On being a woman in the USA.

I’m Not Offended

by Sid

STFU-Sit_down“Don’t get offended.”

“People are so easily offended.”

“It’s the ‘in thing’ to be offended by something.”

Shut up.

It isn’t about offense. It’s about acknowledgement, disappointment, and standing up for change. Every time you say some version of “don’t get offended,” what you’re really doing is trying to control the conversation. By painting my words with the “offended” brush, you strip them of their worth and value, and often create a straw effigy that looks and speaks like me, but sounds like a whiny child.

I’m onto your game. You cannot control this conversation anymore.

What you so abrasively call offense is often first the acknowledgement of a social issue that needs change. Let’s take a recent example I posted to Twitter.

This was for a game that I enjoy quite a bit. You have a handful of playable characters, and you can switch them up pretty often, because you usually die a lot. It’s part of the charm of the game. All the playable characters are white. I posted on the forum, not because I hoped to get an insightful answer from the playerbase, but because I like to go on the assumption that things like that aren’t intentional—that they’re oversights.

Now, once I saw a couple of replies to that forum post, I didn’t go back to it, because I know what will be there—scathing remarks about offense, political correctness, and so on. But all I did was acknowledge that the game world does not reflect the real world.

change

(art by banksy, image via icanvasart.com)

I acknowledged it, I was disappointed, and I stood up for change.

Now, one forum post isn’t a movement, but standing up for change doesn’t have to be a huge gesture. In fact, most of the time, it can’t be. Big gestures (marches, protests, and the like) get a lot of attention and can definitely raise awareness, but without the small gestures—the day-to-day standing up that we can each individually do—the larger ones are meaningless. Change can be inspired on a large scale, but must be implemented piecemeal, bit by bit, as we slowly seed it into the culture around us.

You keep telling me not to get offended, but I’m not. We hear or say “offense” and we think of pearl-clutching and people who say, “Oh, my stars!” and people who can’t hear the word “fuck” without casting a disapproving look. None of those are me. I’m not “taking things too seriously” when I politely wonder why a movie fails the Bechdel test. Rather, I’m acknowledging that a film could not have two named female characters talk to each other about something other than a man, I am disappointed in that, and I am standing up for change.

You can’t strip my words of value just because you would rather I stay quiet. I know how to counter you now. You can keep telling me I’m offended, but you’ll keep being wrong. And if your goal is to make me stop talking, you will fail.

power

Especially for AC.

I’m not “one of those people who has to bring race and gender into everything.” I’m one of those people who acknowledges there is a problem, and I’m not ashamed of that. I’m one of those people who is disappointed there still is problem, and I’m not ashamed of that.

I’m one of those people who stands up for change in the small ways that I know how. I will never be ashamed of that.


Read Sid’s previous MMAS articles in Sid’s Stuff. Follow her at @SeeSidWrite.


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.

12 responses

  1. allthedots

    YES, thank you. I also have no patience for those who whine about commentary that is “overly PC” and justify their claims behind “censorship”. It’s just their way of trying to shut up the people who would speak out against already offensive racist/classist/sexist/generally rude comments, and continue with the status quo. I understand that there are varying individual standards for what is/is not offensive, but I would rather err on the side of being “overly PC” than offend someone.

    December 6, 2013 at 12:54 pm

  2. Reblogged this on The Feminine Mystake and commented:
    I LOVE THIS

    November 5, 2013 at 7:52 am

  3. We’re not the ones who brought race and gender and orientation into everything. They are. We wouldn’t have any sort of “minority card” to play if it hadn’t already been dealt onto the table.

    And I don’t care if they think I’m offended. I *am* offended. I have every right to be. Although… it *does* get on my nerves the way “offended” is now the catch-word for any sort of negative reaction. I’ve had people say “sorry if I offended you” when what they really did was hurt my feelings. And that’s its own special kind of invalidation.

    September 26, 2013 at 2:59 pm

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  6. I’m trying to think of how I want to articulate my response here, because this isn’t something I really thought about. Also because I’m male and so pale you can see the blood coursing through my veins, haha I have no problems with non-white/non-straight/female characters in games. There should be more, and its a shame there aren’t. Same with in books and movies.

    However, for me it is something I don’t really think about, especially when writing fiction. I often don’t even mention someone’s skin color when describing them. In one story I wrote, it made sense that the people were predominantly white because of the geography/climate (it was similar to northern Europe). Now there were some non-white characters involved, and in the second book there were others, depending on where they came from. I guess my thinking is that a lot of (probably white, male) writers don’t really think about. I’m trying to think of legitimate narrative reasons why you might have an exclusively white cast. Only thing I can think of is an isolated area with a homogenous population. Which is pretty hard to find in real life (though not perhaps in a fantasy world).

