The “policing” of free hate speech

This article popped up in my Facebook feed yesterday because a friend shared it. Before you click the link, be forewarned it may be highly triggering due to the transphobic language. Yes, it’s bad enough to put it in bold, red letters. The summary alone includes quotes which are so offensive that even someone ignorant of trans* issues would recognize them as hateful. I’m not joking. Unless you have an extremely strong constitution, I recommend against listening to the broadcast, which is linked in the article. The extracted quotes are bad enough.

Rochester Radio Hosts Mock Transgender People in Disturbing, Offensive Segment

It speaks for itself. There’s no need for me to say anything about how horrible those comments were. Besides, anyone local to me who has ever heard Kimberly and Beck knows that they are Grade-A Jerks. That is what they do; they’re paid to be awful. I think this one is particularly bad, given the fact that they were responding to trans-friendly local legislation. It’s also frustrating given that I live in a city that, while conservative in some ways, is better than average regarding LGBTQ issues (though there’s always room for growth, of course). But I’m not writing today to call for their heads on a platter, or even their permanent firing.

When I posted this, the responses were interesting. (Side note: Anyone who thinks people under 21 aren’t articulate, intelligent people able to hold their own in a debate does not know my friends.) Naturally, one of the things that got invoked was “free speech.” Dear God, why is that the first thing that’s trotted out in response to assholes spouting off? I mean, I would think that the first response to the article might possibly be, oh, I dunno, “Wow. It sure is crappy that trans* people have to put up with hearing that shit on the radio. Maybe I’ll go check and see if my friend/family member/stranger I interact with on the Internet  is okay and didn’t have a massive anxiety attack triggered by that.”

Besides the obvious lack of compassion, the other thing I don’t understand is why anyone would bother trotting out “free speech” in the first place. My commentary on the article when I posted it to Facebook:

This carries a very heavy TW for incredibly offensive transphobic language and commentary. Read at your own risk. Also? SCREW THEM. I already don’t listen to them (they’re God-awful and annoying as it is). But this makes it a billion times worse. And now I’m telling everyone else to not listen to them.

I never once demanded they be fired or disallowed from broadcasting. I said I didn’t like them, and I said I was going to discourage other people from listening to them. They are entirely free to spout all the garbage they like, and the rest of us have the choice to change the station. Which is exactly what I suggested doing!

Aside from the fact that I never threatened their right to free speech in any way, why are they the ones given that card to play? Do I not have just as much right to the same free speech? Just as they are (technically) free to share their disgusting views with anyone fool enough to listen, I’m also free to tell the world they are ass-hats. I posted on my own Facebook page that I don’t like them. I’m posting it on my own blog. Why? Because they spewed trash and I didn’t like it, and I’m allowed to say so. It’s not a zero-sum game. My freedom to discourage people from tuning in does not curtail their right to broadcast their nonsense.

Even if I were demanding they be fired or sending out a petition for such action, guess what? Still my free speech. Yep. Just because I say it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, and I’m absolutely allowed to say I think they should be dumped. And let’s not get into the fact that “free speech” is not the same as “consequence-free speech.” If  you violate the terms of your employment with your words, then you still get the ax, regardless of whether you had the “right” to say it in a Constitutional sense. (Also, please go educate yourselves on what is, in fact, meant by Constitutional freedom of speech.)

Whenever the “free speech!” argument comes out, I’d like to remind you all that it isn’t just bigoted radio DJs or Westboro Baptist protestors or Michele Bachmann who have the right to say whatever they want. Those of us who don’t like what they are offering also have the right to say so, loudly and often. We have the right to call them on their hate and encourage other people to stop listening to their shows, attending their churches, or voting for them.

Next time someone points to “free speech” as some kind of argument (for what, I’m not exactly sure), point out to them that you, too, have the same right.


The post-election post

I’m not going to waste my time or yours talking about “the issues” or who won or lost.  We have what we have because those are the people we voted for.  Perhaps many of us are disappointed; perhaps we are glad; maybe we don’t care at all.  In any case, there is not one thing we can do about it now.

