Did you read yesterday’s post folks? In it, I explained why feminism and black lives matter are generally seen as ugly terms to the majority of people and how that’s a case of ignorance on the part of most people who don’t see why these terms NEED to exist. I hope most of you read the post and clapped or did something to show some approval, shares in particular are lovely, but perhaps my post reached some people who looked at it and sighed in a huff saying “God, people get offended by anything these days – feminists get up in arms over the most trivial thing” and so on and so on. If that was your reaction, perhaps you still miss the point of my posts and if you’re reading this then I congratulate you on giving this blog another chance but I need to explain to you still why ‘getting offended’ has been more of an issue in recent memory than it was, say, twenty or so years ago.
There’s the infamous Stephen Fry quote on the subject of being offended that goes as follows:
“It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more… than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so fucking what.”
Now, people use this as ammunition to take on social justice warrior types as if bombarding them with the words of their beloved intellectual icon will silence them in awe but this quote is taken out of context to serve as justification for offensive jokes. Stephen Fry is NOT saying we should get over the idea of being offended, Stephen Fry himself gets offended by homophobia and anti-Semitism as those topics affect him and those close to him so perhaps the above quote is heinous hypocrisy on his part or perhaps it has been twisted out of proportion to what I hope he actually means. What do I hope he means? I hope he means that saying one is offended is not an end-all argument, it is an empty complaint if it is not followed up by a reasonable justification – you can’t tell someone an image or joke is offensive if you can’t reasonably explain why it is offensive – this is what differentiates between legitimate outrage and silly outrage nobody can support (i.e If I were to urge you to boycott eating grapes because they are the food of the devil, you’d struggle to see justifiable grounds to that and as a result, very few people would stop eating grapes – however, there are justifiable grounds to telling someone not to use racial slurs rooted in hatred or make jokes about rape). Stephen Fry’s remark here is flippant and I don’t much like it, he’s human though, everything that escapes him can’t be perfect but this quote isn’t the ultimate putdown for any argument about offensive content, it’s something he said in the context of his own views offending strong religious types who tried to silence him on the grounds of being offensive without giving him a rebuttal beyond that.
So, back to the point at hand, why are people offended more these days? Truth is, they’re not, people have been offended by things for generations but what has changed is that people are fighting back against it more fervently and with a larger presence thanks to the internet. Past the cat videos and memes, the internet did manage to actually achieve the unification of like minds into groups that span across countries and helped people organise movements more easily than standing on soapboxes and hoping someone will listen to them shout down a megaphone. Nobody is getting offended more easily these days, we’re just learning about the offences more easily. There was no point in history in which every black person in the world gathered together and said “Hey, you know what? We should get upset when someone accuses us of being responsible for our own deaths as a result of police brutality, that sounds like a fun thing to get all bitchy about to wind them white people up – pay ’em back for the slavery and lynching by being dicks on the internet”. Never happened, they were always upset at how the system treated them, only difference is they can tweet about it now.
On the matter of being offended, it comes down to an intellectual discussion, something I know a lot of us can struggle with but we need to keep trying. You can justify being offended by homophobic remarks when you point out that they aren’t funny because in some places, being gay still gets you arrested and/or executed, you can point out how many people take their own lives because of their sexuality and you can explain how homosexuality occurs in a long list of different species but homophobia is unique to humans. That said, you can’t say, justify calling ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’ a ‘promotion of mysticism’ (legit reason the book is banned in some schools) when you look at it more closely and realise if anything, it is an attempt to make the life of Jesus Christ and a relationship with God into something a kid can pick up because they WANT to, not because Mum forces them into Sunday School. Heck, I love that book series and I get all the themes, they’re so obvious I’m not sure how anyone construed Aslan as teaching kids to worship lions or what not, the White Witch is so obviously associated with paganism and satanic images and is an irredeemable villain that those of the Christian faith should adore this book, not fear it. I’m going off topic, I apologise, but you must understand that being offended isn’t a new thing, it is what drives social movements to do what is right for those who are offended and if the people can recognise their point as fair and reasonable, in time, society changes its standards and even laws to suit (thus where feminism and equal rights for LGBTQIA came in, the people listened, agreed and so did the government, little by little, that’s how these things work)
So, if you think people are offended more easily, ask yourself why it doesn’t offend you? Because it doesn’t affect you? Consider how lucky that makes you and then try to consider how unfortunate it makes those that are affected. Likewise, if you’re offended, consider why you are offended and how you can respond to the situation – sometimes you might just have to hold your tongue and sigh or else I’d never get past a YouTube comment section but sometimes it’s worth voicing your opinion, make an eloquent argument and make people see it and just maybe they’ll listen. After all, why do you think this blog changed from a buttload of dumb rants about tattoos and Facebook posts to a critique of politics and a voice to add to the many shouting for the fair treatment of all people?