And it’s one that annoys me! Expect this to devolve into a rant guaranteed to offend because saying anything is guaranteed to offend someone somewhere on this planet, and that is exactly the problem.
Often I see innocent statements about something, and a someone jump in putting words in the mouth of the original commenter. Think that something extremely out of the ordinary means X? You are some sort of -ist. Don’t care for how the someone behaves in regards to Y, or do like it? You’re another -ist. You’re an -ist because of meaning other people decide to add.
I guess a bit of irony is if you combine these elements and make a statement about it, you’re praised, as has happened in my Taylor fic.
Once upon a time, we had the phrases, “Don’t put words in my mouth.” Now, if someone uses that, you can expect condemnation for them not being “enlightened to [their] own -ism.” Quite a few people I know have blatantly said they’re afraid of commenting on anything because they don’t want someone to take simple, innocent comments out of context and being used to make them look bad. In our modern culture of encouraging people to express their offense to everything, we’ve created a culture that looks for reasons to be offended, and in turn, has created a new type of censorship. Our modern culture also states that if something offends even one person, that it is wrong, and that being fed up with this means you’re a bad person.
When I was younger, we also had the phrase, “Grow a thicker skin.” This is also no longer allowed. I know two writers who’ve given up on writing out of fear that someone might be offended that their villain has dark hard (which someone may misconstrue as really meaning that dark things, like dark-skinned people, are bad, which is a criticism I really read on a fan fiction site), or think it’s racist to have the romantic leads be of the same race or to have main characters who aren’t white, but if you mix races, someone might be offended that a white character is “stealing” the non-white partner, or that a non-white partner is betraying their race by dating a Hispanic or white character. If the main characters aren’t disabled in a way that would be visible in the real world, the author risks being accused of ableism, but if you do have a disabled (differently-abled, etc., pick your preferred word since just the word choice is guaranteed to offend) character and aren’t disabled, you’re risking being accused of using disabled people. My friends’ concerns aren’t without basis. These are all complaints that have been posted against fan fictions. The unapologetic attitudes of the authors can, and has, led to drama, not to the critics being told to thicken their skin and stop looking for offense where not only is no offense meant in the slightest, but in situations where it’s literally impossible to satisfy everyone.
There is no winning. Someone will always find a reason to be offended. Writers are stifled and afraid. I have tried making my cast diverse, yet am sure that someone will accuse me of some -ism and criticize me as not caring for not fixing it, yet there is no way to “fix” these things without offending someone else. I have interracial couplings (three of the six relationships longer than one night stands), gay characters who get happy relationships, promiscuous ones and celibate characters (and neither is shown as bad), etc., which, as one friend pointed out, all open me up to criticism. More irony is homogenizing the characters would do that too.
As for myself, in the last two days I have been accused of classism for making a statement about how an old roommate of mine behaved due to her family’s wealth and how it reflected the general attitude on one particular town I lived in (this was extrapolated to mean I thought this about all wealthy people by someone looking to take offense)(the roommate had the belief that the non-wealthy existed to take care of her because she was raised with maids, and she treated me like one to the point I had to clean her bedroom so we wouldn’t get evicted when her room reached the point of unsanitary that the apartment managers had to get involved, and that one certain town literally has special transit for domestic servants and bans non-residents from using a certain formerly-public park that is funded by sales taxes, going as far as requiring ID to be admitted), and of being religion-bashing for saying I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to connect the dots between the faith of an author known to use her religion’s beliefs in her writing and her treatment of certain characters, even though I didn’t mention the name of the religion and literally said no more than that when someone else said it wouldn’t be allowed (the same person as before, who claimed to be a member of the religion, took offense and felt this was religion-bashing after many more replies, none even hinting at religion, were made), and of being misogynist for pointing out that it would be highly unusual for someone who isn’t ace to get to their post-college years without so much as kissing or holding someone’s hand without a religious or otherwise moral belief about the matter preventing them. The accusation of misogyny is because I didn’t exclude one gender when relating it to a particular character, which would be giving special treatment.
So my personal experiences make me classist against the rich, asking if it’s okay to make a statement of fact that might explain something in her writing an author is heavily criticized for had me accused of religion-bashing, and I was called misogynist for including all genders in a statement that was sparked by the discussion of a very-heavily-criticized character. Two of these were by the same person, so of course I got in trouble.
What happened to brushing off things that aren’t blatantly some -ist and giving people benefit if the doubt? I know, someone’s going to ask what a white lady can know about anything without realizing that women are oppressed and without realizing my belief system makes me a religious minority that is worse than saying I like to kick kittens in some areas of this country (even if I were a man, my chance of being elected president is absolutely zero based on the name of my religious beliefs, or non-beliefs as the case may be, alone). If I don’t take certain jokes in the spirit they’re intended, I’d be depressed and angry and offended all the time. Most humor is actually derived from stereotypes of someone else’s pain or misunderstanding. This of the stereotype that all men love beer and the laughs that would come if a character was bummed his favorite brand went out of business because beer is serious business to men, or the ol’ football-to-the-groin gag. Almost every clip in those funniest videos shows are because of these things. And every single one of them has the potential to offend someone somewhere, and a growing number of people are being vocal in their belief that this is absolutely always wrong. Is the solution to ban all humor that someone somewhere might find offensive or wrong?
What are writers supposed to do these days to avoid being accused of some -ism or of not caring if they don’t alter their writing to one person’s standard knowing they’re likely to go off and offend someone else with the changes?
I truly think it’s sad when writers quit out of fear of our modern offended culture, especially those who make a real effort to be inclusive and sensitive to these matters. It’s resulted in me deciding to become silent. Unlike a couple of my friends, I haven’t scrapped my books, though I sure have some reservations about them until I can thicken up my own skin enough to just not care anymore.
All hail a new form of censorship that, if you don’t participate, you’re a going to be seen as a bad person. There’s no winning. Our culture is making sure of that.