If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love anybody else?
Is it just me or is everyone and their grandmother ‘offended’ these days? This culture of feigned ‘concern’ is, well, concerning me.
Okay, I get it, I too am offended by the word choices that I hear now and again. I guess the difference is that I wouldn’t try to silence or censor anyone. Well, I’d probably yell at them, or try to make them feel small, but that’s par for the course.
When I was younger I really hated when people said the word ‘retarded’. Like, it really angered me. Finally one day, as I was ostracizing one of my friends, she stopped and asked me, “Am I bad person for casually using that word?”
I had to take a step back and check myself. Of course the answer was no. What I understood from her question was that my self-righteous reaction was a little over the top. There was an opportunity to begin a dialogue, but I closed the door right on its ass.
What I knew for certain was that my friend was not a bad person. She was a person expressing herself. Sure it might offend some people, but it did not mean that she was incapable of acknowledging that fact.
Years later I started working for children with special educational needs and every six months I would meet with the parents to assess their little darlings progress. More than one parent made an offhanded joke about their child being ‘retarded’. I was taken aback at first, then I realized that it was all in good fun, a coping mechanism that they needed deeply.
Cut to more years later, when our culture of “I’m offended” began to really concern me. My friend, who has two adopted little girls was hosting her annual holiday party. She made a joke about how sometimes her children drive her so crazy that she wants to kill them. We all laughed, but some “mother of the year” was so offended by my friend’s remarks that she reported her to Toronto’s child protective services.
My friend’s competence as a loving mother was investigated, her colleagues, family and friends interviewed, because some asshole took issue with her JOKE!
Keep in mind I get the difference between a real concern for a child’s safety and a hateful one. When my sister, who was a single-mother, came out of the closet as a lesbian, my mother called child protective services. She didn’t believe that it was right for my lesbian sister, her daughter, to raise a child, and asked that my sister’s son be removed from her custody. Yep. Now, that’s insane. So to repeat, I get the difference.
Wait, why the hell did I bring that last point up? I need a bridge somewhere.
Much to my dismay, I often read the website Jezebel. For the most part it’s a good read. What irks me a little is how offended the writers are, by every single little thing.
I understand that it’s their job to find grievances in our ridiculous obsession with celebrity and pop-culture, but for people who are offended all the time, they don’t seem to have a hell of a lot of problems offending the people they find offensive. This sort of attitude leads to credibility issues.
A while ago I watched a video with Jezebel writer Lindy West, who was debating stand-up comic Jim Norton about rape jokes. Keep in mind that I am not a fan of rape jokes, it’s easy, lazy humour and everyone knows it. The problem I found with their discussion is that Lindy appears to play the role of word police. She wants to restrict what people say and do because what they say makes her, and others, uncomfortable.
She acquiesced to a degree when she states that it’s okay for Jim and other comics to make rape jokes but she has the right to call them “dicks” if they do. Yep, she’s totally right, she does. To be honest, I couldn’t quite understand what her point was. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Seemed like at the end of the day her objective was to have all male comics conform to her standards of morality.
I guess the only thing I can say in her defence is that I’ve been there. I’ve been that guy. I’m always THAT GUY. But I have to remind myself, before I vilify a perfectly fine, decent person like Jim, that his words, or the words that he supports, or the jokes that he supports, do not define him as a whole person.
Of course I want women who have been victims of sexual abuse to enjoy a comedy show without their trauma being made light of, for it not to be taken seriously. As a survivor of abuse, I hear this kind of humour all the time, I’ve learned to live with it, and I get that it’s a part of life.
We can’t control every word that is spoken by every person on this planet. We’re always going to be offended, on any given day, or minute, hour, week, by someone with a mouth. When I say I’m offended, and then try to control the person who has uttered the said offensive comment, I’m unconsciously acknowledging that I can’t emotionally deal with the topic, and therefore, would rather control the offending party than resolve my own issues.
When I was growing up I remember watching Eddie Murphy’s stand-up comedy show Delirious. It appalled me for its shameless homophobia. What threw me even more for a loop were my friends who thought he was funny. He uses the word “faggot” over 100 times, in some instances he incites violence towards gays.
To be honest, I still don’t know what’s worse, his jokes, or the fact that his audience was delighted by what he was saying. Yeah, as a gay guy, it really sucks to hear this, but I get that it was filmed in the 1980s, when gay people were still considered lecherous jokes to be shunned by all of society.
Of course I was hurt and insulted by his complete lack of sensitivity. Here I was this young gay guy, struggling with my sexuality and this jerk, who is in reality mirroring the social norms of his time, is making my life worse by telling the whole world that people like me, gay people, are gross, sick, diseased and wrong. It wasn’t a good feeling.