What saddens me in the post-election haze is the way we continue to cut each other down.  There is nothing wrong with expressing our pleasure or displeasure at the outcome.  That’s a natural human reaction.  In the right context, and with the right people, it can be a very good thing—a chance to come together to talk about why we feel that way or what we might do to help make positive changes during the next four years.  I’ve seen plenty of this on both sides; I have some great friends who are gracious about their victory/loss.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot on the other side, too.  Not surprisingly, it’s mostly from people who identify as being on the “losing” side.  I’ve seen hateful things about how it’s a dark day for Americans (hello, I’m an American too, and I don’t feel that way); how all the “brown people” skewed the vote; about how we might as well start learning Chinese now in preparation for the takeover; about how we’re screwed as a nation and the country will be “gone” before the next election (zombie apocalypse?); about how overnight, the President somehow single-handedly caused the stock market to slump (what, all by himself?).  I’ve seen more than one person threaten to leave the country as a result.

Don’t think that I’m just blaming the “other guys” here.  I believe wholeheartedly that I would be seeing some very similar, and equally nasty, things from Obama supporters if Romney had won.  I have no doubt that sore losers exist everywhere.  I have no hope that my more liberal friends would be able to keep their mouths shut in the event of a conservative win.  (I am aware that many of them would, just as many of my conservative friends have been gracious.)

Today, I would rather celebrate some of the wonderful things that happened last night, and I don’t just mean who won the presidential election.  Among the very cool: We have an unprecedented number of women in the U. S. Senate (at least 19).  Really!  Not only that, the variety of people now representing our collective States in Congress includes Illinois’ first Asian-American Senator, who happens to be a disabled Iraq veteran; a Hindu Representative from Hawaii; Hawaii’s first woman Senator; the first openly gay woman Senator; and Massachusetts’ first woman Senator.  How cool is it that we are seeing progress happening right before our very eyes?

Instead of cutting each other down, let’s look for the good.  Let’s celebrate those milestones and pray that we see more of them.  Then, let’s work together for everyone’s benefit.  Today, I am proud to be an American and proud to stand with all my fellow citizens, regardless of political ideology.  How about you?

A vote of confidence

Today is election day.  I don’t feel like I want to share all the gory details about who I’m voting for (not to mention how tedious that would be, considering there are other offices besides President of the United States to be voted upon).  However, there are a few thoughts that ran through my head as I considered what to write about today.

First, I can’t remember any other election in which people were so damn concerned about what others do with their reproductive systems.  Sheesh.  The venom with which I’ve heard people speak is beyond shrill.  The vast majority has come from people who want more explicit rules about what can or can’t be done with said parts and who has to pay for it.  You know what?  Just shut up.  Don’t like abortion?  Don’t have one.  Don’t like birth control?  Don’t use it.  Don’t like same-sex marriage?  Don’t marry someone of the same sex.  It’s kind of simple.  While you’re at it, please get your opinions out of other people’s pants, bedrooms, and reproductive tracts.

See, here’s the thing.  I saw this on a friend’s Facebook thread regarding the Maryland marriage vote:

I just hope they will remember that it’s about more than their individual religious beliefs, it’s about very real rights and benefits being denied to very real gay couples.

Exactly.  This may be a philosophical debate on your part, but it isn’t for the actual people being affected by the creation or enforcement of biased laws.  This isn’t some abstract concept for the people whose rights have been denied.  And it’s not just about having a license and a special title or a wedding band and a registry.  It’s about having the right to be called the next of kin at the hospital and being allowed to leave all your property to your spouse without having anyone be allowed to legally question your lucidity or force you to pay inheritance tax.  You can’t deny people rights just because your definition of marriage requires a certain combination of genitals.

Second, it’s important that we exercise our freedom to vote and go do it with confidence in our choices.  It’s not necessary to get nasty about your political party or your opinion on the other candidate.  “I hate the other guy” is not a valid reason to vote for a candidate.  If you can’t find a good enough argument in favor of your candidate, you might want to rethink your politics.  It should be enough to argue for the person for whom you cast your vote.  Please also keep in mind that the President of the United States actually doesn’t have the power to single-handedly “destroy” the country, nor does he or she have the power to restore it to some unspecified glory.

