I try and be fearless in my writing, yet I’m often afraid to say fairly basic things in columns, lest it be ‘wrong’ – inadvertently construed as somehow offensive.
Over the weekend The Australian did a follow up to an opinion piece I wrote for the Age newspaper, on how in being so quick to call out racism and sexism we miss addressing the real problems (in this case, school resources and helping schools cater to two vastly different learning levels) and therefore finding real solutions.
Predictably, many were offended. And it made me sad. Because we live at a time when being offended is the fastest way to shut down a discussion.
So-called feminists decrying any man who dares write about feminism from a male perspective. While sections of the literary community are getting up in arms when white writers include black characters in their books (author Lionel Shriver magnificently called bullsh*t on this at the Brisbane Writers’ Festival).
Obama called bullshit on it too. Love him.
There are so many conversations we need to have – about class, race and gender – that we’re not having because we’re scared to do it ‘wrong’. We’ll be misconstrued. The Twitter army will come for us. We might not use the acceptable terms (which change every day).
I’ll admit: sometimes I forget what all the letters in LGBTIQA stand for*. It doesn’t make me a bigot. It makes me someone who both doesn’t discriminate on the basis sexuality AND has a shit memory for acronyms.
Are we getting more sensitive? Or are we just getting faster to assume the worst and take offense?
Call-out culture is boring and exclusive.
It’s divisive, shaming and most of all, it’s nothing to do with actually being offended and everything to do with publically claiming the moral high ground.
Where does intention fit in? Where does giving someone the benefit of the doubt? Where is there room for dialogue, learning and real communication? Shaming someone does not teach them, but it may give the shamer a brief ego boost.
And it’s got to stop.
Because a real bigot just got elected President.
Because there are people living in real fear (not manufactured offence) because of it. Homophobic Trump supporters are beating people up. Muslim women are telling their daughters it’s ok not to wear hijab in case they’re attacked on the street.
While we’re wasting energy calling each other out for ‘crimes’ like writing about another culture or daring to notice and talk about difference, we’re going to miss the real oppression which is happening right now.
And by God, Allah and Xenu, we’re about to see a whole lot more of it.
So be courageous. Listen to people who disagree with you. Be respectful and speak up. Have a pure heart and screw the rest.
Blessings to you all,
* 1) “L” – lesbians;
2) “G” – gays;
3) “B” – bisexuals;
4) “T” – transgender people;
5) “I” – intersex people;
6) “Q” – queer and questioning people;
7) “A” – asexual people and allies.