Has Being Offended Become Cool?

by Renee Miller

 

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First, let’s talk about words. All the words. Swear words, slang, regular words that the masses have decided we’re not allowed to use anymore, and their replacements. All the fucking words, man. I love them. Even the tricky ones like cunt, whore, and yes, even retard. While some of these words bother me for personal reasons, I can’t hate any of them, because each one is full of history, emotion and POWER. I’m a writer. I will use whatever word gives what I’m writing the proper emotion, and this means using the words I might choose not to use in real life.

Why shouldn’t this offend you? You have the right to feel how you want to feel, but think twice before publicly shaming someone simply because their choice of words bothers you. When I use a word you find offensive, and you scold me or worse for using it, you are giving ME your power. You’re giving the word you hate power. The only person not getting any power is you.

I like profanity, as you all know, and I use it frequently. People are offended by this sometimes. I don’t really give a fuck, but sometimes their offense at my language offends me. I want to tell them to fuck off. Get off their stupid pedestal, and join the real world. Sometimes I do tell them that. Usually I don’t, because fuck them. Why can’t I love all the words, including the nasty, dirty, messy ones? It’s not just words, though. In the book world, even ideas, thoughts, themes, etc. offend people. One of my besties, Katrina Monroe, experienced a bit of backlash for her book, Sacrificial Lamb Cake, which is a brilliant, witty, fun read that I will always love. Yes, it’s blasphemous, but that much is clear if you read the damn cover blurb. Yet, she’s received negative reviews (alas, I can’t find any of them now, so maybe the Goodreads cleaning crew has passed through?) because someone either didn’t read the blurb, or did and decided to read the book anyway, and their wittle feelings were hurt.

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Why would someone who is uncomfortable with subjects such as lesbians and/or heavenly bodies who are anything but what the Bible describes, read a book that STATES the messiah is a lesbian RIGHT ON THE COVER? Is it not pretty likely you’re going to hate this book? It’s not just her either. Another author friend, who writes deliciously disgusting horror , has received a slew of negative reviews because of the nasty shit her characters think and do. It’s horror! What do you expect? Another author, whom you all know well, C.M. Saunders, received backlash because in his book, Sker House, a male character used the term “friend zone.” And I’ve had folks refuse to rate books, or knock stars from their ratings, because they don’t like the “rough language.” It’s offensive. Oh, muffin.

I’m not whining about it. If you feel like you can’t review my books or can’t say anything positive because you were so upset by content and/or language, then that’s how you feel. I’m just saying I think it’s ridiculous, because that’s how I feel.

By the way, this post is intentionally offensive to anyone who is easily offended, so if you’re one of those people, stop reading. Or keep reading if you need your “I’m a self-righteous douchebag” fix.

Personally, I find it astonishing that we are all still offended by what is essentially a bunch of letters. I am always shocked when someone gets bent out of shape over holiday greetings, celebrations, phrases, etc. Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there! Now I’ve pissed off anyone who hasn’t had a child, can’t have a child, has lost a child, or doesn’t want a child at all, as well as the ones who hate their mothers, or were abandoned by their moms, or lost their moms. Shit, it’s all so exhausting.

Merry Christmas pisses off people who don’t celebrate Christmas, but Happy Holidays pisses off the Christians. And for the love of God, don’t you ever use “Xmas”, you lazy, insensitive motherfucker. Happy Chocolate Bunny Day pisses off the folks who know Easter isn’t about candy and bunnies. Well, it is in my house, because I’m not a Christian. So, um, yeah. You can wish me a happy Easter or a Merry Christmas. I’ll say thanks, even if I’m not religious, because I appreciate that the greeting came from a good place. You’re not trying to oppress me or convert me, or whatever… are you? Oh, you crafty little bitch.

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I did start a list of everything that offends people these days, but it was way too long to put in a single post, because you jerks keep adding shit every damn day. I can’t keep up. I should add that some of the things I read/hear online bother me too, but I don’t call the moral police to have the guilty parties arrested and flogged, because who the fuck cares? They have the right to say what they want to say, and I have the right to not like it. I don’t have to be a drama queen about it, and I don’t think I’m helping anyone by telling them their words hurt me. In most cases, that was their goal all along, so why give them exactly what they want?

I’m not entirely sure why being offended is a fad, but I’m thinking part of it is that we have become addicted to that wonderful self-righteous glow that being offended leaves behind. I mean, how awesome does it feel to knock some cocky prick down a peg or three, because he uses a word or phrase that causes us discomfort or pain? I don’t care the context he used it in, or even if it was meant to be offensive or not, I am going to rip that fucker a new one. Yeah, that shit feels good.

But let’s think about this: When you CHOOSE to be offended by what someone writes online or in a book, or even by something they’ve said in real life, (and make no mistake, it’s a choice) you also CHOOSE to be a victim.

