POLITICAL CORRECTNESS: ARE WE ALL TOO EASILY OFFENDED?
Every few months, a comedian makes a joke on stage about a sensitive subject and people loose their shit. There’s promises of boycott, extremely passionate Facebook fights and oftentimes, apologies follow. But it sometimes feel like in 2018, anything you say will have people offended. So I asked myself, when it comes to jokes, how far is too far?
Recently, Sasha and I were driving to San Fransisco and since it’s such a long drive, I was looking for a good comedy show to help us stay awake. I found a list of the most politically incorrect comedians off all times, and before I knew it, I found myself reading out loud an internet fight regarding comedian Daniel Tosh and a joke he made about rape.
Basically, half the people were saying he was an asshole, and the other half were saying the first half was too easily offended - as it basically ends up in any internet fight (or real fight, for that matter).
Then I got to think about humour in general. To be clear, I’ve always considered myself someone who’s not easily offended. I’ve laughed at jokes about race, religion, sexuality, women and probably a lot of other topics that are considered taboo. Some of these themes don’t touch me (religion, for example) and some do (I’m a woman, shocker!) but I still laugh at sexist jokes, because, well… I understand they’re just jokes.
Hell, I make them myself. How many times have I told Sasha “Well, looks like the dishwasher is broken again, honey!” when I don’t feel like washing dishes? Many, many times. Do I see myself as a heavy, square machine in which you put soap and dishes? I’ll let you answer that by yourself.
Once, we went to a convenience store to buy beer and I was asked for my ID. When Sasha came to show his, the clerk told him it wasn’t necessary. I don’t remember exactly what I said next, but it was a joke along the line of how that incident made him look like a child molester. All 3 of us laughed. The guy behind us in the lineup did too. Does that mean everyone in the store at that moment was either a pedophile or someone who thinks molesting children is funny? Ofcourse not! It only means that under the very circumstances at that moment, it worked, because it was so obviously not true and ridiculous, that it made it somehow funny.
That being said, I’m not a complete clueless asshole either, if a woman in the lineup came to me and said (without jumping at my throat, obviously) that my joke hurt her because she was assaulted as a child, then of course I would have apologized, explained that I meant no harm and we would have both moved on with our day. If you’re reading this and you think I am an asshole for making a joke about pedophilia (which it wasn’t, but I’ll play along), because that’s an off-limit topic, then let me ask you this:
Did you ever make a joke about drugs? Well, I’m offended because I had a friend who died ofO.D.
Did you ever make a joke about immigrants? Well, I’m offended because I’m Hungarian and more than half of my immediate family are immigrants.
Did you never make a joke about bad drivers? Well, I’m offended because I had a car accident last year.
Obviously, all of these 3 examples are just to prove a point, and I’m not offended by any of it. And yes, I still make jokes about these topics, and laugh if someone else makes a funny joke about it. Also, the point of these examples is to show that no matter what you joke about, someone somewhere might be offended. Do you know how grim and depressing life would be if no one was allowed to make jokes about anything, in case it offends someone?
And I might get in trouble four saying that, but I think it’s also each and every person’s own responsibility to lookout for themselves in a way and not get involved in situation when they will obviously get hurt and offended. If your best friend is going through a messy divorce because her husband beat her up for years, it might not be the best idea to bring her to a Bill Burr show right now. Because guess what? Bill Burr makes jokes about domestic violence. Do I believe that makes Bill Burr a woman beater? Absolutely not.
If Bill Burr went around off-stage making sexist, misogynistic remarks all the time and made it clear that he thinks it’s OK to hit his wife, then it would be a different story. And I’ll admit I’m not enough of a die-hard Burr fan to follow his every single move, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the case.
I think it’s really easy to call someone “too easily offended” to justify being an asshole, but I also think it’s become wayyyy too easy to call someone an asshole. Because bottom-line is this: What defines “socially acceptable” is the norm. But everyone’s triggers are caused by their own, unique personal experiences, which also means that every single person will be offended by a unique mix of factors, that’s unlike anybody else’s.
So how the f*ck do you navigate that when your job is to make people laugh? The answer, in my opinion, is you simply can’t. And to me, that’s not the end of the world. Because I do believe that a joke is a joke and that humour and laughter are healing and that people come together even in times of crisis, when they take the time to forget about life’s hardships and listen to comedy.
So my 2 cents would be this: If something offends you, move on. I know it’s not always easy, believe me I’m the first to struggle with that sometimes. But I believe it’s the best we can all do. After all, happiness is 10% what happens to us, 90% how we react to it. So do yourself a favour. Just don’t react, forget about it and enjoy your life.
Love, Jenny xx
Pictures taken by Jaclyn Moy Photographer & Visual Artist