“Hey, man! Is it Penn State or State Penn?” the drunken football-watcher called. “I don’t know, man! Isn’t it the same thing?” his companion guffawed back. Stuck sitting right in front of them, I sighed to myself, “Well that was creative and not offensive at all.”
In our expanding and diversifying world, comments like these are unacceptable. I acknowledge that plainly voicing ideas can easily offend someone. The standards of political correctness are often oversimplified and oversensitive.
However, common courtesy and civility should be remembered. Sharing opinions is different from ignorant insults, and some comments are simply unacceptable.
Highly emotional situations, like football games and political debates, are a natural part of our society. In these contexts, emotions and opinions become potent.
While this is a natural interchange, standards still exist for the use of language. Too often people go too far, get too aggressive and say more than is suitable. Common courtesy establishes boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable language and behavior.
At Saturday’s football game against Penn State, I encountered a flow of blatantly unacceptable behavior. My friends and I had the misfortune of sitting in front of a group of drunken, aggressive and insulting guys. Before the play clock had even started to run, the boys were cursing at each other, insulting the players and cackling at “child rapist” jokes.
I’ll admit it was an intense game. I understand this. I grew up on Husker football and have always been emotionally invested in the team. I’m among the first to voice my frustrations or to shout encouragement. Sometimes I’d like to see the team commit fewer penalties and diversify their plays.
Regardless, fans need to take a step back from their emotions. Football games aren’t war. There’s no need to wish death or serious injury on the opposing team, coaches, families or fans. The other team is just a group of college students. They’re trying to play their best and show their school spirit. Just like us. They don’t deserve to be personally attacked or belittled.
Furthermore, there’s no need to degrade one’s own team. Stop criticizing the work of everyone on the field. The players have been training for weeks. They know how to play the game. The coaches know what they’re doing. They have years of experience doing it. The refs aren’t blind (most of the time). Fans should remember these distinctions. If they can’t, they should get down on the field and play the game themselves. There’s a difference between maintaining frustrated support and being blatantly offensive.
At the Penn State game, however, I heard language that was intentionally insulting without justification. Throughout the game, they guys used “rape,” “retarded” and derogatory terms for the female body as insults for each other, other fans and everyone on the field.
Terms like these attack a broader audience than just the specific target. They belittle everyone associated with the term. By using terms for my body as insults, they were insulting my body. I was offended because I don’t appreciate portions of my anatomy being connected with stupid behavior.
Gee, I’m sorry that my reproductive organs look different from those of guys. I don’t see what’s inherently funny about them. I’m really not sure why there are many “creative” terms for them. Being offended by this doesn’t make me a crazy feminist who can’t take a joke. It means that I’m aware of words that are used and what they really mean.
Like degrading the female body, using “retard” as an insult assumes that being associated with someone who has a mental disability is shameful. Furthermore, it assumes that there’s something inherently wrong with having a mental disorder. This assumption is absolutely incorrect.
I’m sorry to bring up politics so soon after Election Day, but a prime example of these wrong assumptions occurred during the recent presidential debates. Following one of the first debates and an interview with the president, Ann Coulter, a conservative pundit, referred to President Barack Obama as a “retard” in two tweets. I realize that like football mania, political rhetoric can become intense. But comments like these, especially about the president of our country, are unacceptable.
Fortunately, Coulter was called out for her comments by John Franklin Stephens, a Special Olympics athlete. Stephens penned a polite but straightforward open letter to Coulter in which he established the innate problem with her comments:
“After I saw your tweet, I realized you just wanted to belittle the President by linking him to people like me. You assumed that people would understand and accept that being linked to someone like me is an insult and you assumed you could get away with it and still appear on TV. I have to wonder if you considered other hateful words but recoiled from the backlash. Well, Ms. Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor. No one overcomes more than we do and still loves life so much.”
Obama is just a person. Stephens is just a person. Football players are just people. Politics are just politics. Campaigns will pass. Games are just games. Win or lose, we’ll play another day. Such simple and transitory events don’t require the degradation of entire people groups.
Use strong language, if it’s appropriate. Go ahead and curse, if that’s how you feel. Hell, I do it all the time. Don’t censor your ideas if they’re thought out and expressed intelligently. Political correctness prevents anyone from saying anything without insulting someone.
I’m talking about common courtesy. I’m saying think about the words you’re using, what they actually mean and if they’re appropriate. Words are powerful. Think about how what you say can impact those around you.
AMY KENYON IS A SOPHOMORE ENGLISH AND THEATER EDUCATION MAJOR. REACH HER AT OPINION@DAILYNEBRASKAN.COM