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in which i am, actually, a tad snide

From a thread elsewhere, I said the following responding to a general discussion of "but I don't want to feel bad/guilty for X or Y cultural circumstance/ancestral inequality/thing i said that i did not mean as an offense but that someone was offended by":

People mix up "feel responsible for their words and actions and their effects" and "feel bad" an awful lot. Also apparently sometimes holding oneself responsible feels "bad". To people for whom this feels bad I say, "get over it". Since life isn't fair or kind, trying to make it as fair and kind as possible for as many people as possible takes work.

I would add to that, not feeling bad about injustice or harm (particularly on a scale like, say, slavery) is kind of callous. You don't want to feel bad because your ancestors may or may not have been slaveowners? Oh? Just what do you want to feel about it? Happy? Nothing? I feel bad that anyone's ancestors were slaveowners. Do you mean that you don't want to be personally blamed? Why don't you examine why you feel personally blamed by whatever discourse just occurred? In some way that does not cast blame back?

"I don't want to feel guilty for being white/male." is not an excuse to not feel responsible for something you just said or did, and not a reason to blow off someone who brings prejudice or an -ism into the conversation.

And this has been said a million times, but just bears repeating.
It is for the offended to decide whether they can be offended, and not the offender. The offender gets to decide whether they care enough about that person to consider the effects of what they just said or did and decide if it warrants further action, an apology, an examination of things.

Comments

( 54 comments — Leave a comment )
rackletang
May. 31st, 2005 10:23 pm (UTC)
*standing ovation* Mind if I link to this, for a friend?
snidegrrl
May. 31st, 2005 11:04 pm (UTC)
not at all! go right ahead.
chelidon
May. 31st, 2005 10:28 pm (UTC)
Bravo, indeed. I'd like to link to this as well, if I may.
snidegrrl
May. 31st, 2005 11:04 pm (UTC)
Please feel free! And thank you!
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snidegrrl
May. 31st, 2005 11:07 pm (UTC)
Thanks. :)

And it sounds like it wouldn't help. :P
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - rackletang - Jun. 1st, 2005 03:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
scrump
May. 31st, 2005 10:44 pm (UTC)
I'm in favor of taking personal responsibility.

However, I am not a fan of being held prisoner by someone else's assumptions and/or personal biases. If someone claims to be offended by something I said or did, I feel no immediate obligation to apologize: I'll evaluate their claim, and, if it has merit, I may or may not apologize, depending on whether I really am sorry.

Because someone is offended by a thing does not de facto make that thing offensive. Some interactions are more abrasive than others, but I have little to no patience for people who hold me responsible for their issues, and demand I apologize for whatever self-justified offense they have conflated from my words or actions.

To bring this around to feeling responsible for past wrongs: slavery was a bad thing, and the ramifications are still with us. But I feel no more responsible for slavery than I do for the wars between my distant ancestors in Europe. I can control only my own current actions, and possibly influence people with whom I come into contact.

There's no value whatsoever in me feeling proxy guilt because some caveman who happened to be white owned slaves one hundred and fifty years ago. There's great value in me saying "That was bad, and it's my duty to do what I can to make sure I don't reinforce the thinking that lay behind slavery in my day-to-day life".
snidegrrl
May. 31st, 2005 11:13 pm (UTC)
Did I ask you to feel responsible? Did I ask you to feel guilty? Mostly I think I was asking you to keep that particular straw man off the table (which I reckon you probably do) and if someone brings it up, not to refuse to acknowledge the history just because you don't want to feel bad. I don't think that's the problem we have here, if you're sticking with your last statement.

Because someone is offended by a thing does not de facto make that thing offensive.

On this, we disagree. It is offensive to that person. If you said something and someone was offended, you bear some responsibility for that. You can choose to disavow that responsiblity, but I think that's irresponsible.

