Political Correctness as a Gospel Principle

This is another reprint from Mormon Matters. For those of you that bristle at the very mention of “Political Correctness” please don’t make the mistake of assuming you know what I am referring to without reading the article. This article is advocating a well defined form of political correctness in use of language (particularly with gender) and seeks hard limits to political correctness, namely that you have to still say what you mean and mean what you say, even if it hurts someone’s feelings.

When I started attending school at BYU, political correctness was still recently taking hold in American culture. In high school my English teacher, Mrs. Summers, specifically taught us that if the gender was unknown, we were to use “he” or “his” as the pronoun as these signified both genders. For example:

“Each student in the class opened his book to the page specified.”

And back then we spoke of mailmen, chairmen, policemen, garbage men, etc. A person with a below average IQ was “mentally retarded” and someone that was overweight was “fat.” It was just the way things were.

Old habits die hard.

My initial introduction to politically correct English were somewhat negative. For example, I remember reading an Editorial in The Daily Universe talking about how horrible politically correct English was with all its meaning deficient words like: “horizontally challenged,” “special,” and “mail person.”

My view changed when I took a Technical Writing course from a self proclaimed “radical feminist.” I remember her being very quirky and often hypocritical; and I have my doubts about many of the technical writing principles she taught. But she did an incredible job of explaining the need to avoid “gender biased language” and by extension sold me on political correctness.

Continue reading