While we can still cough – By @melinaflp

By Melina Filippidou


While we can still cough

I will never understand how political correctness became a controversial topic. What does it take for a shield to be considered a weapon? And why is the advertising industry supposed to be threatened by rationales against discrimination? From unstable, orange-skinned world leaders to actual human beings, political correctness has indeed many opponents that criticize it from seemingly different angles.

One of the most common arguments against PC is the censorship argument. Freedom of speech is one of the most fundamental rights of modern cultures, so it does makes sense for people to defend it. But I think that this is not usually the case. In my experience, freedom of speech is often used shamelessly to defend homophobic jokes or sexist comments. Isn’t it just sad. Once I read that PC is leading us towards a sterilized, Orwellian society where people can’t even cough without being censored. The writer of this statement was a white, heterosexual guy. Oh well.

Another popular argument that I come across regularly, is that what makes a word, a comment or a behavior offensive is subjective. So PC cannot really work as a way to regulate offensive patterns, because who’s to say what’s offensive and what’s not. Although this argument seems pretty legitimate, it is based on a false appreciation of subjectivism: individuals have subjective outlooks, not social groups. PC is mainly supposed to protect social groups that are traditionally discriminated against and marginalized, from demeaning words and behaviors. There’s nothing subjective about a racist continuum.

And what about advertising? Though everyone agrees that getting over with this or this was a great thing, many people still associate edgy creativity with questionable messages and shocking content. Having models posing like this is not arty nor “porno chic”. It is widely offensive to women, probably winking at rape culture as well. Most of the agencies that are forced to withdraw their campaigns after social criticism claim that they had no intention to offend anyone. Personally, I often find this excuse acceptable and in some cases truthful. It is sometimes possible to not be aware of the incorrectness of your work, your ideas or even your words. After all, we are all trying to discard and get rid of any kind of prejudices, discriminations and out-of-date perspectives. Admittedly it is not the easiest thing. As long as advertising is concerned, I think PC and social intervention can work as a strong motive for agencies to steadily move towards responsible creativity where there are yet new and unexplored opportunities to shine.

Inside or outside the industry, I believe that PC is not our enemy but our helpful friend in an effort to dismiss any barriers left in our mind, wash any orange spills off our skin and proclaim our right to be imperfect. I think it’s absolutely human to make mistakes, to review things and reconsider viewpoints. What is unacceptable is hiding in the convenience of our privileges, turning our fear of change into an attitude and letting our arrogance make conversations. As Jonathan Culler, a Professor of English and the writer of literary theory pointed out, “Language is both the concrete manifestation of ideology and the site of its questioning or undoing”.



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