Jia Tolentino’s ‘No Offence’ feels like such an important moment. It perfectly captures so much of what we’ll confess to sisters and friends over a glass of wine, but would never dare say online.
“And so, there is an unspoken, horrible idea that contemporary political activity starts and perhaps ends with building a really good politicized identity—a process that, again, relies on disapproval, disaffiliation, offense. As tired as the Jezebel-as-offense-factory expectation is, we still get a constant stream of emails asking why we haven’t stated our outrage at one thing or another, telling us that not taking umbrage will weaken our general stance. Offense masquerades are seen as so politically useful that there’s a whole subgenre of rhetoric centered on offense taken hypothetically. What if this post were written about a woman, we conjecture, in the light of our own self-approval. Would you still be offended if the clock had been a bomb?
What? And yet this system of loaded identity formation is impossible to get around on an internet that is socially mediated, where instead of receiving ideas, we receive reactions to those ideas first. Then, further, we are encouraged to react to—to approve or disapprove of—other people’s reactions. This chain of reactions doesn’t do anything; our opinions are useless. But we are so very interested in them, because we are incentivized to be. Social media’s conceptual home base is personal identity, constructed via opinions—it’s your face and whatever you disapprove of, more or less.
So we say who we are by announcing what offends us. We prune our personal stances into intricate dioramas; we call these stances an identity; we call it all action, maybe even progress, where some are concerned.
The feminist dream of being unconstrained by other people’s opinions has been replaced, for the feminist website (and I think, for individual feminists), with a noose of daisy-chained ideas from people who don’t even have the decency to admit they find it more politically productive when you’re wrong than when you’re right. I can’t think of an obligation that feminism ought to have lifted faster than the obligation that a woman construct her life around agreement—and yet, this year, it seems like this is exactly what many people understand feminism, within its own sphere, to be.”