Last month, the Independent published an article that boasted the title ‘Young, well educated – and permanently offended.’ It would be monumentally ironic if I were to say that I was offended by this article. I was not. I was, however, incredibly exasperated that such a crucial point could be so gravely missed. The author of this article has penned a number of well-balanced articles for the Independent to date, so to read this particular opinion piece was disconcerting to say the least.[pullquote]The gist of the article is that despite our bright, wonderful educations, the Youth of Today are Permanently Offended by everything.[/pullquote]
The gist of the article is that despite our bright, wonderful educations, the Youth of Today are Permanently Offended by everything. My first exasperation came after the reference to “college-going Millenials,” as though we are a species that has evolved from ‘Perfectly Reasonable 1900s Individual’ to ‘Permanently Offended Youth of Today.’
The author references Bret Easton Ellis and his allusion to Millenials as ‘Generation Wuss.’ Now, I am a massive fan of Ellis. Huge. I adore his work. Earlier this year, he wrote an article for Vanity Fair concerning the narcissistic, materialistic appearance of today’s generation; and to Ellis, at least, this is the same viewpoint he had when he was scribbling away at Less Than Zero in the early 80s in a meth-binge-induced haze.
That generation – the teens and young adults of the 80s – were our parents’ generation. Not enough has changed in that time to make Ellis considering today’s young people as part of ‘Generation Wuss’ any different than the generation he grew up with – and despised. Ellis is not just bolstering condemnation of the Permanently Offended Youth, but supporting the idea that Perfectly Reasonable 1900s Individual was, in fact, no better than them.
The article in the Independent goes on to discuss Cardiff University’s recent exclusion of Germaine Greer. The university deemed the feminist speaker’s controversial views on transgender individuals “misogynistic,” and launched a petition to have her appearance at the university cancelled. From what I understand, Greer does not recognise transgender women to be women, and does not believe feminism does, or even needs to, extend to trans women’s fight for equality.
I don’t believe for a second that Greer’s banning warrants the Permanently Offended Youth Police stepping out, waving their banners, and crying about the restriction of free speech. If Greer was to come to a university and talk negatively about black people, gay people, white people, women, or anyone else, that talk would not be wanted, or welcomed. Greer is entitled to say whatever she pleases, whenever she pleases. That is freedom of speech. She is not, however, entitled to an audience to said speeches.
The trans community is a minority group tacked onto the end of the LGBT community – a community which many trans people do not even feel welcome within. In university, students are finally given the freedom to be who they feel they are. For a trangender student, it is perhaps the first place they have ever been where they feel others will accept them for who they are. Cardiff University were simply protecting their students from a feminist speaker who appears to have forgotten that the word ‘feminism’ encompasses a manifesto which declares ‘equality for all.’ That is not a denial of free speech, oh Permanently Offended Youth Police. This is not about sheltering our peers or ourselves – that’s not possible to do. But what university students can and will do is try to reduce negativity wherever they can.[pullquote] If Greer was to come to a university and talk negatively about black people, gay people, white people, women, or anyone else, that talk would not be wanted, or welcomed.[/pullquote]
Something similar happened a few weeks ago at a panel where Katie Hopkins was present, when masses of students took it upon themselves to walk out as soon as the Daily Mail columnist started talking. The Permanently Offended Youth Police stepped up once again, declaring that the students who staged the protest where somehow infringing on Hopkins’ right to speak.
Of course, the Permanently Offended Youth Police forgot one rather important thing – students are well educated. We understand rights. We understand what freedom of speech means. It does not entitle you to an audience. It does not entitle you to a platform. Hopkins was free to say whatever she wanted on that panel even after the room had emptied – and she did. It was a well made point; a non-violent, silent protest. People didn’t want to listen to her, so they didn’t. Anyone who did was free to sit in that room and hear her talk. Universities across the UK and Ireland are not becoming sheltered bubbles, as is suggested by the article in the Independent. Rather, we are exercising our own right to not have to listen to complete and utter horseshit.
The Independent article then goes on to mention Oxford University’s recent banning of No Offence; an “Oxford-based political magazine devoted to controversy, contention, and all things freeze peach.” I do have to ask – why in the name of all that is holy would anyone want to read something that actually dedicates itself to defending rape jokes? These are the Millenials you should be criticising, Permanently Offended Youth Police. Oxford was right. This is upper-class, jumped-up-little-rich-boy rubbish, published in an effort to be as controversial as possible to make a piss-poor attempt at satire.
What ‘satire’ actually means is “the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticise people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.” True satire appears on websites like Waterford Whispers News; an actual intelligent publication that is on point every single time in the most wonderful way. TV shows such as South Park have it down – the makers of the programme will create a new episode each week based on current news, making a satirical point that serves a purpose… And that’s why it’s funny. The same can be said for It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The characters are supposed to be hateful people who say hateful things in order to make us think.[pullquote]Universities across the UK and Ireland are not becoming sheltered bubbles. Rather, we are exercising our own right to not have to listen to complete and utter horseshit.[/pullquote]
No Offence magazine is to free speech as 50 Shades of Grey is to literature. They are not ‘breaking taboos.’ They are literally mocking the things university students are trying so hard to take out of normal speech. Rape jokes enable rapists to absolve their own guilt. This is a fact.
I read the following lines of the Independent’s piece with utmost exasperation.
Perhaps the most widespread university ban of recent years was the prohibition of Blurred Lines from the airwaves of student union bars. The song by Robin Thicke was banned by almost 20 student unions over fears that it reinforced the “grey area” consent myth.
Grey area. Consent. Myth?!
There is no myth. Consent is a massive issue. University students are young, well educated, and trying to make a difference. To ban this song was to make a statement. We don’t accept rape culture. The other day, I wrote a response piece to Louise O’Neill’s Asking For It, which highlights just how unmythical the issue of consent actually is. It is a reality for both young women and young men. It is not a myth. It is a fact.
We are not permanently offended. We, as educated students, are trying to use our education for a purpose. We are aiming to affect change in the best possible way. We are as far a cry from Bret Easton Ellis’s Generation Wuss as we will ever be.
While others may remain unconcerned by the issues we are constantly fighting – and are happy to be vapidly obsessed with materialism, and narcissistically pulling out their Permanently Offended Youth Police placards at regular intervals – we will be actively, and politely, asking them not to be assholes.
Images via townandcountrymag.com/Max Vadukul