New Year’s resolution: be more offended
This year, I’ve decided to be more offended. Not necessarily offensive, though I probably shouldn’t shy away from that either, at least not toward those who deserve it. “Why so PC?” the offended hypothetical bigot whines. Because you’ve been offensive, that’s why. My goal for myself is to be more conscientious about my own failings, but as uncomfortable as it is, the other half of this task—being more offended—involves actually calling people out for their bologna. It’s necessary when the dominant narrative seems to be that racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry are dead, when in fact they’ve simply been repackaged in cleaner, slicker forms, apparently fit for human consumption but in the end as insidious as the more overt displays of bigotry we’ve all been absorbing since elementary school.
I’ve decided that I’m going to reclaim the term “politically correct.” PC is an irritating term that has come to grate on me, not because it’s a term that has no merit but because it so consistently conflates the idea of “trying to be a decent human being, darn it” with “transparent pandering in order to garner votes” or “humorless jerk.” I’d rather be called a bundt (rhymes with an unprintable word) or an itch (just guess). Until now, that is. PC is now my war cry. Come at me. I don’t want to police your thoughts or your speech. You’re allowed to say or think what you want. This is ‘Merica. But that doesn’t mean you’re not prejudiced.
Obviously, there are gradations of bigotry: people who are willfully hateful, people who are merely insensitive and those who are simply clueless. This raises other questions—what exactly is offensive? Words, for example. I mean, they’re used in casual conversation as epithets, not in artistic or comedic or academic works with a higher purpose. I’ve heard the “n” word (henceforth “bigger”) used to describe people, tests (as in “I made that test my bigger itch”) and a dog. And lest you think these people are really gung-ho historical re-enactors, one was a Wash. U. student and the other is close to my age. These are fairly extreme examples. The straight-faced justification I have gotten was given as, “there’s nothing wrong with black people, just biggers.” Right. This kind of speech gets people shamed—rightfully. However, racist and xenophobic jokes and Halloween costumes are pretty much still mainstream, as is so-called “hipster racism” (“racism”). And when a friend told me she had gotten “more racist” since moving north of the Loop, I guess she was just trying to be honest. She wasn’t spewing racial epithets. But that doesn’t change the fact that she was being offensive.
Being more offended obviously sometimes involves some tricky delineation. Is it objectionable when someone like Lana Del Ray wears a Native American headdress in a music video? My initial reaction was no, because it appears that she wanted to use it for aesthetic purposes because she admired it. But then again, a Halloween costume of the same thing—or blackface—is definitely not okay. So then, is she now Lana Del Racist? Or is that ridiculous?
And is it worse if someone calls me or Hillary Clinton or Ke$ha a “bundt” rather than a “jerk?” Maybe, but that’s not half as offensive as a sexist joke or a comment that specifically denigrates the person based on gender.