Just over a week ago, ten republican candidates took the stage to begin the first debate of the 2016 presidential election. Donald Trump, who was at the time polling the strongest among republican voters, found himself faced with a question from moderator Megyn Kelly about his language towards women and whether his comments were the reflection of a man fit for president.
Kelly confronted him with comments he’s made about women referring to them as “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.” She also referred to an exchange on the Celebrity Apprentice where he told a contestant it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Kelly rose a legitimate question about how these comments can play into the “war on women.”
Trump responded by attacking society’s desire to be “politically correct,” claiming that our country is dodging the bigger issues by focusing on small pieces of language or comments made in passing.
Following his comments, Trump faced a strong backlash from both women and men, democrat and republican alike. He began lobbing offensive comments at Kelly in order to further deflect blame.
While discussing Trump’s stance on women and whether it will affect him in his presidential run is an interesting discussion, Trump raises an interesting point about political correctness that is worth addressing.
Is political correctness important? Do small comments and offensive language contribute to greater societal problems, or are people simply being too sensitive?
Political correctness exists for a reason. The age-old saying about sticks and stones rings largely false. Words do hurt. Not only are we affected by comments about us personally, but as a society, we’re affected by language, whether it be positive or negative. Referring to women, or anyone for that matter, with offensive or derogatory terms isn’t a personal liberty that has no bearing on society, but instead it weaves its way into our lives. As we repeatedly see and hear this type of language, it becomes normalized and the language begins to affect our thoughts and eventually, our actions. If we continually refer to women in derogatory ways: slut, fat pig, whore, or worse, we’ll begin to believe or at least identify with these sentiments. But if we instead begin to refer to women as strong, intelligent, powerful and beautiful, these sentiments will become normalized and we will be able to further combat the sexism so many women face.
So while political correctness may seem cumbersome and unnecessary, in reality, it creates a space for positive enforcement instead of negative, a space where women can grow and thrive and where men can lend support.