Third, a vote for a third-party candidate is not a throw-away vote.  I’m not going to tell you that you should cast one, but if you are considering not voting third-party based solely on the notion that you might be responsible for the “wrong” person ending up in office, you don’t need to worry.  That’s the kind of lie that staunch people on both sides of the two-party divide like to use to convince you to agree with them about their candidate.  It’s a scare tactic, and sadly, it works far too often.  If you want to vote for someone other than a Democrat or a Republican, for any office, then you are free to do so.  Your vote belongs to you, not to someone else trying to frighten you into siding with them.  I made that mistake exactly once; never again.  In each election, I need to look at what I do and don’t like about every single person running, not just the ones getting all the publicity.

Finally, make sure you do get out there and vote.  This is particularly important for people who are not white, male homeowners.  People who came before us fought long and hard to make sure that every citizen has the right to vote.  I want my children to see that.  I want them to watch me doing legally what my forebears were arrested and fined for doing.

Go out there and make a difference.

Notable News: Week of October 27-November 2, 2012

Hey everybody!  Happy Friday.  Are you as glad as I am that it’s the weekend?  I’m ready to curl up with a laptop and some coffee and get some work done on my NaNoWriMo novel.  I’m a little over 4,000 words in, thanks to my patient daughter who spent a heck of a lot of time with her stuffed animals yesterday.

In other news:

1. Brave young women learning about life

17-year-old Ela donned a head covering and ventured out into the mall—only to face discrimination.  Every American Christian should read this post.  It will give you something to think about next time you’re tempted to cry “persecution.”

In a somewhat more strange tale, a college student attempted (and failed) to achieve ironic racism.  Instead, she just ended up punched in the face.  I’ll give her credit here, though.  At least she claims to have learned her lesson.  I only hope that she learns that not only is dressing as a racist not cool, it’s also not cool to dress as someone you merely label a racist.

2. Those sexy voting ads

I will admit it: I didn’t think the Lena Dunham ad was cute at all.  Call me square, but I found it more sexualized than sexy (yes, there is a big difference).  I get her point, but I was put off by the ad, and not because I’m conservative.  So in that sense, I think Anne Morse makes a good call.  As for the rest of the crap in Morse’s post, well, just read it for yourselves.  I like how she seems to believe that reproductive rights aren’t an important women’s issue or that the Obama campaign only talks about reproductive freedoms when it comes to women’s issues.  Guess she missed the memo on that whole “equal pay” thing.

3. Okay, I admit it, I’m bragging.

This never, ever gets old.  I’m on Fred Clark’s list of Christian women who blog.  That by itself is exciting.  But I’ve also had three of my posts mentioned in the last 5 or 6 weeks, including my post from Wednesday on reproductive rights and my review of A Year of Biblical Womanhood.  My sweet, innocent, not controversial at all (cough, cough) blog is getting some love.  If that’s not enough to brighten my week, I don’t know what is.

4. This week in reviews of A Year of Biblical Womanhood

Cheers to Team Dan and Rachel!  I suffered through 45 minutes of The View in order to see Rachel talk about the book for 4 minutes and Dan to answer one question about Rachel calling him “Master” during her project.  It was worth it!  (Not only did I get to see Rachel, I got all my chores done while I waited.)  If you missed it, you can watch here.  Then check out all the awesome things everyone is saying about the book at these links:

Book review (and call to arms) – A Year of Biblical Womanhood – Rachel Held Evans by Jessica Harmon

Eschet Chayil, by Emerging Anabaptist | Ryan Robinson

The Year of Biblical Womanhood, a Review, by Jessica McCracken

 Biblical Sex and Beauty, by The Emerging-Anabaptist | Ryan Robinson

A Year of Biblical Womanhood, by Tiffany Norris/No Faint Hearts

Struggling with the Bible is Not Unbiblical: #BiblicalWomanhood Review #1, Embracing the Odyssey

Review: A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans, by Natasha Crain (Christian Mom Thoughts)

A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans, by Rachel Tan

Why Biblical Womanhood Needs Rachel Held Evans, by Alise Wright

Making Peace With Proverbs 31 {A Year of Biblical Womanhood}, by Suzannah Paul | The Smitten Word

Open Letter to RHE, by J.R. Goudeau/Love Is What You Do (Synchroblog Link-up)

