Why society never seems to be at the right level of 'offended'
Updated: Jul 7
I’ve never been a people person and even before the days of the World Wide Web and social media, you knew there were a lot of stupid and/or angry people, homophobic people, racist people, etc in the world as well as people who wanted to cancel/censor everything they didn’t agree with.
Somewhere along the way, people’s perceptions of right and wrong seems to have swayed drastically to each end of the extreme limits.
You have people who are too easily offended and then you have people who say things that are blatantly offensive so casually because they believe it is their right to free speech and anyone offended by it is a 'snowflake'.
People tend to always have to pick a side on a topic and oppose anyone who thinks differently rather than considering both sides and find a balance- although some arguments don’t have a middle ground.
Obviously as a straight white man, I’m not subject to abuse and so things that are blatantly offensive or close to the wire often won’t apply to me. I find it strange when people get offended on behalf of somebody else even if the other person accepts no offence was taken.
Of course, you can react even if you are not the target of an “ism” if, for example, you see something that is blatantly racist to which my response isn’t to be offended but it is to think “the person who said that is a racist EXPLETIVE” and the same with any other kinds of blatantly offensive terms.
There are more grey areas where things might be ‘in bad taste’ or ‘misguided’ which run close to being offensive depending on how you see it.
Issues such as the H & M controversy where a black child wore a “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” hoodie. This is an example of people seeing something not exactly which isn’t there but where context should be appreciated.
Obviously any comparison of black people to monkeys are usually offensive but children are of any race or ethnicity are called monkeys all the time which is what H & M are going for.
Society seems to refuse to accept the context of how something is said, considering whether it is sarcastic or tongue-in-cheek and this applies to people on all sides.
“It’s just a joke” is a dangerous phrase. Sometimes, it can be a valid excuse to say something which might take a jab at particular people in society but other times, it is a way to try and justify clearly offensive things.
The best jokes do ultimately take aim and look to mock a certain type of people, more personality type rather than gender, race, religion, etc.
Stereotypes are a tough one to call. Obviously you don’t want to generalise a certain type of person but a joke loses its rhythm if you want to tell a joke about how “women like to shop” but then clarify it by saying “but not all women and some men really like shopping too” becomes unnecessary.
Take Jeremy Clarkson on the One Show years back. In one statement, he said he backed striking public sectors workers and then said something along the lines of “this is the BBC so I have to be fair and balanced, so I think they should be executed in front of their families.”
With full context, this should go under the “it’ just a joke” category.
I used to think South Park was an offensive show, not that I was offended but the issues and storylines they dealt with would be considered offensive. However, if you really watch the show and consider what issues they are dealing with, there is always a moral lesson at the end which usually explains that the show is opposed to the offensive thing.
Despite all my points about unnecessary objections, there are things which are right to censor or change that some people may talk about as ‘political correctness’ gone mad.
These people are usually the people who either “tell it like it is” or appreciate those who do the same.
At some point, people confused “speaking your mind” with “telling it how it is” to mean the same thing. This has definitely led to a rise in occurrences of ‘isms’ with people mistakenly believing that as long as it’s honest, it’s right.
Saying that ‘all women like to shop’ isn’t the absolute worst stereotype in the world but if you think saying it means you’re “telling it how it is” then you’re wrong. It may be more likely than not if you meet a woman, they would like to shop and less so for a man but you can’t say it is a correct statement.
You also get the odd occurrences that those “who can’t be offended” take offence to things that have nothing to do with them.
For example, the vegan sausage roll from Gregg’s. Perhaps you can complain that the word “sausage” shouldn’t be in there but otherwise you find some meat-eaters feel under attack even though Gregg’s still serves its meat options. Ultimately, these people seem to be outraged by Gregg’s being smart and growing their customer base.
The strangest thing about society and people’s stances is how things like the environment and sexuality are political standpoints.
Somehow, people who care about the environment and LGBT rights are “lefty snowflakes” and people who don’t are on the right.
It’s not so much that people on the right are racist or homophobic but they are more likely to comment on things such as LGBT and Black History months with the classic response “where’s our month for celebrating white/straight people?” as they completely miss the point of it all.
Of course, religion can sway people’s views and are often used as a justification for holding views about a particular type of people.
Tradition is another point of contention where people will try to justify old ways or old sayings simply because it is tradition not realising that some old ways have to change over time.
People are right to raise points and call out offensive things but they are guilty of searching for ways to construe something to be offensive.
Overall, you’d rather have a society where people are alert to try and snuff out ‘isms’ even if they monitor it too extremely rather than a society where people say whatever they like and don’t accept that issues of racism, sexism and homophobia have to be discussed and still exist in this day and age.
It would be great if society could find a happy medium but there is no way that is happening.