Oh, sorry! Did I offend you? Oh wait, I don't care.
I was in a Feminist Theory class at my university and we were learning to "check our privilege" and watch our words so as not to isolate or offend anyone who felt differently than we did. It was offensive to talk about women with eating disorders and not quickly acknowledge that men, too, suffer from eating disorders. It was offensive to talk about your life without stating and owning your racial and economic privilege that differentiated your life from others. It was offensive to suggest Caitlyn Jenner wasn't an extremely brave and iconic transgender woman. It was offensive to suggest she was the bravest and most iconic transgender woman who deserved her Woman Of The Year Award. Soon enough, I decided to shut up and just stop offering my opinions in that class so I could stop getting glared at for my offensive vulgarity.
Please don't get me wrong, I am a feminist. I have experience with eating disorders and I know that men with eating disorders are too frequently marginalized or suggested to be feminine when their disorder is not a gendered one. I understand that I have certain privileges as a white woman from a middle class background. And on and on. But I couldn't shake the feeling that the class was almost a competition of who could get offended the most or how you could find a way to be offended by the next thing somebody was going to say.
I think it's so important that globally we are learning that certain things that we were doing and imposing on people was not okay and was, in fact, offensive. We are learning that mental health is a real issue, as serious as physical health, and that people with mental illnesses need treatment and not to be stigmatized as crazy. This is important. We are learning that it is not wrong or a sin to be gay and that gay people should be able to love and marry whoever they choose. This is important. We are learning not to discriminate by race. This is important.
We've certainly done offensive things in our past - think the Jewish extermination of WWII, the Trail of Tears in the States that killed thousands of Cherokees, the slave trade, the sex trade. And it's important that we learn that none of that shit was okay and that we're attempting to better ourselves by including more people and learning to act like decent humans. But at the same time, I don't see positivity coming from finding a way to get offended by everything.
Today comedians and news anchors have to constantly apologize for jokes that went "too far." People's Twitter pages are scoured for and criticized for anything that could be considered non-PC. We're constantly choosing new things that need to eliminated from jokes and conversations. I almost wonder if people get excited to get offended by something new, like they're trendsetters almost.
If you're hurt because someone insulted who you are or something you hold dear, I'm not suggesting you keep silent. I'm not suggesting you don't assert your right to be respected as a human being, and all humans regardless of race, gender, sexuality, age, body type deserve the exact same amount of respect. But I think we need to realize that you do not and should not win a prize for finding new ways to be sensitive. A joke that was funny yesterday should still be funny today even if you suddenly realized that this one line could potentially be offensive if you interpret it this particular way.
I think if political correctness continues to expand as it has, we will just stop talking about things altogether. We'll stop talking about sexuality because we don't want to be caught ignorant of certain sexualities and the feelings of people who identify as those. If we don't talk about sexuality at all, then a young person growing up confused about their feelings won't know who to turn to or talk to about their attractions and their identity and how they should proceed and if they're normal. If we stop talking about race altogether, how will people bond over their cultural traditions and the things that they love about their ethnicity, the things that make them unique. The way we're going with political correctness, we're going to stop talking about anything real.
I eventually spoke up in class toward the end and mentioned that we've spent so much time talking about what's offensive and what we can't say and can't do, that we weren't doing or saying anything productive at all. The point of feminism after all is to work toward greater equality between the sexes. How we were achieving that by sitting in a room and getting upset by everything anyone said? We weren't. We achieved absolutely nothing. We were more obsessed with expanding political correctness and by limiting what one another could say than we were with thinking of practical ways to help women.
Video: A Progressive's Guide To Political Correctness