Sorry, that's how I see it.
(no subject) - scrump - May. 31st, 2005 11:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
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snidegrrl
May. 31st, 2005 11:20 pm (UTC)
You call it assaulted with rhetoric, I call it discourse, tomatoe, tomahto. Without specific context I can't really defend the "rhetoric". I probably would give it a shot if I had the chance though, but you probably knew that. ;)

There is a big difference between "feeling guilty" and "acknowledging privilege". And I think people (often me) who ask for privilege to be acknowledged aren't actually asking for admissions of guilt, but are asking for an accounting for difference in perspective and awareness of each participant's (in a discussion) invisible knapsack. Someone might be noticing a way in which another person is taking something for granted because of their class/race/etc and wants to go back and reexamine that thing.

This is not always executed in the most graceful of fashion, but I think the intent, if not the result, it positive.

I was totally going to give you a two word answer... err... oops.
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(no subject) - snidegrrl - Jun. 1st, 2005 01:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
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yruugrrl
Jun. 1st, 2005 12:39 am (UTC)
It is for the offended to decide whether they can be offended, and not the offender. The offender gets to decide whether they care enough about that person to consider the effects of what they just said or did and decide if it warrants further action, an apology, an examination of things.

BRAVO. That is 100% true. I'd say it's 110% true but that sort of fake math always pisses me off. :)
(Deleted comment)
snidegrrl
Jun. 1st, 2005 04:16 am (UTC)
didn't tell you what to do; just telling you how i feel about what you do.
(no subject) - snidegrrl - Jun. 1st, 2005 04:33 am (UTC) - Expand
salami_salome
Jun. 1st, 2005 01:38 am (UTC)
E.X.A.C.T.L.Y.

snidegrrl
Jun. 1st, 2005 04:16 am (UTC)
*nods*
swartzdk
Jun. 1st, 2005 12:17 pm (UTC)
Through all of this discussion I see no mention of how to filter out the "professional offendees". Seems to me that there is a whole class of people who jump up and say "I'm offended" whenever it suits their purpose and who use it as a tool of manipulation. You can take offense at something aimed at you personally but people really need to ignore global statements not aimed at anyone specifically. When Barbara Boxer talks about "right wing evangelical extremists" I am not bothered at all by it. She doesn't know me and is only pushing her agenda. If someone I know were to call me a NAZI in public you can bet your ass I'd be offended. If it's not personnal it's not offensive.
snidegrrl
Jun. 1st, 2005 12:32 pm (UTC)
I guess I disagree; and I address the "professional offendees" in an answer to scrump above.

I don't get offended when people talk about the "lefty pinko liberal commie scum" either... I think I feel a little proud. ;)
devil_panda
Jun. 1st, 2005 12:49 pm (UTC)
"And this has been said a million times, but just bears repeating. It is for the offended to decide whether they can be offended, and not the offender. The offender gets to decide whether they care enough about that person to consider the effects of what they just said or did and decide if it warrants further action, an apology, an examination of things."

Excellent point, and I really liked swartzdk's comment below about 'professional offendees.' I also liked your call to self examination above.

I struggled alot with this sort of stuff when I was younger. I started writing out personal experiences and then I stopped myself... not my journal. Maybe I'll share in my own. *shrugs*
snidegrrl
Jun. 1st, 2005 01:33 pm (UTC)
For the love of pete, why is everyone bringing up this mythical creature of the unjustly offensive person?

My point is that sometimes if you examine their taking offense, instead of just reflexively refuting it, you might find that there is an important issue to examine.

Why wouldn't you want to stop offending people?

Why wouldn't you want to be kind to people?

Why wouldn't you want to understand why people are offended?

I know it takes work, but it's better than just denying there was anyone offended, which accomplishes nothing. It's the good kind of work.
snidegrrl
Jun. 1st, 2005 01:34 pm (UTC)
that is, the unjustly offended person.
seth6666
Jun. 1st, 2005 01:53 pm (UTC)
eeeek. i tend to stay out of a lot of these arguments in your live journal. however...

i firmly belive in the universality of certain principles. the categorical imperative and what not. what follows logically from this belief system is that some things are _objectively_ offensive, and some are _objectively_ not.

thus i can't help but dismiss many of other people's feelings of "offense" as ridiculous.

if it is truly for the offended to decide whether they can be offended, is a complete and utter subjective mess. anything one says can be considered offensive, and there can be no objective standard regarding the offensive-ness of a statement.

personally, i have little or no desire to live in or adopt that philosophical worldview. the more experience i have, and the more _life_ i live, the more i come to understand that subjectivity is the devil.

