PC OR MAC THE FIGHT CONTINUES

Oh wait, we’re not talking about those PCs here… we’re talking political correctness? Oh. Well, still a pretty intense battle.

Really though, the political correctness phenomenon exploding all over American college campuses is likewise making my head explode with a confused sort of rage, so this post is my attempt at an objective reconciliation of the giant clusterf*ck that is the Political Correctness vs Free Speech debate (I’m sorry, I usually wouldn’t swear on my blog because I believe in finding better words to express myself but… what else would you call this load of crazy???).

Firstly, just to let you in on the author’s biases, I am a feminist and I’m pretty big on social justice in general. I’ve owned a primarily social justice oriented Twitter account and I’ve had some personal experiences with political correctness in schools and artistic contexts. I’ve found myself fighting on both “sides” of this giant debate (which I find to be a false dichotomy and they’re not mutually exclusive causes to me), and that’s the lens through which I’m trying to pick apart both arguments and come to a sane conclusion that neither sounds like a Republican candidate nor an American college student a la Dave Franco’s snooty character in 21 Jump Street (P.S. watch that movie it’s bloody brilliant).

*CUE STREET FIGHTER MUSIC AND GRAPHICS*

On the “Free Speech” side we have people arguing that the wave of political correctness stifles freedom of speech and expression to the extent of making people afraid to express themselves authentically, it is even philosophically against the idea of freedom in general and the PC rhetoric is purely symbolic and ridiculously blown out of proportion. All somewhat valid points.

Free speech is under siege here in a sense. When reporters and journalists are being literally shoved away from the scene, that’s a direct violation of the First Amendment, and it should be considered kind of appalling to be honest. Making people afraid to say what’s on their mind is a terrible consequence of this supposed political correctness movement. It aggressively stifles two-way, enlightening conversation, and that’s terrible. I agree with y’all on that one. Here’s the deal with free speech though: there’s a fine line between using your right to free speech, and abusing your right to free speech i.e. acting like an A-class asshole. A lot of supposed free speech advocates are abusing the opportunity to make extremely bigoted and downright offensive remarks about marginalized communities that should never be condoned. That’s not free speech. That’s hate speech, in all senses of the term, and that is equally appalling, and should be shut down as well (look at the dudebros on any Youtube video comment page… and also this… and this…srsly that’s ur glorious First Amendment worth fighting for? shaaaame).

Which brings me to freedom- a tad too philosophical to talk about in one post, but in a nutshell… freedom isn’t a thing. True, genuine, pure freedom does not exist, because your freedom is someone else’s restraint. Your freedom to talk shit about other people is an attack on their freedom to not be publicly defamed. That’s a thing. What you want to make of it, that’s entirely up to you.

And yes, the PC arguments here are essentially symbolic. Costumes, language, these are all symbols. That means they are arbitrary in their meaning. I can totally start calling a chair a “table” and say that the abstract collection of 5 letters “table” symbolizes the concrete chair for me. Why not, right? Language is full of symbols, and while some may view certain symbols as carrying a ton of bigotry and oppression, some may not feel the same way. To some, the n-word isn’t a word, it’s a weapon used to dehumanize an entire race of people. To some, it’s a collection of letters from which the symbolic meaning can and should be discarded as a show of “moving on” or even empowerment. In the end, symbols mean different things to different people.

Here’s the thing though, as a society, it is impossible to deny the problematic contexts and backgrounds that accompany these symbols. In the backdrop of racially motivated police brutality in the US, is it really okay for someone to do blackface and dress up as a “typical gangsta from the hood”? Is it not true that the person can wash off the makeup, take off the costume, and go back to appearing “normal”, while actual young black people don’t have the luxury of doing so? By doing that, they’re pretty much undoubtedly taking advantage of their position of privilege to use the stereotype as a costume, while black people continue to get assaulted for looking that way.

Does stopping someone from wearing this problematic costume end police brutality though? Nope. It stops them from perpetuating a harmful stereotype, it stops people from getting offended, but unfortunately, it doesn’t end the horror of police brutality against POC. Symbols, although arbitary, carry some baggage that cannot be easily shrugged off. But at the same time, people’s conceptions and interpretations of symbols are impossible to police and unfortunately the shut down not solve the root cause. It just stops people from getting offended.

Microaggressions are micro for a reason. Saying “man up” to someone doesn’t necessarily make you a bigoted sexist who believes men are superior to women. The phrase does, however, carry with it baggage. And if people got to know about this baggage in a fair, two-way conversation, it would remove the perpetuation of negative stereotypes a lot more easily, than obsessively policing people’s behaviour.

