Thoughts & Essays

Let’s talk culture wars, folks.

We need to talk about the ongoing culture war, and why you shouldn’t be sharing those stupid outrage-porn articles around.

I’ve seen a few things making their way around the Internet lately, and we need to have a little chat about them.

To start off with, the Rudolph video/article from the Huffington Post that every rightwinger on Earth had their knickers all in a twist over? It was a joke. If you check the original article, you can clearly see it was labeled “comedy.”

People were joking about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer because it’s a very old show and it’s full of stuff that probably wouldn’t fly these days.

Which brings us to the thing I want to talk about: Our understanding of all kinds of complicated issues has changed a lot in the last fifty years.

We have much better ideas about how to raise kids. We have better ideas about what being transgender is and how to help people who are. We have better ideas of what gender is and how it works. We have, in general, become more sensitive in dealing with some kinds of traumas and experiences that people face.

This leads to a lot of change in how we deal with things and talk about things in society.

We’re beginning to understand that “gender,” the idea of feeling “male” or “female,” is not the set-in-stone binary switch we used to think it was. We understand that gender, like sexual preferences and orientations, is a spectrum of feelings. And our language is changing to accommodate that.

Society is beginning to work towards language in all areas that is more gender neutral, because we understand that not everyone is “male” or “female” the way we used to think they were even 20-some years ago when I was a kid.

Look, I get it. The gender thing seems weird. I’m 42, man. When I was a kid, you were either a boy or a girl and you were born that way and you stayed that way, and if you tried to change it, there was something wrong with you. That’s what we thought. That’s what we believed.

Except, that wasn’t actually true.

It turned out to be a lot more complicated than that, which makes perfect sense because human beings are complicated critters.

It’s hard to change those old ideas. Humans are complicated in a lot of ways, and very simple in others. One of the ways we’re simple is that we are just super, super lazy about thinking.

Once we’ve established a way to think about something, we tend to want to stick with that, because changing how we think about a thing is difficult and hard work. So we established a way to think about gender, and we stuck with it for a good long time, and now it turns out we were wrong.

There are a whole bunch of us who don’t want to do the difficult and hard work of changing how we think. Hell, there are a bunch of us who are working on changing how we think, and still not getting it entirely right.

It’s hard to change patterns of thought. It takes work. It doesn’t happen instantly. And honestly? That’s okay, as long as you’re working on it and trying not to be a dick about it.

But here’s where the “culture wars” thing I mentioned, and those articles I linked above, come into play.

There are a whole bunch of us who not only don’t want to do the work, but are actively resisting letting others do the work. There are a whole bunch of us who think that the work of changing the way we think shouldn’t be done at all, even though the old ways of thinking about things like gender are harming people.

They would rather hurt people than change. And that is bad.

That’s where articles like the ones I linked above come from. They’re bandied about by people who would rather harm others than do the hard work of changing. And when you play into this crap, share those articles, you’re aiding those people and helping to harm others.

Look, man. Transgender people commit suicide at double-digit percentages more often than non-transgender people, because the world transgender people live in is actively hostile to them. We can fix that. Those people don’t have to die. All we have to do is not be assholes to transgender people.

And this isn’t just about gender. It’s about treating women like human beings. Yes, we get it, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is an old song and it wasn’t written about date rape. There’s even an argument to be made that the song was kind of empowering for its time.

But its time was 74 years ago, and shit has changed since then. Now it sounds a little rapey, y’all. Treat modern women with a little respect and maybe don’t play a rapey-sounding song anymore.

Or maybe do. Most of us don’t actually give that much of a fuck. But a certain segment of the American population would like you to think that there are tons of people out there who give a great big huge fuck about it, and they’re coming for your rights, or your way of life, or something.

Because they want you to be scared of change, too.

Here’s how the culture war works. There are, eh, call it three populations of people in the US.

One thinks, hey, we shouldn’t be dicks to women, the LGBT+ community, and non-white people anymore because that actively harms those populations and cuts our whole society off from what they have to offer.

One thinks we should, because they feel like elevating everyone to the same respected, human status somehow takes something away from themselves.

And one honestly isn’t thinking all that much about this stuff at all because they have bills to pay and kids to raise and they’re busy and tired.

The first two are fighting over that third population, and that’s the culture war. And even though you’re tired and busy and not thinking about this stuff very much, you’re still picking a side.

You’re picking a side every time you share an outraged article about Rudolph with a comment like “This is so stupid, Rudolph wasn’t about child abuse.” Because every time you do something like that, every time you play into that kind of outrage, you’re accepting and propagating the premise of the question.

You’re picking the side that wants to harm people because change is hard and scary.

Hey, I know. I’m busy and tired, too. I just want to pay my bills and walk my dog and watch cartoons on Netflix. But if I stick my head in the sand and only do that, people get hurt.

And because I’m not in favor of people getting hurt, I’m willing to devote what spare brain power and effort I have to thinking about this stuff and trying to make sure I’m not helping to create a world where LGBT+ people are killing themselves and non-white people are getting killed by cops all the time and women are getting raped and harassed all over the place.

That’s what this comes down to. One side, out of fear or laziness or hatred or some combination of all three, would rather hurt people than change. One side would rather change than hurt people.

Which side do you want to be on?

Photo credit: Buckley gingerbread men, U.S. Air Force photo. (Source and licensing.)