“Ok, so what is our Christmas party budget?” he asked me jotting down notes on his yellow notepad at the edge of my desk. I sat at my computer, excel spreadsheet open and calculator up.
“$2,500.” I said looking over from my screen, “He was thinking about $100 per person, and we have 12 employees, plus everyone can invite a partner. 24 people with a little fudge room.”
I laughed, “No, no, not corporate partner. Like spouses or significant others. Partners.”
The light bulb visibly flashed on over his head as he began to nod and laugh with me, “Oh!! I get it,” he giggled collecting himself, “Joni you are just so PC, I’ll never be able to keep up.” He returned his hand to the paper and jotted down the figures I had just explained.
Is it really that PC to refer to the blanket of significant others, spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends held by my colleagues as “partners?” Apparently to Jerry it is.
Party planning committee aside, I’ve been accused of being PC in my casual discourse with co-workers. Communicating with any of them in general has some challenges given our environment. For example, our busy little start-up company is set in a shared office with a plumbing, electrical and HVAC company. Not glamorous but it’s somewhere to put my giant multi-monitored computer. I, and all the crap required to do my job, have a separate office from the rest of my colleagues. A couple others work in their own offices and the rest work in a large corral, sectioned off by cubicle walls. They’re all kind of far away from me, so when I’m in a hurry, rather than getting up every time I want to converse with someone, I often just chat them over an instant messaging tool called “Gchat.”
The other day I was writing one of the employees I manage in customer service. I’m pretty casual with everyone, at least so I think, and was asking how a conversation went with an especially, um, excitable client.
Joni: Did you get a hold of Sherry?
Mark: Yea, haha, lucky me
Joni: Haha I know right? Thank you for following up. What was the problem?
Mark: She’s retarded
Mark: I didn’t mean to call her retarded. She just forgot her password, which I just reset.
Joni: No worries
Mark: I’m really trying to be more politically correct
I was grateful that my 23-year-old subordinate caught himself before I had to say anything. Notice how I phrased that – had to say something. I’m not out to be the polite police, but it’s important to me that we are careful with our words and express ourselves in the way that we truly see the world, as best we can. I get that we are free in America to be the biggest jerkfaces we want, but how about choosing not to?
I recall a girl I grew up with from elementary to junior high – she had a significant disability, could hardly speak and was confined to a wheelchair due to severe disfigurement. She died just as we got into high school, and it was my first real experience dealing with the permanence of death. I think my being careful with the word is how I can honor a person I never really got to know. How horrible would it be if she heard me using that word to refer to a dumb client?
Another one that fortunately I’m hearing less of is referring to something as “gay.” As in lame or bad or just negative in some kind of way. Which is weird when you consider the etymology of the word, originally used to refer to something as happy or joyful. I’m no expert but as I understand somewhere along the line the word’s meaning shifted to mean either same sex affinity or lame – I’m not sure if it was at the same time or one before the other. A synonym, “fag,” can also mean a cigarette.
To back up the common use of gay or fag, I refer to a beloved American TV character, Michael Scott, from The Office:
Michael Scott: No, that is the fun of this place. I call everybody faggy. Why would anyone find that offensive?
Toby: Okay, I think Oscar would just like it if you used lame or something like that.
Michael Scott: That’s what faggy means.
So silly. I like how The Office points out Michael’s (being a bit of a half-wit) ignorance and the absurdity of using, in this case, “faggy” to mean lame. Maybe use a more descriptive term there, Michael.
Staying on the topic of popular American TV, I am a big sports fan. Which is good and bad, good because watching sports is ridiculously fun, bad in that my fall weekends are often devoured by watching the Huskies or Seahawks play football.
The biggest set of nails on the chalkboard of watching friendly matchups is when ignorant morons call men playing poorly a term that refers to women. “A girl could have caught that!” “He’s being such a pussy!” “My Mom could teach him how to throw!”
Yeah, your Mom could teach him how to throw, because she can probably throw a mean spiral. And by pussy, do you mean vagina? As in, the prized golden reward straight males spend most of their waking hours trying to gain access to?
I chalk it up to ignorance most of the time, because when I point out the insanity of using these words, most guys digress and see my point. At least the smart ones. So let me pull the cloak back for the world and let you know – there are no women or giant vaginas playing football in the NFL or College games. At least not yet.
I’m not alone in my rationality. I’ll allow comedian Louis CK to pipe up on this one:
“[Cunt] is a very misused word. It’s supposed to mean “vagina”, which I don’t think works at all. Because vaginas are so sweet! They’re little pretty things! With little flower petal-y lips! I hear a piccolo in my head every time I see a vagina. Doodle-doodle-doo, doodle-doo! Even “vagina” is too harsh! They should be called, like, a “falalalalala”! (Vocalises) … How do you look at something that pretty and say “That’s a CUNT!”? It doesn’t fit at all. Maybe if it was a giant vagina that was attacking a town. And throwing buses around and knocking over telephone poles. Then you could say, “Hey, somebody shoot that cunt with a bazooka!””
To give you a bit of context, he is explaining why he doesn’t understand how people use the word cunt as an insult, and I agree. Having a vagina is a good thing, there’s nothing wrong with liking them or referring to them as they are – awesome lady parts.
However using these terms, gay, retard, girl/pussy, as an insult is a mark of ignorance and immaturity, and I challenge you to knock it off. Not only that, but when you hear it, say something. I’m sure there’s a retard, gay, girl or vagina that would appreciate your courage.