Tuesday, January 15, 2008


I've been amusing myself lately by building the Official Blandwagon Hierarchy of Offense. As I've mentioned before in this blog, I find it telling that people tend to say "I find that offensive" these days, rather than "I am offended"... as if they've sat down with a calculator, crunched the numbers, and empirically determined the offense level without a scrap of emotion. Offense is an emotion, and yet the term is more often used in modern discourse as a label, with no more emotional resonance than the warning sticker on a laser pointer.

It began when I noticed that in public life Racism trumps Sexism every time. A man can get away with making a sexist comment by playing the race card against his accuser, but a woman can't use the gender card to get away with making a racist comment. Therefore Racism trumps Sexism. Then I wondered where other possible causes of offense fit into the hierarchy. Is age discrimination worse than gender discrimination? Is it safer to tell a nasty joke about fat people or about Catholics? After a good deal of thought, I've determined the hierarchy to be as follows:


is trumped by


is trumped by


is trumped by


is trumped by


Religion is at the bottom of the pile, probably because, unless you're a hyper-Calvinist, religion is a choice. Islam is sometimes an exception, because its image is deeply connected with race, but under ordinary circumstances "You just hate me because I'm Presbyterian" won't cut it with anybody.

As for age, to use an example from the presidental nominations in the US, if Fred Thompson said of Mitt Romney, "You can't trust Mormons because they're all crackpots" while Romney said of Thompson, "You can't trust old people because they're all senile", Thompson would come out of it a little better than Romney. Perhaps this is because we as a society feel more protective towards the elderly than we do towards the religious.

Fatism trumps Ageism, I think - in a job interview most bosses would be more comfortable dismissing an applicant for being too old than being too fat - but Sexism trumps Fatism. Fat is a feminist issue, after all, not the other way around.

However Racism trumps Sexism by a significant margin - black rappers can refer to women as hos and bitches without much comment, but a woman who speaks dismissively of "coloured people" is regarded as some kind of monster. Keeping with the presidential nominations, if Barak Obama said of Hillary Clinton, "I don't want that whore to be President", while she said of him, "I don't want that nigger to be President", we all know whose reputation would be damaged more.

Although it does work both ways. If Obama said, "Hillary would make a bad president because she's a chick", the censure, while huge, would be less than if he said, "Hillary would make a bad president because she's a cracker."

I'm still trying to work out where homophobia (or more accurately homo-ism) fits into the hierarchy. In the official sphere it would probably slot between Sexism and Racism, largely because gay lobby groups have worked the "victim" angle like pros over the last couple of decades. However the deference people publicly give "gay rights" and what they feel about it deep down inside are by no means the same thing, and in everyday circumstances sexism may just edge it out.


Anonymous ultrabert said...

And Personal Hygienism? Where does that fit?

12:35 PM  
Blogger Blandwagon said...

Well that depends. If it's a choice, then it's trumped by religionism. If it's a medical disability, then it may even trump racism.

Have you been a victim of Personal Hygienism? Into which catagory did you fall?

1:16 PM  
Anonymous ultrabert said...

I have been the victim of comments along the lines of "socks aren't meant to stand up on their own, are they?"

But choice? Your question probes the deeper issue of the nature of free will.

Perhaps Fate forged the relationship between myself and those socks: the haberdashic equivalent of attachment parenting.

12:40 PM  
Blogger He sings said...

Interesting entry. I disagree on two points:

1. If Fred Thompson said that about Mormonism, that would be seen as a much greater violation than a potential agism comment by Romney. In America, one's religion and the respect thereof is a sacred cow. (People may vote privately against Romney for being Mormon, but they would never say it aloud.)

2. I take issue with your statement about homo-ism ("In the official sphere it would probably slot between Sexism and Racism, largely because gay lobby groups have worked the "victim" angle like pros over the last couple of decades.") As a gay man, because saying such is the truth and lends my opinion more crdibility, this sort of statement smacks of bullshit rightist propoganda. About what "gay lobby" are you speaking?

The statement hints at a conservative notion that gays are a subgroup who are always working behind the scenes not just to better their own rights within society by legitimizing their homo habits in whatever ways possible, but are also demonly working to illegitimize the roots of morality and Christian society (things like the sanctity of marriage between a aman and a woman.)

I am happy to know that this is probably not what you meant by this statement. I just thought that I would point out the potential meaning for someone who has "gone to the dark side."

7:54 PM  
Blogger Blandwagon said...

1. Fair enough, he sings. I tend to forget that religion is taken more seriously in the US than it is in Australia.

2. These days most subsets of society have their own lobby groups (Christians, divorced dads, refugees, and yes, gay men). Maybe gays have been more notably successful because many of them have a talent for presentation, whether it be themselves, other people, hair, interiors or ideology. Yes I know that's a generalisation, but like most generalisations it has an element of truth.

11:47 AM  

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