Did Eddie Murphy affect my life as an adult? No. Was I able to resolve my issues surrounding his jokes with time? Yes. Do I support his right to say what it is that he wants? Yes. It brought me much solace when I read years later that Murphy was arrested for soliciting the services of a transgendered prostitute. His career faltered, and guess what? Without his offensive humour, it was determined by audiences everywhere that he didn’t have that much talent.
To this day, celebrities like Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan have heaped controversy because of their anti-gay jokes. I’m often criticized by my own people because I have defended these celebrities by verbalizing my sincere belief that they’re not actually homophobic. I’m considered an outsider, there’s no question, but then these members of my own community have absolutely no problem with personally attacking me behind my back. To be honest, I don’t know what’s more damaging, Alec Baldwin calling a Starbucks’ barista a “queen”, me defending him, or those who oppose both of us taking to social media to attack our characters.
But that’s not all that Jezebel does that irritates me. A couple of weeks ago I read an article about fat-shaming that one of their writers was incensed about. I’ve tried to find a link but can’t, sorry! If I do, I’ll embed it here later. Again, I get it, I’ve written countless angry tweets and blog posts about issues that matter to me. But the more I read about ‘slut and fat-shaming’ as well as this thing called ‘rape-culture’ the more I’m certain they’re not real things.
The purpose of the Jezebel article was to address the documentary Fed Up, narrated by Katie Couric. It explains how, since the U.S. government issued its first dietary guidelines 30 years ago, the rate of obesity has skyrocketed. Generations of kids will live shorter lives than their parents.
Jezebel argued that people were not fat because of excessive eating and lack of exercise, rather it was the government who was at fault for making them addicted to sugar. What the article lacked was any semblance of personal responsibility. And anyone who attempted to broach this particular topic in the comments forum was routinely shut down by the author’s defenders.
Although I’m well aware that the U.S. government and its dependence on corporate America has made a lot of people fat, there is still countless studies and articles available at a person’s finger tips about the dangers of a sugar-based diet and the importance of eating fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, as well as physical exercise.
What I found detestable about the Jezebel article was the complete lack of personal accountability. If you know it’s bad for you, and that you’re going to have medical problems as a result, try, even if it’s on an hour by hour basis, to switch the potato chips and fizzy drinks for an avocado and bottled water.
By 2050, one in three Canadians will develop type II diabetes, which is a chronic disease that is entirely preventable. All it takes is exercise and a good diet. This is publicly available knowledge. At this rate, our universal health care system will collapse. And yet, Jezebel is telling its readers that there is absolutely nothing they can personally do because the government has made them addicted to sugar. So stick a sock in it, fat-shamers!
Oh my. It’s becoming increasingly impossible to criticize obesity in this country now, because it’s considered ‘fat-shaming’ and how we combat anyone who has the indignity to call someone fat, or to suggest they adopt healthier lifestyle habits, is to shame them into silence.
Opponents to my article argue that the emphasis is on unhealthy fat people, and that there are plenty of unhealthy thin people. No doubt, that is true. But I’m talking about obesity, which is as dangerous for a person’s health as anorexia.
I don’t want to live in a world where we can’t freely express these ideas and thoughts. Of course, many people are ignorant assholes who simply hate fat people. That’s obvious, our culture is obsessed with a narrowed made up idea of what beauty is, and for women, it’s thinness, at all costs.
But when does it stop? When do we stop shaming people from speaking their minds? How have we created a society where people are ostracized for merely expressing an idea, or a word that others find distasteful?
Hate speech is one thing, a joke, or an opinion is another. Clearly I wish we lived in a world where everyone was sensitive to the feelings of their peers. But, even despite our greatest efforts we’re all bound to put our foot in our mouths at some point in our lives. It happens to me everyday!
And you know what, if you happen to speak your mind and it turns out to be horribly thoughtless, and offensive to a group of people, hopefully it’s a lesson learned! We’ve reached a point where we think that everyone should be like us, but the reality is that we’re not even close to being the person we all think we are.
And if you happen to make a mistake, to utter an offensive comment, it’s not okay to then be shamed and ridiculed by opponents for the rest of your life. If you learned your lesson, you should be able to move on with your life without harassment from others. It’s in this left-wing, misguided liberal mindset that so many of us fail to notice how conservative and unforgiving we have become.
I’m going to close this really long blog post with a quote from RuPaul that I found enlightening:
“If your idea of happiness has to do with someone else changing what they say, what they do, you are in for a fucking hard-ass road…”