“Suck it up”
“Back in my day we just let things go.”
“Everyone is too politically correct. We can’t say anything without offending anyone.”
“Well that’s just life! Get over it!”
Too often I hear this crap both online and in everyday interactions with people of an older generation and sadly even my own generation. I often am guilty of chewing these people out, even if they’re close family members, and passionately talking about all the injustices in this society and how we need to BE BETTER!
I don’t know, maybe it’s because I come off as an angry feminist, or maybe it’s because I’m a “spoiled millennial” or maybe it’s just that what I’m saying is so truthful that it makes people uncomfortable, but in response to my passion I’m often told I need to just let things go. Birth rights come to mind as one thing that I’m “not supposed to talk about”. People will say “well back in the day you were just grateful for a healthy baby and a live mother”. Older women will comment on how they never really shared their birth stories as freely as women today. Some will be thankful for that change while a lot of others will try to shame us for complaining and try to put us back in our place.
Actually, that’s the real problem with the attitude toward us “spoiled, outspoken millennials” who “are too sensitive and too offended by everything”: it’s not really that WE are the problem, but that the past generations are uncomfortable to recognize their part in the oppression of others. They don’t want to admit that maybe by just staying silent and “not talking about that stuff” they allowed it to happen much longer than it should have.
It wasn’t THAT long ago that same-sex couples had to pretend they were simply roommates/very good friends if they were to have any semblance of a life together. There are still older people finally coming out as LGBTQ and the reason for coming “out of the closet” that late in life isn’t that they just didn’t know until then or that they somehow just decided to change who they were, it’s because when they were teenagers it wasn’t SAFE for them to be who they were. In an oppressive heteronormative patriarchy they faced serious repercussions if they deviated from the prescriptive norms of their time. That meant that they had to pretend they were straight and once they were finally free (thanks to decades of normalizing same-sex couples in the media) they wanted to shout it out loud and celebrate their new freedom.
I strongly believe that 99% of the problems in society would be solved if we dismantled the patriarchy.
If violence wasn’t seen as an admirable quality we would have more non-violent conflicts.
If nurturing qualities associated with women were seen as acceptable for all sexes then we would have more equality for fathers both in the workplace and outside of it. Change tables would actually BE in all the bathrooms as a matter of default, not some added “perk” that men have to beg for. Paternity leave and maternity leave might not have to be split and fathers might be able to take more time off work to care for their sick kids instead of being asked “well, what about your wife? Can’t SHE stay home?”
If women were as valued as men then young boys would never hear the words “you throw like a girl” or “only sissies cry over that”. ALL emotions would be acceptable. My son could watch My Little Pony and nobody would bat an eye and I wouldn’t have to arch my brow at them and say “there’s nothing wrong with liking My Little Pony is there?” in that tone that makes it quite clear don’t you dare start with that patriarchal bullshit in my presence or I will tear you a new one.
If women were seen as real people there would be no rape jokes or ideas that women somehow owe guys their attention because they were “nice to them”. As if that’s somehow reason for me to just give up my right to decide for myself if I want to go out with you. We wouldn’t have to come up with a million excuses or find ways to let the guy down easy to not hurt his ego. We wouldn’t be looking over our shoulder to make sure he’s not following us and waiting for a moment to pounce. We wouldn’t constantly feel like prey.
If the patriarchy didn’t exist then EVERYONE would be valued as a human being. There wouldn’t be racism or sexism or sizeism. There wouldn’t be a need to worry about Political Correctness because everyone would stop and think “how does this affect other people” before it was even said.
But getting back to the problem with us Millennials, the reason why we are “so sensitive” is simple: we are in the middle of a HUGE cultural shift. We have the past generations who still remember when “the gays stayed in the closet” and “women knew their place–at HOME” and we “were more modest” and “didn’t talk about unpleasant things” and “just did what we were told” and “never questioned authority”. They remember when they could just turn a blind eye or pretend they didn’t hear when someone told an upsetting story that challenged a societal norm. They remember when they could tell themselves “I’m sure it wasn’t THAT bad” and “she must have led him on” and “well what did they expect to happen if they acted like that/dressed that way?” To have all those things brought to light today and have a very loud group of young people shout “this is not okay with us” is probably really uncomfortable. It probably makes them feel like we millennials are just not happy with things the way they are…and they’re right. We AREN’T happy! And for the first time in history we have the perfect outlet to really voice how unhappy we are.
Some of the older generations have already joined us in our cries of THIS HAS TO STOP and for those who would rather just “live life in peace” that’s uncomfortable to have the truth shoved in their faces. I have a solution for those people who would rather bury their heads in the sand; get off the internet. We don’t want you here if you’re just going to keep telling us we’re “making a big deal over nothing”. We are NOT going to let you silence us.
Political Correctness isn’t censorship; it’s compassion. It’s seeing that things can be said TACTFULLY instead of in a way that makes someone feel “less than” in society. You can still express your feelings without being an asshole.
