Last week, I blogged about the Adria Richards saga, and then linked it into similar activities from the ADA Initiative (AI). Days after, people are still divided on who was right and who reacted poorly. One thing almost everyone agrees on is that no one came out a winner.
In the wake of both incidents, there has been a shift to people being overly cautious, watching their wording carefully. Rather than speak freely as they usually do, they obsess over every word lest someone, anyone, take offense and drag them through the virtual mud. One joke that seems harmless or the use of a word that might be a “trigger” to someone, and you may find yourself a pariah, or worse.
I understand the issue, and I sympathize. I truly do. However, I also understand when something goes too far and recognize when overreaction dominates rational thought, as is common in our society after tragedy, or the perception of tragedy. I believe that time is here with the debate around equality in our industry. While my mind was mostly made up, after participating in the Exotic Liability podcast tonight, with guest Violet Blue, more information came out about recent events that angers me more. The BSidesSF incident that saw Val Aurora of the ADA Initiative get Blue’s talk cancelled, was planned in advance. Claims of her talk containing offensive ‘rape’ material was not only wrong, it was used to emotionally manipulate the conference organizer into getting her way.
If Aurora and AI had their way, every talk that might have controversial material would be cancelled or changed, so as not to offend anyone, ever. Worse, someone that has “triggers”, words that may cause them emotional distress, may knowingly attend a talk with such triggers and it is your fault. Basically, they stuck their hand on the hot stove, got burned, and it is your fault because you didn’t make the stove safe for them. They shouldn’t be responsible for knowing what the red light and excessive heat coming from the machine mean.
Moving past the obvious issue of free speech, there is the rational and realistic argument on how to handle all of this. Should the 99%+ majority only utter G-rated material in any public, semi-public, or private venue on the offchance the word “rape” or “clown” or “pancake” offends them? Or should the minority <1% who might be offended at something you said simply avoid a situation that might cause a problem for them?
Forget the stupidly simple and rational course of action for a minute, and think about the level of narcissism it takes to expect everyone else to dance on eggshells around you. Do you really think that any initiative will change society to the degree you want? If equality is what you are after, act like an equal to the masses. The masses aren’t forcing you to travel a thousand miles to a conference and attend a talk that you clearly know may trigger you. Don’t force the masses to be deprived of a valuable presentation that is all about harm reduction, something you claim to support. If pancakes are a trigger, don’t go out of your way to stop and loiter at IHOP or click this link.
While AI and others are pushing this G-rated agenda and demanding sensitivity above and beyond all rational reason, several of us opted to go the other way last night. On the award-winning Exotic Liability podcast, Ryan, Chris, GK, and I refused to cave in. After a disclaimer warning listeners of offensive content to come, we celebrated our freedom of speech, and our freedom to offend. Innuendo lasted all of a few minutes before truly offensive banter found its rightful place at the top. Our guest Violet Blue, a true advocate of equality and education, laughed with us and praised us for adding levity to the situation. She said she desperately needed it after the past weeks, as being dropped from a speaking engagement and not being able to educate was depressing.
By going the opposite direction, we collectively said “fuck you” to Aurora, the AI, and people like Adria Richards. They seem to look for situations in which they can opportunistically take offense, and they ride it. In doing so, they traipse over good people doing good work, typically those with a noble and giving reason. They subjugate the masses to conform to their selfish rules, demanding change that ultimately will not effect the change they desire. So I will do what I feel is right, and nothing more;
You have been warned! Last night’s podcast is offensive. I don’t need to qualify it beyond that, because it is probably offensive to everyone. We did not hold back, we acted like immature kids, and we said whatever came to mind. If bad jokes, bad acts, or laughing at serious topics is a ‘trigger’ to you, don’t listen. If you do, it is on you, not us. We see your crazy, and counter with our sanity. Until you figure a better way to encourage that equality, consider people like us the holdout for sanity. Dare to listen and laugh with us.