by Jenny McCartney, UnHerd:
Culture and identity have become the main ideological battle grounds of our era, where once they were class and the economy. The arguments are now spooling out terminology faster than the general public can learn it: we have ‘mansplaining’, ‘whitesplaining’ and ‘straightsplaining’ (describing, variously, a man, a white person, or a heterosexual explaining something to a woman, a person of colour, or a non-heterosexual in a laborious and patronising way).
There are accusations of ‘microaggressions’ (small incidents of disrespect that accumulate over time) and of ‘slut-shaming’, ‘fat-shaming’ and ‘body-shaming’ (attempts to make someone feel bad about their sexual behaviour, weight or body). To add to ‘sexist’ and ‘racist’, which have long been common currency, a person can be ‘ableist’, ‘Islamophobic’, ‘transphobic’ or ‘whorephobic’ (prejudiced against disabled, Muslim, trans people or sex workers). The aftermath of incidents covered by ‘trigger warnings’ (alerts to upcoming content that could reawaken previous traumas) might require ‘safe spaces’ (welcoming areas where one will be sheltered from any form of possible distress, including dissenting opinions).
Those, however, who openly oppose the growing reach of ‘political correctness’ (over-policing of speech and thought in the proclaimed service of social equity and diversity) have made counter-accusations of ‘snowflake’ (one who believes themselves to be unique and precious but disintegrates easily) and ‘crybully’ (one who wields their alleged victimhood as a means of dominating and intimidating others.)
In the eyes of sceptics, ‘social justice warriors’ (those who vigorously proclaim their commitment to eradicating perceived oppression) will be accused of ‘virtue-signalling’ (making public statements with the intent of placing themselves on a higher moral plateau).
Then, every so often, to add to this confusing mix, a new word appears, such as the left-wing slur ‘gammon’ (used to describe older, white right-wing men who are pink in the face, ideally with outrage at ‘political correctness’.) There will then be a flurry of newspaper articles and impassioned debate on whether such a word is useful, funny, or prejudiced and whether you can be guilty of racism against all races or only non-white ones.