Actually, it’s okay to be offended

keep calm and stop being a douche

Let me confess: after slowing down to recover from the fact that I have moved into an apartment complex where people probably prefer to roll bowling balls in the hallways rather than sleep, I am undeniably behind on my NaNoWriMo goal. That’s not to say that I’m going to fail – but it is saying that if I don’t keep my butt in gear moving forward, I definitely will.

That being said, I still think it’s pertinent for me to switch gears with my writing and address an issue that I’ve seen all over Internet Land. It is a phenomenon that is one of the most polarizing of all, with very few people assuming a role in the middle.

I am talking, of course, about the political correctness (“PC”) issue. Ever the pot-stirrer, I have a lot to say about this.

If you know me and think of me in a positive light, you probably see me as a crusader for socially liberal causes. This is accurate. As a result of this, I am definitely one to make remarks about Native American costumes being insulting and generally inaccurate to boot. I am absolutely the one to call people out on misgendering Caitlyn Jenner, even if she is a moderately douchey person for other reasons completely separate from her gender identity. I am, of course, there to correct people who like to make blanket statements about Muslims all being “terrorists”. When Nicole Arbour made a video shaming fat people, I wrote her a personalized tirade to let her know that she was doing a disservice to every single person who had ever been insecure with their body. When people talk about the Syrian refugee crisis, I am much more focused on explaining why we need to accommodate people (within reason) versus pointing out that some of these refugees might be terrorists. Yeah, I’m unabashed when giving my views, and I’m delightfully known as a “satanic homo sympathizer” in some circles. (For those curious, I *really was* called that once. This hilariously failed insult is one I registered in my memory forever because it’s actually so golden. New band name, anyone?)

But there’s something you should also know about me.

As much as I dislike when people speak ill of LGBTQ persons, I also get annoyed by people saying that religion is the cause of all the world’s problems and that all religious people are homophobic. And this is coming from a staunch agnostic! As much as I hate violence, I also can’t help but hold the view that guns do not kill people, people do. And I own literally zero guns or gun-like objects. Do these sound like words that would typically come from the mouth of a “liberal”? Probably not. Because I’m not really a liberal. I just believe in not being a dumb asshole.

And yet, as passionate as I am about people watching what they say, there are plenty of people in the sea of Facebook, YouTube, and blog comments whining about how “offended” people are getting in 2015. To some people, we’ve grown “soft”, “wimpy”, and even – “intolerant”, which I find ironic for anyone to say.

I do respect the right for people to think this way, but I’m going to disagree.

The fact that we have had marginalized groups in our society – whether due to religion, sexual orientation, race, beliefs, gender, gender identity, or other reasons – is undeniable. Now that we live in a world where information can be freely shared and people are starting to realize that the content of someone’s character is a lot more important than how much melanin they’ve been afforded, people have a voice to stand up and defend themselves without fear of being killed or jailed (at least in many parts of the world). But since there are still people with mind-blowingly closed minds, marginalized people are rightfully fighting back in an effort to change peoples’ perspectives and get closer to our goal of being a unified society. Most of them do so intelligently with the best intentions, with many outstanding blog posts written about things like slut-shaming, fat-shaming, and cultural appropriation to prove it.

And yet, those who are either not part of these groups or have extra-thick skin are of the opinion that we’re being too sensitive. I beg to differ.

It is because of sensitivity and opposition to certain views that we have changed for the better as a society. It is because of awareness-spreading that we have a more equal playing field. It is because there are people who don’t just “sit back and take it” that we are even making any progress.

Or, perhaps you think that Martin Luther King, Jr. was being “too sensitive” when he marched for black rights in the segregated South in the 1960s?

Yes, I feel that we should do more and complain less. Yes, I think that there are certain situations (going to a comedy show, for instance) where we really need to consider whether the subject matter we are consuming is meant to be taken lightly or is actually harmful. And yes, even if I think people are being horribly offensive, I understand that they are (usually) within their first Amendment rights and I have no power to stop them.

At the same time, I do want people to consider why they’re saying certain things. I do want people to educate themselves in full before they make a comment that might hurt people or perpetuate negative ideas about people. I do want people to understand that if they’re part of a privileged group (whether through being white, cisgender, heterosexual, male, affluent, or what have you), they are never going to fully understand what it’s like to be a person of color, transgender, non-heterosexual, non-male, or (very likely) from a different socioeconomic background, and – therefore – don’t really have a say in whether or not these groups are “allowed” to be offended.

And if you find yourself offended, you might have an extremely good reason for feeling that way. If someone is doing something harmful or perpetuating harmful ideas, speak up (intelligently, of course) and take action. Perhaps you start a petition, join a special group, or volunteer to spread awareness of an issue. Maybe you write a book or create a short film about an issue. Or, go Amber Rose on everyone and host a walk related to your issue! Show those people who call us “too sensitive” that you’re not just a pile of words – you mean business.

People have the right to say what they want, and that includes you. Even if you shift a few brain cells in a person’s mind, or make one additional person aware of societal issues, you are making an impact on social change – and believe me, we still have a lot of change to make in this world. It’s okay to be offended, but put your words into actions and make. Something. Happen.

Here’s my Christmastime rhyme to y’all:

Give love to all, offended or not

And don’t be a douchebag

When you’re giving your thoughts.

*holds up peace sign and walks out door*.

-H

 

 

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