A girl gets raped by a teacher and a commenter on the news article says she
was “asking for it.” A hue and cry of rape culture follows. The commenter
stands by the original statement and adds that she was probably wearing
something provocative and was old for her age. It is explained to the
commenter that these are all standard responses from someone immersed in
rape culture, that victim-blaming is part of what creates the perfect
conditions for rapists to act with impunity. Some of the respondents are
more aggressive, creating an us versus them dynamic. The commenter angrily
declares that this is a free country and he or she can say what she wants.
Freedom of Speech!
America, can we talk?
For the most part, I love you. Seriously. I mean yes, I'm a politically
moderate feminist, which means I find myself mad...a lot, frankly. But I
But my love is a tough love. And there is a problem. An arrested
In elementary school when someone said “Shut up” the standard answer was
(and I dare to stay still is) “It's a free country. I'll say what I want”.
Which is perfectly fine 8-year-old logic.
Thing is, America, I see a lot of adults using this same counter-argument
all the time.
Every time someone says something racist, sexist, or rape apologist and is
called on it I see the same sad, sorry response. “Don't censor me! This is
America! Freedom of Speech!” The peanut gallery adds a chorus of “We have
a little thing called the Bill of Rights! First Amendment!”
Let's take a look at the First Amendment, with some emphasis added, shall
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech,
or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to
petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
See that? The Amendment provides Freedom of Speech... from the government.
Not people. Not society. In fact the way human society works is we keep
each other in check and weed out undesirable behaviors using peer pressure.
When a person says or does something awful, it is imperative to society's
forward movement that we do so. This is how civilization was built. And
here in America, this is how we get to that much lauded “more perfect
Screaming censorship or wrapping yourself in a false banner of freedom of
speech is a tool for stopping conversation. For stopping progress. For
keeping old paradigms of inequality and hate in place. Using “freedom” and
your “rights” as the unassailable bubble wrap protecting your hate takes
the dreams of Americans wishing to live in a land where all people are
created equal and distorts them. The Bill of Rights was created to prevent
tyranny, not to create a myriad of small tyrants. By accusing people of
censorship and infringing on your rights you are casting yourself as a
victim and negating all personal responsibility for maintaining civil
So, grow up America. Get a grasp of the rights that you have and go argue
with someone. But if someone tells you that what you are saying is
unacceptable, first stop and think about what you are saying. And then if
you are still set on your position, find a different tack. Try logic or
past precedent to prove your point, but unless you are talking to a
government official, don't cry censorship or scream about your First
Amendment rights. Civil communication moves us all forward.