Tag Archives: Political Correctness

Merry Christmas (and Happy Holidays?)

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I took an extended vacation from work (and blogging) over the Christmas and New Years holidays.    I sincerely hope everyone has found joy thus far in the Christmas Season.   Also, as a reminder, in our Catholic faith the Christmas Season begins on Christmas Eve – and it doesn’t end the next day!

I love Christmas.    I encourage everyone to find time to continue to celebrate this season through Saturday, which is the end of the official celebration of Christmas (the baptism of our Lord).    Keep in mind that we have not yet celebrated Epiphany, which is really the feast celebrating the first time representatives outside of the Jewish world met our new King.

It’s really easy to forget to continue this celebration because we all start off the New Year, we get back to work, and life resumes somewhat back to the normal that it was in the days preceding Christmas.    Keep it up!

Since I took a break, I have not had my follow-up on the Pope and Climate change.   There will be one, if not two, follow ups to that post.    I not only believe it is an important topic, but it has always been a scientific topic of interest of mine, and so I will be spending time on it, both from a scientific perspective but also from a faith perspective.

In the meantime, I wanted to just place a few thoughts down regarding the annual weirdness around whether or not people should say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” or anything else.

I find the whole thing an odd mixture of political correctness, and also a sincere recognition that not everyone believes all the same things.   So here is a litany of thoughts on the subject:

  • Christmas is on the calendar. To not mention the word at all, or to be unwilling to wish someone else that you know celebrates Christmas is simply stupid.   We wish people a good Memorial Day or Labor Day whether or not we actively celebrate the meaning or intent of that day (most of us really don’t.   Maybe some of us do on Memorial Day, and fewer yet could even come up with an explanation as to how Labor Day came to be and why.   And yet, none of have any issue wishing each other well on those days.   That’s because there’s no religious association attached to it.   Well, for those people who are not believers, it still doesn’t negate the holiday itself, even as a secular celebration.   So there should be no issues with wishing anyone a Merry Christmas, but even if you want to be sensitive to the matter of religious affiliation, if you know someone religiously or culturally celebrates it, just say it.
  • We’ve reached the point where wishing people a Merry Christmas almost feels like you’re taking a stand on something. That bothers me.   I say it because I want to, but I, too, have been browbeat with the political correctness to the point where it somehow feels bold or courageous to wish someone a Merry Christmas.   I hate that feeling.   It’s messed up.    Further, people who read an e-mail that says “Merry Christmas” probably feel like the person sending it just took a risk of offending people.     That’s even more messed up.
  • Having said all that, I don’t have anything really against “Happy Holidays,” under certain conditions:
    1. If someone has no idea whether the people they are addressing are believers, celebrate Christmas, or are Jewish, Muslim, or anything else (and there is a more than reasonable chance that the situation exists) then see nothing wrong with a generic salutation.
    2. If I know with certainty that someone doesn’t celebrate Christmas then I would give them a generic salutation. I would have no issue with talking about my own faith or celebration of Christmas, but in this situation why would I purposely wish them a happy celebration of something they don’t celebrate?   While I may wish in my heart they did celebrate it, it would be somewhat pointless outside of any other evangelization effort.   It would be like wishing someone in another country a happy US Independence Day.
  • If I make the mistake of wishing someone a Merry Christmas who doesn’t celebrate it, the appropriate response is “Thanks.” Don’t be a jerk.    It is also appropriate, in the case of someone you may be running into more often, to clear up the misunderstanding charitably by saying, “Why thank you.   Just so you know, though, I don’t celebrate Christmas but I certainly hope you have a Merry Christmas.”    There’s nothing wrong with that response.
  • If you are a Christian and you know that someone celebrates Hannukah, then wish them a Happy Hannukah, for crying out loud. It is not against your Christian religion to acknowledge someone else’s celebration.   I’d say the same thing about Kwanzaa, but I’m still convinced that’s generally made up and I know of nobody who actually celebrates it.   But for the five people that do, if you find them, then by all means extend a Merry Kwanzaa, or whatever the appropriate greeting, is.
  • The most annoying thing to me in this whole thing is that a number of good Christian people now seem scared to wish anyone a Merry Christmas. It’s one thing to take some precautions around more general audiences, or in uncertain situations.    But if you are a Christian, and I know you’re a Christian, and you know I’m a Christian, and you wish me a “Happy Holiday” then I want to whack you upside the head.   You have now officially conditioned yourself into being in “safe” mode and you aren’t even thinking about it.

 

In the end, does it all really matter?   Well, yes and no.   What clearly matters most is what’s in the heart and what your intent is.    Some people, in my opinion, turn this a bit too much into a war against political correctness, while some do go too crazy on the political correctness.   And there are tons of ancillary issues around Christmas that lead to all of this – arguments about displays on public property, songs sung in schools, etc.    But most people just want to wish people well, and we should recognize that.    But that doesn’t mean we can’t push back when we reach the point of silliness.    It’s good to not get overly dogmatic about things, but it’s also good to stem the tide of cleansing Christmas from Christmas.

