Freedom of Speech.
That has become the catch phrase lately for anyone to say anything they want, especially hateful, abusive, discriminatory, sexist things. It has become the fall back defense for people who think their right to say and do whatever they want trumps other people's rights to feel safe and secure from harassment and abuse.
The past few weeks have provided abundant examples of this freedom's potential to be hurtful and hateful:
- Dolce and Gabana's statement about IVF children which has prompted a huge response from celebrities and non-celebrities alike.
- A fraternity busted for a posting pictures of (mostly unconscious) women in compromising positions trying to argue that, because it was a private Facebook page, it was their right to post anything they want especially because "everyone does it."
- ABC making a completely horrific and irresponsible statement on their show Secrets and Lies that "Hemophilia is the nasty bi-product of incest." They have since re-aired the episode, editing out the line, but have NOT MADE A PUBLIC APOLOGY OR RETRACTION
It doesn't work that way.
Words (and pictures) have power. In our society, what we say is often out there for the world to see, and will stay there forever. If the only voices allowed to speak loudly and freely are the ones spouting negativity and hate, and if the loudest, most powerful voices--for example a media outlet like ABC--doesn't use their voice (by apologizing loudly and clearly) to correct mistakes, then the only things heard are the ones that spout negativity, doubt, hatred, confusion, misunderstanding. The power of these kinds of words fuels hate, war, crime, violence.
[caption id="attachment_8946" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Words I often use.[/caption]
I realize that even the nature of my writing this post comes from the concept of free speech. But does that give me permission to spout every hateful thought that comes into my head, regardless of the consequences? I know that some of my ideals and beliefs aren't palatable to many. I am a feminist, pro-choice, non-practicing Jewish, liberal woman who believes that race is a cultural construct, there should be restrictions on gun ownership, and women should have full autonomy when it comes to their bodies. I believe that education should be creative and available to everyone regardless of gender, race, sexuality and that testing should be limited. I believe that the wealthiest among us should help the poorest among us, and that wealth does not equal superiority. I believe that people should be able to marry whomever they love, and that the Bible was written by men who wanted to control property and women (who were considered property). I believe that rape culture does exist, and that climate change is scientifically proven. I believe in evolution.
I also believe that people have a right to their opinion. They have a right to voice that opinion, even if it contradicts mine. However, I have the right to say "No!" I have the right to control my blog and not allow hate speech on there. I have the right to speak out against those voices screaming words of hate.
Not only do I have the right, but I also have the responsibility. I think that is the element that people are forgetting--with freedom comes responsibility. We are responsible for thinking before we speak, for protecting those who need protection rather than promoting harm, for taking care of the world, not just the small group of people who think/act/talk like us.
If we can't handle that freedom responsibly, do we deserve to have it?
[caption id="attachment_8947" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Important words from this post.[/caption]
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