All the people complaining about “millennial parenting” miss the real point when they complain about the “lack of discipline”. The REASON the peaceful parenting movement exists at all is because it is a direct response to the problems in our society. We came here because we recognize the lack of empathy and compassion in our society and WE WANT BETTER FOR OUR KIDS. We are raising the next generation and we just happen to be doing that in the decades that will likely be marked in history as the “cultural shift” that SO MANY have been working toward since humans first started being assholes and oppressing their people who didn’t fit into the narrow box of what they deemed “acceptable”.
“You can’t turn on the TV today without seeing someone who is LGBTQ shoved in your face”.
Good. Back when I was in highschool it was controversial that Willow and Tara were a couple and they DIDN’T EVEN SHARE AN ONSCREEN KISS UNTIL HALFWAY THROUGH SEASON 5. People would act like total assholes to Amber Benson simply because she played a character on TV involved in a relationship with Alyson Hannigan’s character. Why? Because back when I was in school being LGBTQ was to be “other”. It wasn’t accepted as normal, but as a “publicity stunt”. That’s why Madonna, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera shared a kiss during a performance for the Grammys; it wasn’t because they were a polyamorous couple, it was because in that culture it was a spectacle for 3 women to kiss on-screen.
Today I can watch a show on the CW and see a mixed-race couple and the colors of their skin are not the central conflict of their relationship. Back in the 90s when a white character started dating someone of color it was considered “progressive”. Today it’s normal. Nobody cared that Bonnie Bennet was black and dating Elena’s brother Jeremy. Admittedly I was a little surprised when Bianca Lawson played Shay Mitchell’s love interest right in Season 1 of Pretty Little Liars, but that was mainly because she also played Kendra on Buffy the Vampire Slayer way back in the 90s and is older than I am. It was more a “how is she still playing a teenager” kind of shock rather than “she’s in a relationship with a girl!” shock. Actually that show was a prime example of how not a big deal same sex couples are today. Emily remained true to her sexual orientation the entire series and even had a happy ending with another main character and even had children with her. How’s THAT for progressive?
“So if it’s already in the media then they don’t need to keep shoving it in our faces. It’s NORMAL now”.
No, it’s not. There is still a long way to go before the future we want for everyone actually becomes a reality. Yes, younger generations are starting to change things and be more open, but as long as we have people FIGHTING THESE CHANGES it’s not going to be enough. As long as the harmful messages are absorbed by kids it’s not going to be enough. And THAT is why we need to be mindful of what we say. THAT is why we need to listen when someone says that something is offensive. Obviously I’m not talking about the bigoted groups of people who thing Feminism is “offensive to men” or the religious zealots who think a females cleavage is “offensive”, but when someone says “hey, maybe don’t make that joke about rape/race/sexual orientation etc” or “hey, that message doesn’t actually mean what you think it means and is perpetuating a culture we are working to change”, LISTEN TO WHAT THEY ARE SAYING. You don’t have their same experience, but that doesn’t mean you get to decide that it’s “not that bad”.
As a woman I know what it’s like to be dismissed as “emotional” or a “crybaby”. I have had guys ask me such inappropriate questions in the classroom as “do you have pubes?” and I was told “your gigantic breasts make it hard for me to concentrate” when I told them to turn around and do their work and LEAVE ME ALONE. I have had guys tell me that my real problem was that I “just really need to get laid” when I would tell them to fuck off. The older I got the worse it got. And in response to my complaints I got told “well, if you’re going to dress like that…” and “maybe he just likes you…”
I know I’m lucky. As a cis-straight-white woman I would be at the top of the hierarchy just below cis-straight-white men. I probably enjoy the most rights out of all our oppressed groups and should feel grateful, right? Except I was born with a heart that loves deeply and I have compassion. I may be “lucky” but I still know how much this society sucks for women and I can only imagine how much worse it is for people of color and the LGBTQ community. I do my best to pay attention to their experiences, however different they may be from my own, and to honor their truths. And so when I learn some new information that I didn’t have before about their experiences I strive to do better. I won’t be dressing up my daughter as Pocahontas because she is representing a real person and a real culture and their story is far from the lovely narrative Disney put out in the 90s. And people may complain that they don’t get to dress up like Pocahontas without some “fragile snowflake” saying something about it, but when you get past the spoiled “but I wanna just be ignorant and play like I used to” argument it comes down to this: It’s not nice. It’s making light of the suffering of another group of people for your own amusement. Would you dress up as a “dead fetus” for Halloween? I seriously hope not, because if you answered “why not?” then you are a seriously fucked up piece of shit and I hope you never breed.
I don’t claim to be perfect. I have just as much room for growth as the rest of humanity. Even marginalized groups of people can have moments where they lacked self-awareness; that’s part of being human. I’m not asking anyone to be perfectly PC all the time and never say what’s on their mind. I’m not asking for censorship. I think that whitewashing the past and pretending it didn’t happen isn’t helpful. We can still enjoy old films and books and see them as being a product of their times and realize how far we’ve come as a society. I can read Gone With the Wind and think “wow, that was a different time but this actually used to happen. I’m glad we’re working toward a better way”. Maybe, again, as a woman that’s easy for me to do. I am well aware that if I was born in the past my life would seriously suck worse than it does now. I would probably be burned as a witch for my “heresy” in daring to question anything, let alone challenge the patriarchy as I do. If I was even born a few decades earlier, perhaps advice would have been given to my husband that I needed a good beating to put me in my place. Decades further into the past I might not have even had a choice in who I married.