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Hmm. Not so cool now, eh?

Yes, yes, I know that some words are emotional triggers for people. But if we have to stop using words because it brings back an emotional trauma for this person or that, then I quit humaning. It’s over. Might as well quit writing too, because the whole point of it is to use words to affect people on an emotional level. If that’s no longer okay, then what’s the point?

I am sorry if you have shit in your past that hurts. I’m sorry if it more than hurts. It’s awful that you’ve had to endure any heartache or trauma at all. I wish this world was fair or at least kind to good people, but it’s not. It sucks, but when you try to make other people change to alleviate your pain, instead of finding a way to prevent that pain from consuming you, you’re choosing to stay in the role of victim and you’re giving power to the words you’re trying to make everyone else stop using. The more power a word has, the less likely it’ll go away.

Before anyone asks who the fuck am I to tell someone how to deal with trauma, let me add that I’ve been victimized too. I’ve wallowed in a pit of misery, fear and self-doubt, and I let the trauma rule my life for too long. When I stopped giving certain words and actions power, I was free of all that shit. The rest of the world didn’t hurt me, so why should they pay for something someone else did?

And I know that some people online use certain words in an intentionally negative manner. They try to hurt you on purpose but hey, you don’t have to be their victim. Don’t give power to their words by being offended. People are going to say what they want. They’re going to like what they like. How do their preferences, be it words or actions, affect you personally in your day-to-day life? In most situations, it doesn’t affect you at all, unless you want it to.

If you don’t like violence, don’t read horror, crime, suspense, or any genre that generally includes violence.

Don’t like swear words? Don’t use them. If you can’t handle other people using them, you should probably leave the Internet. Bye.

If you don’t like the idea of Satan being a good guy, or Mary being a crack whore, or the savior of mankind being gay, then don’t read books that explore those themes. Read the cover before you buy. Easy.

I know some of you are having trouble getting behind what I’m saying here. It’s okay, I know I’m rambly. I’ll just make it real simple by sharing what occurred to me as I thought about all of this:

Finding reasons to be offended is actually kind of offensive. So, in doing the thing you think is cool, you’ve become not cool.

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The Swearing Corner: The N-Word and other words I won’t say (mostly)  

by Steve Wetherell

I’ll never say the n-word. Well, not in any official capacity. I might sing along to an Anderson Paak song, and my usual tactic of replacing it with ‘fella’ doesn’t always scan well. Also, I might write the word in the mouth of a racist character or such. Also, I might get drunk and scream it at someone’s wedding. Not the last one. That was a joke.

 

I wouldn’t say the word because it’s a very sensitive, contentious word, with a dark and terrible history, and it makes people uncomfortable. Saying it, to me, is far more effort that it’s worth. I mean, really, considering the fallout, I’d need a really, really good reason to say it. Maybe to prove some point about free speech and sensible conversation or such, or because Samuel L. Jackson commanded me to say it on national television. And that’s not really going to be an issue for me. I’m slightly suspicious of anyone who does think it is an issue. Why do you want to say that word? Is it because you were told you can’t? You coy little minx. Wash your mouth out. Also your soul.

 

Should the word have such power, though? The short answer is yes, but I may live to see a time when it loses that power. For example, when I was a young kid, referring to a black guy as a black guy was thought to be extremely crass. More sensitive people would say ‘the coloured chap’ or ‘Dave’ depending on how well they knew him. These days referring to anyone as ‘coloured’ is career damagingly offensive, and as ‘black’ is fine. Things change.

 

Faggot is another word I won’t say, apart from just then, obviously. Although it’s a fun word to say. (In England, a faggot is something you eat. It’s also a meat dish.) I won’t say faggot for the same reason I’ll never un-ironically say ‘cuck’, because it’s too often used by macho types with the self-awareness of a dick shaped lollipop and the compassion of an alligator. Also, it too has a pretty damned dark history. Again, not being able to say this word is really no skin off my nose.

 

I do miss “Gaaaaay” though. No, hear me out. We pretty much said everything was gay when I was younger, largely due to South Park. It’s got a big dumb mooing quality to it that makes it silly. Geography? Gaaaay. Newspapers? Gaaaay. Any outward sign of affection between two straight men? Gaaaay. In fact, the only thing we wouldn’t derisively call gay was actual gay people, because that would have been mean. Obviously, as we matured we realised that setting a tone where the word gay was used derisively was a problem in itself. It didn’t peter out entirely though. One of my favourite jokes in one my favourite movies- Shaun of the Dead- was the following exchange.

 

Shaun: We have to save Liz!

Ed: Why?

Shaun: Because I love her.

Ed: Alright… gay.

