Offensiveness and Defensiveness

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?

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Pulled The Trigger

Before we begin, I just want to let people know in advance I am not promising this new wave of material means a long-awaited permanent return of Old Man Wolfe. A promise made is a promise that can be broken, until I am mentally, socially and financially stable, my creativity levels are prone to sudden rises and falls more often a Dragon Ball Z character. That said, here is something so without further ado, let’s dig in.

An observant reader might notice a missing Trigger Warning section at the beginning of blog posts. Granted, you might think a rambling discussion of why Jeremy Corbyn is not the Anti-Christ didn’t merit one but you might also wonder does this mean I’ve stopped bothering? I’ve previously defended them, I see no harm in pre-warning readers that the content they are agreeing to read might unnerve, upset or disturb and that a little heads up before things get heavy is fair, rather than an apology at the end. However, there’s a point between being cautious and playing Nanny to my readers that I want to work on and I’ll open the issue to debate and discussion, provided that said discussion is constructive and not just “Don’t bother with those prissy SJWs” or “Refusing to put them is evil, you cishet bigot!”

Trigger Warnings, for those somehow unaware of them despite their appearance across Tumblr and this very blog, are basically disclaimers saying that the content ahead contains something disturbing, be it related to some form of abuse, originally surfacing as a way of warning rape survivors that the article of a blog was related to an experience to one they survived. Makes sense, female bloggers tended to start the trend, warning their own that this was about something graphic, something they might relate to and not in a way they’d like to. As such, an easy little warning like that stops the emotionally vulnerable wandering into a darker corner of the internet and giving themselves a vivid flashback. Noble intention but when anything catches on, there’s a chance it can be warped. Trigger Warnings exist for many kinds of content – be it sexual (abuse or just the discussion of sex), racism, body-image, self-harm, suicide, death, vomit/bodily fluids etc. – basically anything anyone could reasonably have an issue with, and some things you might think there’s no way people could be upset by. Has the idea of a pre-warning now expanded into less a hand on the shoulder and more a bouncer at the door?

Truth is, if TWs came about to help those with PTSD, we have to remember that PTSD is incredibly complex as a condition, the triggers for such vary from person to person. One person might remember an incident by reading about something similar, one might remember by location or smell or seeing someone who resembles a figure of the past, some even just the wrong phrase in the wrong place. With such a complex array of triggers, it is impossible to put up a barrier on a blog that accounts for every single of them. Obviously, measures can be put in place to deal with the more common triggers and I will do so, that’s only fair and I can’t guarantee all my readers are of sound judgment without a warning. However, I must address a downside to the trigger warnings now and their relation to reality.

I want this blog to be a pleasant read most of the time but more than that, I want my readers to think and feel. I use humour to break the ice but the core messages of my articles are important to me and should be acknowledged, not just for my sake but because those messages need to be heard. I have discussed slut-shaming, I have discussed racism, class-war, politics both in the UK and the US and I’ve even addressed matters relating to crises across the world. Such matters are ugly, they are dark and unforgiving and they come without warning. Nobody warned the Syrian public a civil war was coming, nobody told a girl what she was in for that day and where to avoid, nobody foretold the deaths related to benefit cuts and even if they did, nobody knew the exact figures or which individuals would die in poverty for being ‘lazy’. Life fucks you over without a warning and trigger warnings for every little thing offer us the ability to look past that and for my readers to look past content they don’t want to admit is important. I am here to make you laugh but sometimes I have to be serious, I have to take you to the edge of the cliff and show you that there is a fucking huge drop and people keep falling off it, walking away from me doesn’t mean those that fall grow wings. Our world is not just, life doesn’t have a plan for everyone and things don’t always work out, sometimes we have to see that things are wrong and ugly and awful and it has to be us that says no more. You have the right to walk away, of course, but I cannot shut down discussions for fear I might cause ripples in the water, there have to be some or these things can never proceed.

I will continue to put warnings on my articles, albeit it will read more simply that the following article may contain content that could quite possibly disturb certain readers. I will not, at least for now, highlight every sort of person that could be upset by my article because there is a chance I could miss one particular group and cause panic. I am trusting you, my readers, to know what you can and cannot face up to and I hope you will trust me in that when I open the door to reveal something hideous, you will know that I am doing so for our own good, to highlight an issue we as a people must overcome, a demon we must band together and vanquish. If you are uncertain of what is going to upset you, the topic of most of my articles is revealed one or two paragraphs in, you can read that far and decide whether or not to read on but if you read, you are agreeing you can face it, you cannot then blame me if I upset you. I will upset you reader, I will make you uncomfortable at least once in your lifetime, the world is a cruel place and I have to expose that so that you feel that anger too and do what you can in your life to fix the issue as I will try to in mine.

Reader, I will be your tour guide through Hell, I will point out the stops but I will not hug you and protect you from all the beasts that dwell here, I know that if you can sign up for this, you can fight those beasts yourself. I don’t want you thinking this means all doom and gloom, I want to put some fun articles up here too, nonsense about video games and movies and personal experiences you might think sorta goofy but I’m not going to back away from the big issues when they get me as riled up as they do so I can’t promise big safe cuddles any more, just a sign at the door saying “Enter If You Dare”.