Pronouns and being PROlitically correct

Pronouns and being PROlitically correct

Kylee Watnick


Nowadays you hear people everywhere complaining about being Politically Correct (PC), but what does that really mean? According to, it stands for “Politically Correct.” The term PC is usually embedded in the response of someone who was told that whatever word or phrase that they used was harmful to a person or group of people. Calling something PC is their way of demeaning the person accusing them. 

For example, say John Doe was calling Native Americans “Indians,” for which he gets a negative response from Steve Doe. Rather than apologizing and correcting their vocabulary, John rants about how new generations are crybaby, social justice-loving, PC-warriors who can never take an issue lightly. 

Apparently, the common response is no longer ‘sorry’ when you hurt someone’s feelings. Rather, it is to blame them for having feelings at all. Then, people like John get offended over the ordeal and expect an apology from Steve! Instead of getting upset and going back and forth, people should open communication and explain why the words and phrases being used are so important to them. If the offending party refuses to listen, then that is when social action needs to take place. Articles in the newspaper can be part of that action.

A major issue that goes hand-in-hand with the term PC is racism. While many people define racism only as what is done to bring people down through systematic means because of their ethnicity or skin color, the more common definition of racism is that it is a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race ( 

Some people think that they should be able to identify others as a color, to say that certain races of people exist, and that somehow their race defines whether they are a thief, a rapist, or a good leader. When they are called racist for these beliefs, they start whining about how things are always too PC. They complain that being called a racist ruins their life, their reputation . . . but do they even realize the irony in that? These offenders become outraged that someone would demean their reputation by calling them a racist, but they never stop to consider whose reputations they might be ruining by making the racial assumptions that they have. 

Studies have shown that both the racial and gender pay gaps are still alive and well ( In fact, in a recent USA Today article, Charisse Jones found that “48 percent of  women say they have to work twice as hard to receive half the pay of men.” Worse, she reported that these numbers were even worse for women of color, particularly hispanic women. Still, the pleas for equal pay have been met with countless remarks on how improvements have been made, so there must not be a wage gap anymore. These non-believers say that any wage discrepancies are only due to women not seeking out higher paying jobs or just simply not working because they all want to be mothers. 

However, PayScale conducted a study in 2017 that showed whether you look at the gap between median salaries of men and women or at the gap between men and women in the same position, the wage gap still exists. This report, Gap Analysis: What Equal Pay Day Gets Wrong, shows in detail how women are consistently below men in pay, rank, and esteem in their respective career paths. 

Rather than addressing the roots of this systematic misogyny, again and again people claim that those who believe in the wage gap are simply radical feminists whose opinions and arguments do not matter. When someone tells them that their attitudes are misogynistic, they simply respond that people today are too sensitive and everything is too PC. People get upset at everything; they should just grow a pair and move on. This is not a fair outlook. All people deserve to be treated equally, and their success in the workplace should reflect that. Honestly, would it not be easier to just promote people equally and pay them equally based on skill? Just as a teacher’s grading rubric can be applied to a task regardless of who completed it, there should be some sort of guideline by which to judge all employees so that they, too, can be judged only by which criteria they meet or do not meet, rather than how likely they are to become pregnant. However, for some, that idea is just too PC. 

People should not be judged on uncontrollable factors. They should be seen through the lens of their accomplishments, beliefs, and passions. Not only does this mean that a person’s skin should not be a hindrance to their success, it means that their gender, social class, sexuality, and all other uncontrollable situations of life should not be a hindrance. If anything, differences should be celebrated. It breaks my heart when people fall back behind their shields of anti-PC rhetoric. 

I cannot stress how often I have heard the term PC being thrown around as an act of defiance against genuine movements towards inclusiveness and diversity. Most recently, I had to explain to someone that referring to people by their preferred pronouns is not something to scoff at. Actually, the sort of dismissal that accompanies a scoff is not only harmful, but downright rude. People need to respect the feelings and existence of their fellow humans. Just do it. Honestly, learning someone’s name is a more difficult task than learning their pronouns, so, if you could manage that, you can manage this. Especially on a campus like ours, which is based on Quaker tradition and meant to support people from any and all walks of life.

This especially refers to those who choose to be called pronouns that are not of the Western gender binary.  The most common of which being they/them. The Associated Press Stylebook has even added “they/them” to their guide. For people who prefer “they/them” as pronouns, backlash usually comes in the form of people saying “just choose one” or “why not just say ‘it’ ”  in reference to their individual identities. The Huffington Post recently posted an article on their website called “A Guide to Non-Binary Pronouns and Why They Matter” in which Sassafras Lowrey, a self-described genderqueer person with the pronouns ze/hir/hirs, explained hir feelings on the use and respect of people’s pronouns. The pronouns that Lowrey uses are important because they were “the same pronouns gender outlaw Kate Bornstein, transgender activist Leslie Feinberg, and so many other genderqueer folks [ze] met were using to reflect [the] non-binary identities” said Lowrey  in the article.  That was seventeen years ago. Even though genderqueer people have been historically documented since the nineteenth century, many people today still do not respect their identities ( No one should stand for this. Saying “they” instead of “she” or “he” can never harm you, and it may do a great deal of good for the person you are referencing. 

No one deserves to have their identities questioned. No one deserves to feel unsafe in their own skin. We are all human. So, if you are the type to call someone’s name, pronouns, race, or other identifying factors by words that are not PC, please reevaluate your reasoning. If you believe that someone is more deserving of success because of their race, ethnicity, gender, body shape, or anything else, please reevaluate your reasoning. If you believe that humans are not inherently equal, please, I beg you, reevaluate your reasoning. Just give your fellow humans a fair chance to be who they want to be. 

Really, it’s not that hard.

MAGGIE HARVEY/ QUAKER CAMPUS    Pronouns are a fun way of being respectful and kind to anyone.


Pronouns are a fun way of being respectful and kind to anyone.