Offend the Offensive

July 28, 2014

Quick! Define “offensive”.

Okay, okay, okay, shut up…

Whatever it is you just said, my answer would be different. So would everyone else’s. What is offensive is subjective. And, whether some want to admit it or not, absolutely everyone is offended by something.

There are a number of things that tout themselves as being proudly “offensive”. South Park was once a prime example. These days, there are a number of Facebook pages with taglines saying something like “If something on this page offends you, ha ha, too bad! Go punch your parents for having raised a pussy.”

Such messages tell me nothing about what is on that page. Why do they think one might find their content offensive? They say “fuck” sometimes? They mention sex? Irreverent humor? I’m not offended by any of that. Hell, the things that offend me are often found in places that deem themselves inoffensive. The radio station I wake up to is the local generic Clear Channel light pop station (97.1 WASH here in DC), and it offends me quite a bit. This is a station that cuts the word “screwed” out of Gotye’s “Somebody that I Used to Know”, and yet, I still find some of the DJs’ commentary offensive. Almost entirely, what’s offensive is their remarks are grossly anti-youth.

And here’s the other thing. It’s worth looking into WHY something is offensive. Sometimes it in fact is someone being oversensitive, as there are some pretty damn stupid things people find offensive. My being offended at ageism is unusual, in that not too many other people find it offensive, and they might consider me oversensitive. Well, there’s a reason I take offense at ageism, and that is not only that ageism is wrong, but not enough people know that, and hearing ageism promoted so much just encourages and perpetuates it. Of course, the real harm and wrongness of ageism is what a complaint about such commentary would be based on, not simply the fact that I find it offensive.

If someone says something is offensive, the correct response is to ask why, not to simply say “shut up, you’re oversensitive”. That’s the difference between communicating and being an asshole.

Some that say they’re proudly offensive turn out to mean they’re proudly bigoted. Or maybe not necessarily bigoted, but they might frequently use racial or other slurs jokingly in their posts and images. They might take shots at women or the disabled. Basically, anyone who isn’t an able-bodied white straight cis male. Funny how that works out. They think they’re so badass espousing prejudices that most people already have.

In fact, if you were to point this out to these people, you know how they’d react? That’s right. They’d be offended. They’d pretend they aren’t. They say the idiotic well-worn “I’m offended by those who get offended”. But the idea is they would object, so they would be offended. And for less reason, since saying “your group of people is inferior” is a more reasonable thing to be offended by than “I didn’t laugh at your joke”. So, yeah, who’s the oversensitive one again?

Finding something offensive is not in and of itself a reason for something being wrong. There’s a difference between offensive and wrong, of course. If something is wrong, explain why and how it is wrong. But just because something that is wrong is also offensive doesn’t mean that the person pointing it out is simply being “easily offended”. After all, complaining about someone being offended is not a defense of the possibly-offensive thing in question. 😉

This has been Day 66 of the 100 Days of Summer, Round 14.