Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Political correctness (complaints) gone mad

Prompted by recent whining about 'political correctness' in the public sphere, today's 'Life and Style' column is about political correctness: what it is, and what it isn't.

My point isn't to defend political correctness, but to justify criticism of bad ideas and dubious outlooks. A sample:
Many of those criticising the Opposition Leader's phrase were not asking him to stop saying it. They were bemoaning his celebration of it. It was censure, not censorship. 
What bothered Abbott's more sensible critics was the endorsement of a narrow view of women's worth: that physical attractiveness has more value than intelligence, wisdom or integrity. 
One might reply that Abbott was only recognising the reality: sex sells. It's true. Research confirms this: beautiful people compel positive appraisal. 
This immediate, unconscious assessment includes more than looks. There is a "halo effect", which enhances other merits. In politics as well as business, attractive people can seem more competent. 
But if this is true of Fiona Scott or any political candidate, male or female, it's not something to endorse – it's something to resist. 
As naive as this seems, representative democracy requires some recognition of merit. We elect candidates, not simply because they leave us tumescent but because we believe they are better able to realise our vision of human flourishing – or less likely to pervert it. 
And we treat female candidates no differently to male, unless we want an unjust state, run by preening idiots.

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