Researcher Alice Wu recently reported found that while talk about male economists on an economics message board was mostly business (economics and career advice), the discussions about women were not: the words most commonly used for women were “hotter, lesbian, bb (internet speak for “baby”), sexism, tits, anal, marrying, feminazi, slut, hot, vagina, boobs, pregnant, pregnancy, cute, marry, levy, gorgeous, horny, crush, beautiful, secretary, dump, shopping, date, nonprofit, intentions, sexy, dated and prostitute.”
As the article and Echidne point out, this isn’t a statistically valid survey. But like Echidne I noticed that Harvard economics professor George Borjas defended the forum on the grounds of freedom and political incorrectness: ““There’s still hope for mankind when many of the posts written by a bunch of over-educated young social scientists illustrate a throwing off of the shackles of political correctness and reflect mundane concerns that more normal human beings share: prestige, sex, money, landing a job, sex, professional misconduct, gossip, sex. …” (Borjas did concede some of the board’s content is offensive).
I sort of understand the urge to rebel and break the rules just for the fun of breaking them (it’s not an urge I seem to have myself — if I break the rules, I’d like to have a good reason.For example, I’ll scarf a lot of Whole Foods’ free cheese samples rather than politely take a couple of cubes because I love cheese (I’m sure you’re all awed by my badassery). But I also understand that breaking the rules, challenging convention and defying conformity do not, and frankly should not, equate to being a jerk, jackass or douchebag. Just because academics are told they shouldn’t be sexist pigs, that doesn’t make being a sexist pig an act of rebellion. Being a sexist pig is just … being a sexist pig.
This is an attitude that, as I’ve mentioned before, crops up quite a bit in fiction. In A Fine Madness, we’re told Sean Connery is a Greenwich Village poet and free spirit. In reality, he’s a creep who cheats on his wife (can’t be bound by conventional morality!) and treats everyone else like dirt (he has no patience for social hypocrisy!). At no point does he challenge convention in any way that doesn’t benefit him. Likewise The Dice Man‘s protagonist talks a lot about self-fulfillment and not being bound by convention; in practice that means he’s free to rape women just because he wants to (if he doesn’t do it, he’s repressing his authentic self!).
Similarly, when conservatives squeal about “PC,” what they usually mean (as Northier Than Thou put it) that they want to be jerks without suffering blowback. To yell obscenities at women without being called on it. To drop the n-bomb or any of the other bombs without being told their racist. To be as racist, sexist, classist and bullying as possible without any blowback. To create “safe spaces” for themselves everywhere by shutting blacks, gays, women out of everywhere (because it’s sooo damn hard to deal with all that liberalism around them). By calling it “political incorrectness” they can fantasize that rather than bigots, they’re rebellious freedom fighters — nobody can stop them from calling women sluts or saying blacks are mentally inferiors! When theocrat Roy Moore says sodomy is unnatural he’s being anti-PC and daringly outspoken, not a homophobic bigot.
There are lots of ways to be a genuine nonconformist. Just march to the beat of your different drummer, as Thoreau put it. Indulge in fun stuff that society frowns upon but that doesn’t hurt other people (drugs, sex, banned books, etc.). Write or say things that punch up rather than punching down. Actually fight the system for change, like Martin Luther King and the suffragettes.
If you’re just a sexist, racist jerk, you’re doing rebellion wrong.