When political correctness is stupid
There are two sides to political correctness, and both are based on the assumption that words and symbols can change reality. To a certain extent, this is obviously true. ... But the ability of expressions to change reality is not without its limits.
People generally assume that only conservative people have feelings. Gay pride marches offend their sensibilities, as do pictures of women. But recently it has transpired that on the other side of the spectrum there is also a group that is no less sensitive.
During the past month alone, we have witnessed outrage over a new Bezeq advertisement that offended the transgender community, a revolt over the disappearance of a woman's figure from the Salit salt packages, and a suit against actor Itay Turgeman for making fun of Ethiopians on the "Survivor" reality TV show.
I've seen the Bezeq ad. It shows the actor Gidi Gov "feeling at home" in a public place and, among other things, gossiping on the phone about someone who apparently had a sex change. Some people might say the ad encourages vulgar behavior; others might consider it amusing. Whatever the case, it takes a great deal of effort - or a very thin skin - to interpret the ad as an attempt to insult transgendered people. And it was not without reason that Bezeq said it has is no immediate intention of changing the ad.
As for Salit, spokesmen for the company dismissed attempts by some to compare the packaging change to the removal of images depicting women from ads in Jerusalem. According to Salit, the packaging change was intended to distinguish between the salt that is kosher for Passover and the salt that is sold year-round.
And even if no one knows how the suit against Turgeman is going to play out, anyone who saw him mimicking an Ethiopian on "Survivor" knows it was merely an imitation, an accepted comic practice that makes up much of the repertoire of most stand-up comics.
In other words, these cases are examples of a trend that stresses the less intelligent side of being politically correct.
There are two sides to political correctness, and both are based on the assumption that words and symbols can change reality. To a certain extent, this is obviously true. When we use what is called in the United States "the N word" to describe a person who is black, we are insulting him; this word embodies a cruel history of exploitation and humiliation. On the other hand, the ability of expressions to change reality is not without its limits. If I choose to call my husband "my partner," I am not improving my status in the eyes of the law and the Rabbinate in Israel by doing so.
This example demonstrates how dangerous it is to irrationally adhere to politically correct behavior. Sticking to the embellished term "my partner" is likely to serve my desire to repress the major problems with the institution of marriage in Israel - and to weaken my ability to oppose it.
Thus, taking the Bezeq ad off TV will not change the fact that the transgender community in Israel is located in the furthermost circle from the services of the welfare authorities, and suffers from a lack of the most basic forms of support. This is a much more important struggle than the struggle against Gidi Gov.
And there's another issue, one that is less pressing politically but nevertheless intriguing: What is our anticipation based on that we can live in a world where people don't insult us and don't hurt our feelings? There is a reason that democracy has been described as "the least of the evils." Part of the price we pay for living in a democracy is that all kinds of idiots with poor taste have the right to say repulsive things about us. That's part of the deal. And besides, we're not in kindergarten anymore. It's time to stop running to the teacher every time someone calls us "icky!"