Letter to the Thistle

Ideology More Important Than P.C.

In a recent letter to the Thistle ("the universal 'he': MIT student
writes of gender bias in teaching", Thistle, volume 8, number 14,
12/14/94), Katherine Holden describes an incident where she requested
one of her guest lecturers to use gender-neutral language in the
future and was rebuffed by the guest lecturer, who claimed that such a
request was an attempt to have him "do what the liberals want [him] to
do" and that he was a conservative (politically).
	Ms. Holden then describes the potential benefits of
gender-neutral terminology (as well as the detriments of gender-biased
terminology) and advocates that MIT adopts the use of gender
neutrality in official documents, lectures, and presentations.
	It is interesting to note that what Ms. Holden advocates is
"political correctness" in the original meaning of the phrase.
Originally, the use of gender-neutral and non-derogatory terminology
was adopted among college and university administrators for use in
official documents and memoranda, and this idea was circulated among
other administrators and officials. The use of this was dubbed
"politically correct," in the sense that no group would be excluded or
offended by official college/university policy.
	However, in the bizarre fashion of trickle-down
intellectualism, shortly thereafter, the use of gender-neutral and
non-derogatory terminology, as used by the general populace (as
opposed to college/university administrators), became a target of
those who would claim that the idea of "PC" was an Orwellian attempt
to cleanse the language of anything that goes against the "liberal
agenda." Rather than a term describing all-inclusiveness, "politically
correct" became a term denoting liberal crypto-fascism. Ironically,
the use of the term "politically correct" is often used today to
marginalize the comments of those who raise issues of socio-economic
disparity, racism, sexism, orientation, etc., whenever such issues are
raised, effectively curtailing any discussion of the matter.
	In short, what was originally a tool to promote greater parity
(at least in terms of administrative policy) has since become a tool
to marginalize any opinions that may differ from the status quo.
Furthermore, it is in vogue to be in opposition to sentiments that are
(allegedly) PC, to illustrate that one is not a "tool" of the
	Furthermore, the use of "PC" as an insult suggests that it is
popularly desirable to maintain the status quo, even if this
maintenance involves the tacit approval of racism, sexism, or other
equally odious forms of discrimination. It is this particular
sentiment that I find distasteful and somewhat disturbing.
	Brava! to Ms. Holden for speaking up against the "universal
'he.'" May her voice and the voices of those who agree with her IDEAS
(and not just the terminology) ring clearly and widely against the
more subtle forms of discrimination and bias that our culture has to

Ken Yee

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