Who would have thought? A recent internal document issued by the British Medical Association reminded me of times long passed. Like many little girls, I grew up dreaming of becoming a world renowned actress. Typically, the closest I ever got to a stage was by playing one of the (very many) Emperor’s subjects, in a small London theatre, feigning admiration for His new clothes with loud ‘ouhs and ahs’. It was said that the fabric was invisible to anyone either unfit for his position or ‘hopelessly stupid’. So, the ministers, the townsfolk and even the Emperor himself pretend to see the finest of garments.
Those familiar with the story may remember that in the midst of this deception, a child too young and too innocent to understand the desirability to keep up with the pretense cries out that the Emperor is actually naked! It struck me back then, that the Emperor ignores the cry taken up by the crowd, and continues the procession with ever increased conceit.
Two decades later, I wake up to a new Emperor: They call him “political correctness”. A social, cultural and political phenomenon which urges people to avoid ‘offensive’ words and actions. At best, it is just really annoying. At worst, it is flagrant censorship, an unabashed affront to our cherished freedom of speech. A fundamental human right, recognized under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Without freedom of speech, so many other rights fade away.
Examples of political correctness abound. From the pressure to drop the terms Before Christ (BC) and Anno Domini (AD) in favour of 'Before Common Era' / 'Common Era', proposals to outlaw titles which indicate marital status such as 'Miss' and 'Mrs' so as not to cause offence, to replacing the greeting ‘Merry Christmas’ with ‘Happy Holidays’, and a ‘Christmas’ tree with a ‘Holiday tree’. Words and phrases are continually decreed to be insensitive to various minorities, banned, and replaced with euphemisms so as to avoid real or sometimes imagined offense.
It is easy to mistake political correctness as a kind-hearted liberal attempt at not hurting people’s feelings. And that’s lovely. I don’t want to upset anyone. Yet, where is the logical stopping point? Apparently there is none. To me this became clear when the trade union and professional body for doctors in the UK, the British Medical Association (BMA) released an internal document to its staff outlining phrases that should be avoided for fear of causing offence. To name a few; ‘The elderly’ should be referred to as ‘older people’, ‘disabled lifts’ called ‘accessible lifts’ and someone who is ‘biologically male or female’ should be called ‘assigned male or female’. This is political correctness gone wild. All this pin pointing what could be deemed offensive, is stigmatizing in itself. Why should the elderly be offended by their age? It’s the natural course of life, and it’s beautiful. Judging the word ‘disabled’ offensive, only goes to portray our own twisted vision of disability. Yes, disability is a suffering, but why make a curse out of the word?
The BMA also advises its staff not to call pregnant women ‘expectant mothers’. Instead, they should call them ‘pregnant people’ so as not to upset intersex and transgender men. Although the BMA acknowledges that ‘a large majority of people that have been pregnant or have given birth identify as women’ it goes on to say that ‘we can include intersex men and transmen who may get pregnant by saying ‘pregnant people’ instead of ‘expectant mothers.’’’ Gender is not a social construct, it is biological. We are born female or male. People are not free to reassign science and biology.
Although, I am not expecting a child any time soon, I feel upset. I’m all for equal rights but not when they start impinging mine. According to National Statistics, 697,852 women gave birth in Britain in 2015. We can expect a similar number to give birth this year. Thousands of women will be denied the privilege of being referred to as ‘mothers’, stealing a part of their identity- one that is naturally acquired during the course of a pregnancy. I get chills thinking of the next ‘enlightened’ step. I dread that my own future child will not be free to call me ‘mother’ for fear of offending some identified victimized minority. The time has come for this child to speak up and strip the Emperor bare of his empty progressive lexicon.