My point is that once upon a time all these things I enjoy today in our culture were criticized by the older generations who have long since passed. You really think that the parents of the first suffragettes were pleased with what their daughters were doing? You really think that the first mixed-race relationships were widely accepted in society? You would only be fooling yourself if you believe that every great movement toward societal change was met with enthusiasm from everyone; that it didn’t come at a huge cost to the people who fought to make things better. The difference between then and now is that NOW we have a much bigger audience. We have the internet. The 90s opened the door for change to happen at a much faster rate, for atrocities to be brought to light immediately and for us to be able to keep the conversation going from the comfort of our own homes where we wouldn’t have to fear an army coming in and shutting us down before we even got started. We can even remain anonymous if we like, and we can say all the things we were once too afraid to admit because we have others like us out there who are sharing their truths and encouraging us to share ours.
As for our shift in language, that is also very necessary because words have power. Thinking they don’t is foolish. The way we say things matters. Take for instance the way we talk about birth. I refuse to say I had a “natural birth” because the word “natural” is triggering to people, but also it is a very broad term. What is “natural” to one person isn’t to another; it’s a qualitative statement. I have had women who were induced tell me that they had a “natural birth, and it was so painful they would never do it again”. They really mean they had an unmedicated birth, with an induced labor. Or someone will assume that a vaginal birth is “natural” regardless of whether or not they were induced, on a fetal monitor and flat on their back with an epidural. A mother who had a cesarean may feel that “all birth is natural”.
So I don’t use that term because it is too broad a definition. I say I had a physiological birth to indicate that labor started spontaneously and was not augmented or impeded in any way. I say it was unmedicated because I did not have any drugs for pain relief or even an IV. I say it was a spontaneous vaginal birth (not delivery) because I birthed the baby without assistance of forceps or vacuum or episiotomy and I say BIRTH instead of “delivery” because I did all the work and my midwife was there to SUPPORT me. When people say “who delivered your baby” that implies that the mother was passive in the experience, not the one doing all the work. It is disempowering and perpetuates the idea that women are “not allowed” to make their own decisions about their births. I HATE it when a mother says “am I allowed…” when asking about what to expect in birth. It’s just more of the same patriarchal bullshit that has no place in society today.
I know that being PC isn’t ALL about birth, but I use it as an example because it is the subject I am most familiar with (that, and women’s rights as a whole). I am not a person of color and I am a cis-straight woman so I won’t pretend to understand the issues that people of color and the LGBQT community deal with as fully as someone of those communities. I only know what I am made aware of, and truthfully before I had children I wasn’t aware of the problems with maternity care. I didn’t see it as a feminist issue. I didn’t think that the rising csection rates were a big deal and I thought that birth was supposed to be traumatizing. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and when I didn’t know I said some pretty stupid things. I held really stupid attitudes and beliefs. I will admit that. But the thing about beliefs and attitudes is that they are formed by the information that one gets on a subject and CAN change over time as one is exposed to more of that thing they held an opinion on. When you move away from black and white thinking and start realizing that maybe you don’t know as much as you thought, you can choose to seek out information you didn’t have before. I may not have the direct experience, but if I hear of oppression in a culture I do my best to learn more about it. I want to be aware of what messages I’m sending out because I have kids now and they are watching me. If I’m to raise my kids to be part of the culture that destroys the patriarchy, then I have to be willing to change my perceptions that might have been culturally insensitive and adopt new language to address those things so that people can feel more comfortable expressing their truths without fearing for their safety.
Maybe in a few more decades this won’t be such a big deal anymore. Maybe “PC Culture” won’t need to exist in the way that it does right now. But in this current version of our world it DOES need to exist because that’s how change happens. We cannot go back to the old ways; the old ways were full of silence and fear of what others might think of us. It denied people their right to be who they were, free of persecution. We can talk all we like about the pretty ideals of equality and we can tell people to be “more accepting”, but without the action that our “spoiled, fragile snowflakes” keep calling for, we aren’t going to get very far. We don’t say “that’s offensive” just because our feelings are hurt. We say it because we are trying to change a culture that is harmful and no longer represents who WE want to be. We don’t want to go back to the way things were. We like having our rights, thank you very much, and we won’t stop pointing out all the ways things could be better. If you don’t like it, well, you’ll be dead in the next century anyway so it won’t really matter. The world as you knew it IS going to change and you can either accept it and stop whining about the “millennials and their PC culture” and HELP us, or you can be one of those people in history that our future generations will shake their heads at and think “how could they have been okay with that?” Personally I prefer to be on the right side of history, even if no one remembers my name.