Yes, we live in a culture that is far too politically-correct much of the time.
We live in a culture that is seemingly offended by everything from Beyonce to Starbucks cups to what a stranger posts on Facebook.
I wholeheartedly agree with all of that, and agree that a lot of it gets out of control at times, particularly on an election year.
(Yes, there is a “but.”)
But, sometimes, it’s okay, and, in fact, very rational to be offended. Sometimes, it’s okay to be outraged. Sometimes, it’s okay to be uncomfortable with something, and to speak out on it. That’s how progress happens.
Do we need to be outraged or triggered by every little thing that someone says or posts online that we disagree with? No. Do we need to call out every racist, sexist, or homophobe in our path? Every person whose religious or political beliefs we don’t identify with? No. People wouldn’t blame most of us if we did, but we don’t necessarily HAVE to call them out, or speak up to them. Sometimes, it’s pointless, and falls upon deaf ears. Sometimes, it’s a waste of our time, breath, and energy. Sometimes, people won’t budge on their beliefs no matter who they hurt.
Is there a lot that we can, and should, shrug off? Yes. Should we often just “let it go?” Yes.
However, there are some things that people have every right to be offended over. I’m offended when people needlessly bully others. I’m offended by people who are racist, homophobic, sexist, and ableist. I’m offended by animal abuse and child exploitation. But I’m most offended when these people see fit to “troll” or “bully” others. No, it isn’t necessarily their beliefs that offend or outrage me (they do, but hear me out) — it’s the fact that they see fit to publicly, blatantly, often mean-spiritedly share these beliefs … and THEN somehow also expect sensible people (people with brains, and hearts, and emotions) to NOT get offended by them.
I encountered this kind of a bully today — she was a hopeless internet troll just looking for a rise. Not only did she tweet me something that was offensive to me (“Your face is disabled,” was the tweet, verbatim,) but then when I called her out on it, she told me that I need to get a job, get a life, and stop being so “hurt” and “triggered” and “offended.” I have “too much time on my hands” and am a “dolt” and a typical “offended woman.” Did her initial words “your face is disabled” offend me? Yes, considering the fact that I am technically considered to be disabled/handicapped and do a lot of work in the disabled and chronic illness community, they did, somewhat, offend me. Mostly, I just thought it was a ridiculous and childish comeback. It was nothing to lose sleep over, but, I thought, “How mean. How annoying. How RUDE.”
What offended me more, however, was her mocking me FOR being even remotely offended.
In a world where bullies (often misguidedly or mistakenly) tout their “freedom of speech” as a security blanket when it comes to their hate-filled prattling, don’t those of us on the receiving end, then, have an equal right to be offended by what they say?
Now, I’m not saying we all need to be up in arms about every little thing that rubs us the wrong way. I see things on social media that annoy me or that I disagree with every single day. You know what I (usually) do? I don’t engage. I don’t comment. I just scroll by.
We ALL have things that offend or annoy us, or that we don’t agree with. I am annoyed by the unsolicited advice. By opinions I didn’t ask for. By the “one-uppers.” By the passive-aggressive ones. By bitterness. By people mistakenly spouting “facts” that are anything but. By ignorance and hatred and just plain meanness. That all bugs the you-know-what out of me. But you know what? I don’t have to reply.
My mistake with the bully today was in my replying. This I can admit.
But why is it that these types of people feel compelled to comment or reply to every little thing they see fit to do so with … and yet, the one rare time that you engage in return, they flip the script on you, as though you are not allowed to share YOUR opinion or offer YOUR feelings on the topic at hand? As though you are somehow not allowed to be offended by something offensive … that most decent people would be offended by?
However, thinking back, I’ve been a “target” to these types of people basically since toddlerhood. From schoolyard barbs to workplace bullying as an adult, I’ve been on the receiving end many times.
“What are you staring at, big eyes?”
“Ashley Beaver Bucktooth Boynes.”
“No one cares about you or your dumb posts or your dumb blogs.”
“Fat bald Britney Spears is hotter than you’ll ever be.”
“You look like Bugs Bunny.”
“Your blogs suck.”
“You’re never going to be famous.”
“I feel sorry for your husband and your pets.”
“You look like a constipated horse.”
“You’re just not bitchy enough.”
“You think you’re better than everyone else.”
“Ashley is probably ‘sick again,’ haha.”
“You’re a Big Pharma Sheep.”
“Good luck at the butcher tomorrow.” (<- said the night before my brain surgery.)
“You look like a special ed student.”
