So it’s been approximately 18 million years since I last wrote on here, and for that I can only apologise and offer excuses of “my degree”. This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while now, and it’s something that’s so simple, but that a lot of us overlook, myself included.
I was first brought to think about this way back in October, when my university’s Student Union organised a club night for Halloween, but also tied it in with the Mexican festival of Day of the Dead. Some Mexican students at my uni found this offensive, as this is traditionally a religious holiday for mourning the death of love ones – aka, not to be ripped off as a club night where people use their face paint designs to go and neck people on a sticky dancefloor.
The Union apologised after the complaints, and removed the Day of the Dead aspect from the event – they made it just a standard Halloween club night. Which was completely fine. But for some reason, a lot of non-Mexican (*cough* white male) students kicked off about it. People were saying that it was political correctness gone mad, and that they shouldn’t have been so offended. Now, I don’t know much about the Mexican Day of the Dead festival, and neither did I give a shit whether it was incorporated into this club night or not, so I just shrugged my shoulders at the whole thing.
But the fact that these people felt SO entitled to complain about these students who were offended just baffled me. If they weren’t Mexican, how could they have an opinion on it? Surely the most obvious thing to do would be to say ‘oh, fair play, if they’re Mexican and they’re offended by it, probably shouldn’t do it then’, because – and this may come as a shock to some – us white people don’t always know best. Straight white men don’t always know best. Sometimes, you don’t have to have an opinion on something because it straight up does NOT concern you. Who are you to decide how offended a Mexican person can be about THEIR holiday? If an issue doesn’t affect you, just shut up and listen to the people who ARE affected by it! How about let them be the judge?
Seriously, you’d think that was a no brainer, but this happens SO much. Even I’ve been guilty of it, I’m certainly far from perfect, and I have a hell of a lot to learn. But let me tell you, being on the receiving end of it is the most frustrating thing in the world. I love my brother to bits, but the other day we got into a heated discussion about Jimmy Carr and his stand up comedy.
My mum and I were saying how, the night before, we had caught a snippet of his stand up routine, and we’d been shocked at how sexist we’d found him. For example, he made a comment to one of the women in the audience about how she’d obviously not made much of an effort that night. We were trying to explain how frustrated we were that people like him were allowed to just say these awful and offensive things and we’re all supposed to laugh, and many do laugh. But my brother, who has a strong interest in comedy, was defending him, saying that was just his style, the way he works, and it that it did work, because people were so shocked.
But, as I explained to him, he’s never been a fifteen year old girl, who’s had boys say awful things to her, because these boys have heard Jimmy Carr’s jokes and thought it’s acceptable. He’ll never have to feel like he has to wear make-up when he leaves the house because otherwise he looks disgusting (thanks Jimmy, for re-establishing that). We tried to explain to him – he shouldn’t laugh at us for being offended, he shouldn’t say that it’s OK, because he doesn’t get to decide what’s sexist having never experienced it himself.
So basically, what I’m trying to say is, if people are talking about an issue that affects them but doesn’t affect you, shut up and listen. You don’t get to decide what is offensive to a Mexican person if you are not Mexican. You don’t get to decide what’s racist if you’re white. You don’t get to decide what’s sexist if you’re a man. You don’t get to decide what’s homophobic if you’re straight, and so on. Don’t talk over people when they’re talking about their problems. Listen and learn.