Offense Where It’s Due

I recently got into an argument with a friend of mine. We were discussing a controversial social topic that hasn’t been in the news lately – I’m not even sure how it came up. He said something insensitive, and I took offense and told him so without taking time to edit my reaction.

And I offended him. It wasn’t a huge fight. We’re fine now. But I offended him. I don’t even remember all the details of the argument. What I do remember is my reaction to offending him.

I felt panic. I felt guilt. I felt like I had failed. Like I had done something I wasn’t supposed to do and that I needed to apologize and reassure him that he was right. I was wrong. And please don’t be mad at me.

The thing is – I didn’t think I was wrong. I still don’t think I was wrong. But my emotional response to offending him was way out of proportion to the situation.

That made me think. I usually avoid these kinds of arguments because they make me extremely anxious. I get nervous that I’ll offend someone. So nervous that I will spend ridiculous amounts of time thinking of my response. But I’d never had a response like this. What was that about?

That’s when I realized that I have offended women before and only felt a little anxious. Like 10% of how I felt at offending him. Because he was a man. My subconscious believes that I shouldn’t offend a man.

And that offends me.

He doesn’t worry about offending me or anyone else. It’s a possibility for arguments, if it happens, he’ll apologize or deal with it. It’s not a big deal. But I feel like offending and upsetting a man means that I have failed.

Now, I’m a feminist. I believe very strongly in equality. Yet somehow in my life I learned that I am not supposed to offend men. Without even knowing that the belief was there. My subconscious learned this. I think I know how. My parents believe in equality, but some things slip through. Some behaviors get passed down. And some things are influenced by society. I know how I learned it.

The question is how to get rid of it. The question is how to stop stressing myself out over an out-dated teaching that I never believed.

Because it is ok to offend men. It is not my job to keep them happy.

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