You’re being sensitive

This post is long overdue. I am tired of being blamed for speaking up against things that either I or my friends think are wrong.

Here are some common things I have either heard from friends who stand up for issues they care about or have gotten directly on various occasions:

“Stop getting offended over everything.”
“Lighten up.”
“Loosen up.”
“It was just a joke.”
“Stop being so defensive.”
“Get over it.”
“I don’t see how this is offensive.”
“Toughen up.”

I have heard this about rape jokes, racist jokes, homophobic jokes, sexist jokes, ebola jokes, feminism in general, bullying in general, weight… the list goes on. And no, they weren’t even presented in a stand-up context.

Let’s get one thing straight here. The fault. Is NOT. In the person who called you out. The person who called you out is also NOT defensive or sensitive or uptight. It also is NOT this person’s responsibility to “toughen up” or accept what you said because “this is how it is in the real world”. If so many thought leaders before us did not challenge the status quo, the world today would look extremely different.

What instead I’d like people to do is, try stepping into another person’s shoes. As cliche as that sounds, people do not do it enough. My friend repeats the following relevant phrase a lot:

Your experiences don’t invalidate my experiences. And my experiences don’t invalidate your experiences.

On things like humor, offense, or any subjective thing for that matter, it’s not really your place to say how someone else should or should not be experiencing it.

Let us compare to food. Pretend that you’re a well respected steak critic who has a pretty open mind and tasted a wide palate of things. You understand steak really well and tasted all different kinds of steak from all kinds of different places. You have had good cheap steak and good expensive steak. Consider yourself a steak expert. You came across a steak that you don’t particularly like. The chef disagrees with your review and says “But I like this dish! You are wrong! This tastes good.

Okay. A few things.

Taste is not a definitive thing.

To the chef, the steak may very well taste good. However, you have experienced eating steak in so many different contexts that for you, comparatively to everything else, this steak tastes really bad. And because you have such extensive steak experience, I as the reader, accept your review of the steak restaurant.

Thus, when this person tells you that you as a steak critic are wrong, despite the extensive steak experience you have had, clearly something seems a bit off there.

The metaphor also speaks to opinion and truth within context. It is very possible that for subjective things, there are two truths. For the chef, the steak tasted good. However, that does not mean that the food critic’s opinion of the steak was wrong.

What matters with two truths, is how you weigh the two people’s experiences.

If the chef wanted to better themselves, (s)he would take the critic’s critique and work on the recipe or cooking style.

So let’s compare this to comments that make people offended. If someone made a racist joke, and I tell that person that the joke was offensive and not funny, the joke, for me, was offensive and not funny. And I, a person of that race, who has experienced the wide spectrum of experiences that gets tacked onto being of my race, in this situation, I am the expert.

The above phrases are so incredibly destructive. You not only invalidate that person’s feelings, but you are also making them self conscious about something that they justly feel is wrong. And thus, you are silencing this person’s voice and opinions.

Be vigilant. Defend your mind against this.

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