The Hateful Eight: Being Offended
Welcome to Hate Week! For the next few days, I’ll be telling you about various topics I hate, one of which was scrapped because Nicole Arbour is a tactless windbag. Do these things make my blood boil because half my Facebook friends are the inspiration for this title? Do I just feel incredibly supervillain-y right now? Or am I picking at scraps for my first hastily thrown together piece in a fortnight? Probably a mix of all three. First on the docket – taking offense.
Stephen Fry said it best – “I’m offended by that… well, so fucking what?” How dare I say that?! You have your rights, and I’m not allowed to talk to you like that. Offense isn’t even an emotion, because emotions overwhelm you regardless of your opinion on them. Sadness doesn’t care that you hate it. Offense is more of a state function, a property intensive to a person (that’s a thermodynamics reference in homage to my engineer roots). Being offended – unlike being an asshole on Tinder – isn’t a choice (oh wait, that’s a choice too). And like most personal choices put into context of a not-limited-to-a-single-person-topic, that choice doesn’t matter.
State facts, make arguments, fight for what you want – as long as you know why you’re doing it. Calling offense as your default option when you have other genuinely impactful options available isn’t just self-absorbed or entitled, it’s lazy; kind of like responding with ‘lol’ without even bothering to capitalize one ‘L.’
Humor is the most common target of offense-callers everywhere. It’s easy to see trigger fingers turn to Twitter fingers when a joke is considered to not be all-inclusive, non-threatening, or generally ‘vanilla’ (I was told that’s the proper use of the term and not an ice cream type). Like Amy Poehler’s recent joke, “I can’t wait for Blue Ivy to be old enough for R. Kelly to piss on her,” and the internet went up in a shitstorm (no pun intended). What was lost in that was the character who said that joke was talking about how people were hating her for Tweeting that out in the show – so more of a meta satire than pedophilia condoning on Poehler’s part. Or when Jeff Ross said “the only person who has inhaled more smoke than Snoop [Dogg] is Pete Davidson’s dad inside the World Trade Center” – a joke which I found funny, and one that Davidson himself was fine with. Once you recognize that something is rooted in comedy or that it’s intended as humor, you can’t be offended by it. You can say it’s a bad joke, but considering the source and intention, that’s all it is – a joke.
Take the word ‘history.’ A seemingly unassuming word, one that’s slightly below subpar at best and a microcosm of rote memorization at worst – the Sacha Baron Cohen of words. Some have gone for their pitchforks at this word, claiming offense since it only presumes to represent a man’s story, hence “his story.” This fell in line with the birth of the term ‘hxstory,’ which is more inclusive or progressive or something. A move that likely made the patriarchy quake in its boots – just as it did for the Amazon rainforest, which will give up many more trees to reprint books with the proper spelling, or newscasters, who will squint confusedly into their prompters because they don’t know how to pronounce the word. Too bad being offended never really makes you right – it’s precisely because you’ve led a unique life that a desire for validation of your plight from others isn’t entirely practical.
Sidenote: I’m offended by the word ‘vibrator’ – the word ‘bra’ inside it makes it seem like it’s an object exclusively for women; even though it makes geometric sense that women derive the most pleasure from vibrators. I’d feel much more comfortable using mine if I could call it a ‘vibrotor,’ instead, since it would call out to my inner bro. And screw all those sex toy shops that have to rewrite the proper spelling on their inventories.
Overall, being offended is the equivalent of making ‘Jeb!’ your campaign slogan if you’re Jeb Bush. It’s attention-grabbing, implies that people should care about you, and is incredibly uncreative – not to mention the air of finality that demands approval despite any substantive content. The problem with that? Jeb doesn’t look like he’s in a winning position. (Let’s not talk about who’s actually winning. The metaphor only worked up to a point.)
Oh, and of course, no offense.