beliefs that don’t include Jesus Christ or Christmas.

Other kinds of political correctness are used in implementing workforce language and policies that focus on preventing discrimination or offense based on birth factors like gender, age, and race. For example, a “stewardess” is now a “flight attendant” and a “fireman” is now a “firefighter.” Races are labeled differently, with “blacks” and “whites” now being “African Americans” and “Caucasians.” A good portion of the political correctness ideology is meant to protect people from certain language that is not only offensive, but also can breed hate and violence toward a certain group of people. This kind of language is often called hate speech and include outdated words and slurs.

Hate speech aside, some believe the political correctness movement has gone too far. There are people who feel that rather than protecting people from offense and discrimination, political correctness is actually drawing attention to their differences. Such thinking has led some individuals to turn their backs on or revolt against politically correct words or ideas and favor instead “politically incorrect” methods that allow them to better express themselves.

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Discussion Comments
By anon216781 — On Sep 22, 2011

so whats the pc for physically handicapped?

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