This is such a delightfully useful term. It’s a quick, simple, thoughtless way to dismiss other people’s feelings and experiences that seems to be a favourite among people today. You don’t have to think about it, you don’t have to consider changing your behaviour or your attitude – when you label someone as oversensitive, you are erasing their experience. It is a term held dear by the privileged.
If someone tells you you’re being racist/sexist/heterocentrist/whatever-ist, or something you said makes them uncomfortable… well that runs the risk of making you actually consider the consequences of what you’ve done, now, doesn’t it? But if you say to yourself “they’re just oversensitive”, that’s an amazingly quick way of putting it aside. You don’t have to reconsider your worldview when people are just “oversensitive”.
It’s a judgement term. Because it never applies to you. Like slut is for sexual activity – a “slut” is someone who’s having “too much” sex in your opinion, thus you are never a slut… “sluts” always have more sex than you. Oversensitive is just someone who is “too” sensitive… someone more sensitive than you.
Are they oversensitive, or are you just insensitive?
Why do people not consider that second half of the equation – themselves? Because that’s what using the term “oversensitive” is all about. Erasing your responsibility for your own actions and interactions with other people. It moves the problem from you to them, so that you never have to change.
Oh hello there, privilege.