Reviewing A Year of Biblical Womanhood, by Biblical Woman

“Justice, Simplicity, and Legalism” by Ryan Robinson | The Emerging-Anabaptist

A Year of Biblical Womanhood {Or Accepting that Patriarchal Gender Roles are Part of The Matrix}, by Jessica Bowman

“Reviewing the Reviews of ‘A Year of Biblical Womanhood.” by Matt Mikalatos/Out of Ur

“Being A Woman just got easier” by Emily Ballbach

Book Review: A Year of Biblical Womanhood, by Amy Mitchell (Provoketive)

Biblical Submission, by Ryan Robinson | The Emering-Anabaptist

Women of Valor: Finding each other, by Rebecca Kirkpatrick/Bread not Stones

Loving the Bible For What It Is, Not What We Want It To Be, by Ryan Robinson | The Emerging-Anabaptist

We deserve better

Trigger warning for mentions of rape and stupid politicians.

In the last several months, we’ve heard a lot about “legitimate rape,” how women’s bodies are supposed to have magical properties to prevent pregnancy from rape, and that babies resulting from rape are ordained by God.  There’s also an ongoing battle over women’s reproductive rights, which is no longer about abortion but about birth control and women’s health services generally.

There is a clear link between the denial of reproductive care to women and the denial of women’s sexual agency.  When we feel the need to ask whether or not a rape was legitimate, or whether a woman is making up a story for revenge/attention, or what her state of being was at the time of the rape, then we are essentially saying that women don’t have any power over their own bodies or choices.  It becomes okay to suggest that a woman is responsible for the crimes committed against her.  “Legitimate rape” becomes “legitimized rape”—not a criminal act but a justifiable act.

In the same way, the denial of care and reproductive services to women is a refusal to acknowledge that women have choice and sexual freedom in the same way men do.  The people arguing that women should have to pay for their birth control are failing to understand one simple thing.  If women had access to inexpensive, over-the-counter birth control, we wouldn’t even be having this argument.  Anyone can walk into the drug store and buy a box of condoms*.  Heck, you can buy them just about anywhere, and they aren’t particularly expensive (even the “fancy” kinds).  Spermicide is also readily available.  But nearly all birth control for women is available only by prescription, and it’s costly.  When I was on the pill, I was shilling out $25 per month, and that was for the generic kind, with the bulk of the cost covered by insurance.  Semi-permanent birth control, such as IUDs, can cost as much as $1000.  That’s in the range of $100-$200 per year, but it must be paid up front.

I’ve been pondering this because the reality is that there is no escape from biology.  Human beings are capable of reproduction in the same way that all living things make more of themselves.  We happen to reproduce in a way that is (supposed to be) mutually enjoyable.  And unlike non-humans, we don’t just engage in mindless sexual activity driven by instinct.  We have the ability to choose our mates based on more than who’s in heat or has some feature required for the survival of the species.  That means that we can think about and choose our partners.  It also means that we can make choices about what we do with our bodies within those relationships, which includes the choice to have or not have children.

I have yet to hear anyone raging about the morality of anyone picking up a box of Trojans during their weekly shopping run.  But the outcry against women having birth control readily available to them has been huge and public.  I can’t help thinking that this has more to do with the continued forced control of women’s bodies than with any moral viewpoint or freedom of religion.

Without access to birth control, it makes it easier for those in power to control abortions.  If prescription methods are too costly, and abortions become legally unavailable, then what we have are women who are forced back into an era in which women have no sexual agency.  (And for the record, this includes married women.)  We are left with few options:  Rely on men to use condoms (good luck with that when he’s a rapist); accept pregnancy as often as it results (there are a number of problems with this); attempt to use some form of natural birth control (which can inhibit satisfying intimacy between partners); or resort to dangerous and illegal abortions.  In any case, women are no longer in control of our own bodies and sexuality; we are still at the mercy of someone else making choices for us.

I hope that the end result of this will not be to continue to spin our wheels talking about whether or not insurance should cover birth control.  It would be far better if we found a way to make women’s reproductive care more accessible and affordable.  We deserve better.


*If you’re in a non-monogamous relationship, or even engaging in serial monogamy, you should be using condoms anyway, regardless of the availability of other forms of birth control.  I know too many people who have gotten sick from partners who swore up and down that they were clean.  Public service announcement over.

