Don’t Be Offended for Me
All right, so I’m mostly going to put out there what my opinions are on certain subjects right now. I am taking what’s probably a more controversial standpoint on this, but a discussion via Twitter is going to be anything but helpful. That said, I am going to respect people’s opinions, whether they are the same as mine, or they are different. If you cannot manage to read this post without looking at things from a rational standpoint, and you cannot respond as an adult, I would ask that you do not respond to begin with.
I don’t want to make this post a diatribe about how other people are wrong. But I have been called selfish, I have been told I don’t know what I’m talking about, and I’ve been linked this image, as if it’s supposed to show how my opinion is “wrong.” What I will say is that I hate political correctness. And yes, I do think a large majority of people need to get over themselves and get a thicker skin. However, there are going to be people that use words offensively, and there are going to be times where context shows that the offense is very definitely meant to hurt someone emotionally. What I want to dispel is this apparent belief that I can’t see that.
I do want to warn you there is a lot of stream of consciousness in here. But if you will read the entire post before scrolling down to the “Leave Comment” box, I would be greatly appreciative of this.
I am fully aware that people are offended by things. I am fully aware that people use things in an offensive manner. There is no dispute there. I would ask that you keep this in mind that I am fully aware of this throughout this blog post.
Regarding the image. The image is wrong. Trying to throw something like that in my face is bullshit and shows that you have absolutely no concept of how to view someone else’s point of view.
My issue is not that people support those who are offended. My issue is not that people back them up, and help them get the legal and social aid that they need. That is something that we, as humans, should do. We should be making a community and a world where people are generally okay with each other. But on the flip side of the coin, I don’t need people offended for me.
So what do I mean by this exactly?
Well, I’m a gay man. I’m also an American Indian. I suffer from a few different mental disorders. So on three fronts I deal with being on the receiving end of pejoratives, jokes, racism and homophobia. Yet… I generally don’t get offended by that much. I guess I have a hard time understanding why people do, when in the end, it has – quite literally – zero ramification to them in the context of general speech.
There are times where racism, homophobia, ageism, etc., are to be looked down upon. But that isn’t from a viewpoint of being offended or not – that’s plain and simple egalitarianism. You push for equality because it’s right, not because people are offended by one thing or another.
If you want to tell me, “x is offensive,” I want you to tell me what the context is. I want you to understand that some words have multiple definitions. For example, the word “lame.” Lame is a word that can be ableist. It isn’t always, though. In fact, most times, it’s not. But let’s go a step further with this, shall we?
Let’s look at a couple definitions of the word “lame,” from Dictionary.com.
- crippled or physically disabled, especially in the foot or leg so as to limp or walk with difficulty.
- impaired or disabled through defect or injury: a lame arm.
- weak; inadequate; unsatisfactory; clumsy: a lame excuse.
- Slang. out of touch with modern fads or trends; unsophisticated.
So, we have four definitions of the word “lame” in the adjective format. Only two of those definitions could be shown to be ableist. The other two definitions have absolutely nothing to do with the first. So when someone says “That’s so lame,” it’s not being ableist in any way, shape or form. To say it’s being ableist is to be ignorant of the fact that the word has multiple ways to be used. In fact, the slang definition isn’t even applicable in this instance! Pedantry is of no help. If you want to be an activist against ableism, homophobia, racism, whatever else – please, do so! But realize that one can’t take it to the extreme, either. If we all went out of our way to ensure that we never said anything offensive, ever, where would we be? What kind of world would we live in?
Beyond that, it’s not a real expectation. It’s not ignoble, but it is certainly not feasible, either. One should ensure that discrimination of any kind is not tolerated. But at the same time, one needs to understand that a line must be drawn. It isn’t an all-or-nothing situation, and it’s certainly not in the interest of not hurting people emotionally. Yes, I think people need to suck it up in general. No, I don’t think it’s okay that people are prevented from having jobs, homes, education, safety or basic necessities, due to their gender, gender identity, race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, (dis)ability, or whatever else there is an -ism for.
That all said, I don’t think it’s right, either, that people be offended on my behalf. I am the one that gets to choose what offends me. It may be altruistic for you to decide for me that I need to be offended by people’s usage of the word “fag” – but altruism also implies that you’re doing it for the greater good. I used the example of “smoking a fag” as something A LOT of people use to say they’re smoking a cigarette. I find it absolutely absurd that people ask each other not to say this on the mere possibility they might get offended. It’s like saying, “Don’t eat their food. They might get offended if you don’t like it.” It’s just as stupid, isn’t it? Yes, it is.
You don’t not do things because people might get offended. That’s making a decision for other people. You don’t want people deciding that you like, say, ketchup (or any other random product, of any kind, at all, ever), even if you absolutely can’t stand it. Why is this different? Why is it okay for you to decide for me what should and should not offend me?
Now, where have I said, don’t support people in their various fights for rights? Where have I said you shouldn’t help them by voting and ensuring that they are treated as equals? Where have I said that it’s not okay to write your people in government (here in the U.S., Senators and Representatives) and tell them that, in order to represent their citizens, they need to propose and back up equal rights for everyone?
I never said it’s not okay to do these things. I just said don’t make decisions for me. I don’t make decisions for you.
I am very anti-discrimination. I think it’s wrong. We as humans should be looking at discrimination because we want things equal. Not because someone called you a poopy-head and it made you cry. Call me an asshole. Call me an insensitive prick if it makes you feel better.
I’ve been told I need to “get over” my mental disorders. I’ve been told that my insomnia isn’t real. I’ve been told that I’m not good enough because I’m not white, and because I’m not Indian enough. I’ve been told that I’m “like a cake that you tell a fat kid he can’t have.” None of these things is not offensive. Some of them actually hurt more than others. I don’t let it show, though, because at the end of the day, I still have to be rational. That’s just who I am. I laugh about it, even if I’m offended by it. You know why? Because there’s no point in staying offended by it.
I can explain away that I can’t just “get over” having mood swings I can’t control. It doesn’t work that way. You don’t just “get over” it. And no, you don’t just “get over” being insulted. Trust me, I’m well aware of that. It hurts, a lot. But how often are you going to let it hurt you before you decide that enough is enough and it’s not worth being offended over? I’m not offended by the fact that people tell me to “get over” my insomnia, or my bipolar disorder, or my social anxiety anymore – it’s just not worth the time for me personally. Different people have a much different outlook on this, however. But by saying, “x is offensive,” you’re putting everyone under the same umbrella. And it really doesn’t work that way.
Ten people may find the same statement offensive to different degrees. And while I don’t believe in the notion of “intent is everything,” you have to put some credit there, too. If someone clearly intends for it to be offensive, you’re damn right I’m going to call them out. But chances are, I’m calling them out for being a douchebag, not because of whatever it is they said. Interestingly, when I submit tickets to Blizzard for in-game offenses, I will explain, “they’re making racist/homophobic remarks,” etc., and it’s generally because they’re directed at me, and because that’s what they’re doing. Whether I am offended by it or not, it’s against Blizzard’s ToU. Those ToU are egalitarian in that aspect – all individuals are, under their game license, supposed to be treated as equals, regardless of their background. One must be specific in these cases, however, due to the nature of having a recurring history of being reported, and things like that – so that they have a record.
Anyway, I’ve rambled on long enough.
Like I said before, don’t make decisions for me, and I won’t do it for you. Fight for equality, because equality is right, not because something is offensive.