Let’s all be “Politically Correct”

It's for real now...

I decided to get a head start on the reading due for next Wednesday this weekend. Our blog groups reading assignment is “Reading and Writing Without Authority”. The paper started with examples of writing from two people of different academic backgrounds as they were presented with the same controversial issue. While one, a college freshman, wrote as if she was a reporter vying for the favor both sides of the issue, the other, a doctorate student in philosophy began immediately by presenting a couple contentious scenarios for the reader.

As I continued to read, it became obvious to me that the author of the paper was making a point of writing that attracts and prompts critical reading. The phrase “politically correct” ran through my head a few times  throughout the essay. I’d be the first to admit, I don’t put much thought into who’s reading my writing when I compose an essay or a piece of creative work. I don’t really think much of the external arguments that may arise from a reader as they skim a paper for English 225. However, I do aim to be as controversial and thought-provoking as possible, without being politically incorrect.

So what is considered “politically correct”? I often find that when a writer wants to get the favor of every one of their readers through their works, they end up writing dry compositions that, in essence, are a report or summary of others’ research. How does a writer stay in the safe zone for criticisms of prejudice while still getting their point across?

The answer: You can’t.

The word “prejudice” has become just a taboo to think in terms of a person that most people would deny that they have any “prejudice” in their thinking or writing. What is impossible to deny is that everyone is prejudiced. I am prejudiced. You, the reader, are prejudiced. And it’s foolish to think that anyone can be UNprejudiced. We have all lived in this world with a certain point of view on everything. It’s the stereotypes that we have and the preconceived notions of certain people that we can socialize in society. Are all stereotypes valid? No. But they are an integral part of our psyche and form our interactions with others. So why try to disguise it in your writing if you are indeed prejudiced?

When I write, I want my opinion to be heard. I don’t think about exactly who audience is (something I do need to improve in)  and I, quite frankly, don’t care if the reader disagrees with everything I’ve written. I want my writing to challenge the way that the reader thinks about something, and I want the reader to challenge me. Writing without prejudice is writing without meaning. And you can disagree with me on all accounts of that.

-Diana

6 thoughts to “Let’s all be “Politically Correct””

  1. Diana, you took away something much different from this essay than me! I have a few questions. First, you mention you aim to be as “controversial and thought-provoking” as possible. Do you think this has the potential to be harmful? If we’re constantly aiming for controversy, doesn’t that run the risk of going overboard? I believe there’s value in a writer taking risks and confronting controversial topics. However, an author who constantly tries to be controversial may make points simply to be different. The internet world calls this “trolling.” That is, someone who throws out outlandish remarks and posts ridiculous things just to garner attention and spark heated debate. I’m sure you’re not this type of person. I’m curious, though, to hear whether you believe this need for originality could be dangerous.

    1. Hi Mark,

      I think that as a writer and a reader, I cannot possibly write something without attempting to insert our own opinions into my work. Perhaps I should clarify: I don’t necessarily try my best to be controversial in my writing, rather, I just am and it is indeed a goal for me to provoke readers to think. And I believe that most writing is controversial, whether readers notice or not. As Didion would say “Writing is a forceful thing”.

      However, I do see the point you make about throwing out outlandish remarks in writing in order to create controversy. I’ve never really found use for that in academic writing, and would argue that if someone did “troll” in their prose, it would attract what they wanted: controversy and attention.

      What I believe is most important for a writer to know about writing is that writing always has a purpose to convince and convey opinions/ideas. While I was mainly addressing academic writing, it does not exclude other forms of prose. Controversy is a blanket term that I used (and perhaps not too clearly in my blog) to explain that all writing includes opinions. And I believe those with the capability to admit that they HAVE opinions are the strongest writers.

      -Diana

  2. I also wanted to ask you whether you believe certain prejudices would be better served away from the paper. Are there some viewpoints that should not be published for everyone to see? For example, racial prejudice probably doesn’t belong on the front page of the New York Times. Would you agree? I know we all have prejudices, yet some may be more valuable than others.

    I think it’s great that you don’t think too hard about your reader. Obviously, we write an email to a friend differently from an essay for an upper-level college course. I’ve found that if I think too hard about what others may feel about my writing, I produce uninspiring papers. We have to keep in mind our audience, but not be willing to sacrifice our thoughts to meet their expectations.

    1. Hi (again) Mark 🙂

      Once again, I’d have to say that “prejudice” is yet another blanket term that perhaps I didn’t explain to its fullest in my blog. I’ll try my best to explain it with an example:

      Someone is writing a research paper on a not-so-real blood clotting disorder. In the research paper, she reports her results on charts/tables and also through observations of her own studies. In it, there is a quote “People of European descent are more likely to have inherited the genes for the disease from their parents.”

      Is that racist?

      Now, before you answer that, let me ask you, what if she said: “White people are more likely to have inherited the genes for the disease from their parents.”

      She essentially reported the same thing, yet the second one would cause a lot more controversy in the scientific community because of the way she phrased it.

      In answer to your question: No, I do not believe that racist/prejudiced comments belong in newspapers, but how do you define “racist”? And where do you draw the line? After all, even Larry King and Chris Matthews in the news channels have said these words.

      What I wanted to convey is that “prejudice”, as it’s commonly become negative term, is in the way we think, in the way we speak, and it’s foolish to deny that it’s not in the way we write. There is a limit to what we should and should not say, as I mentioned in my blog. However, when you think about a friend who’s America, do you think “Anglo-Saxon” or do you think “white”?

      I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with thinking either.

      -Diana

  3. I really like your interpretation of this text, you took away something completely independent of what I wrote, and that’s awesome. I really liked when you said, “The word “prejudice” has become just a taboo to think in terms of a person that most people would deny that they have any “prejudice” in their thinking or writing.” I would agree that the word prejudice has adopted a negative connotation within the English language, although it need not necessarily be that way. I definitely have prejudices within my writing and within my views, everybody does. And because they are a fundamental component of human existence, though we may deny and try to hide their existence, it may be appropriate, in some contexts, to express them in writing.

    This was a really interesting take. I enjoyed reading your piece.

    Jen

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