We’ve been having some interesting discussions the past few days, here in Puddletown, centering on language and diversity. We’ve got a great book coming out, an historical romance set in the Civil War, and we’ve had to take a long look at what we will publish in terms of language. The words used in the book were common in their time. They were used appropriately. They were not used gratuitously. And Mark Twain used them in his work. Of course, he was writing in a different time.
I finally had to take a personal look at how I felt. My immediate family has African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, people of many faiths and no faith, extremely rich folks, and folks living on welfare. It’s a very large family, a true microcosm of America, and I love them all. I don’t want to hurt any of them. I want every one of them to be able to read any of Puddletown’s books without being offended by language.
So we have decided that our books must not contain words referring to any ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation that would offend a member of that group. What does that mean in practical terms? Well, I’m a lesbian, writing for other lesbians. I can use words that non-lesbians, writing for a non-lesbian audience can’t. African Americans can use words I wouldn’t presume to use. A Jewish person writing about the Holocaust can take liberties a Christian can’t.
Yes, it is political correctness. However, it’s important to remember that political correctness has been co-opted by a segment of our society as a slur, much like the words “liberal” and “feminist” have been turned on their side and used to mean something they are not.
The idea of politically correct language came out of the early feminist movement as a way to make people aware of the ways language can be used against people, particularly woman. But it’s not just women who are hurt by language. Most of us probably belong to a group that is maligned through the use of words we’d rather not hear used against us.
Just for myself, I am a woman, a lesbian, a liberal Christian, the granddaughter of a Jewish woman, and the grandmother of the Hispanic Wonder Babe. My other grandchildren are the whitest of the white, and Army brats to boot. I have several friends who are transexuals. My comadre y compadre are Hispanic. I have several African American nieces and nephews, and an Asian niece and grandniece.
I’m sure if you think about it, you probably have friends or loved ones in some of those groups, or maybe in others. Please, as we write, let’s remember that we are writing in the 21st century, and we know better.