Check Your Privilege // Megan Zurasky
As my feminist counterparts, I’m sure some of you can identify with the anger I feel toward these statements:
“Why are you being so sensitive?”
“Learn to take a joke”
“Calm down, I was only kidding”
More and more, I see comments, articles and media addressing the question of sensitivity in this country. Some believe our society has become hypersensitive to issues of oppression, saying that we, as a whole, become offended too easily and that we will never be able to make statements without upsetting a group of people. There have even been comedic shows such as South Park addressing this issue of political correctness and if we are taking it this concept too far.
This summer Jerry Seinfeld, who is well known in the comedy world, stated that he would not perform at colleges because they are too politically correct now, or "PC". He said, in short, that he could not make jokes at a college without being called a sexist or racist. He went on further to say that the PC movement was ruining comedy. In a thoughtful article posted on Huffington Post, a college student responded to Seinfeld by saying, "Sexist humor and racist humor can no longer exist in comedy because these concepts are based on archaic ideals that have perpetrated injustice against minorities in the past."
Let me be clear, I am a huge supporter of edgy, satirical comedy. I love a good stand up bit as much as the next person. That being said, we can no longer use sexist and racist humor just for shock value, we have moved past that. Being offensive is no longer funny. We have to use comedy to address the truth that this country has more work to do in the area of oppression. Comedy could be used to show our citizens that this is an issue that needs to be addressed. It could be a huge help in making our society think and learn and grow. If we want to see true progress, we have to use comedy as a tool. We have to show our young people that this is a real issue that needs to be addressed.
Our society has changed exponentially and in many ways over the past few decades. Whether it is scientifically, technologically or medically, we have grown and become more sophisticated in many aspects. We also achieve a higher level of education in general. I think on top of these accomplishments, it’s important to recognize that we have grown socially as well. We now recognize some of these issues to a degree that was unheard of decades back, when these jokes were considered funny. We know better than we did then, and because of this knowledge and experience, we are trying to do better.
When you Google search the term politically correct, one of the first images in the results says, “A term used for whiney, overly-sensitive pansies who need everything sugar-coated for them.” Another says, “Why be politically correct when you can be right?” These statements scream of the lack of education the public has on these topics. We have the ability to see how far our country has come; yet we cannot see how far we still have to go.
Too often I have had men or women make brash sexist comments to my loved ones or myself and when they are confronted, justify these actions with “I was just kidding.” I often see others get upset when I point out when something is sexist or offensive, and tell me I am too sensitive. Is this because they are embarrassed? Is it because they truly are joking? Does it matter? We have to move the way we speak and the way we joke forward.
Saying that I am too sensitive is your justification for the bias you hold against me. I am personally offended that you are putting the blame on me for your bigotry. You are perpetuating the ideals those before us worked so hard to change. And although you may not be able to see it, we are far from done. Think of your mothers, your sisters, your aunts or your friends. Until you understand what disadvantages we as women still face everyday, do not tell us to take it easy.
Do not tell me to lighten up. Do not give me a lesson on taking a joke. Do not tell me I am too sensitive. Marital rape was legal in 1992. Women did not have the right to vote less than one hundred years ago. Women still make 78 cents to the mans dollar. One in four women are still victims of sexual assault and are still questioned if they were asking for it. Every time you make a joke about my gender, you set back our cause. And that, I will always take very seriously.
Written by Megan Zurasky