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Random Musings on Ads and PR

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So, there’s some television commercial for something – I can’t even tell you what it’s for – where a woman is sitting in a chair on a beach looking at a tablet while some guy – I suppose it’s her husband – is vacuuming the sand beach.    Then the scene flips to her sitting in the living room looking at her tablet with her husband vacuuming the floor.    Like I said, I don’t know what the commercial is for, but it has something to do with her envisioning her home being like a tropical paradise or something.

All I could think of was “I wonder if they made the guy vacuum because if they’d have a woman vacuum while a guy is sitting around they would hear about it from a bunch of women?”

This may sound silly, but I’m willing to bet that this was discussed.

My issue isn’t that a guy was vacuuming.   I’ve done it.   Most married men at some point do, whether it’s the way the jobs typically break out or not.   I don’t take offense to the implication.

My issue is that we’ve somehow made any reference to traditional roles verboten.   You see it on ad after ad.   If women are cleaning or cooking it’s only because the man is too stupid to do it.   But usually it’s either a role reversal or it’s shown as a cooperative effort.    It’s just annoying.    Again, it really has nothing to do with whether or not a man can clean or cook.   That’s not my point.   Few, if any men, actually care that they are being shown in what might be considered an emasculated fashion.   And even if we care, we’re too lazy to complain about it, and it’s likely that the product isn’t meant for the typical guy anyway.    But the reverse isn’t true.    Products peddled for men often still make fun of men, even as they are trying to sell the goods to them.

Women want equality, but I’m seriously trying to remember the last time a woman has been made to look like an idiot while the man is the reasonable one.    The closest thing I can think of is the State Farm Commercial where the guy’s talking to an insurance agent and the woman freaks out.     Rarified air there.

Isolated, none of these ads are a major deal or problematic.   But when there is no real balance there is an ever-pervasive drip, drip, drip in the messaging that does, I believe change peoples’ attitudes over time.

Where I work, there is a poster that promotes the following:   “Stand out and get noticed.”    They want us to complete a profile page so we don’t miss the opportunity to showcase experience, skills, etc.

The picture on the poster is a woman standing up at the end of a table, hands placed on the table on either side of her, while she is hovering over other people who are all fixated on her.    The first thing that strikes me about this picture is that I can’t recall a whole lot of meetings I’ve been in where the person leading the meeting strikes this sort of posture.    It’s a position of noticeable elevation above other meeting participants, and has certain connotations.    I am quite certain that this would be looked at unfavorably if a man struck this posture.   But the marketing people know that they will not get pushback if a strong woman is pictured, whereas a picture of a man in this position would be misogynistic.

The other thing noticeable about the picture if one pays attention is, like all other advertising and corporate publications, there is this constant game that we play where everyone needs to be represented.   We’re so freakin’ afraid of getting sued that we need to show the largest spread of people with the fewest number of people.    So, you have the old indian guy, a middle-aged black woman, a young Asian woman, a young Hispanic male, a young white male and a white woman.    But wait…   no blondes are represented!    Discrimination much?     It’s silly, really.   But if you look at any game box, advertisement, or corporate brochure on anything these are the things we focus on.    Heaven forbid we miss a demographic.

What I think is funny is that I live in rural Wisconsin.    And we actually do have some diversity on our company’s workforce (a guy from China, a guy with Korean descent, a couple African-Americans, a couple guys from India…).   But the non-white population in our workforce is probably 2-3% of the total.    But if you look at our company’s brochure when recruiting, you’d swear it’s the other way around.

None of this offends me.   I just think it’s stupid.

 

 

It’s Just a Joke!

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So, on my Facebook news feed I saw an article about some woman named Brandi something or another who is some real housewife of something that I don’t care about, and even though I’m going to write about it now I don’t even care enough to find out her name or why she’s in any way famous.

Anyway, this woman took an Instagram photo of herself squatting over the baby Jesus in a Nativity scene, simulating (I guess) giving birth.   She had some caption on the pic along the lines of “Remember the reason for the season.”

The whole thing is stupid and childish, and offensive.   But whatever – it’s a free country, and I feel dumber for even knowing about this woman.

The more interesting side of the article to me was that she received really negative feedback about the picture even from people who claimed to be fans, and people who claimed that they were neither Christian nor religious.

Apparently she’s an atheist, but her initial response was along the lines of “It’s a joke people.   Get a sense of humor.”    I think her version included an f-bomb, because as we all know f-bombs make your argument better and clearer.

