When You Make Fun of People for Being Offended, All I Hear is “I Don’t Care About Respecting Other People”

Posted: July 22, 2015 in feminism
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Image of a potato with text saying “I’m offended by this potato”

I am so sick of hearing folks talk about how terrible it is that other people make an effort to be respectful to other people- ie, caring if something they say is offensive. And images like the potato one here being shared around social media as oh so edgy! When did intentionally being an asshole become something to brag about?

This was going to be a facebook post but I feel like this will get too wordy for a facebook status, so blog post it is!

This is actually most recently inspired by conversations I’ve seen around a free pride (alternative to the main pride which many feel is too commercialized) in Glasgow deciding against having any drag performers at the event because some felt it would be offensive to some trans people. They apparently are working on changing this policy btw.

The thing is, looking at discussions about this- I actually saw a lot of really great and thoughtful discussions about this with people talking about the role drag has had in the history of the lgbtq right movement through time, and how it has been important for many cis gay/queer people and trans and genderqueer people in being able to embrace who they are. And some trans folks spoke about why they find drag upsetting, negative experiences with drag performers, and some cis gay/queer folks talked about why they are uncomfortable with drag performances- how many performers draw on misogynistic, classist, and racist caricatures yet it’s given a pass because it’s a performance/comedy/part of queer culture.

And then other folks but in with such insightful commentary as “haha pc police going overboard!”, “the movement to not be offended is imploding on itself!”, “if you are offended by anything ever just never leave your house!” and so on.

The underlying idea behind all that of course is that the thoughtful conversations that I previously mentioned are utterly worthless. Attempting to understand where other people are coming from and find ways to be more respectful to a wide variety of people is stupid. The cool thing apparently is being an asshole just for the sake of being an asshole. If you hurt someone unintentionally and they say so, laugh at them for being a human being who has feelings- what a loser!

The thing is, there is not actually any real movement out there to never be offended. What does exist is a lot of people who have decided “hey, let’s try not to be assholes!” Who actually care to listen to what other people have to say and perhaps make changes if what they are doing is upsetting people.

I don’t think “I’m offended” is or should be the end of the discussion. And the truth is, I don’t think anyone thinks that. That may be the starting point for a larger discussion that hopefully leads to greater understanding and empathy. It is certainly not the end all, be all it is made out to be by the same people who talk about “social justice warriors” as boogie men. (Because when being an asshole is cool, social justice is bad.)

If someone tells me something is offensive to them and why I like to hope that I would consider the point they are making. I would certainly not keep doing/saying the same thing for the sole purpose of hurting them, because I’m not a sociopath. I recognize that other people are human beings with feelings, and I try to be respectful of that. If I have a reason to say something that I feel is important though, I will say it. Take for example “queer”. A lot of people, especially in my experience older people, in the lgbt community find the term offensive. If I know someone who find it offensive I will not purposefully refer to them as queer to upset them, in fact I will do my best to use their preferred identity to refer to them specifically. I won’t stop using queer in general though, because it’s still the term I feel best fits my identification and I’m not ok with being told how I’m allowed to identified. There is actually nuance to these things. And there is a huge difference between using a term because it has important meaning to you, and using a term just to upset other people or because you can’t be bothered to be considerate of the fact that other people exist and have feelings.

In contrast to my use of the word queer, many years back a friend called me out on my usage of the word “retarded” as a generic negative. And while my immediate reaction was actually rather defensive at the time, over the next few days I considered the point she made and realized she was right, and there was really no good reason for me to keep using that word. It took awhile to get out of the habit of using it, but at the end of the day there was no good reason for me to use that word. Whether I agree with people being upset by it or not isn’t even relevant, they are and it’s a word I have no good reason to need to use, so why not make an effort to be respectful? It’s not that hard.

And yet, for some reason instead of recognizing the nuance and purpose behind these discussion, there is a large portion of people who want very much to reduce this all to “haha, you’re a person who has feelings!” and cries about “pc police”.

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Comments
  1. G says:

    I think your way of handling the potential offense of “queer” is really a kind and thoughtful way– not giving it up as a self-identifier, but holding it back when you know it hurts someone.

    Also I wish the drag community (well everyone really, but) would sit down and talk about intersectionality and the various axes of oppression…

  2. Great post! I’ve thought about this recently myself. I think for a lot of people, a snarky response to someone else’s offense is simply easier to actually having to think about anyone other than themselves. To me, what I hear is, “I’m uncomfortable with your feelings so I’m going to use the easiest defense mechanism at my disposal.” Same goes for people who think “I’m offended” should be the end of the conversation – that’s the only point I disagree on here – I think there are people who think that, simply because some people refuse to allow anyone to challenge their beliefs or actions. I’ve run into a few of those in my life, who resort to “you’re being offensive” whenever I don’t 100% agree with them. (I find they’re usually the same people who don’t grasp the concept of what “free speech” actually entails.)

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