Plenty of outrage in the news this week, a couple of celebrity gaffes.
There was a bit of it from an acquaintance of mine on one of them yesterday. Professor Stephen Hawking said something about not understanding women, and she took offence at that. For her it was a feminist issue, and worthy of railing against.
I have to say, I don't see it. It was a little old-fashioned, maybe ill-advised even, but offensive? Not really. Just a slightly silly off-the-cuff remark from a 70-year-old academic. And septuagenarian academics are not exactly known for being in touch, are they.
The whole thing got me thinking. I cut Professor Hawking some slack, not because he's famous or because he's in a wheelchair, but because he's getting on a bit. His world view was formed in the 1950s. It's a bit like your slightly embarrassing elderly aunt who comes out with well-meant pronouncements that were what passed for politically correct politeness when she was a girl in the 1930s but sound ever-so-slightly racist in 2012. There's that rather awkward silence round the dinner table, nobody wants to make a fuss because the poor thing's out of touch and obviously didn't mean it in quite the way it slipped out, but nobody knows quite what to say.
I think my acquaintance didn't show herself in the best light by her reaction. There are battles worth fighting and there are others which merit little more than a humorous rebuttal. When there is so much real hate speech in the world it's perhaps as well to concentrate on that rather than fire off on the silly.
There are times when I wish more people thought a little before speaking. When everything we say contributes to our image and credibility, best to make every word count.