Yesterday was a pretty nice day. The humidity was tolerable, the temperature allowed for light jeans and a t-shirt, and the sky was clear. After I got my youngest daughter out the door to school, my 6-year-old and I walked to the ice cream place. It was a pleasant little walk – she told me about her dream where Mario came to her dance class with her, then later sent a “help me” letter from the Mushroom Kingdom and she had to dress as a ninja to rescue him. She’s a pretty neat kid.
We arrive at the shop, and without even thinking she tells me she wants vanilla ice cream with chocolate jimmies. Considering this is the child who will throw Reese’s Pieces into her cherry water ice, she’s amazingly bland when it comes to ice cream, but I don’t question it. I walk up and place her order, “Vanilla cup with chocolate jimmies, please.”
For those of you who don’t live in the Northeastern United States, “jimmies” is a common word for sprinkles.
“You can’t say chocolate jimmies. That’s racist.”
I stood there, with my mouth slightly open like an idiot, staring at the barely-legal worker who just Starbucks’d me in front of my kid. I “can’t say” that? For real? Luckily my little girl was too interested in her Monster High keychain to realize that a barely 20-year-old had just turned her normally hilariously witty mother speechless. All I could muster was “The ice cream, please.”
For the record, even though I said “please,” my tone said something much more colorful and much less G-rated.
We left with ice cream, the girl was left with the type of unearned sense of importance that only a gender studies degree coupled with an unprovoked lecture can do to a person, and life went on. Only it didn’t, because I was still trying to figure out what the hell was racist about chocolate jimmies.
I shared this story repeatedly with every member of my family, and they all responded in the same way I did: mouth hanging open, eyebrows furrowed, and a total “nope” attitude. Despite all of the validation, I still wasn’t satisfied. I had no know where the heck this had come from.
Thirty-two seconds on Google gave me my answer: Snopes had covered the “racist” origins of the word jimmies, the rumors that had led to that assumption in the first place, and alternate theories of the origins of the word (all of which were very much so not racist), eventually leading to a determination of “probably false.” Probably, because it is virtually impossible to prove a negative. The fact that many of us over in this corner of the world consider both chocolate and rainbow sprinkles to be “jimmies” alone disproves the claim of racism, despite many people trying to spin it that “only the chocolate ones are called jimmies.” Sorry guys, but Wilton disagrees.
Being the rational, level-headed grown-up that I am, I decided to complain on Twitter. Most people responded with the same level of disbelief as me; however, one gentleman decided to label me a racist “soulless ginger” and an “ignorant red haired pale freak” who refuses to acknowledge that I’m being offensive.
Now that you have the long-winded introduction, this brings us to the real point of this article. Should something be determined “offensive” based off intention or interpretation?
Also yesterday, critically acclaimed voice actor Troy Baker quoted a joke that his friend, Brian Foster, had made. The joke was “Brett Michael looks like Mickey Rourke tried to become Caitlyn Jenner.” It was in quotes and attributed to Foster, and yet Baker received massive waves of abuse, accusations of transphobia, claims that he “attacked” Caitlyn Jenner, and even encouragements to kill himself.
It’s a shame when there are people who would much rather choose to be offended than laugh,” Baker responded, followed shortly after by an “I quit Twitter.” He deleted the tweet with the joke and has not returned since.
And you know what? Baker is absolutely right. While there are certainly things that people can be rightly offended by – mostly statements used with the intention of being offensive – many people currently make a conscious decision to be offended by innocuous things. Was this a transphobic comment? Hardly.
Ignoring the fact that it was a quote attributed to someone else, the joke remarked on the appearance of Bret Michaels, and even a little bit about Mickey Rourke. Caitlyn Jenner? Not so much. But sadly, this is the result of placing any person, particularly a celebrity, on a pedestal for no reason other than their identity. Any comment about that person that is not entirely made of sunshine and admiration is immediately determined to be an attack – regardless of context, and regardless of intent – on not only them, but their identity as well.
There is a term that the radical social justice crowd likes to use when “sexism” isn’t applicable to a situation, and that term is “benevolent sexism.” Benevolent sexism is defined as “a subjectively positive orientation of protection, idealization, and affection directed toward women that, like hostile sexism, serves to justify women’s subordinate status to men.” In other words, it’s treating women better than you treat men because you feel as though they require protection.
That’s fine, two can play at this game. I hereby introduce to you the concept of “benevolent transphobia,” the idea that trans men and women are so incredibly sensitive and incapable of handling their emotions that they must be protected – at all costs – from innocent jokes that have nothing to do with them. Congratulations, brave harassers of a voice actor, you are officially all bigots. I hath decreed it!
OK, I can be serious. Promise.
The internet has allowed for all people to be judge, jury, and executioner, enforcing a sentence with minimal evidence and maximum support. I’m sorry to break it to you, but “outrage” anymore has less to do with personal morals and more to do with wanting to feel “right.” Becoming offended over something innocent, be it a joke about a once-sexy rock star or a common word used to describe a delicious sugary topping, is the very essence of outrage culture. Some people might be happy being perpetually angry. Me? I choose to laugh… and to eat.
For the record? Bret Michaels totally does look like Mickey Rourke tried to become Caitlyn Jenner. That Foster fellow is onto something.
Troy Baker was unavailable for comment as of the time of this posting. This article will be updated with any additional comments or information.
Liz Finnegan is a soulless ginger with no political leanings. Pun enthusiast. Self-proclaimed “World’s Okayest Person.” Retro gaming contributor for The Escapist.
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