-S
snidegrrl
Jun. 1st, 2005 02:00 pm (UTC)
well, thanks for speaking up, sorry we disagree. *shrug*
eeedge
Jun. 1st, 2005 02:07 pm (UTC)
My two cents
"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
Eleanor Roosevelt

I think that the same can be applied to offense. The one who is being offended has, to some extent, chosen to be offended.

I also think that if someone attributes to malice something that can adequately be explained by stupidity and is thereby offended, it's not my problem. I can be a total idiot at times, but I rarely intend to offend someone.

The subject was professional offendees is mentioned in a comment by swartzdk. I work around a LOT of them. Some people, especially when they feel otherwise helpless, use "taking offense" as a way of attacking me or those around me.

I've been accused of being racist, being excessively authoritarian and being a "cracker bitch asshole" in the course of doing my job. The "offense" that they take has not been caused by me or anything I have done, but rather by their own actions and the repercussions thereof. How, therefore, can I regard their offended status as having any connection to me?

I think that there are shades of grey here. If I dismiss something I have actually done as inoffensive despite the fact that someone is clearly affronted, then I'm in the wrong. But I won't take responsibility for anything anyone chooses to assign to my actions.
snidegrrl
Jun. 1st, 2005 02:24 pm (UTC)
Re: My two cents
I also think that if someone attributes to malice something that can adequately be explained by stupidity and is thereby offended, it's not my problem.

Why not? I mean, why is it hard to say, "I am sorry, I did not mean offense by that?" and own it?

I've been accused of being racist, being excessively authoritarian and being a "cracker bitch asshole" in the course of doing my job.

These are three completely different things, and all seem to require different actions, in my view. The first and second ask for some examination, consideration, and possible acknowledgement. The third is offensive itself, and is not in my book a valid reaction to offense. And has nothing, really, to do with my point.

When you evaluated that the person's offense "has no connection" to you, you made judgement calls, but I am guessing that you initially took seriously their concerns? And at no point said, "you can't be offended, so we don't have to have a conversation about it!"

I find it sort of surprising that so many people that to my knowledge are very considerate are so unwilling to admit that they are.
crafting_change
Jun. 1st, 2005 03:26 pm (UTC)
thank.you.
snidegrrl
Jun. 1st, 2005 03:33 pm (UTC)
I wish everyone felt that way.
(no subject) - crafting_change - Jun. 1st, 2005 03:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
fancymcsnazsnaz
Jun. 1st, 2005 05:05 pm (UTC)
As I'm sure you know, I agree wholeheartedly. (I'm sure I'm one of the "professional offendees," also known as "PC thugs," "feminazis," and "liberal whiners." We're like unicorns. We don't actually exist at all, but people bring us up like duh, everyone totally knows we're real!)

Obviously, after thinking on an offendee's offendedness, one might come to the conculsion - and even be right about it - that said offendee is being "too sensitive." And one could be completely right - AFTER THOUGHT - that said offendee might have some personal issues, and one could in turn make a conscious decision not to make language changes based solely on the offendedness of that offendee. I don't think that what I'm reading here is your readiness to outlaw people writing each other off as nutjobs or whatever the hell. But I seriously think we owe it to each other, and to OURSELVES, to at the very least evaluate - thoughtfully and sensitively - an incident in which someone has been offended by our words.
snidegrrl
Jun. 1st, 2005 05:38 pm (UTC)
So you actually read my post, then? ;) Thank you.
(no subject) - fancymcsnazsnaz - Jun. 1st, 2005 06:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snidegrrl - Jun. 1st, 2005 06:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - snidegrrl - Jun. 1st, 2005 06:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
( 54 comments — Leave a comment )

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