How to write NON-OFFENSIVE THINGS

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I'm a little stunned I even need to write this chapter....

Some people seem to believe it's okay to say something offensive to someone. Or for our purposes, write something offensive in our stories, be it a racial stereotype or calling someone with a mental disorder "crazy".

There seems to be two common justifications:

1. "If you get offended by that, you're too sensitive. There are other people who won't get offended by that, so you shouldn't either."

2. "It was just a joke! Lighten up! You're taking things too seriously."

This isn't about a character who is actually a douche and supposed to be offensive because they're the villian/antagonist (Gaston! I hope you've seen the videos of Disneyland Gaston *grins*) or just a really disagreeable protagonist, because the writer will show why those offensive words/actions are, well, OFFENSIVE. And bad. And they'd have negative consequences for one or all parties involved. Writing an offensive character is usually a promotion AGAINST making offensive statements.

But then you get that one person who seems to believe one or both of those above justifications.

Okay... so going by that line of thinking, if I called your shirt ugly, there are other people who won't feel insulted by that, so it's okay for me to call your shirt ugly.
Or if you have cancer and I make a cancer joke and you don't take it well, you need to lighten up! Maybe there's some cancer patient who'd find it funny, so that means I can go around making cancer patients the butt of my jokes.

I hope you see the issue here. If not... I don't even know what to say to you right now.

Please gauge your writing with harsh scrutiny for any statement that can come across as offensive to someone. Those can be things like characters calling each other "retards", grouping all mental disordered people as "insane" or "cukoos" or "crazy", making any disabled person the butt of a joke, making generalizing statments about a race, culture, nationality, etc.

There can be tactful ways to pull this off, for example Toph from ATLA, who's blind, cracking blind jokes about herself. (yay Toph once again is a great example of doing it right! lol) But she's a strong character who uses her disability to her advantage (she likely never would've gotten so good at earthbending if she had sight and didn't have to rely on vibrations in the ground to "see") so she's comfortable with her blindness and finds it amusing/eyeroll-worthy how her friends sometimes forget she's blind because she can function as well as any non-blind person, if not better.

However, there's just a lot of content that can be hurtful to someone or belittle them, even unintentionally. That's why it really pays off to educate yourself in ALL types of people. School doesn't teach you this. Look at personal accounts. My friend was just diagnosed with fibromyalgia (a chronic pain and fatigue disorder), so I searched the #fibromyalgia tag on tumblr and found a blog dedicated to fibro and disability in general. Incredibly eye-opening how much these people suffer, being in constant pain so crippling that they're bedridden for days, or so fatigued that they can't get up to do the dishes. Having the strength to do homework is actually a big accomplishment, one they look forward to! It's so unfortunate how hard they have to fight to get through their day.

And then on top of that, having a disability gets a stigma attached to you. People can be so incredbily judgmental and ignorant:

"You're too young to have such painful joints!"
"Really? You think they'll stop hurting if I show them some ID?"

or

"It must be nice to stay in bed and do nothing all day."
"No.
It really isn't.
I used to really, really love my bed.
But now, bed means pain.
Bed means not spending time with family and friends.
Bed means nothing gets done and that on good days, I find a house that looks like crap and not only a sink full of dirty dishes, but an entire counter of them.
Bed means life interrupted and things missed out on.
Bed means pain so miserable that I can't even care about these things while I'm in the grip of it.
Bed means my life really sucks right now.
No.
It isn't nice at all."

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