This morning, as I imagine many others around the world also did, I awoke and reached immediately for my phone. Not, as is my usual custom, to simply turn off the alarm. Not this morning. I don’t generally make a point of going straight onto a news website at 6am. I’m usually more interested in simple pleasures such as sleep, but this morning was different. I remembered only too well that fateful morning in June, a morning similar to this one, albeit a little warmer and lighter, when I had done the exact same thing, only to see the jubilant face of Nigel Farage all over the morning’s front pages, surprised but elated that he and his vision of a Ye Olde England when the commoners may have had to doff their caps at their betters, but at least they could get a job for life in a coal mine had prevailed against the onslaught of lefty neo-liberalist twaddle that passes for The World these days. And I remember all too well the feeling of heaviness in the pit of my stomach, the nauseating stench of right-wing nastiness, the suffocating feeling that I might actually be living in a dystopian, less well dressed version of the 1930s, but with smartphones. This morning, I was prepared for the worst, but hoping desperately for the best.
Hoping that instead of a victory for fear and loathing, I would wake instead to see the proverbial glass ceiling literally and figuratively shattered, and the face of the newly crowned most powerful woman in the world looking back at me.
I don’t need to tell you what happened next.
But it was what happened after that that truly shocked me. I turned to my sleeping child in the bed next to me and I was grateful. Grateful and relieved. Afraid, of course-the doomsday clock had surely edged a little closer to midnight for all of us-but still relieved. Relieved that I was looking at a little boy and not a little girl. A boy who is white and not a person of colour. Because I feared that what had just happened was that life had just got a whole lot tougher for anyone who isn’t white and male.
The previous night, as I had watched the early election coverage unfolding on Channel 4, optimism had been high. Democrats seemed assured ofa Clinton victory, and the one Republican they had wheeled out for the occasion was forced to protest feebly that Trump “still might” win. She was a woman herself, although not, according to Jon Snow, one that agreed with Trump, surely?
“This election is not about political correctness,” she stated, “it’s about something much more important than that.”
Oh of course. Silly me, I had forgotten that political correctness was unimportant.
What is it to be politically correct? To be berated and patronised by those who tell you that if you think all people are equally deserving of basic respect; of having a voice and an equal say in society, regardless of race, gender, social class, disability, sexuality or gender identity then you are a whimpering, lentil-weaving hippy who needs to get back in the kitchen and start caring about stuff that really matters, like money and power.
It’s the sort of stuff they say to silence us, the conservatives and the demagogues alike. It’s the Jeremy Clarksons of this world denying climate change because they like to drive a big car; it’s the patronising put-down of an old man who refuses to say “humankind” rather than “mankind” because everyone knows men are the default gender and those feminazis are so shrill with their high-pitched whining lady-voices; it’s the battle cry of the Angry White Man as he rails against a world that no longer lets him grab women by the genitals and call it “bantz.”
No, this election was not about political correctness. Political correctness would not have elected someone who has routinely degraded and demeaned women, Mexicans, Muslims, “immigrants” and all manner of others who are not, yes, you’ve guessed it, white men. Political correctness is about trying not to offend people unnecessarily because doing that just makes you, well, a bit unpleasant. Political correctness is about challenging societal norms that assume that to be white and male is the default narrative.
Today I was relieved that my son is the world’s default setting, but I was fearful for a world that was so desperate to reassert that it still is.