"I think offense is taken, not given. If you don't let yourself be offended, you're not offended." — Ricky Gervais
Shit White Girls Say
Shit Black Girls Say
Shit Latinas Say
Shit White Girls Say (in response to what Black Girls Think White Girls Say)
Give it a rest, OK?
What about "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me"?
I understand that there is a quantifiable but flawed argument that words can hurt. Some words are steeped in hate and evil traditions. That said, it is not the word that hurts but the reaction to the word that hurts. In effect, taking offense is a self-inflicted wound.
At some point in our culture, the act of speaking certain thoughts became unacceptable. The offense was taken and the outrage doled out. And no context for changing the words' meanings was even attempted.
This is the problem with offense taken; it obliterates common sense and thrusts out to the world a sense of entitlement that is often unearned.
But let's back it up for a second (just a second because this is blog-time and you're only reading this while your boss is peeing).
Offense is a completely subjective thing. It's like funny. If I hear a joke that I think is stupid, but someone else laughs his ass off at it, is it a funny joke? I'd say, in the context of the example, yes. Does that mean that it is universally funny? No. Does it mean that my disdain for the joke means it simply shouldn't be told or that it is my job to eradicate that joke from ever being told? No fucking way—who the hell do I think I am?
"It is an impressively arrogant move to conclude that just because you don't like something, it is empirically not good. I don't like Chinese food, but I don't write articles trying to prove it doesn't exist." — Tina Fey
Taking her logic further, I'd say that it is an impressively arrogant move to conclude that just because you don't like something it has no truth or value to it. Just because something offends you doesn't automatically make that thing categorically "offensive" any more than something I laugh at categorically "funny."
Let's say I find your use of the term "dick" offensive. I have a dick, I use my dick, my dick is a central part of who I am. Your use of the term in a derogatory manner is offensive to me. I certainly have the right to be offended but that decision (to be offended) is both a decision rather than an undeniable reality for all people and a gives me no moral authority to prevent you from using the term. Now, if you care what I think, then you will most likely take my distaste for the word into consideration and not use it around me.
And that is the context to consider. I don't care what the strident language moralists think of me so their offense is meaningless. When things get out of hand is when someone is offended, the offender doesn't care what he/she thinks, and the offended one decides that society should make them care.
Let's take the word "retarded." I've used that term as a pejorative for most of my earlier life. I find almost any deviation from the norm to be pretty funny and, because no one whose opinion mattered to me found the use of the word to connote "stupid" or "slow" patently unacceptable, I had no persuasive reason to not use the word.
In fact, one of my favorite moments in college was when I was playing in a pep band for the Special Olympics. The kids were running 100-yard dashes and, in one particular race, the kid in front (who seemed to have some serious problems) was surging ahead of the others in, what most spectators seemed to see as, heroic. And then he tripped. And the crowd gasped. And as the second-place runner came jogging by him, our heroic runner reached out and grabbed his leg and jerked him to the ground.
And I laughed my ass off. Not because they were mentally challenged kids in a scuffle but because I had bought into the stereotype of the challenged but angelic individual myth and this kid had single-handedly destroyed that image. That people, regardless of the challenges life hands them, are people—heroic and selfish, generous and shitty.
Much later I found myself in a relationship with a woman whose sister was disabled and I suddenly had someone in my life whose opinion mattered. To me. And I stopped using the word "retarded" in a negative of humorous way. I stopped using the word altogether.
So, I think Gervais is dead on. Offense is taken. If you choose to not be offended, you aren't. Pretty simple solution, huh?
Am I offended that V.P. Pence hates gays? Nope. I don't give a flying fuck what Mike Pence thinks about anything. Same goes for Milo Yiannopoulos, Sean Hannity, Sean Penn, Matt Damon, any reality TV stars, Ian Belknap, Molly Brennan, the guy down the block or a random stranger on the bus. These people simply don't get to offend me because being offended takes far too much time and energy away from the things that are important.
Very few people on the planet give a shit what I think of them. So my disdain at their behavior means relatively nothing.
And very few people on the planet give a shit what you think of them. So your disdain is a waste of energy.