What does it mean to be “politically correct”?
It seems to me that people often use this phrase when someone is trying on newer language to speak about a situation or person. For example, “houseless” instead of “homeless.” “Partner” instead of “boyfriend/girlfriend.” The list goes on.
Political correctness also has a negative correlation. If you are called “politically correct” it is usually not in a good way. You have failed to see the world as it once was and are now a striver–endeavoring to live up to expectations put on you by higher ranking people.
But, why the words political and correct?
Because, in essence, when we say houseless we are trying to see the situation more accurately. When we say partner we are trying to allow for more possibilities, not less. Language never captures reality exactly as it is but it has been the human endeavor to bring the two closer and closer.
What we call “political correctness” is often this action of bringing language and reality closer together. But I would argue that it is a faulty phrase for the phenomena. First of all, the movement to change language is rarely coming from a political level, it starts at the grassroots. Secondly, there is no correct– there is only better. What is an accurate word today, may change tomorrow.
There is no concrete political correctness because we are always learning and reimagining. The words we use not only describe our lives, they shape it. So when there is a shift in our cultural understanding of what it means to be human, we are not striving to be politically correct we are striving to reflect a better understanding.