Has everybody seen this photo? It's sparked a bit of a debate on one of the forums I frequent. This photo, along with another conversation that's been happening on a different thread of the same forum, has gotten me to thinking about how sensitive we've all become.
But first, the photo. I'm okay with it. I'm really okay with it. Here's my response:
Personally, I thought the response in that photo was hilarious. I've read so many awful submissions from students over the years that I can completely understand where that professor was coming from - whether or not it was real. By the time these kids get to college (and I'm just assuming from the context that this kid was in college) there's absolutely no excuse for not being able to write a research paper at least semi-coherently. Not to mention that this was an end-of-the-semester thing so he or she would have had plenty of time to approach the prof for help if necessary.
The second conversation was born of one person making the comment that they'd be okay spending $(large-ish sum) to make a move in a series we all enjoy in order to get 'ship confirmation for a couple we're all shipping (it's a 'ship thread). There was a response that basically boiled down to, "that's probably a waste of money most people don't have". A true enough statement if I've ever heard one. I think the trouble was this line:
What's the saying again? Fools and their money are easily parted or something?
Someone took offense to this because he/she felt like the quoted person above was being offensive.
Since when is using an old turn of phrase offensive? Since when do we live in a world when an opinion contrary to our own is offensive?
Am I the only one who doesn't think this is okay?
I said it before, but I'm saying it again for emphasis: I think we live in a world that has gone lily-white in an effort not to offend people. Sanitation of our opinions is self-censorship of our ideas. We're not okay when other people censor things we've said. Why are we lying down as we do it to ourselves in an effort to keep from offending people who are, quite honestly, likely going to be offended anyway.
The internet has made the big world a very small place. We can now band together with groups of people who like the one very tiny corner of whatever universe we like. That's awesome. It also means a false sense of camaraderie is established. There's this idea that we all like the same thing so we must think alike. It's just not true. I've found just as wide a variety of personalities in my own little corners of the universe as I have when I've had to barge smack dab into the center of parts of the universe that don't make much difference to me.
But somehow, because of this belief that other people who like the things we like must think the way we think, we've also become so easily offended that, for the most part, people walk around with their white flags already out and waving. We couch things we say with "IMHO". (I swear, I'm going to puke if I see that one more time...everything you write down -- unless it's a fact from a cite-able source -- is your opinion. I don't need to know if you offer it humbly or honestly. I don't care. It's your opinion, I get it, lets move on - you're wasting valuable real estate on my screen.)
I'm starting to be offended that people are sanitizing their speech in order to not offend me. I want to know what you think, whoever it is I'm talking to. I want you to treat me like I'm a friend (especially if we spend any amount of time trading words online). If you're worried you've offended me (because of my reaction to what you've said) then let's address that. But don't automatically assume you've offended me (or even that you have the power to offend me). I'm a big girl. I've got this.
Here's the lesson: If I, a stranger you've met in cyber-space, am so important that my mere opinions cast out onto the web can offend you, then I am severely underpaid.
This rant came about in a discussion thread about fanfic peeves. It wasn't entirely on topic, but I said things I've been thinking for a while so I thought I'd share. It was in direct response to Gen Xer who was lamenting the current plethora of fic out there written by people who do not have a command of the English language. She postulated it had to do with a culture raised on watching rather than reading. I whole heartedly agree.
I'm a member of the generation immediately following yours, having been born in the early eighties, charmingly dubbed Generation Y (or, by people who fancy themselves witty, Generation Why?). I'm of the last generation of kids to get through school without ready access to cellular phones, let alone text messaging.
But my generation did popularize instant messaging and, with it, chat-lingo. Horrific spelling and abysmal grammar began to take the place of well formed sentences not simply out of laziness but because of a burgeoning new culture that sought to identify itself with its own idiosyncrasies. This new shorthand became a way to keep older people out and thereby preserve the playing field for those the generation decided worthy of inclusion: more Gen Yers.
