Donald Trump is bringing a lot of public attention to the idea of political correctness. Minding your P's and Q's can be exhausting, frustrating, and a little nerve-wracking. There always seems to be some new phrase or saying that is taboo, or someone is offended by something you thought was okay yesterday.
Keep in mind that feeling hurt or scared by daily racist, sexist, or just mean comments is pretty exhausting as well. Just because you don't feel bad saying a sexist joke doesn't mean someone else isn’t feeling hurt by it, and you could be the one perpetuating the pain. If someone is offended by something you thought was a neutral statement, revisit the conversation empathetically. If you still can't understand how someone could take offense, perhaps discuss it academically with a friend to try to see the situation from another perspective.
Putting your foot in your mouth can be painful to others and damaging to your career and reputation. In order to protect yourself, here are some phrases you'll want to stay away from no matter what:
1. Don't be so sensitive.
Sometimes it can seem like everyone is just taking things too seriously. However, brushing off someone who took your off-color joke to heart is the worst thing you can do. Your experience in the world is very different from the experiences of others. If you've offended, take the time to listen to the person who's in distress and maybe you'll actually learn something.
2. You're a woman, so you're more nurturing.
Women have done most of the child rearing for ages, so they do end up being seen as more nurturing by default. Generally, men aren’t taught how to care for babies from a very young age as women are. Studies have shown, however, that men and women are equal when it comes to nurturing and compassion. Assuming a man can't parent or care for a loved one as well as a woman, or that a woman is the first in line to pick up the child-care slack, does every gender a disservice.
3. I'm not racist but ...
If you are inclined to lead off with this, you probably are.
4. That's so retarded.
This is a defunct and dated term that many people don't see as offensive, but believe me, it is. Excluding the mentally disabled by equating them with what you find stupid or off-putting only makes you look insensitive and perhaps a bit, well… stupid. Use a different word to complain.
5. When are you due?
A baby on the way is very exciting news, indeed. Just wait until you have confirmed the news before congratulating a new mom's baby bump. There's no graceful way to exit a conversation where you just complimented a woman's lunchtime taco belly! For that matter, making assumptions about anyone's family or relationship situation can get you in hot water. Let them inform you first and avoid, "Actually, this is my daughter, not my girlfriend."
6. Man up.
The ultimate guy, according to media stereotypes, is tough as nails, always ready to fight, never weak or hurt, with huge biceps, and a huge wallet to match. Saying "Man up" tells a man that he should stop feeling and conform to this false, unattainable standard. Shaming a man into being tough is a surefire way to create lingering damage to his psyche.
7. That's so ghetto.
Maybe you're under the assumption that describing something as ghetto is calling it cheap, or lame, with no class or race implications. You're wrong. Ghetto refers to the poorest and most segregated parts of cities in the U.S. There are more appropriate words you can use to describe something you don't like that aren't racist and classist.
8. That's so gay.
Don't use someone's sexual orientation to describe anything other than just that.
9. Let's just call a spade a spade.
This phrase began as an innocuous reference to garden tools -- to call something as it is without beating around the bush. But the word "spade" evolved in the early 20th century into a racial slur against African Americans in the Jim Crow south, and the phrase took on a new, awful meaning. Best to avoid this expression all together.
10. All lives matter.
Yes, absolutely, all lives matter. But "Black Lives Matter" is specifically meant to draw attention to the rampant racism that black people are experiencing in the U.S. Co-opting the phrase is making you seem like you're not listening, or worse, that you don't care.
11. No offense.
Immediately apologizing for an offensive remark by saying, "No offense" does not excuse what you said. If there's a caveat to what you're saying, don't say it.