This policing is, by the way, completely impractical. Administratively, how are you going to invade the privacy of every home and every conversation and pick out the problematic words and phrases used? Is the solution to ingrained bigotry really a Fahrenheit 451/1984 style dystopian universe? (The answer is no by the way that shit is terrifying for real, read the books)

Ultimately, this brings me to the idea of a “safe space”. Don’t take the phrase literally. A safe space isn’t a space where people are treated like infants to be coddled. That completely disempowers marginalized groups. They will fall apart in the unfortunately unsympathetic world out there. Seriously, we have people making some pretty damn rapey songs that become huge hits… even if you try to “raise awareness” about it, moneymaking artists don’t give a shit. Also, most people out there just wanna listen to some catchy beats and don’t want the PC movement shitting on their partying. The solution, however, doesn’t involve abusing and bullying the artists as well as the people who listen to them. A lil’ impractical. You can however start a conversation, vocalize your opinion, invite people to share theirs. Shutting people down, while tempting, doesn’t eradicate the problem, it just removes the symptoms. Plus it makes you look overbearing and turns people away from the movement which is sort of counterproductive huh?

Safe spaces should be encouraged, but not the kind we’re used to hearing about. They should open up avenues for mature individuals to break down social taboos and have the uncomfortable conversations they wouldn’t dare to have in the jungle out there which is the real world.

Plus, debates that revolve around philosophy are ceaseless and sometimes even pointless because so many times we find certain voices appearing to be louder (due to certain preexisting social biases). Groups lucky enough to be educated in the areas of linguistics, sociology, philosophy and the like, groups who have otherwise enjoyed social privilege and never personally faced the horrific discrimination they so reference. Doesn’t that go against the idea that PC should open up avenues to include the marginalized in mainstream discourse? Instead of childishly demanding safe spaces for themselves, college students can expand the conversation by including the people out there without the benefits and privileges of higher education who are facing severe forms of discrimination based on various social factors. Go out there, interview them, collect data. Share it with the college, put it in your newsletters, start the uncomfortable conversation. Show people that their supposedly symbolic acts perpetuate a larger, more insidious culture of oppression. Listen to what they have to say. Keep up a civil conversation. Don’t shut them down and claim superiority. If you want to change the world, do it. But don’t just create a comfortable space for yourself, and leave out the others who do not benefit from it. That’s hypocrisy.

In the bigger scheme of things, what should be the priority is to end the severe, institutionalized forms of discrimination that systematically disempower people. End that, and you find yourself in a gradually somewhat kinder, gentler world. And that’s the PC aim- not this barbaric shut down of open conversation.

Here are links from lots of perspectives for a little more insight:

http://www.greatfallstribune.com/story/opinion/guest-opinions/2015/11/20/beware-political-correctness/76133880/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tom-caramanno/political-correctness-in-_b_8604562.html

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/kathie-obradovich/caucus/2015/11/20/gop-candidates-blast-political-correctness-family-leader-forum-iowa-caucuses/76059354/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/neilhowe/2015/11/16/america-revisits-political-correctness/

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/15/political-correctness-free-speech-racism-misogyny-university-yale-missouri

http://www.vox.com/2015/11/17/9750654/obama-missouri-yale-political-correctness

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/22/fear-lies-at-the-heart-of-opposition-to-political-correctness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ofc social media is a lie

I think everyone knows a little about the whole Essena O’Neill saga that exploded on social media a while back, and I had a couple of things to say on it which I ended up not being able to publicise because… exams and shit.

So when this first happened, I completely related to O’Neill. I quit social media a while back for the same reason. Social media is vapid and shallow as heck. It’s true.

I think everyone likes to think that the pictures they post online are solely for themselves. “I posted it because I like it”, that’s the justification most people give and they think that’s where it ends.

But choices aren’t made in a vacuum. You like that picture because everyone else is going to like that picture. Face it, guys. We all want validation, and a lot of the reason that we post pictures and statuses is for this validation. After all, “staying connected” isn’t really the main reason for teenagers having social media (most of their friends already see them everyday in school anyway)- it’s about painting an image of your life and making it look awesome. “Hey I’m eating good food and I have so many friends and I’m so fit ADMIRE ME INSTAGRAM SLAVES“, that’s what social media comes to (sometimes).

And I’m here to say that it’s okay.

Human beings are social creatures. We seek approval and validation from other human beings to feel like we belong. Especially in our special snowflake kinda generation, everyone wants to feel like they don’t just belong, but that they’re special. I think social media is a way for all of us to feel like perfect, airbrushed celebrities, without actually being them. And just like how their lives are not as they publicise them to be, and how they don’t always look like they’re on the red carpet, and how they’re not doing yoga poses at the beach 24/7, we aren’t either. It’s okay to caption a picture of yourself in makeup and good hair “I woke up like this” because we should all operate under the assumption that everyone knows you sure as hell didn’t wake up like that. Even Beyonce herself probably (just probably) didn’t wake up like that. It’s just a picture of you being cute as heck.

Instead of just calling social media a total lie and leaving it there, how about we teach young people to be discerning individuals who can differentiate for themselves what is “real” and “fake”?  How about we start to prioritise basic media education? Like, you know, telling kids that normal people don’t always look like models (models look like models because… it’s their job…. ) and that celebrities have whole teams of stylists (because… that’s what they do…) and that porn isn’t real sex (that’s just entertainment and also every plumber has a visible hairy buttcrack and I doubt they get laid often) and yeah, stuff like that? How about we try to foster a culture of self-love among young people? How about we actively begin to respond to the worrying trend of young children  having eating disorders? Oh, and also this article is awesome.

