October 4th, 2007

thinky tim

On being "offended"

I don't like the word "offended."

When someone tells me not to get "offended" at racist or sexist content, what they're telling me is that they don't care about the content itself. It doesn't make a difference to them whether there is racism or sexism going on. What they care about is my reaction - whether or not I, shall we say, get my panties in a twist. Whether I make a fuss about it.

Now, that's bad enough by itself - when someone's reaction to potential sexism is not, "What's wrong and how do I fix it?" but rather, "How do I silence your reaction?" But for now, I want to talk about what I hear when people tell me not to "get offended."

Let me tell you what "offends" me. Bad smells offend me. Neon orange next to bright pink offends me. Someone who cuts in line while I'm waiting for the bus offends me. Rudeness, ugliness - petty things.

Racism? Homophobia? That shit pisses me off. It makes me think you're ignorant. It makes me think that you're soaking in privilege and - unless you apologize and try to learn, of course - you don't give a damn about fixing that. "Offended" is too delicate a word for that feeling. It doesn't convey the fire and the steel behind my reaction to privilege.

So when someone dismisses me by saying that I (or feminist comic book fans, or anti-racist sci-fi fans, etc.) get offended at every little thing, they're not being accurate.

I'm not swooning at every random comment or image that violates my poor, delicate sensibilities. I'm also not trying to malign the character of the person who said or did the wrong thing. (See icon.) No, I'm getting pissed off at the rampant ignorance and privilege that poisons the things that I enjoy. I'm getting angry because my hobbies, which should be fun for me, instead perpetuate the forms of oppression fuck up my life, or the lives of others.

"I'm offended" sounds like I'm whining that you should fix something for my sake. (See above re: ugly colors and icky smells.) But when I raise a complaint about classist content or transphobic slurs, I'm saying that something is not right and needs to be changed. Whether or not it "offends" me.

Edit: That's it, anonymous comments are off. I refuse to juggle conversations with different people who won't even sign a name to their argument. Signing up for an LJ account is free, if you want to comment.