I try. I really do. I may not try hard enough not to be rude to people, but when it comes to things that could systematically terrify certain groups in the population, I go a long way to avoid the kind of carelessness that basically just lifts the veil and reveals the douchebag underneath.
But god damn it, there are a lot of rules to follow. When writing, you should avoid trigger words that call up certain memories with certain people. When walking around, you should respect those who ask you to remain ‘scent-neutral’ because it might cause bodily reactions on their part. When jumping in bed with someone, no matter how heated the situation, you should get everything but a written consent for pretty much every piece of clothing you remove.
These things are important, you see. It is important to adjust your habits to them because first of all, it’s a small effort and refusing to do it shows that you’re a dick, but mostly, because it has great negative effects on a large number of people.
That’s the key with political correctness, I think. It tries to level the net gain on comfort in society. Small efforts from the masses make a big difference for a smaller number, and so, the net happiness has gone up a little.
Some of those efforts are painfully obvious: Equality for all, respect for the damage some people suffered, a bit of care when plowing through life so that you don’t step on people’s human rights.
Easy as pie, one might think. Except, I’ve had enough trouble adjusting to the part of society that falls in the “ordinary” category, and it gets seriously hard to extend that effort to those with less-than-ordinary needs. See what I did there? “Special” is a trigger word. I think.
I consciously keep contact with people in the know about this, hoping that their knowledge will rub off on me. And that works, to an extent: I’m learning about things that I used to do, that might have had far worse consequences if the person in question was somehow more vulnerable than they were. And I learn to be more careful. But once in a while, I, like so many calloused apes around me, roll my eyes and say, “That is seriously driving it too far.”
I realize that I might very well be wrong when I do, but objectively speaking, surely there is a limit to this net gain? Isn’t there a genuine point where I am allowed to smack people and say, “you should quit being a child (‘pussy’ is a trigger word) and get a hold of yourself (‘man up’ is misogynistic)”.
Every once in a little while, I can’t help but feel like someone is expecting society to take responsibility for their personal issues. To some degree, they might be right- there could be others like them and it would be easier for everyone if we all chip in. But maybe, sometimes, they’re not.
I just realized that ‘smack people’ is likely a trigger word.
It gets to me, sometimes. I feel like I’m keeping plates spinning when I’m walking around in the city, talking to people. So much to keep an eye on, so many urges to suppress. People might be offended by the cow skull on my shirt, but at the same time, I should wear what I want. I should treat men and women the same (without treating their gender as a binary state) while trying to score at the same time. I should smile at them even when I find someone’s face repulsive.
I can call a man a dick, but not a bitch because that’s female. I can call someone stupid, stupid, but not retarded because retards don’t want to be called retarded. I can’t call ugly people ugly because ugly people don’t want to be ugly, so I can’t call handsome people ugly because ugly people don’t want to be ugly. I can flirt on the job only when she flirts back, but considering the thin ice I’m on then, I should limit the subjects to what she started, basically following her lead even though she should be following the same rules.
Shit gets complicated.
It freezes me up. So many rules to adhere to. Basically rude jokes are out of the picture. Politically incorrect remarks are off limits to everyone, even when they are doing it themselves. Long story short: Be anyone but myself. But in the process, remain true to myself, right?
How well do I need to hide my dickitude before I become an acceptable person? How explicitly should I ask a girl if I can screw her, without revealing that I am literally too stupid to read her body language and basically just flying blind?
I don’t do “subtle” very well when it comes to humans. I have trouble just behaving like one of them. My initial self is already covered in many layers of rewiring, of carefully learned reflexes to change my vocabulary, facial expression, pretty much everything. I am willing to change that further, but there is a point where I have to go,
“Do you not like it when I say a thing? Am I subconsciously being racist/misogynist/sexist/belittling/all of the above or anything else? Am I not using the correct pronoun? Does my clothing, joke, music taste, hairstyle, dental state, eye color,… offend you?
Talk to me. I’ll go stand somewhere else. If you can’t, then you go stand somewhere else. If you don’t want to, well then we’re at a social stalemate. Too fucking bad.”
I’d put it on a shirt if it wasn’t so damn condescending.