Notable News: Week of October 13-19, 2012

In keeping with my focus on women for the next couple of weeks until the official launch of Rachel Held Evans‘ new book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, this week’s links are all about women.  (By the way, you can already order your copy of the book.  Yes, I’m shamelessly promoting it.  I’m more than halfway through already, and I hope to finish the book this weekend.)

1. If this doesn’t make you lose sleep at night, I don’t know what will.

Please go read this piece by Dianna Anderson.  Click on every single link.  I can’t fathom why no one has made any effort to stop creepers from taking photos of women and plastering them all over the Internet.  We are a seriously screwed up society when anyone thinks this is okay.  Also, I need to make a note here: I think that it’s pretty sad that any church is still teaching modesty as a way to avoid harassment and rape.  “Modesty” won’t spare anyone from these sick people taking pictures.  And if that’s true, then it’s equally true that “modesty” won’t spare a woman from incest, rape, harassment, stalking, or any other predatory behavior.  That’s because these people are perverts who don’t care about “modesty.”  How about instead we make sure that we take a stand against what these disgusting people are doing and prevent any more women from being violated.

2. Your WTH? moment for the week

I am so glad we have Matthew Dowd to explain to us What Women Want in a President.  I was feeling a bit conflicted about it, you know.  And I am so deeply disappointed that I married an Alan Alda-type instead of a John Wayne-type.  This is the mid-twentieth century, after all.  Oh, wait.

3. Get the hankies

This beautiful post by Leanne Penny will make you cry for all the right reasons.  It reminds me how much I miss my own mom, but how far I’ve come since she passed.  I know she would be proud of me.  Reading Leanne’s lovely words was healing for me; I hope it is for you, too.

4. This week’s posts about A Year of Biblical Womanhood

Thoughts about “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” by Rachel Held Evans by Roger E. Olson (Patheos)

Her Year of Living Biblically by Ruth Graham (Slate)

Christian Bookstores Refuse to Sell Lady Bible Book Because of ‘Vagina’ byLaura Beck (Jezebel)

Rachel Held Evans spends year living according to the Bible, literally by Jordan Chittley (Yahoo!)

Rachel Held Evans: A Woman’s Year of Living Biblically (Shine from Yahoo!)

On Rachel Held Evans and Why “Vagina-gate” Matters by Christian Piatt (Patheos)

A Post About LifeWay, Vaginas, and @RachelHeldEvans by Matthew Paul Turner

5. Don’t forget…

…to submit your essay for the contest.  The deadline is November 2!

Have a great weekend, everybody!  See you on Monday with a woman-centric post about Fifty Shades.

Notable News: Week of September 1-7, 2012

Forgive me for the news being thin this week.  I’ve been out of touch between vacation and the colds we’ve all been suffering in our household.  Only a couple of things this time around.  Enjoy, and hopefully I’ll be back at regular capacity next week.

1. Slacktivist on Politicized Facts

It’s been awhile since I’ve highlighted anything by Fred Clark, aka Slacktivist.  Here’s a good one.  I think much of what he’s said here can be applied to church debates, too.  I find that there’s a lot of fact-denial in many churches, particularly when it comes to science.  Better for us to stop arguing among ourselves about the facts and start asking ourselves how Jesus wants us to respond to the facts.

2. Australian Prime Minister Refuses to Speak at ACL

And…cue the Christian outcry.  Yes, Julia Gillard cancelled her speech to the Australian Christian Lobby.  Yes, it was because Jim Wallace made homophobic statements.  No, it isn’t the first time Jim  Wallace has said something stupid, and it probably won’t be the last.  I suppose I feel somewhat relieved to know that calling LGBT people “bullies” for asking for the same rights the rest of us enjoy isn’t just an American thing.  On the other hand, it sucks that anyone still believes any variation on the theme, “Those friggin’ gay people need to just shut the f*** up and stop screwing with MY RIGHTS to hate them!”

3. Alise Wright on God and Politics

I love the poetry of her writing.  Even when calling people out for something, she manages such elegant flow.  It helps that I agree with her, of course.
Have a great weekend, everyone!