Halifax lawyer and activist Kevin Kindred wants to ban the word "offended" from the English language.
On Friday, Kindred will deliver a lecture and public discussion entitled "How Not To Be Offended" as part of Halifax Pride Week.
Kindred says the admittedly tongue-in-cheek lecture focuses on how the word often derails debates or discussions. He says the word gets people’s backs up.
“I think about the word offended a lot. In my history as an activist, I’ve come across the word a lot and been asked if a particular thing is offensive or if I’m offended by something,” he told CBC’s Mainstreet.
“Sometimes we use the word and we mean, ‘I’m offended, my feelings are hurt.’ Or when we tell someone we’re offended, they interpret it as us saying our feelings are hurt, whether or not that’s actually what we intended to say and then we end up having the discussion about whether my feelings are hurt and whether I’m too sensitive when what I was probably trying to say was something more like using those words or saying that thing causes real harm to people. I’m not describing my state of emotion,” he said.
Kindred says the idea for the speech started to grow after an interview. He says he tried to correct the interviewer after she used the term sexual preference when describing sexual orientation.
“It’s an outdated way of describing it. It kind of suggests you wake up in the morning and have a different preference,” he explained.
But instead of focusing on why the term is problematic, Kindred says the interviewer was preoccupied about whether or not she had hurt anyone’s feelings.
“It should have been about learning the problem about that word and learning to say something different.”
Kindred says feeling offended is a real emotion, but using the word often leads to unproductive conversations.
He says he’s asking people to “own” their feelings and back up their stance with arguments.
“Don’t use an easy word that sounds like a bomb you can throw and run away,” he said. “Be more intelligent about what you’re trying to express by pointing out problems in what people are saying.”
Kindred says his lecture is a modest proposal because the word is never going to be scratched from dictionaries, but he hopes people will think about what they mean when they say offended.
“I think the phenomenon of being offended and trying to shut down other people from offending you or from offending others is counter-productive. It keep things hidden that ought to be laid out and explored even with all of their problems and warts.”