    By the same token, I think there are a lot of white, male writers who would feel that putting non-white or gay characters was gimmicky, being PC, or would do nothing to advance the narrative. I’ve spoken with people who felt that way. If you’re talking about fiction, there might be some legitimacy to it. After all, if you’re a straight white male from a middle class family, it’s going to be difficult to put yourself in the shoes of a gay street kid kicked out of his parent’s house for his orientation or in the place of a young non-white man who has to face racism, prejudice, and injustice, simply because it’s outside your sphere of experience. It’s a little like how its hard for both men and women to write from the perspective of the opposite sex.

    Then again, you could argue that research and imagination could cure all of those objections, although it would be hard to write authentically from a perspective you could not know in any way, shape or form from personal experience. It’s one thing to know, another thing to experience. Still, people could at least try.

    As I said, I’m not sure what my feelings are here. I agree with what you said in the article. I honestly think the lack of non-white/gay/female characters is probably because a lot of white men dominate creative fields. So, basically they overlook (I’d like to think that’s more common) or outright ignore other perspectives. It’s definitely a sign of privilege (the P word!). Sorry to use your comment section to try to work through this in my brain, haha. I’m not entirely certain what my point is, but I will leave it at that.

    August 1, 2013 at 7:18 pm

    • lkeke35

      I know that you think this is especially difficult but it can be done. Speaking as a woman of color, I’ve come across plenty of characters of color and lgbtq characters that I didn’t find offensive, or tokenish and I knew the writers were nothing like those characters. I’m not sure exactly what methods those writers used and I suppose one could see this as a challenge but it’s done all the time.

      Actually I appreciate knowing that a character is brown or gay or disabled. In the absence of such descriptions I always assume characters as able -bodied and white. But try this: Just make up a character but don’t code them any certain way, and then just go back and change or add one thing about them (color or ethnicity is one of the easiest) and see how it works with the rest of the story.

      In other words just write them as you normally would and then retcon and see how it works. It also doesn’t hurt to talk to some of the people you’re trying to represent. Some of the best diverse characters I’ve ever met in books, the author wasn’t trying to give me a gay person or a black man. The author was just writing a person, and then included a very brief description of skin color or hair just enough t let you know whoever it is wasn’t white. You’re not beating anyone over the head with it cuz that’s a fairly low-key way to do it and frankly, I like knowing that non-whites live in whatever universe you created. IAs long as you are not trying to caricature or trying to write vernacular it shouldn’t be offensive.

      Imo, authors get into trouble when they try too hard to present non-white characters. Like having them speak a certain way or dress a certain way to code them as different.

      August 3, 2013 at 8:28 am

  7. Reblogged this on FEMBORG.

    August 1, 2013 at 11:18 am

  8. lkeke35

    I’ve noticed that such people hate to be called on their BS. Hate to be told they may be doing something wrong or may have to change. Crying “don’t be offended”. and other derailments is the province of the pathologically lazy person who doesn’t want to listen or change anything about themselves.

    Keep calling them as you see them and thank you.

    July 31, 2013 at 1:28 pm

  9. Reblogged this on Note To Self.

    July 31, 2013 at 11:46 am

  10. Well said. I received a similar response over a blog post I made a few months ago, basically explaining that as a writer I felt a responsibility to include more PoC, LGBTQ, and female characters in my books. However, I wasn’t exactly sure how best to proceed since I fit into basically only one of those groups. The immediate response was “Don’t worry so much about being politically correct.” That post (or the ideas behind it) had NOTHING to do with political correctness, but a lot of people seem to have been brainwashed into thinking it is. PoC are just always “looking to make things about race” and women “just want special treatment”. When homosexuality is brought up, suddenly it’s “Well if we’re being inclusive then why isn’t there such a thing as straight pride!?” It’s extremely frustrating.

    Most of the people who make these arguments are, I think, well-intentioned or simply naive. (I used to be one of them.) But I am growing increasingly tired of the argument that I should never, EVER be offended by something, and that if I ever dare to raise an objection on a subject, then I am instantly the bad guy. Being uncomfortable with something, feeling excluded, or having a legitimate logical argument against a statement/point of view is completely different than “being offended”. And when did it become so necessary to constantly be offensive? Often I feel like I am surrounded by people desperate to shove me into some kind of warp-speed tunnel of “offensive” behavior, just so the nebulous, imaginary group of “politically correct” gatekeepers get pissed off. Nobody ever bothers to ask me if I *want* to piss them off, or if doing so makes my life a better place. It’s childish.

    July 31, 2013 at 11:44 am

  11. Hell, yeah.

    There are many ways to try and shut down a smart woman asking questions. See them for their BS and keep on going. Good for you.

    July 31, 2013 at 10:30 am

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