Political Correctness on College Campuses and the Issue of Respect

This is the internet, and one thing that the internet is not and will never be lacking in is responses. Video responses. Blog responses. Published-in-an-actual-news-paper responses. Hell, this entire blog is almost nothing but responses. So, of course, whenever someone gets attention by the media decrying the state of political correctness on college campuses you can bet your sweet ass that it will get a million responses from huffy undergrads trying to explain away their borderline authoritarian mindsets as being helpful and progressive.

You saw it with the article by a liberal professor terrified by his liberal students. You saw it with the female professor accusing college campuses of “sexual hysteria.” You saw it with Christina Hoff Sommers apparently being so traumatizing a presence that people needed a childish “safe space” away from her and her mean, evil, dissenting opinion. You saw it with Chris Rock and Seinfeld who won’t even tour college campuses anymore because college kids don’t have a sense of humor anymore. And every time it happened, the internet exploded with lots of young twenty-somethings chomping at the bit to justify their future sociology and gen/sex degrees by telling the complainers just how wrong and behind the times they were and how anyone who complains about college campuses being “too PC” just doesn’t get it and/or is just unwilling to admit that they’re contributing to oppression.

I don’t get this. I just wish that people would own up to what they are. Be honest. If you’re so proud about your current state of being, why lie about your current state of being? Is that too much to ask? Am I being naive here? At least a neo-Nazi isn’t going to get all coy and defensive when you accuse him of thinking black people are inferior and try to justify it by backpedaling and being vague and constantly denying obvious things just to make himself look better. He owns that shit.

And you see this denial of reality all the goddamn time: Feminists insisting with their heart and soul that feminism isn’t a women’s rights movement but a gender rights movement that helps men too even though feminism objectively almost never talks about men’s rights. How about the Islam apologists who insist that Islam has absolutely nothing to do with violence committed explicitly in the name of Islam and we should just stop acting like it is? My last article was about people protesting cultural appropriation who were dancing through fucking hoops to avoid saying that they just didn’t want white people doing something because ‘fuck white people.’ Before someone calls me biased against liberals: The Koch brothers who insist that they’re totally not just out to squeeze every drop of oil money out of the country before people finally wise up, and how about the oh-so-concerned good Christians who can’t just admit that they liked it better in the 50s when being gay was a mental illness and you could slap your secretary’s ass without everybody getting all pissy about it.

That is what this is: People inexplicably denying the very obvious state of affairs for no well-defined reason. Colleges are PC places. Own up to it. Don’t try to justify it by insisting that “they’re not PC, you just don’t get it and want to complain about positive change.” Don’t make ad hominem attacks against people by implying that they only have an issue with it because they’re okay with -isms. Just own up to it. Colleges now have free speech zones and “hurtful speech” codes. They have college-financed safe spaces, and freshman orientations where you learn about preferred pronouns and cultural appropriation and privilege and micro-aggressions. It’s news every graduation season to hear about some new commencement speaker somewhere who got canceled for being some shade of “problematic.” It’s not uncommon for people or groups that disagree with the established liberal rhetoric of the campus to be escorted to their lecture hall with body guards. College campuses are very politically correct places.

I’m in college now. I have experienced all of those things above. I’ve seen people get kicked out for sharing a private joke amongst themselves that “enforced rape culture.” I’ve seen people demonized and abused for owning a “misogynistic” pin-up poster in their frat house. I’ve been there for people protesting the very presence of a speaker simply because they disagreed with him in a lecture that was ironically about the importance of discourse with those who disagree with you to the academic spirit. I went to the orientation event where I learned that if a guy hits on me when I’m drunk, he’s sexually pressuring me and can be reported to campus security. I’ve heard similar stories from my other friends, and we run the gamut of liberal arts college to research university to state school. The stories are not odd. They happen all the time.

I can see how this toxic idea of liberal progressiveness is affecting how people act, and I don’t like it. More selfishly, I can see very clearly how it affects me and people’s perception of me, and I don’t like that either. Maybe if it affected their perception of me in a positive way, I wouldn’t complain, but it does not. How about some anecdotes to prove my point?

My freshman (oh, I’m sorry, don’t want to be sexist) first-year . . . year of college, I started writing for our newspaper. My very first op-ed was actually about the PC culture I had experienced just being there a week and how I thought it wasn’t that great. Keep this in mind–I was a liberal from a small conservative, Southern town. I couldn’t comprehend a place being “too liberal” or “too accepting.” I wanted to be as liberal as possible and wrote off all of the comments on the internet saying that the place was out of control with its left-leaning politics as dumb. And even then, I was hit with how authoritarian “too much liberalism” could be. I didn’t want to criticize the place because I thought it was everything I’d wanted in a school, welcoming and accepting, but I was genuinely concerned enough to write the op-ep.