I think that’s the whole issue here. When ads and selfies and heavily sexualised images dominate the media landscape that young people occupy, people start to lose track of what’s beneath the surface sometimes. Let’s fix that and remind people that we can be multifaceted and don’t have to pick labels. It’s cool to look cute and post selfies and stuff. That can be fun and even empowering. But it shouldn’t be making people lose their sense of self and their confidence as individuals.

So yeah, you can be whatever you want on social media, and while that can be kinda scary and people can totally choose to be fake as hell (unfollow them dear god it’s the internet that’s the beauty of it), IT IS ALSO SUPER AWESOME. I can vocalise my opinions, I can make art, I can just be plain stupid and silly and colourful and spectacular. I can be anything, and that’s a double edged sword I guess. But wield it the right way, young Internet warriors.

It’s not about dismissing all of social media as vapid and shallow, and then dropping it from your life altogether. Social media can be art, it can be empowering, it can connect people miles away, and it can be fun. It’s a boon to humanity, guys! Instagram models don’t change that! When I see members of my family finding old friends they have never seen in decades on Facebook and other social media, and I see their faces light up, and I watch them reminisce the good old days, I understand the power of such connectivity. It’s totally cliched, but social media brings people together (although not as much as cooler stuff like ice cream but it comes close). Plus, let’s not forget it’s a hugely important tool in social change. Now, you don’t have to be a journalist or a professional photographer or anything- you just need your fingertips and the interwebz, and you’re a revolutionary.

P.S. I used to think social media was a lie too till I realised WHAT THE HECK WHO CARES I LOOK GREAT AND SO DOES EVERYONE ELSE LET’S SMOOSH OURSELVES TOGETHER IN A HOT TUB LOVE AND PEACE YALL

Bottom line: love yourself and the world will be pretty awesome. If you don’t love yourself, get off Instagram, learn to love yourself (it’s a painful arduous process but you’ll do it kiddo) and then get back on it. It looks much better and you’ll be double tapping without crying and screaming “I WANT TO BE YOU” to anyone out there.

 

 

 

why #paris matters

The Paris attacks seem to be the only thing on everybody’s lips these days, and if you’re still one of the keyboard warriors trying to convince the Internet that they are heartless, wrong creatures for not #prayingforbeirut and #prayingforbaghdad and #prayingforhumanity- then take several seats, my friend, because that’s not what this is about.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: human empathy and connection are non-exhaustible substances. Keeping one terrorised place in your thoughts doesn’t displace all of the others, and not being informed of other attacks in other countries isn’t (just) the people’s fault. There are a few other things all of us should take some time to question here.

Our response to the Paris attacks doesn’t mean we’re all terrible people and we value French lives more than the others. It’s a very natural and very inevitable result of how we view Paris- and the rest of the world.

Paris is one of the cultural capitals of the world. It’s constantly glorified and romanticised, it is looked up to and dreamt of by artists all around the globe, and it’s name and monuments are even emblazoned on Tumblresque pullovers and tote bags owned by wannabe hipsters everywhere. Paris is a place very close to the hearts of us privileged first-worlders regardless of whether we have been there before. Paris, to us, represents a rich history of culture and art; it represents a flawlessly picturesque and perfect lifestyle; it represents an appreciation for the finer things in life. Somewhere inside of us, we all want to be Parisians.

When Paris was attacked, that romanticised view was shattered for all of us. Nowhere, not even beautiful, perfect, classic Paris is safe from terror.

Most African and Middle Eastern countries, however, don’t have that privilege and luxury when it comes to media coverage. They’re constantly painted as exotic, mystical, faraway lands full of superstitions and magic beyond our understanding. When terror hits, we feel bad, but it’s pity we feel. Not solidarity. These exotic lands are too far beyond our comprehension to empathise with. After all, they’re all just poor countries where people struggle to survive and wild animals abound a la Taylor Swift’s Wildest Dreams music video, right?

There’s no denying that Paris certainly is a gorgeous and remarkable city, and that the African and Middle Eastern regions do face debilitating poverty and basic infrastructural problems. But I still think it’s a problem that most of us are either unaware or ignorant of the fact that African countries such as Kenya and Nigeria are among the fastest developing nations in the world. Film festivals and other cultural events held in these countries are largely ignored by the mainstream media while fashion weeks and film festivals in the Western world get praise and admiration. A large majority of us choose to turn away from the fact that even in these seemingly perfect cities, poverty and crime are major issues that continue to plague the residents’ lives and perpetuate inequalities within them. Even if this poverty and crime is brought out to us in gritty and critically acclaimed films (such as those portraying New York, by Martin Scorsese), first world cities have the privilege of being portrayed in all their dimensions, while cities in the developing world are left to deal with the consequences of being viewed as simply “poor”.

This isn’t (just) about “we’re all part of the human race”, it’s also about checking our own biases and waking ourselves up to slanted and asymmetrical media reporting. It’s about forming a well-rounded world view and not just falling for what is thrown at your face. The media is going to have its biases, and we can’t stop that. But we can try to educate ourselves and not divide the world into the romantic, and the exotic- because the whole world has its flaws, the whole world has its beauty. It’s all up to perspective.