One of my Facebook friends posted this today:
 

picture is a meme poster. The background is grey, with an amused but smug-looking white woman drawn in black and white. It reads I'm tired of everyone wanting to be politically correct so they don't offend someone. You know what I find offensive? Not being able to freely offend others.
 
A lovely Facebook meme. Did it make you chuckle?

 

I see this kind of thing a lot from this person. My guess is my friend posts misapplied arguments like this to trololololol. He doesn’t want to be taken seriously, but he likes getting people’s panties all atwist. It’s sadism, really (not really). Regardless of whether or not he wants people to learn anything or reflect for real, I did anyway. The poster above illustrates an attitude I see a lot. Usually from those with the most social status and special treatment (those from the middle class, whites, and men), who are blind to the full scope of the complaints they hear due to the difference in their lived experience (ie: they’re not evil). What they’re saying is that they’re upset because they can’t freely say what they want. It’s oppression, really, they would argue.
 

Just like poor Daniel Tosh. (For more on this, google “Daniel Tosh” and “Rape Jokes”)
 

That Facebook meme suggests that people can’t say what they want to, that there’s some kind of censorship imposed on them for “daring” to offend. But no one is censoring here. Even Tosh is free to say what he likes, but it takes tremendous entitlement to think that means listeners must THEN respond to him favorably. That we must enjoy and respect what he says, just because… why, he has opinions? Yeah right. Welcome to the real world, my lovely friends. If your job is comedy and you aren’t amusing us, we don’t buy your tickets or watch your shows. Any response to you is actually speech and it’s just as protected as yours, and we’re just as un-entitled to you liking it.
 

Image is a still frame from Beauty and the Beast converted into a comic. The characters Belle and Gaston look like they're having a heated debate. Gaston's point reads: Why can't I joke about rape? Why are you feminists so overly sensitive?? Belle';s reply reads: Clearly you can, since you did - you're just mad I'm holding you accountable for your words. Jokes do not exist in some magical vacuum outside of society - rape jokes reinforce dangerous myths about rape perpetrators and victims, and if you are joking with a rapist and don't realise it, they interpret it as condoning their behavior. It's an issue worth being 'sensitive' about.
 
Belle reads a lot. Gaston really ought to see what she’s found out.

 
 

This “rape joke” example brings me to another insight. I think we need new words.
 

Offense for example. So many people use this word, so many others (usually members of favored groups) rebel against it.
 

What’s happening is, you say you’re “offended”, and what people hear is: “My wittle FEEEEEELINGs hurt!” But who’s going to care about your feelings being hurt? A huge percentage of people are going to think you ought to toughen up! They’ll think, “My goodness how did you survive this long expecting other people to accommodate your weakness?”
 

With that understanding, the offenders are then feeling justified to write memes about offense and censorship like the one I saw on Facebook. They say back to the offended, “Don’t be such a whiner!” They feel pretty brave “standing up” to this idea because it seems like everyone is just a mindless sheep complying with the request of this bellyaching “offended” person.
 

It’s too bad, because they’re so far off the mark. I blame the word “offense”.
 

The thing is, when a person says “I’m offended” they’re usually saying something closer to: “I am witness to you invalidating humans for an insignificant reason, and that is doing real damage and is utterly embarrassing and horrifying and I don’t think you meant it to be. I thought to tell you.”
 

It’s not that they’re feeling insulted! They’re seeing a breach in respect and decency. Not a small MISSTEP in protocol, or an incorrect use of etiquette. You have done something that they know to be molestation to other people, a form of corruption rotting good people (you) from the core. They see it and you don’t, and there has to be a better way to communicate that, because right now it sounds a whole lot like rigid rule-enforcing!
 

What happens next is everyone involved, not understanding each other, just splits off into teams. They play these roles, they jerk their knees, they get to feel super justified, super pissed, and while they’re playing this game no one is being understood.
 

The thing is, how could people understand each other when these are the exchanges happening over, and over, and over again? No wonder people are seeing each other as enemies! These words are leaving them interpreted as whiners, morons, or assholes.
 

Yeah, so the word “offense” doesn’t make people see anything. In this case it doesn’t even mean anything. It’s being used but not being heard.
 

Until a replacement word is found, when you would ordinarily use the word offense, say what you really mean, in long form. Skip the code word. You have to work a little harder and use a bit of finesse unless all you want to do is repeat the same scene over and over and over. Like Groundhog Day.
 

Image is a still frame from the film Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. Bill is inside a truck, driving with a groundhog on his lap controlling the wheel. He is making a face like he's  got nothing left to lose.
 
Don’t be this guy. Still image from the film Groundhog Day

 
 

You want to say:
 

“I hated your rape joke, it was so offensive!”
 

Instead try:
 

“Not understanding why making jokes about rape is problematic. It goes against the unwritten standards of being a good person and I’m sure you intended this innocently but you make yourself look like you don’t understand the suffering of victims. It might be time to rethink this. I’ve spent a lot of time on this subject, so if you want some resources I can save you some time and send a few your way.”
 

It’s not cheeky or cute or rebellious to be “offensive”, it’s not brave or charming, it doesn’t make you look like a freedom fighter, or rulebreaker, or like you’ve figured anything out. People think that it does because they imagine “offense” as if it means “insult”. Insult is really not what people are saying. Really! Even the whiny ones. Learning about this will save you from frustration, annoyance, and will let you work on being a good person at the next level. What I’m saying here is not some alternative viewpoint, or niche opinion. It’s an attempt at translation. I think anyone involved in debating offense clearly cares, and when you care so much it can be hard to refocus from “defense” to “understanding” but there are clear advantages to doing so. I’d like to know if this was helpful or saves you some frustration. Have you been stuck in this cycle of uselessness and futility (no matter where in this pattern you happen to be stuck)? Is there something you’ve learned that you wish other people knew about?

Posted by Cake-Pie
Dated: 22nd January 2013
Filled Under: Everything else
Comments: 3 Comments

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Dated: 8th June 2012
Filled Under: Games, Kickstarters
Comments: 2 Comments