[Disclaimer: I have white, cis, and straight privilege. If I fuck up anywhere in this, please tell me.]
When did it become worse to be called racist / sexist / transphobic / classist than to actually say racist / sexist / transphobic / classist shit? I suspect that the answer is that people have always considered this to be the case, but I still don't understand why. Why do people think it's worse to have their prejudices pointed out to them, than to be on the receiving end of the prejudiced abuse?
I recently had some issues with my sister on Facebook. She has a tendency to post things that any not-racist person would consider to be racist (as do a lot of my family unfortunately), and when she does I usually point out that it's racist. I don't ask her to remove it, I don't call her a racist, I just point out that it's racist and explain why when she defends it (because she always defends it). I'm not talking subtle stuff here either, it's stuff that is very obviously racist. Apparently this makes me the worst person in the world. She recently used this as an excuse to try and make me feel ashamed of taking anti-depressants when I was pregnant and then cut off all contact with me. Completely blocked me on Facebook, and hasn't responded to the email I sent her.
Now, I'm not saying this just to whine about my sister (although I am mightily pissed off, and pretty upset), but to show that again it's the person perpetuating the oppression who is claiming to be the victim when their oppressive bullshit is pointed out.
I have a friend who recently accused me of 'policing Facebook' and asked if I thought my right to not be offended was more important than his right to say offensive things. He's a middle class man who posted a classist picture and didn't have a problem with it being classist, presumably because he has class privilege and doesn't need to worry about people thinking he's stupid because of the way he pronounces certain words, or thinking he's untrustworthy because of the area he grew up in. I dearly love this man, he's one of my best friends, and I was so upset when he didn't get why this was a problem. We still haven't talked about it, because I'm frankly terrified that if I do I'm going to lose another friend. (I have borderline personality disorder and one of the ways it manifests is a conviction that if I express anger with someone, or show then I'm upset with them in any way, they'll leave me. Obviously the situation with my sister hasn't helped this feeling.).
Let me be clear on this: this is not about being offended. I say shit that will offend people all the time. I swear a lot, I criticise religion, I recently called Chris Grayling a cunt on Twitter, I regularly make comments about certain politicians that a lot of people would find very offensive. The difference between these things and saying something racist or sexist or classist is that they are punching up, not down. The people I say offensive things about are the people who already have all the power and privilege. The offensive stuff I say is not further marginalising an already marginalised group. If you're saying something offensive about a group of people who are already treated badly you are not just being offensive, you are doing actual harm and contributing to a society where the oppression of that group is normalised and accepted.
If you don't like it when people point out that you're saying something oppressive, maybe you should stop saying oppressive stuff. Otherwise, stop whining about people pointing it out because you are not the injured party here.