The Inappropriate in the Age of Cancel Culture
Testicles, Spectacles, Notebook, and Pen (Vol. 3; Issue 16)
Passionate reactions to a story of uttering testicle within the sacred confines of an Apple store are unsurprising, but why still stronger reactions to reflections on the word, inappropriate?
Because trigger warnings, political correctness, cancel culture, and universities’ lists of forbidden words remain disturbing and oppressive.
Because the gratification and prestige offered by teaching at universities has morphed into a constant tension.
Genitalia are one thing; censorship and fear, another.
Readers’ responses to last week’s newsletter deserve thoughtful responses, but first some further context. We live in an interpersonally fearful age—an era creating tension descending into the depths of the unconscious mind. For example, why do I feel nameless dread while writing at this moment? Does it emerge from a fear of censure or banishment?
An excellent example of projecting responsibility (because projection involves agency, not just emotion), I offer a few choice selections from Chris Rock’s recent Netflix special, Selective Outrage, for background. His thesis is simple: The outrage expressed over certain types of everyday speech is selective.
Rock opens by commenting:
Everybody’s scared. If you’re a certain age and you go to work, you are fucking scared. In the old days, if somebody wanted your job, they just worked harder than you. Now, somebody wants your job, they just wait for you to say some dumb shit. I have no problem with wokeness. I’m all for social justice. I object to the selective outrage.
Businesses no longer describe their products. Instead, they tell you how much charity they do. They say, “We give back.” “We like to give back.” “We don’t even like the money.” I’m in the mall the other day, and I went by that store, Lululemon. Every one of their outlets have signs saying, “We don’t support racism, sexism, discrimination, or hate.” If they sell $100 yoga pants, then they hate somebody. I’ll tell you who they hate: They hate the poor!
In his typically irreverent style, Rock mocks our reversed McCarthy-like political situation. Like Rock, I, too, support social justice and attention to marginalized groups. But I, too, think it’s over the top. Rock continues to highlight its absurd absolutism with bits like:
If my father became a woman, I would accept it ’cause I’m an artist. Now, my brothers drive trucks, so their reaction might be a little different than mine. Especially my older brother, Andre. He drives an 18-wheeler. He’s a Raiders fan. If my father became a woman, Andre would object. That would be a very testy Christmas—to say the least. My brother Andre would be like, “Man, fuck that shit, man!” “Why you got the heels on?” “Why the wig?” “Nah, I ain’t shaking your hand.” “I don’t want none of that trans to rub off on me.”
I would have to step in and be the voice of reason. I would have to check my brother. I would have to walk up to him and proclaim, “Hey! She’s your daddy!”
Rock entertains, he spins fictions. But consider a recent truth. Although it backed away since, in May 2022 Stanford University administrators published an index of forbidden words to be eliminated from the school’s websites. The initiative, published by the university's CIO Council and People of Color in Technology affinity group, sought to eliminate racist, violent, and biased language in Stanford websites and code.
Their list of the inappropriate is followed by their suggested “inclusive replacements.”
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Journeys Into the Unconscious Mind to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.