 

One grown man calling another grown man gay for admitting he loves his girlfriend is still hilarious to me. It’s absurd, and silly. I didn’t really stop saying gay in that way until my best friend and housemate came out to me in university. We had a frank and serious discussion about whether we were both supposed to stop calling things gay now, and he suggested that we should just carry on as normal. We didn’t though. I gradually phased it out. Now that it was more personal to me, it didn’t seem as silly.

 

Like retard. Remember when everything was retarded? Again, you’d call everything retarded apart from someone who was actually retarded, because what are you, a monster? Same situation as Faggot though. Phased that out. I’ve replaced it with fucktarded, but that’s still a bit dicey as the clue to its origin is fairly embedded in its structure. But here’s the problem- where I come from, flat out calling someone an idiot is a bit serious. It can be used light-heartedly, sure, but it’s also the word you use when you stop fucking around and want someone to know that they’ve sincerely fucked up. So, I sort of need a less serious word than ‘Idiot’ and less heinous word than ‘Retard.’

 

Answers on a postcard.

 

 

 

Bad Words

By Katrina Monroe

   “This flipping sucks,” my then seven-year-old daughter said.

I cringed, clamping my mouth shut because I knew, I KNEW, that if I opened it, my mother would come out. Up until that point, I’d planned every discussion I would have with my daughters over the Important Stuff. Sex, their unusual parentage, drugs, drinking, friendships and break-ups… I had an entire portfolio of scripts in my head, waiting for that trigger question.

I’d never thought of what I’d say when they started cursing.

I’m a novelist and avid reader, so words have always been my friends. I find new ones all the time that beg to be scrawled hastily in a notebook or scribbled on the back of my hand for maximum memory retention. I love words. But ‘sucks’ was the first to ever get me in trouble. Even now, as I form my lips around the word, it tastes like liquid Irish Spring soap and a bathroom sponge.

I grew up in a Catholic household where we didn’t say God’s name in vain or read books with four-letter words in them. My grandmother, no matter how frustrated or scared or angry she was, would exclaim, “Oh, sugar,” while my grandfather rolled his eyes in the other room. Words like sucks, crap, or anything in the dialogue of The Simpsons were off-limits up until I was fifteen.

Then my mother divorced, remarried, and had her sixth child. Though we’ve never talked about it (because fuck is such a staple to our conversations now it’s hard to imagine a time when it wasn’t), I imagine my mother, as she stared into the eyes of yet another small person demanding of her time and energy, thinking: We’ve gone through a gallon of milk in two days, The Wizard of Oz is on loop in my nightmares, and I’m not really sure where the six-year-old is. Shit.

From that point on, there was no longer an embargo on “sucks” and “crap.” We were allowed to watch The Simpsons and Ren & Stimpy without fear that we’d be scarred soul-deep. We still couldn’t say damn in her presence, but it was a start.

It was with all this in mind that I decided on my lesson regarding Bad Words: There are no bad words.

Say it with me: There are no bad words.

There are four letter words and hurtful words and grown-up words and appropriate words, but none of them are bad. Shit is a grown-up way of saying “poop.” Bitch is an angry word for “jerk who cut me off in the middle of rush-hour.” Twatwaffle is “just something Mommy likes to say because it sounds funny.”

I’m from the school of thought that believes the power of a word is determined by the intention behind it. Malice and disrespect aren’t found in the words themselves, but in the spirit with which they are delivered. I have the greatest fondness for someone who can tell me to go to Hell in such a way that I look forward to the trip.

Does that mean I let my now eight- and nine-year-olds curse?

Sometimes.

The car is a “safe space” and, though it doesn’t happen often, we’ve used this space to vent our frustrations as a family. My partner and I scream colorful obscenities at the cars flying past at break-neck speed while our daughters giggle in the back seat at the delicate “damn it” that cautiously slips past their lips.

I see that hand hovering all Victorian at your chest. Put it back in your pocket and listen. My daughters say “damn it” in the neutral zone that is my car, but in doing so, I’ve taken the mystery and delicious sinfulness out of so-called bad words. On the playground when other children call each other assholes to get a laugh out of their friends and a shock out of eavesdropping moms, my daughters shrug and continue throwing each other down the slide.

Because they know the secret behind those words.

They’re just words.

As I’m writing this, my eight-year-old is at her first day of summer school and my nine-year-old is perched in front of the television, enjoying her little slice of alone time. She’s like me that way. In fact, she’s like me in a lot of ways. She has one friend she tolerates because the friend isn’t stupid. She loves to read and plans on writing books of her own once she can pin down an idea that doesn’t sound, in her words, “Like poop on paper.”

I paused at that last paragraph to ask her, “What’s your favorite word?”

She grinned mischievously and I thought I could see the flicker of something started with the letter F.

“Family,” she said, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world.