Offensensitive

Cross-posted between here and Atomic Nerds since it’s a pretty general post rather than being at all WoW-specific. Original kerffufle found at Ophelie’s and commented further upon by Tam. Since this post was written more with the other site in mind, rest assured that absolutely nobody involved with the original inspiration is being referred to in code. This wandered far from my original thoughts more specific to the situation.

It is not uncommonly observed that people shrieking “I’m OFFENDED by that!” are a general boil upon the ass of society, as they use the tactic to shut down any speech, expression, institution, or even person that they dislike. Any and all conflict with their worldview is treated as personal assault and satisfaction is demanded, always in the form of the removal of the “offensive” sentiment or person- preferably after a meek apology has been extracted. It’s a bully’s tactic for muzzling people and opinions the bully doesn’t like, and it is indeed quite commonly abused.

As a consequence, there are a great number of people out there, trying NOT to be bullies, that question themselves extensively when they ARE offended by something someone does or says. Most people do not want to be the jerk in any given social situation, and even if someone said or did something flagrantly assholish, people are frequently reluctant to make waves by saying they were offended at all, let alone calling the other person out on their behavior.

Further along the line are people who are sick of the scolds and make no bones about their willingness to say exactly as they think no matter whom it might offend. Some even go so far as to make being offensive a point of pride in and of itself- and to react to anyone who complains that they were offended by telling them to grow a thicker skin, not be a wuss, not be a bleeding heart, and generally not react.

Where it gets interesting is that it’s also not uncommon for this opposite-end-of-the-spectrum attitude to be used to bully in the exact same fashion as the sensitivity screecher: as a tool to define the conversation exclusively on their own terms. Most people don’t particularly want to put on a suit of metaphorical armor as a precondition of social interaction- and would prefer to be treated well with people they interact with- and will choose not interacting over attempting to become more competitively combative. The person willing to be most boorish controls all terms of interaction, every bit as effectively and selfishly.

This has its place; when a space is yours, you get to set the rules. I can and do say whatever the hell I like on this blog, and I’m not terribly concerned about who might find the language or my opinions offensive. I don’t generally go out of my way to stomp on toes because I get no particular joy out of toe-stomping, but I’m also not afraid to fight with my commentariat over one of those opinions- or tell them to get the hell off my porch, as this is indeed my space, owned and paid for. You don’t get to come and dictate to me how to act with that space. If I want to convert this space to a gallery of baboon asses it’s no one’s business but mine.

If I adopted the attitude that I should be able to set the terms of interaction so completely in someone else’s space that they owned, I would be the asshole, not anyone who was offended. I will not go to my grandmother’s house and use the same language I do here, or discuss some of the same topics, because that would be fucking rude and she would be completely justified in telling me to get my little ass sorted out or to get out of her home. Grandma’s house, grandma’s rules. If grandma and I were to, say, join the same book club, that’s not anyone’s owned space in particular- but the rules of interaction are tacitly sorted out by the people who make up the social system of the club. This is a pretty normal social-species thing; the rules aren’t written down and constitutions aren’t established because making cultures and setting social norms is something we’ve been doing since before fire.

In the book club, things might trend more toward grandma’s tastes and we might be skipping Titus Andronicus and doing Jane Austen instead, or it might trend more my way and grandma will just have to live with the rape and cannibalism being included in the discussion, but neither grandma nor I has any more right than the other- or the other members- in deciding what’s appropriate. Attempting to exert control anyway, either by my turning up in a “FUCK PIG” t-shirt and telling anyone who’s bothered to grow a thicker skin or grandma telling the rest of us we’re going to hell for torturing little old ladies and making baby Jesus cry, would be bullying.

Anyone who wants to start a FUCK PIG, or G-rated book club is of course free to do so- and also free to set their own terms with the like-minded. But trying to bend the terms of acceptable interaction in order to get out of having to see anything you don’t like OR having to exert any self-control is being an asshole, not upholding any kind of principle- and hiding behind that principle is just plain cowardly. If you take satisfaction from being an asshole and just don’t want to censor yourself for anyone for any reason, just own up to it. If you really don’t care what other people think, you shouldn’t have any need at all to waste your time telling them to think differently- unless, of course, you care enough to want to be validated for your behavior anyway.

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