I’m not really a fan of the article–I think it’s rather amateurish and blog-y and doesn’t reflect my current “professional” writing style very well. That being said, the response to it in the comment section online was overwhelmingly negative. Not because it was blog-y and amateurish, but because ‘how dare I call the campus too PC, I must be a bigot and and idiot.’ I didn’t even know my articles could have comments on them, so I didn’t find out about the negative response until I got ten e-mails telling me I had to moderate the comments on my article. I read them and approved them to be seen because, as you can guess, I’m not for moderating comment sections and think that people can say what they want.

My general response was a.) giving almost no fucks, and b.) having the small number of fucks I did give just being amused by it. People were mean to me on the internet, oh my goodness, that never happens!!! If you hadn’t known what the comments were about, it would seem like I broke into these peoples’ houses, raped their dogs, and killed their families before cannibalizing the bodies. The sheer level disproportionate vitriol amused me the same way ridiculously racist YouTube comments amuse me. So I read the comments with my friends and had a few laughs over how infuriated people were for no real reason and pretty much forgot about it. . . . Which is why when people started being weird around me I had no idea why.

My editor was weird, some of my hallmates were weird, my faculty adviser was weird. It wasn’t because they disagreed with me, mind you, though they probably did. When I say they “acted weird,” I mean they treated me like a shake weight with a motion-sensing bomb taped to it–very, very, very, VERY delicately. One guy who wrote on the paper with me and was my hallmate finally broached the “touchy” subject of people being mean to me on the internet, and I’m fairly sure my jaw literally dropped over that being the reason people were so odd around me. It was two days ago by that point. Even if the comments had made me sad before, which they didn’t, who the fuck cares about mean things said to them on the internet for more than an hour, let alone days.

I then figured out that, because of the harsh comments on my article–comments that I personally approved, to remind you–people expected me to be devastated and traumatized and prone to bursting into tears whenever it was mentioned, I guess. They wanted to let me know that if I ever felt victimized, I could go to them for support and talk to them about it, and if I didn’t want to talk about the abuse I had experienced I didn’t have to, but they were there for me anyway. Dear god, I could’ve gotten one of them to follow me around with a fucking fainting couch, they thought I was that much of a fragile flower. Over mean comments on the internet.

I straight-up told my adviser that if I cared about people being mean to me I wouldn’t have put my opinion in a newspaper, and that I had even taken a screenshot of the best/worst comment because it was hilarious and I wanted to send it to my friends. The idea that I wasn’t rendered AWOL, curled up weeping in a corner somewhere because a stranger typed bad things at me was flabbergasting to them. Now, I appreciate that they cared enough about me and my feelings to offer their support if I was ever in need of it. I truly appreciate it. But GOD, you’d think I was a toddler with the way they treated me, like a strong wind would be enough to blow me over. I’m an adult. I have a backbone. If I didn’t, it was sure as hell about time to grow one, and that kind of coddling, hand-holding treatment wouldn’t help.

But, of course, that’s the kind of treatment I got. Because hurtful comments can hurt someone’s feelings. They’re very important, feelings. Having your feelings hurt is pretty much the worst thing that can happen to a person. Because women are so oppressed, so constantly victimized, that’s it’s only understandable that they’d need a fainting couch just to survive the most begin encounters with unpleasantness. It’s only understandable that anyone who wants to be a good ally would treat them with care. This is a safe space, after all.

How about another one?

I was in a small class of about fifteen people. It was the beginning of the semester and the beginning of what would turn out to be a really great and interesting class. Because it was so small a class and discussion-based, we all talked to the professor a lot and he talked to us. We learned where people were from, all that icebreaker shit. It was a three-hour seminar, so we had a break in the middle where people just lounged around and ate candy and talked about stuff. During one of these time, I and two other people were talking about word usage in TV commercials (I think, this was a while ago). Anyway, I made a comment about how I thought a certain phrase was more common than it apparently was, I don’t remember what. The professor then asked me if it was a common phrase in New Zealand.

For some reason, he’d gotten it in his head that I was from there. I don’t know why. Dude was British; they’re weird over there across the pond. My answer was “I don’t know, I’ve never been to New Zealand,” and then to make some jokingly sarcastic comment at him for forgetting where I was from because he was cool and that was the dynamic we had. I thought it was funny. He was super embarrassed and I didn’t get why. And the other people who heard the exchange were making that look–you know the one, the “something problematic was said and we don’t know how the victim is going to react” look.

