Friday, October 14, 2011

Words are tricky, except when they're not.

The internet's crush on Stephen Fry is perfectly understandable.  No-one, hive-minds included, shouldn't have a crush on Stephen Fry.  That said, I rather wish he hadn't said this.

I understand not caring that someone is 'offended' by gay couples existing right there in public, or by schools not being segregated, or by God being removed from the constitution (not that that's a concern in Ireland, ever.  And yet some people are concerned about the lack of Jesus in daily life!).  Like this woman.  This woman is a small person, and if I met her and she made me a cake and let me play with a puppy I wouldn't like her.  The problem is that in these cases, the word is being misappropriated, and thanks to this "I'm offended" has come to mean "I'm whining because the world isn't to my sensibilities, wah."

The word "offended" needs to exist, though, or there needs to be a word to replace it.  I know words change in meaning, but "I'm offended" is a nice, blame-shifting way of calling people out on thoughtless or plain abusive language or behaviour - an attack on their personhood, an offensive act in the "opposite of defence" sense of the word.  Needlessly thoughtful, actually, no-one says "I'm punched" after you give them a bloody nose.

The most bizarro thing is that even with the thoughtful "I" and shift in responsibility and use of a watered-down term, people go on the defensive if you suggest they've caused - performed - offense.  "I didn't mean actually retarded/I'm not racist/My gay friend laughed."  Good for you, knowing or blithely assuming that you're not a bigot.  Not everyone you meet knows that, and it's not their responsibility to give you the benefit of the doubt - you need to show it.  Not using dehumanising terms, or purely descriptive words as insults, is a bang-up start.  Otherwise, however cluelessly or unintentionally, you're attacking them.  Going on the offensive, one might say.  And then, through your actions and yours alone, they're attacked.  Offended, to use a slightly old sense of the word.


My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.  I read the title of this post and thought "Wow I want to tattoo that on my face put that on some form of clothing," then I read the post itself, and felt sad and squirmy.

I'm not very fussy about labels.  If I find something that describes something I already feel like, I'll adopt that, but only because it sometimes saves on wordy descriptions.  I love learning, guess I'm a nerd.  I have girl parts, guess I'm a girl.  I like making things, guess I'm a craftster.  I believe people of all gender and sexual identities are equal, guess I'm a feminist.

The feminism one has always been a little inconvenient because it's a subset of what I believe about equality.  I also believe people of all skin colours, all physical and mental capabilities, all classes are equal.  Everyone is people, all the time!  These things aren't strictly covered by the term "feminist".  But my first feminist blog was Fugitivus)which discusses feminism, race and class - perhaps more extreme than I am now, but I have a fondness for the blog and author, though sadly it seems to have fallen out of use) which led me to my first anti-racism blog ,Stuff White People Do (mainly race-based but has some elements of feminism, as WoC get it from both directions - again, no longer updated but remembered with fondness), where I came across Womanist Musings (race, gender and sexual identity, class, religion, most aspects of social justice, really).  I don't know if I'm bad at logic and assumed people who used the same label as me felt the same as me, but or if the route I took to this section of the internet led me to believe so, but I always assumed that 'feminist' really meant 'social justice-ist, including feminist'.  You don't have to act on all the issues ever, but how can you care about one and not at least see the rest to be wrong.  Then stuff like this happens:

and some people actually defend it and try to call it a feminist act.  So maybe I need a new word.


My little brother, who has just started studying in the same college as me, texted me today to ask if he could come heat up some food in my microwave.  When he got here, he had milk, tea, biscuits (two packets as he didn't know what kind I like), and two packets of pasta.  It made me feel all fuzzy inside.  Nice things happen too!


Eoghan said...

I am offended by both the sentiments and the grammar on the central sign on the picture. :P

(Her buddy to the right of her looks really glad to be part of the movement.)


I believe the correct term for a girl who crafts is a craftsgirl. Of course, the non gender specific is stuffsmith.


I just wanted to edit my previous comment and I couldn't find the edit button!


I understand Frys sentiment in that it would seem that the phrase "I'm offended" has become overused to the point ineffectuality, but I think he needs to realise that the alternative is just punching people in the mouth when they say stupid things!

Eoghan said...

The brother pointed this out to me.

Also they really need to let us edit comments seriously. If you can clean up those others please do.