I read this blurb from Queerty about a rift between the University of Toledo’s college Republicans and their very liberal faculty. The young Republicans are crying discrimination, likening their situation to discrimination against – you guessed it – homosexuals. Now that we have seen the Right use all of our tactics against us, it seems that the gloves are off in the battle of who is most oppressed.
This is where I need to draw the most obvious and important distinction: disagreement does not equal discrimination. If liberal professors are disagreeing with conservative students, that’s called “classroom discussion.” If we call out every dissenting opinion we come across and cry discrimination, we’re undermining the very goal of eliminating discrimination by confusing and distorting its meaning. The freedom to express dissent is the greatest thing to ever develop out of our culture, and we need to think carefully about what offends us and why.
The College Republicans claim that the liberal faculty members “…have a bias… that might affect the way they are treated or graded.” If they could actually prove that accusation, it would be discrimination. Based on the evidence so far, it is only disagreement. Even Fox News presents this as blown out of proportion, and I think it’s illustrative of what we ladies get into when we discuss a heated topic about beliefs or identity.
Now step into your old women’s studies class for a moment, and think back to the times when someone cries/calmly states that, “what you said really offended me.” Time stops. In the one class that’s supposed to be free of discrimination, offense and most of the “isms,” you look like a big asshole. Did you say something disagreeable, or did you offend? Maybe you did a little of both, but the conversation has either come screeching to a halt, or people have starting telling endless anecdotes about their own similar but slightly different experience.
Before you know it, the kernel of that discussion has been lost. What the college Republicans are doing here is trying to tame the liberal professors by crying discrimination; this is something that both the Left and the Right has done for years. He who offends must shut the fuck up. Since we don’t want to raise our shut-the-fuck-up average anymore, let’s use our words wisely.
We have oodles of biased, discriminatory, offensive people in the world (like these college students, who are crying discrimination for losing their freedom to discriminate). I am not saying we should give these truly terrible people the time of day. I’m saying we should think carefully about the difference between disagreement and discrimination, for the sake of carrying a real discussion to a logical end.