The triggering: We need a productive conversation about political correctness

By Tess Halpern


Political correctness is simply defined by Merriam Webster’s dictionary as “agreeing with the idea that people should be careful to not use language or behave in a way that could offend a particular group of people.”

It is a wonderful concept that we are taught from a very young age. I don’t remember much from my kindergarten years, but I do recall what the “golden rule” of my classroom was. Right above the chalkboard was a poster with the words, “Treat others the way you would like to be treated,” literally written in gold lettering to drive the point home.

From the time we start interacting with other children, we learn the virtues of being a good person: share, play nice, don’t call people names, etc. We may not be taught about political correctness as five-year-olds, but the concept is more or less the same. However, for whatever reason, adults have forgotten those concepts.

Political correctness is no longer the “golden rule.” Many believe that we, as a society, have taken political correctness too far, to the point where we are too overly sensitive and need to put too much thought into every statement that we make in order to not offend someone. Some people believe that this new obsession with political correctness is limiting our freedom of speech.

Last week, I found out there was an event that the University of Massachusetts GOP will be hosting on April 25 titled, “The Triggering: Has Political Correctness Gone Too Far?” This event will feature a panel of Christina Hoff Sommers, Milo Yiannopoulos and Steven Crowder, where they will have the floor to discuss the issue of being “too politically correct.”

Sommers, a former philosophy professor turned author, is most well-known for her criticism of modern-day feminism, with published works like “Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women” and “The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men.”

Yiannopoulos, a journalist and entrepreneur, has equally controversial views such as his takes on rape culture and misogyny, both of which he believes are falsehoods created by feminists. Yiannopoulos is also famously known for funding a scholarship exclusively for white males intending to go to college.

Crowder, a former contributor for Fox News, is well-known for his comedic YouTube channel, featuring videos where he discusses his views on politics, feminism, gay and trans rights and terrorism, including one video titled “Moderate Islam: A MYTH!,” where he dons a turban and pulls up quotes from “the original ISIS member: Mohammed, himself.” (quote at 3:22).

You don’t have to know very much about UMass to know that this event has sparked an enormous amount of controversy. Not only are people upset by the fact that this panel discussing political correctness is made up entirely of whites who, for the most part, all share the same views, but this event is also coming soon after the UMass campus has witnessed a series of homophobic, racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobiac messages being spread.

With all of this hatred being expressed recently, a discussion about political correctness is relevant. However, UMass is a diverse campus, with students and faculty who hold different religious beliefs and who are from different backgrounds. Holding a panel on the topic of political correctness where the only speakers are white conservatives is undeniably limited, despite the fact that one of the panelists is a woman and one is a gay man, as supporters of this event were quick to mention.

Unfortunately, I can’t imagine this panel discussion being much of a discussion at all. In order to have a discussion about something as important and controversial as this topic, you must have opinions from both sides. Because of the lack of representation on this panel, students are already discussing protesting the event.

I understand why people are frustrated. However, as Americans, these speakers have the right to say and publicize their opinions, just as I have the right to say and publicize mine. Instead of protesting the event and refusing to listen to the other side, I believe that it is important that people with differing views from the panelists actually go to the event. Again, not to protest or to make a scene, but to listen.

We as a society cannot grow if we remain unwilling to intellectually discuss opposing views with one another. To those of you who don’t agree with what will be discussed at this event, I encourage you to go, listen and when the time is right, present your differing opinion. You will almost certainly not change anyone’s opinion, but you may finally start the discussion that this panel should be having in the first place.

Tess Halpern is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]