I went to see Russell Brand do stand up last week.
In between miming receiving oral sex from Hitler and explaining that Malcolm X used to be a rent boy he said something I really liked. He was talking about people getting offended and his take on it (said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world) was, ‘just don’t’.
Offence is in the mind of the offendee, not the offender. Of course some people set out deliberately to offend, but whether their intention is realised or not depends entirely on the person who experiences it; nothing is intrinsically offensive.
But by golly, offence is a massive industry. It gives us entire newspapers and TV shows (even channels, thank you, Fox News), religious murderers and censors and along with millions of disgruntled and unhappy people who arm themselves with the phrase ‘that’s offensive’ as if it’s the last word in any argument.
Yes, it’s offensive, but only because you’re offended. You could literally say it about anything, and people do: imaginary friends, vaginas, the word ‘shitwhistle’, the way people hold their knives and forks, smells, people from other countries, an ‘ugly’ view, unusual clothes etc…
And as Russell says, it’s all your choice and all in your head, and the more you find offensive the more unhappy you’ll be.