I spent part of my week arguing about why, exactly, something was offensive and found that apparently being offended “properly” mattered a great deal to a friend of mine.
In case, you missed it, social media had a kerfuffle as the Houston Rockets were closing out the Dallas Mavericks. The Rockets’ social media coordinator, Chad Shanks, tweeted out the following:
Of course, Twitter caught fire because that’s pretty much exactly what happens every time someone does anything on Twitter. In this case, I could see why, or at least I thought so. The idea of shooting a horse in the head (the horse, of course, being the mascot of the Mavs) was really horribly offensive to me. It spoke to violence, animal cruelty and the insensitive nature of how we speak about sports (“We just killed them…”).
I was clearly wrong.
“This is about rape culture,” my friend, a doctoral cohort member, noted online.
I didn’t respond initially because I was catching bits and pieces of this whole thing in between classes and so I just kept that page on Facebook up and went back to teach.
An hour later, that page was on fire as well.
Men and women, arguing back and forth about the aspects of rape noted in this tweet. Paragraph after paragraph of academic-credential measuring (“I’ve spent my life studying X and I can tell you…”) on top of the just-folks responses (“Anyone with any common sense can see…”). The one constant was my friend, who kept saying, “No. None of you understand anything if you can’t see this is about rape.”
Her argument was the gun was a representation of a penis. That the line “Shh. Just close your eyes. It will be all over soon” was used by rapists to silence their victims. It was a representation in her mind that the Rockets were finishing up “raping” the Mavs and that the Mavs and their fans should just settle in and enjoy the ride.
Entering a digital conversation that has whipped into an intractable frenzy is a patently stupid thing to do, so obviously I did it. I explained that I didn’t see this angle the first time I saw it, I still find the whole thing offensive and that views can vary. I also noted that I was thinking that although I respect her and her opinion, I thought it was a bit of a stretch.
My rationale was outlined: If they wanted a rape thing, a penis emoji is possible. The “Shhhhh… Just close your eyes” line was something the vet said to our pet when he put her to sleep. I said something along those lines when I covered The Midget’s eyes on Thanksgiving as the doctor stitched up her hand. Other people had said they tell that to their kids when they get shots, stitches and the like. I’ve heard the horrible “Lie there and enjoy it” line and that I know can’t have a dual meaning, but this one? Really?
It ended exactly the way I knew it would: “You don’t understand because you’re part of the culture. You have no way of knowing what this is all about as a man. Go do some research. I’m done speaking with you.”
I can’t say I fully understand everything that goes through anyone’s mind, but I can say that intractability on a position tends to lead to fewer converts to that position. When I hear, “There is only one way…” I think either “church” or “cult” (and some might argue they’re the same thing). It is almost always at that point that I’ll grab the ejector-seat handle and jump out of that conversation or, if the topic really matters to me, anchor in even harder on whatever position I possess.
Given what I have seen of that conversation (and several others she has posted throughout time), I don’t think I’m the only one.
The big problem (and I’m fumbling with this as I try to explain it) is that I WANT to be part of the conversation in hopes of leading to an improved cultural situation. As the parent of a girl who is entering fifth grade, I don’t want to hear guys joke, “If there’s grass on the field, well, hey, play ball!” Even without that familial stake in the game, I don’t like the idea of sexual fear serving as a driver for all interactions we have between the genders. Fear sucks no matter what, but when it’s simply based on a standing assumption that “Insert Tab A into Slot B because I can” is a constant motivator and an acceptable way to treat each other, that’s even worse.
However, not seeing everything as being an element of that does not make someone a traitor to the cause. Democrats were always fond of telling Republicans, “You’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.” This response tells me, “You’re entitled to only one opinion: The right one. Failing to see it is a failure on your part and makes you part of this horrible cultural standard.”
“Why do you read her shit?” one friend asked. The answer is simple: She is often right and she always makes me think. I can’t think of the last thing I graded or posted or tweeted in the last 24 hours, but her post, now several days old, still has me turning this issue over and over in my head.
Even as I see her point, I don’t agree with it.
And because of this, her response is essentially says to me, “Shhhh…”