I was a bit of an anomaly - perhaps a hybrid, a bridge between my boomer parents and what would come behind me. There were others like me, but I feel like we were largely outnumbered. I was a voracious reader in large part because my mother was and that's the culture I was raised in. Like you, it was commonplace to find the television on in my house and mom and I splitting our attentions between books and whatever program was on. My father wasn't a reader. His medium of choice was most certainly television. And now, while I likely watch more television than most - both as research for my studies and simple entertainment - I still read far more than most people I know. Because of this I tend to socialize with other readers. My group of friends, as a matter of fact, have a book club. But I digress.
I also tend to spend large amounts of time online. Mostly reading, as it happens. I'm not a youtube watcher - I'm a fic reader. And I, too, have noticed an alarming propensity towards the absolute slaughter of the English language. A lot of writers seem to write in conversational English (when they bother to choose the correct words and phrases at all). What I miss most when reading fic, and to some extent popular modern fiction, is the air of literary abandon taken by those that have a command of the language. I don't mind when dialogue sounds natural, but the prose in between should paint a picture, not slash graffiti across the wall of my imagination.
I worry for what is yet to come. I'm afraid it's only going to get worse. As the educational system gets lost in a flurry of test prep we begin to lose the finesse of education. The sweet thrill of knowledge is pushed aside for the fast-food nature of fact regurgitation. I'm afraid for the Millennials because the ability to paint pictures with words is something that must be cultivated. Something that now must be desired and learned on their own. I'm afraid the desire just won't be there as it gets lost in the ability to type sixty words a minute on a touch screen and abbreviate all words to their three most descriptive consonants. I'm afraid more than spelling and grammar will be lost in the translation.
I am in a minority. I really am. I do not need to be coddled. I do not need things sanitized before I read them. I do not need to be warned that something I am about to read might contain something I'm uncomfortable with.
I am in a minority because there isn't much I'm uncomfortable with and I have nothing that offends me so much a back-button can't cure. I hear this word "triggery" a lot. I heard it so much from people that have "triggers" in a particular comm that I left. I was just tired - so tired of having to make sure everything was worded in such a lily-white way no one could possibly be offended. I'm hearing it now in another comm I enjoy and I'm feeling ready to leave that one, too.
The internet used to be a place where you could say whatever you wanted to say - you were veiled in anonymity. You could rant and vent and use phrasing you'd never use in your day to day life for fear of offending people. But the internet, in all its vastness, has become a small, tight-knit community. Hordes of people have now banded together to make sure everyone is warned against things that might make them mad, make them scared, make them sad, make them... whatever. Emotions are something we don't have to feel unless we've read all the disclaimer statements first.
I am in a minority because I just don't care. If I happen upon something I don't like, I'll close the window. My sensibilities are not so delicate that I can't police things for myself. And if I will not kowtow to others whose sensibilities are so delicate. That might make me a bad person, but I'm a little bit okay with that. If it means I can't post to comms I'd otherwise enjoy, then, so be it.
I more fully enjoy conversing with people who are able to open their minds to the idea that they are the masters of their own musings. I enjoy not having to censor everything I say to avoid offending someone. I enjoy people who are not so easily offended. That's not to say I don't understand how certain words or situations are maddening, saddening or scary to certain individuals. I will not, however, assume the people I choose to call friends in real life or on the internet are not capable of putting on their proverbial "big girl panties" and choosing not to look at or read something that is on their personal "do not want" list.
And - and this is specific to a certain post in a certain community - I will not be offended by the phrase "raping my childhood" when its meant in a joking manner. I will not be offended by a word that has horrible connotations when its not describing something horrible. Words are, at the very base of what they are, just words. It's the intent behind them that can create a problem. So no, comm mod, funny posts about sex between cartoon characters titled "Rape my Childhood" will not be offensive to me just because you say it should be and because other people find it so.
I am a big girl and I buy my panties in the lingerie section.