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January 23, 2015

On Political Correctness & Inclusivity in Language: Are We Being Too Sensitive?

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Eleditor’s note: Elephant is a diverse community of sixteen million readers and hundreds of writers (you can write too!). We are reader-created. Many blogs here are experience, opinion, and not fact or The One Right Point of View. We welcome all points of view, especially when offered with more sources and less invective, more frankness and less PR. Dislike this Op-Ed or opinion? Share your own take here.

 

“I notice there seems to be some heavy hetero-oriented and gender-role biased content on the elephant journal site (and well, most places on the internet). Did you notice that?”

—read a recent message from a friend.

I hadn’t noticed and was glad she brought it to my attention but part of me felt angry that she even brought it up.

Some of that was my ego, and the rest of it was disbelief that she couldn’t see the bigger picture. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for being inclusive and equal rights for everyone, but here are two things I think to be true:

 

1. In order to create, we have to come from a personal point of view.

Often times, creative blocks come from over thinking instead of listening to our inner voice and following our intuition. Art in and of itself sheds light on different aspects of the human condition, making us consider points of view we may not have previously considered.

If we artists are concerned about making our work politically correct, trying to please everyone, our art would be watered down to two tight paragraphs on kittens. And while kittens are cute and awesome, what change does watered down art bring to the world?

2. Most lessons from art/stories can be applied to whatever situation describes your situation.

If we take a step back and look at the big picture of a piece, we can see that the lesson it’s trying to impart is universal whether you’re polyamorous, heterosexual, homosexual, transgender, etc.

For example, one of my favorite books is The Five Love Languages.

I recommend it to everyone.

This book is written by a Christian author and includes a lot of scripture and talk of God. I don’t identify as Christian, but the message of the book, that true love means giving to someone in a way they understand, is so powerful that the overarching message of love trumps the point of view in which it was written. Seriously, this book has changed my relationships and how I look at relationships in an incredibly meaningful way.

Additionally, this book was written with romantic relationships in mind, but the lesson is so universal that it can be used to strengthen all of our relationships, romantic, platonic or otherwise.

 

Of course, there is going to be art that is incredibly specific and exclusive to certain groups of people, and this type of art is necessary too.

Often times, I feel people get too caught up in, “Oh, this article about being a better partner only talks about heterosexual couples, so it obviously doesn’t apply to me. The author is being insensitive and exclusive,” when really, the article is just written from a heterosexual point of view. The author happens to be heterosexual and the advice could be applicable to any relationship, regardless of which pronouns or labels were used.

Could we writers be more mindful of how we word things in order to be more inclusive?

Maybe.

But there’s a difference between writing from a point of view and deliberately being insensitive to different lifestyles.

The world is too large for one piece of writing to encompass all of the bazillions of combinations that could specifically apply to one person.

However, if we all calm down and start looking past the labels and look at the universal message of a piece, we would all be able to learn something from each other, regardless of how we identify.

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Author: Kari Lu Cowell

Apprentice Editor: Melissa Tamura / Editor: Renee Picard 

Photo: Elephant Archive

 

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