“Your posts are stupid.”
“Your face is disabled.”
“I’m going to kill you.”
The list goes on and on. The bully today was likely the same type of person who threw gum in my hair in 8th grade and who had me on a legitimized hit list in 10th or who threatened me over a shirt in 11th.
It was the type of person I dated in college who was emotionally abusive and the type of friend I had who started and believed rumors and lies about me.
What I’ve learned is that we never escape these types of people. What we must do, however, is control our response to them. We should pick and choose what to be offended about, and when. As the saying goes: “pick your battles.” If we are publicly offended ALL of the time, by everything, no one will listen when it matters. After all, as the other saying goes, “Insecurity roars. Confidence whispers.”
Did some of the above jabs hurt more than others? Yes.
But was I all that upset, for example, about a woman who, last week, was publicly dragging me because a Healthline article I wrote about PTSD featured a stock image thumbnail of a military veteran (an image that I also didn’t personally choose)? No. It was annoying that she would come at me when the context of the article and research presented was more important to most people than the accompanying (relevant) photo was. It was annoying that she felt the need to do so publicly. But was it anything more than annoying? No. Was I offended or hurt? No.
But was I upset about someone using anti-disabled language towards me today publicly when I didn’t invite a dialogue with her and didn’t even post something so controversial to warrant such a response? Yes, I was. Because such a response is never really warranted, now is it?
And then, I was shamed by her further for the fact that I was a little offended.
Then I realized, I have every right to be.
If these cruel, heartless, bullies and internet trolls feel that they have the right to say whatever they want to say, then I have a right to feel and react however I’d like to, within reason.
People will say “don’t take it personally,” “brush it off,” “that’s to be expected when you’re putting yourself out there,” and “they just want a reaction out of you.”
All of those things are true.
But we are, perhaps inadvertantly, creating a culture where people are offended and outraged by all of the wrong things, and yet won’t speak up about things that actually are offensive: the ugly stuff. Racism. Sexism. Homophobia. Ableism. Animal Abuse. Human Trafficking. Poverty. The destruction of our environment. The exploitation of women and children. And more. People will express disdain and outrage over a coffee cup or a music video or a news anchor losing her job for misusing a network-affiliated Facebook page, but won’t bat an eyelash when politicians bash one another, or bash women, or bash handicapped people, or bash those of a different nationality or sexual orientation. People won’t think twice when words like “libtard” and “wingnut” are thrown around describing our political parties.
People are quick to post a meme to “boycott this” or “ban that” or “support so-and-so” but they will witness trolling, bullying, hatred, and prejudice right in front of their own eyes either in daily life or on social media, but won’t speak up for fear of offending ~OR~ for fear of what others will think if they appear to be offended themselves.
For lack of a better term, it is really stupid.
Somehow, in the always-connected world of social media, the era of the 24/7 news cycle, we’ve lost the ability to empathize with others. We have forgotten that there is a human being on the other side of the screen — a human being that is seeing what we are posting, what we are sharing, what we are liking and commenting on.
When we should conceivably be more connected than ever due to this technology at our fingertips, we as a human race seem to be growing further apart.
We share posts without consideration for which friends or family members they may hurt, or isolate.
We share our feelings about things that we maybe shouldn’t be speaking upon publicly, or spout off our thoughts about things that we maybe don’t really know a whole lot about.
We offer unsolicited advice about everything from fashion choices to child rearing to health treatments without thinking of how the person on the receiving end may feel. We become so impassioned by political or religious beliefs, so caught up in the mob mentality and the groupthink that we become unable to form our own thoughts and feelings on matters … and therefore, instead of intelligent discussion, we hide behind our computer screens or smartphones posting memes and hurling unintelligent, childlike, unfounded insults at anyone – friend or foe, stranger or neighbor, family or colleague – who doesn’t fully agree with us, or our cause.
I feel like I’m back on the school bus again. But I’m trying to empathize even with the trolls. For someone to become a bully, they have to have some unresolved anger or fear leading the way. After all, “hurt people hurt people.” And I don’t want people to hurt.
So let’s ALL – myself included – aim to focus on trying to better relate to one another. It’s okay to be offended sometimes, and it’s okay to share that. It’s not okay, though, to be outright mean or nasty to other people for their feelings or opinions just because they differ from your own.
… Of course, this all may come off as preachy. And you may not be able to relate to where I am coming from. After all, these things are only my personal experiences and my personal opinions.
It’s up to you if they offend you or not. That’s not my decision to make — nor is it anyone else’s.