Do We Have the Right to Not Be Offended When What is Offensive is Subjective?

Yes, the title is confusing–it came from a conversation where someone actually said to me that she had the right to not be offended.  Not that she had the right to be offended (something I agree we have a right to), but the right to not be offended.

When I hear some dude say, “Bitches be like…” I think to myself, I know that dude aint talking about ME.  Other women would be offended by “bitches”, unless it was used by a gay man or progressive female running a gossip blog, thus making “bitch” a word that is subjectively offensive.  I have a black friend from my neighborhood who is highly offended when the word “nigger” is used by anyone, including black people because he believes that it reinforces a negative impression of blacks that makes it unable for them to achieve, while I have another friend from back home who used to yell out when his mother beat his father down in the street “Call him a big black nigger, Mama!” Note: not “niggah” or “nigga” but she called him a “lazy, trifflin’ nigger” with the “r” in front of everyone when she gave him the serious beatdown (how I wish Youtube was around then).  Speaking of beat downs….Willam in Willam’s beat down (Willam is a gay, drag queen) calls other gays “faggot”, Michael Alig and Ernie Glam are currently trying to take back “fag hag” to a place of positivity, proving that “nigger”, “fag”, and “hag” are all terms that cause offense subjectively depending on the situation, who’s saying it, and how someone was raised.

I believe that we have the right to be offended.  I’m not sure that we have the right to not be offended.

I was at a straight & gay bar recently and this dude kept saying “cunt” over and over.  Cunt is a derogatory word for vagina, along with snatch–both used now ad nauseum by gays thanks to RuPaul’s Drag Race.  I asked the man how he would feel if I said “faggot” as openly and as often as he said “cunt” and he explained that I could not say “faggot” because “faggot was the last thing that many gays heard as they were being beaten by bigots”.  I responded with “cunt is the last thing 1 in 4 women who are raped each day is heard by their attacker.”

The thing is I was being argumentative.  I’m not sure I actually care.  I think I have the right to be offended, but I am not sure I have the right not to be offended, nor do I think anyone else does, either.

I don’t use words like nigger, fag, or whatever because I think they’re mean words and that only low class people use them.  At the same time, I don’t think it is healthy to be so easily manipulated emotionally, rather allow yourself to be so easily manipulated emotionally by a single word spoken by a stranger.

To give into the culture of offense is to actually tell people that they are weak and that they cannot withstand the battery of a word.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Words do have power.  Symbols have power.  They only have power over you when you allow them to because you believe they are true.

RuPaul my sage said once, “A word can’t hurt you if a little part of you doesn’t believe it is true.”

This is like wisdom from the gods.  I have never been offended by someone saying I was “stupid” because, gurl, I know my IQ score.  I have never been offended by someone saying I was ugly because I’m not.  I recently gained a dress size and if someone said to me that I looked fat I would go on a fast.  Why?  Because I don’t have confidence that I am not fat.

I don’t think that groups can be offended by a word.  Only individuals within a group can be offended because groups don’t have hive minds.  The same people who tell us not to generalize because generalizations are logical fallacies ( because we are all individuals of course), are sometimes the same people telling us that this group or that group needs protection because “they” would be sensitive to x,y,z.  If groups can be offended, then conversely you can make a generalization.  Can’t have it both ways.

Personally, I don’t think in terms of groups, I think in terms of individual people.  I think in terms of kindness.  I don’t want to be unkind so I will not say something that I think will hurt someone else, regardless of whether it is a personal or group insult.

But as a member of two “groups” that are somewhat disenfranchised globally, I am not sure I want a collective representation of what should be offensive to me, nor should I be immune from offense by power of law.

Just musings…


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