My friends and I were enjoying dinner at a restaurant one night when I asked a female employee the name of our “waitress.” The woman’s face curled up, as she sternly replied, “The correct term, young man, is server.” This incident, in combination with our study of non-sexist language in my Proof and Persuasion class, has heightened my awareness of politically correct speech. In a progressive society, political correctness is necessary and should be embraced, but certain terms leave the political-correctness line in the dust and rocket right into the realm of futility. The American Philosophical Association (APA) has published the “Practical Guide to Non-Sexist Language,” in which its members outline some of the commonly used words which, in their opinions, convey sexism and inequality. Their guide contains several changed terms, which are appropriate: steward (ess) to flight attendant, anchor man to news anchor, and policeman to police officer. These changes are requested for the sake of clarity and equality, and indeed are more practical. The remainder of the term changes presented by the APA seems, to me, unnecessary and downright pointless. The majority of the terms the APA deems problematic contain the suffix or prefix “man.” For example, mankind, manmade, manpower, layman, freshman, and modern man are terms which apparently must be changed. The APA suggests that these terms be changed to humankind/humanity, manufactured, human resources, layperson, first-year student, and modern humanity, respectively. Because these words contain the word man, the APA says they ought to be changed in the name of political correctness. However, the previously mentioned terms are not sexist terms. Even though these words may contain the word man, they are accepted, as gender neutral words. What is gained from changing gender neutral words such as penmanship, mankind, and sportsmanship to penship, humankind, and sportship? The change is unnecessary and useless. The use of non-sexist language is a good practice, but these words are not sexist. Another APA proposition involves the usage of the titles Ms., Mrs., and Miss. The differences between these words are simple, ‘Ms.’ means the lady would not like to reveal her marital status. ‘Mrs.’ means she is married and would like people to address her as such. ‘Miss,” simply means the lady is not married. These distinctions seem harmless, but according to the APA, they are sexist and must be changed. Instead of recognizing the traditional method, they propose that every lady be referred to as ‘Ms.’ Because the terms are contained within the female gender, it is hard to see the connection to sexism. As our society progresses, political correctness has grown out of control, especially in terms of non-sexist language. The American Philosophical Association’s “Practical Guide to Non-Sexist Language,” is a perfect example of how political correctness has crossed the line from a good practice to an unnecessary over-development. Political correctness should be sought after, but not every word needs to be changed to meet its standards.
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