It happened to me quite recently. I was sitting with a group of people who I highly respect and enjoy being around. We were chatting about a number of things and enjoying our evening. Until one of them cracked a highly offensive joke about a certain oppressed group of people.
I will spare the details of this joke but I will confide that I regularly hear jokes of this nature being expressed. Irish people seem to have a collective prejudice against this community and like any prejudice, it makes me uncomfortable. Before this day I had always sat back when I heard these particular jokes. Sometimes I do not take these things on. I just sit with a blank expression.
Because there are often times that I don’t agree with people who I respect. But I’m aware of the time and the place to express this disagreement and I’m also aware of when I will actually get somewhere by debating (the majority of the time). I’ve learned not to launch into debates with all guns blazing. It’s important to scope out your audience first, otherwise you’ll just give yourself wrinkles.
So, after this joke was made the people around me all laughed, while I looked straight ahead and sunk down into my chair. It was cheap humour at its finest. And I could not believe that the other people were laughing.
The worst part was that the person who had stated the joke then turned to me and said “David is silently hating me right now” which encouraged another round of laughter.
Again I didn’t say anything and I waited until the conversation progressed. But after a few minutes of thought I decided that I would express my discomfort at the joke. I calmly asked “can I just bring us back to what was said a few minutes ago?” and immediately the group rolled their eyes.
Have you ever been that person who “ruins the party” with their insistence that you be politically correct? The person whose made feel that they’re behaving so unreasonably when you really just don’t want the people around you to make you feel uncomfortable? It’s a horrible feeling and it’s actually quite exhausting.
Because I’m tired of having to remind the people around me not to be rude. I’m tired of reminding people about how much better off they are than most others. I’m tired of confronting people about their refusal to recognise their privilege over others.
With those simple eye rolls from the people around me, I had lost before I begun. I, of course became defensive when I began explaining my discomfort and I came across as angry. For some strange reason, the surest way to lose an argument is to convey a strong emotion.
I had lost an argument that I felt passionate about. I had lost the voice that was going to prove them wrong. I had lost my chance at rectifying this thing that was upsetting me.
I have an intense hatred for prejudice. Of course I do! I am of the opinion that you can give out about an individual who’s done something bad to you all you want (within reason). I’m not going to tell you not to be annoyed at them because who am I to do so. But I can not sit there and listen while you condemn a particular community or group of people. I can not and I will not.
Because what’s to stop another group all sitting around and giving out about “trannies?” What’s to stop them making racist or homophobic jokes? This group that I was sitting with would not stand for that. So why is it okay for them to do it to another group? You can’t pick and choose prejudice. You either have it or you don’t.
I admit that it’s difficult. From the moment we’re born we encounter prejudice.
“You’re too young for that.” “You’re a girl, you can’t do that.” “Act your age.”
Were also thought prejudice from a young age. Thought that certain people shouldn’t be spoken to. Thought to expect the same behaviour from a given community. Thought to hate, or be weary or be scared of certain people. But we must shake ourselves of this prejudice and not always assume the worst. We must not teach it to others and we certainly must not sit around and discuss it.
If a transgender person has done something bad to you, give out about that particular person. If a French person has done something bad to you, give out about that person. If a traveller has done something bad to you, give out about that person.
DON’T MAKE GENERALISATIONS.
I don’t care if you’ve met 5000 gay men and they were all immoral. That does not give you cause to say that all gay men are immoral.
We must remember that when we express hate towards a certain group of people, these people feel this hatred every day. These people feel these expectations of what they should be or how they should behave every day. These people are aware of how they are viewed by society, and many of them then act in the way that they’re “supposed” to. It’s a vicious cycle.
It’s not funny to make jokes about a person that’s worse off than you are. Make jokes about the people who are better off. Make jokes about yourself or about your friends who you know will find it funny. Don’t shit on people who find themselves below you on “the chain.” It’s too easy and it doesn’t show any intelligence.
I won’t sit in a group and listen while they make racist, homophobic, transphobic, sexist or other offensive slurs. I will also not bow under the pressure to shut my mouth when the rest of the group laugh. I may not confront the issue straight away, but believe me, I will get around to it.
It’s hard to be the one who “ruins the party,” but we must. We must criticise, correct and demand respect from people until we no longer need to do so. We must be better people and push those around us to be better people.
Watch my video on how to be a real feminist below:
Read about a time that I was trolled online here.