It takes so little to offend us these days. “Bad hombres.” “Nasty woman.” “Baby.”
During Wednesday night’s debate, all sorts of people got their sombreros, bra straps and pacifiers in a twist over comments Donald Trump made. Apparently, when speaking about people (including unborn people), we must use the terminology that hews most closely to the vanilla version of Webster’s. No irony, no humor, no snark.
This makes life difficult for me. I am the queen of snark, of spinster mean-girl, of trying to suck the marrow out of that bone of sardonic irreverence with every sentence I write. It used to get me some chuckles; now, it just gets me in hot water.
What a pass we’ve come to.
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Recently, I read about a school in Canada that decided to allow students to use whatever gender pronouns they want. If “he” and “she” are too restrictive, they can opt for “ze,” “zim,” “ey,” “sie” and “hir.” And apparently, if you live in Philadelphia they’ve added “yo” to the list, which apparently stands for “Yo, figure the hell out what you are and then call me next week.” Sadly, a professor who refuses to call students by the names they choose is being accused of hate speech.
And you know who else is being accused of hate speech? Donald Trump. Of course, that’s not new, because he’s racked up offensive comments over the past year, ridiculing nationalities, religions, people with disabilities, etc. That’s the truth, it’s on video, and he hasn’t apologized for it. It doesn’t bother his diehard supporters, who, in their quiet moments, have probably been known to eat a taco or two and consider that multicultural.
But there is a big difference between outright offensive bigotry and oversensitivity of the “you really need to see a therapist on that” type. And anyone who was offended by Trump talking about Mexican drug lords as “bad hombres” needs to watch some old Clint Eastwood movies and take a Valium.
Then, of course, we have the men who have been writing me to tell me how anguished I should be over Trump’s use of the term “nasty woman.” My first thought is that it fits the target because Hillary Clinton is one of the nastiest women I can conjure at this juncture in the election cycle. Elizabeth Warren is a tad more histrionic and tragically earnest, but not exactly “nasty.”
The gents who have been telling me that I should be horrified at the use of the term want me to understand just how much Trump hates me. Well, not me in particular, but women in general. That seems a bit inconsistent, because they also accuse him of loving women far too much, including 10-year-old girls he presumably wants to date someday. But I think they want me to understand just how deeply runs the river of his misogyny and why I should be offended that he made such a rude reference to a representative of my tribe.
To that I respond, Clinton is as much a member of my tribe as a kitty cat (I was going to say pussy cat but thought better of it) is related to a saber-tooth tiger, assuming they were not extinct. I would also say that there are far worse things a woman-hating man could hurl at a woman like me, and I have seen pretty much all of them. I have even corrected the spelling of some more offensive emails and returned them to the sender. You can take the girl out of Catholic school, but you can’t take the Catholic school out of the girl.
My point is that getting upset over a very innocuous expression of anger and frustration shows the extent to which this society has become paralyzed by the industrial victims. They are the people, all of them passive-aggressive, who have weaponized their insecurities to use against the average man and woman. There is nothing offensive in using “bad hombre,” not even in the context of a discussion on immigration. I am an immigration lawyer, and I am telling you this: Trump has said many things that are anti-Hispanic, but this was not one of them.
And as a woman, please let me confirm to the men who are still reading that even though you might know (or be dating, or, God help you, be married to) a woman who is offended that a sister who wants to rule the most important country in the world was called “nasty,” the vast majority of right-thinking women out here do not find anything objectionable in the comment. In fact, judging from the Jedi pantsuit Clinton chose to wear Wednesday night, “nasty” is one of the nicer adjectives she could have expected.
Oh, yes, and those who were offended that Trump called fetuses by their archaic and lesser-known term “baby,” I would just tell you that most people understood what he meant when he talked about babies being “ripped out” of their mothers’ wombs. Yes, some of the pseudo-scientists out there were horrified that he would describe such a nice clinical medical procedure in such horribly human terms, but the fact is that a woman who is nine months’ pregnant knows exactly what she is carrying, and it is not a “decision” or a “clump of cells” or a “choice.” So if you were offended by that one, tough. There’s a lot to be offended about when talking about late-term abortions, but calling the target of it a “baby” is not one of them.
So, yes, we are having a hard time in society these days, walking that very thin line between what is acceptable and what is considered out of line. The line has become so wide and so imposing that there is very little doubt about what we can or cannot say. We can call people only what they want to be known by. Rosie O'Donnell was never fat. She was short for her weight. Women never wear slutty outfits. They are expressing themselves. You get my drift.
But if you want to call a Catholic gender-backward, that’s OK.
How’s that for irony?
Christine Flowers is a lawyer and a special contributor to the Philadelphia Daily News. Readers may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.