So I tried my best to get it across to everyone that I didn’t care. I have an accent that is apparently incredibly difficult to identify. I’m from the South, and I thought my accent was clearly a southern one, but people think my accent is any number of random things. I’ve also made it my personal goal as an ambiguously brown girl to be mistaken for every race/ethnicity humanly possible, so that above incident was actually really awesome for me because I didn’t think I’d ever be mistaken for a Maori. I was killing it at Racially Ambiguous Bingo! No one else was going to be able to mark off that shit. But while I was internally celebrating over being mistaken for something so obscure, everyone else was just exchanging “the look” instead of just enjoying a funny moment for what it was. Because it was fucking hilarious to my TvTropes-wired brain, but there was no one there to laugh with me because they were all so worried about offense being taken. There was no one there who I could share a laugh with in a brief second of glowing camaraderie. One of my classmates even thought that I had only laughed because the micro-aggression made me uncomfortable and that racism has made it unacceptable for people of color such as myself to express when racism hurts us. I had to tell her that I really just thought it was funny.

Having to walk on eggshells all the time, even when benign, innocent mistakes that can easily be joked about are made, is just horrible. I’m sure all my classmates would have backed me up had I complained to the administration about my straight white male professor giving me such egregious racial micro-aggressions. Because college campuses are where easy-goingness and a sense of humor go to die, as Seinfeld so accurately pointed out. It’s apparently impossible for a black person to have a sense of humor. Any time I laugh at a race joke, it’s apparently only because I’m too uncomfortable to complain about it at that very moment. We must all have our delicate sensibilities protected, you know?

Those are just two anecdotes that I think accurately get across just how stifling college campuses can be sometimes. People who fit the “right” oppressed demographics are coddled like children, our reactions to non-issues being watched over like vultures to make sure that when offense is taken (and it is always ‘when’ with this mentality, never ‘if’) they can attack whoever necessary with the appropriate amount of “progressive” zeal.

Because of this overly-PC, identity-politics centered rhetoric being passed around through academia–probably originated in academia–people don’t respect me. They just don’t. They may pity me. They may ‘understand what I’ve gone through.’ They may ‘want to give me my voice.’ They may even like me. But they don’t respect me.

If they respected me, they wouldn’t treat me like a child. They wouldn’t treat me like a delicate little flower that needs to be guarded from the world because I’m not strong enough to stand on my own. If they respected me, they wouldn’t hover over me, just waiting for me to throw a tantrum over some imagined slight. They wouldn’t assume that I was disingenuous, that my words and my actions were just an act to cover up the real offense I must be feeling, according to them and their ideas. If they respected me, they wouldn’t constantly lower the standards that I’m held to because it’s apparently inherently impossible for me to meet the standards they’ve set for themselves. They may respect “minorities” as some vague, all-encompassing term. But they don’t respect me. And if they are a woman or a person of color who still stands by that mentality, they don’t seem to respect themselves either.

You don’t treat someone who you respect that way. And that’s one of the most horrible things I’ve come to see in this new left-wing mentality. It can talk all it wants about how it’s about equality and acceptance. But if it’s ‘equality and acceptance’ at the cost of losing all respect from the people who are supposed to be on my side just by virtue of being a woman with a darker skin tone, then I don’t want it.

At least the fucking Nazi will be disrespectful to my face.


4 thoughts on “Political Correctness on College Campuses and the Issue of Respect

    • Your typical ridiculously expensive liberal arts kind. =P It’s pretty par for the course from what I’ve seen of the Ivy and Little Ivy circle. Damn my love of scholarly shit . . .

  1. Sierra says:

    This is crazy! I graduated from college three years ago and I don’t recall this form of extreme behavior. I myself identify as liberal and generally hung out with the progressive, tree-huggers on campus, but I don’t recall knowing anyone with this extreme mentality. (I went to a public state school, however.) I also recently just got Twitter, and have been hearing a lot about over-the-top Twitter attacks.

    • Public schools seem to be less susceptible to the overly-liberal mentality. If often seems like the more “prestigious” a school is, the bigger a problem it is. Which makes sense, I guess, since people in that kind of rigorius ademic environment love to find ways to make their seemingly purely intellectual classes relevant to real life somehow. =P I’m just sad that the best schools are the ones perpetuating this behavior.

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