This article originally appeared in the July 12, 1991 issue of the Boston Phoenix.
If my suspicions are correct, scads of well-meaning people out there are feeling more and more helpless when it comes to navigating the increasingly complex terrain of political correctness. On the one hand, they sympathize with the intentions of PC, with the movement’s heart, with its unyielding desire to eradicate the harmful “isms” that still pervade modern society (sexism, racism, ageism, and the like). On the other hand, they feel increasingly confused — not to mention resentful — when it comes to living daily life, where the potential for incorrect behavior, and guilt, lurks at every turn.
I, for example, have nothing against females under the age of 12, but I have an exceptionally difficult time trying to think of them as “women” or “pre-women” or anything else that avoids the allegedly derogatory term “girl.” Likewise, it kind of bothers me that I’m not supposed to watch the David Letterman show because of parent company General Electric’s nuclear weapons business. Or use chopsticks, which contribute to rain forest erosion. Even deciding what to wear these days is treacherous business — if I were a really good person, I’d throw away my leather jacket (bad for animals). I’d get rid of all my rubber-soled shoes (hard to recycle), I’d even stop wearing wool (not only are sheep often pumped full of nasty hormones; sometimes they also catch colds after they’re shorn—did you know that?).
Accordingly, I believe that untold thousands would benefit from a new kind of publication. A monthly newsletter that would help make well-intentioned but imperfect souls such as myself feel better about being less than rigorous when it comes to political correctness. Something that would give us equal doses of guidance ― and realism, something called . . .
The Newsletter of the Politically Mediocre.
The Newsletter of the Politically Mediocre would be divided into two distinct sections. To give it some commercial appeal, the first section would be devoted to general advice giving, helping readers sort out the truly non-PC from the moderately non-PC, and guiding them through the maze of behaviors that might get them into trouble should they find themselves, unexpectedly, in the midst of a feminist conference or a cocktail party in Cambridge.
A page called “Conformity Corner,” for example, would provide regular listings of boycotts that have been called by various PC organizations, ranking them accordingly to degrees of validity. For example, the Boycott McDonald’s Coalition has been at it since 1983 ― it wants to compel the fast-food chain to provide a vegetarian soy, nut, or “veggie” burger for McDonald’s patrons who are concerned about world hunger, health, animal suffering, and, of course, the destruction of the environment. This takes PC a tad too far. And the politically mediocre would be advised to ignore it. Want a soy burger? Leave McD’s alone and make one at home.
On the other hand, Preparation H is considered taboo these days because it’s owned by American Home Products, which sells infant formula to Third World mothers ― if the politically mediocre are suffering from the burning pain of hemorrhoids, they would be advised to find another brand.