I mulled this over a bit, for some reason that even I don’t understand.   I am a Christian and the picture offended me.   I also realized that I don’t really care what she thinks all that much and the picture reflects on her quite poorly.    I don’t even know who she is and I don’t care enough to find out.   I actually just pity her and hope she finds her way.   It should be noted that she did eventually take the picture down.   I guess she didn’t apologize, which was fine because most of those apologies are insincere anyway, and are usually along the lines of “I’m sorry all you stupid people who can’t take a joke are offended.”    Simply taking the pic down is probably more honest.   She probably realizes it’s not worth the hassle, she alienated some fans, so it’s time to move on.   She’s really not sorry for it, so why say otherwise?

But what held my inner attention the longest was this idea that whenever people mock other people in a degrading way, they rely on the “it’s just a joke” defense.    It’s worth considering what that means.   We have probably all walked the line between harmless joke and potentially offensive joke at one time or another.   I can remember getting into an argument with some woman who is blond who said “Blond jokes are never funny, ever.”    I disagreed.   And I still do.   Some are funny.    But some are mean.    And I think what happened there is she had personal experiences from utterly mean individuals who mercilessly teased her about her blondness and beyond.    While it is probably true that good people will disagree on exactly where that line between “have a little sense of humor, don’t be so politically correct, and don’t get offended by everything” and “that is offensive and inappropriate” I do think that reasonable and good people can agree that there exists such a line, and we should do our best to not cross it.

Some take the attitude that we should never even go there.   We should, at all costs, avoid any potential offense.   I personally believe this is entirely wrong and problematic.   I understand the reasoning and I think the intentions are good.   But it’s part of what ails our country.   We’ve reached a point where we can’t say anything offensive at all about anybody on anything, and the judge of what constitutes offense is the progressive left.    In their view, religion itself is offensive.   The bible is offensive.   And so on.    We are a much healthier society if we learn to live with a little stereotypical humor about ourselves.   And yes, even if it crosses a line, we should be willing to brush it off and move on with our lives.    Better to err on that side of the equation than to try and muzzle all potentially offensive words universally.

Some take the attitude that everything is “just a joke.”    That’s a cop-out, and it’s not true.    The real question one should ask is whether or not engaging in stereotypical humor serves as its main purpose a good and funny joke, or whether the main intent is to demean and mock.    This really isn’t a difficult question.    When an atheist squats over the baby Jesus in a Nativity Scene only an idiot doesn’t see that as a statement that says “I’m mocking the Virgin Birth and what Christians believe.”    If you tell the joke about the kid praying for a bicycle for Christmas by telling Jesus “If you ever want to see your mother again…” while putting a Mary statue in a drawer, then that is funny.    Could that be taken offensively by some?   Sure, I suppose.   Should we really be joking about holding Mary hostage?     Well, the joke is more about what the mind of an innocent kid who desperately wants a bike for Christmas is like.   It’s funny.   The other is a crass mockery.   In the one case, most Christians will either be outright offended or not find it funny at all, and even non-Christians find it tasteless.   In the other case, many Christians will see the humor.

Here’s a hint:   if you hate Christians or consider them stupid, then there is a high degree of probability that your “joke” is not “just a joke” but is demeaning and offensive.  I’m not saying that is universally true, but you probably should be more careful about whether or not that is the case.   And if you get that kind of reaction, then the blindness is yours, not others.    I’m not saying that Christians can’t cross that same line – they can.   They are just less likely to.

The same is true whether we’re talking about Christians, Jews, Muslims, Blacks, Whites, Women, Men, Blondes, or Eskimos.    If you have a hatred or distaste for any group of people and you are “just making a joke” then are probably at higher risk of crossing a line.    Just accept it, and maybe do something about that by looking inward.

But let’s not get crazy.   Jokes are good.   Not taking yourself too seriously is good.    I mean, if you’re blonde and can’t find the humor in ANY blonde joke, then I think you are doing yourself a disservice.   Or, perhaps, more accurately the fault lies on others who killed your sense of humor on the subject.   And I am sorry if that is the case.   But try to move on.

I still have a copy of a bulletin from the Wisconsin Department of State, bulletin 91-92 issued January 1, 1992.   Subject: Automobile Dimmer Switches.  (I’ll skip over a lot of it, so it will lose a bit of the feel of authenticity)

  • Pursuant to the WI Dept of Motor Vehicles Act… All motor vehicles… will be required to have the headlight switch mounted on the floorboard. The dimmer switch must be mounted in a position accessible to operation by pressing the switch with the left foot.  The switch must be far enough from the left foot pedal to avoid inadvertent operation or pedal confusion.
  • …all other vehicles with steering column mounted dimmer switches must be retrofitted… Vehicles which have not made this change will fail … safety inspection…
  • …This change is being made in the interest of public safety… A recent study … has shown that 95% of all Wisconsin nighttime highway accidents are caused by a blonde getting her foot caught in the steering wheel while attempting to dim the headlights.

Come on…   that’s funny!