Earlier today, I saw something posted on Facebook that got me thinking. It was this image, and it’s definitely worth checking out. I have a few different thoughts on this subject, but more importantly, it got me thinking about Political Correctness. First, however, let me address the message in the image.
First, I think objectification and harassment, in general, are wrong. However, I can’t help but think of this from the perspective of a male in this completely screwed-up, sexually repressive culture we have.
First, there’s an obvious double-standard here, which is why most men don’t see an immediate problem with objectification. In this country, our Puritanical, sex obsessed yet repressed culture frowns upon women even admitting that they like sex, while men are expected to be sexual miscreants and more or less insatiable. Not only does this not reflect the reality that I can see, but it’s largely unhealthy, and leads to a culture where men are expected to look at everything as a sexual situation. On the other side of the coin, women are expected to always require something in exchange for sex, whether that be love, money, power, or what have you. There’s an economy involved, rather than it being something that is just shared between two equal human beings.
How this ties in to objectification is that men are, by and large, never obviously objectified by women. And for most of us, the idea that a woman would objectify us is kind of a turn on. From that perspective, you can perhaps see how many men may not immediately see a problem with it.
Obviously, however, the reality is different. Everyone wants to be appreciated for everything they bring to the table, which includes physical assets, but shouldn’t be limited to them (we hope).
Anyhow, this whole thought pattern got me thinking about the culture of Political Correctness so prevalent here in the US (and especially The People’s Republic of California), and this is the actual thing I want to address.
How I view people getting offended by things is really simple: If someone says something to offend you and means to offend you, then the blame lies with them. However, if someone says something that they mean in a positive or neutral light and you get offended, that’s on you. Your emotional reaction to something is independent of the person’s meaning, and is uncontrollable by them. They have no ability to affect how words make you feel. They can only affect what they mean by them.
Let me clarify with some examples from my life.
As people who are close to me will attest, I like to use vulgarity in normal conversation. In fact, I often use quite a lot of it. Now, I obviously don’t use vulgarity because I lack a vocabulary. On the contrary, I use vulgarity because I view ‘objectionable’ words as just words, and see them as additional tools in my communications arsenal. Additionally, because they tend to have an additional visceral punch in our culture that no other words can match, I tend to use the shit out of them to make intensity of thought evident.
As an example, if I see you play a complicated guitar piece, I might come up to you afterwards and say “You are a bad motherfucker!” If you get insulted by the vulgarity in that statement, you are COMPLETELY MISSING THE POINT. I didn’t mean that as an insult; quite to the contrary, that’s probably the highest compliment I can pay you.
Your emotional reaction to something I say is not within my control, but it is within yours. You have only limited control over what emotions you feel, but you are NOT your emotions. In other words, just because you feel something doesn’t mean you have to let that control your reactions. You can always choose to feel the emotion, then move on and make a decision using logic and reason instead of emotion. Emotion does not reflect reality in all cases, and it’s up to you to recognize and use that to your advantage.
And what may actually be the most disheartening part of this whole train of thought for me is the fact that I think many people have never sat down and considered that their emotions are not reality. Emotions are complex reactions to things based on your unique past experiences. No two people will react to something in the same way, and trying to live your life avoiding the landmine of other people’s emotional reactions is the path to paranoid isolation. Viewed in this light, political correctness isn’t about creating a less hostile environment, it’s about avoiding personal responsibility for controlling your reactions to your emotions.