I’ve never understood why people say, “I’m offended.” I’ve never used that phrase in my life, except in jest. What does it even mean? When someone says I’ve offended them, I feel like they are condemning me, and there seems to be an implicit demand for an apology. Couldn’t they just ask me, “Will you please not say that?”
I remember a few years ago when Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a “slut” for asking for insurance coverage for contraceptives. Ordinary people across the country claimed offense over Limbaugh’s comments and demanded an apology. Why? Sure, what he said was rude, but we all know it had no basis in fact. 95% of us knew that Sandra Fluke’s political views don’t make her a slut.
The more reasonable approach would have been to shrug off Limbaugh’s comment. Why did people want an apology from him? Did their wellbeing hinge on an apology from Rush Limbaugh to Sandra Fluke? I don’t see the connection. In the words of David Allen: “My opinion is that anybody offended by breastfeeding is staring too hard.”
The fear of offending is regrettable because it puts so many fascinating subjects off limits, for example, religion, politics, and relationships. Don’t discuss the existence of God. That will offend the theist! Don’t speak about gay marriage. That will offend conservatives! And definitely don’t mention sex. That will offend virgins, celibates, and the infertile!
And why should dark humor be off limits? The point of dark humor isn’t to offend. The point of it is to make light of the unbearable. If we can laugh for a moment about the things that normally make us cry, that’s healing.
I knew a boy in middle school, we’ll call him Jack, who didn’t like it when people used the word “retarded” as a synonym for “stupid.” If someone around him used it, Jack asked the person to stop. Most people would. Some, like me, asked why. Jack explained that his little brother was retarded, and he didn’t like people using “retarded” as a negative term, because it isn’t. Everyone respected him and tried their best to stop using the word. It was the perfect method for Jack because he didn’t make us feel ashamed due to our ignorance.
If you have the urge to use the o-word, think it through first. Are your target’s words completely false? Then there’s no reason to be upset. Just calmly correct them. And if what they’re saying is true? Well then, you might be upset, but you can’t correct them, can you? It may be tactless, but it still is the truth.