Tonight, at 11! Person Discovers People are Emotional Because of… Reasons!
So there’s probably an internet term for this behavior, like strawman or gaslighting (though I guess this is kind of a variant of gaslighting). But I haven’t heard of anyone breaking this down, so I’m just gonna riff a bit. Here’s something people do in a disagreement that really pisses me off.
Me: Here’s why I disagree with our larger conversation. But also, please stop using that term you just made up or which represents existing marginalizing slang, it’s kind of offensive and rude.
Them: Let’s stop focusing at all on the larger disagreement, where my argument didn’t have a leg to stand on, and focus on the justifications I have for using that term, that you are so sensitive to.
Me: Here are the reasons why each of your justifications is bullshit. The word is still offensive and rude and your insistence on defending it’s usage is even more offensive and rude.
Them: Well it’s unfortunate that we disagree on how offensive and rude the term is, I’ll stop using it around you if it bothers you so much.
Me: It didn’t really bother me so much, until you continually tried to act as if you are entitled to use the term, despite having no ties to the group it marginalizes, and claimed that my statements against it were “emotion” based, rather than based on reason, logic and simple empathy.
By this point, yes I’m emotional. But my anger isn’t about the term as much as it’s about you’re refusal to just admit that it’s not okay and you shouldn’t use it! To admit that you’re using it comes from a place of privilege and ignorance, and you were wrong. Sound familiar, Bill Maher?
When you dismiss someone as emotional, and they get pissed and refuse to be dismissed, that doesn’t prove your point. More often than not it proves you’re an even more entitled asshole than they originally suggested.
Less than an hour after posting this, another piece of the issue came to me that I felt I needed to add.
It’s also not true, that seeing something as offensive makes it an emotional issue for you. I have a very close relative who, when it was pointed out to them why the phrase, “Jew me down” was inappropriate refused to stop using the phrase. They insisted that, because they didn’t mean it in a derogatory way, it didn’t matter that it was a derogatory term.
That someone I care about and overall respect, refuses to acknowledge that a term like that is offensive, upsets me. But I have no actual emotional reaction to the phrase itself, other than an awareness of why it’s unacceptable. I am not Jewish. I honestly cannot tell you if I have ever met a person who was culturally or religiously Jewish. I probably have, but it’s never come up. I do not have any particular personal association with any Jewish communities or people. The closest connection I have is an awareness of how many great writers and comedians are culturally Jewish, and being a fan of the work of those individuals. So I have no reason to be personally offended at the phrase, “Jew me down.”
But I also don’t need to be of Romanian heritage to be offended at the term “gypped,” or to encourage those around me to stop using it. We should all stop using terms which were created as ways to further marginalize already oppressed groups. And we should get upset at people who refuse to stop. But that emotional reaction doesn’t make our viewpoint an emotional one.