In the United States, the First Amendment of the Constitution prohibits the infringement of certain rights, like practicing one’s chosen religion and speaking openly and freely. It is the definitive promise to citizens of the country not to hinder their right to be themselves. Yet if some were to have their way, the First Amendment would be modified to assert that one person’s right to free speech ends where another’s feelings begin.
Many modern western “progressives” feel that there are only two types of speech: that which is politically correct and that which is hate speech, middle ground be damned. Honest criticism of a particular religion or movement is immediately deemed to be hateful, with the critic branded any of a number of “-ists” or “-phobes.” The voicing of a particular opinion that the moral watchdog brigade view as potentially insensitive grants the speaker that same branding.
Seems crazy, right? So, the big question: how are they so successful?
Intersectional feminism is the concept that varying configurations of oppression exist in relation to a person’s gender, race, sexuality, etc. Therefore, under a single cloak, a variety of societal issues are addressed. On paper, this may sound good. However, this type of movement lumps people together by shared demographic, while demonizing a very specific type of person (white, cis, straight, male) with the black and white assumption of X = Privilege, Y = Oppression, without accounting for class, medical and life experiences, or any other conditions that contribute to an individual’s struggles in life. By combining all aspects of sociological activism, a persons dispute of one facet of the movement serves as disapproval of all aspects. By criticizing feminism, you can now simultaneously be sexist, transphobic, homophobic, and racist. Additionally, it serves as a self-appointed monopoly on equality designed in such a way so that any alternative methods are not good enough.
We have officially entered the age where personal ideology and politics have entered every discussion, and shaming tactics have been utilized to preemptively silence any and all dissenting opinions. Male critics of feminism have been labeled as misogynists before they’ve opened their mouths for their first debate. Female critics of feminism are labeled as conservatives who hate themselves, clinging to traditional values in an attempt to pander to men. Christians who happen to support the free market are homophobic. Anyone who voices discomfort over a transwoman using a ladies restroom or changing room is automatically transphobic.
Thoughts, words, and images- regardless of how clear their message may seem- have and will always be open to interpretation, with context added at the viewer’s sole discretion. Thus, the marriage of any medium with political or social insensitivity has always been a possibility regardless of intent. Today, however, it is less of a possibility and more of a guarantee.
Feminism is defined as the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men. Many vocal detractors of the movement cite the hypocrisy of advocating for equality through segregation. Any mention of issues of inequality that men face are often met with disdain or open mockery. The phrase “Male Tears” is available on a variety of novelty mugs, used with the intention of mocking the concerns and even suffering of men. Any accusation of misandry is met one of two ways: justified as a necessary resource for women to raise up against their patriarchal oppressors, or denial of its existence. The term sexism has widely been redefined by the court of public opinion in order to add the stipulation of power plus prejudice. Because the antiquated expectation of using words as they are defined directly hinders a woman’s ability to discriminate against men without repercussion.
While feminism is a very specific movement, many have grown to view the term as synonymous with “women.” Any who identify as anti-feminist or, god forbid, egalitarian, are immediately branded as anti-women. Any person, male or female, questioning any aspect of feminism’s current Western mission is immediately labeled a misogynist. Additionally any company producing any content, or any figure making any statements, that serve to offend the loudest advocates are met with tantrums, threats of boycotts, and public slander.
National Cleavage Day was started in 2002 by the company Wonderbra, as a means of empowering women and encouraging them to embrace and celebrate their curves. On March 27, 2015, #NationalCleavageDay was used on Twitter to spread images in a fun and lighthearted way. However, when Microsoft’s Lionhead Studios shared an image of a busty barmaid holding foaming mugs of beer in front of her chest from the years old game Fable under the hashtag, the internet erupted. Lionhead was accused of sexism, insensitivity, and encouraging a mindset that women were not welcome in gaming. Somehow.
The tweet was promptly deleted, and an apology issued, stating “Diversity and inclusion are values we uphold here.”
Antisemitism is defined as the prejudice against, hatred of, or discrimination against Jews. Islamophobia is defined as the prejudice against, hatred of, discrimination against, or irrational fear of Muslims or Islam. Muslims or Islam.
The stark and immediate difference between the two is that antisemitism is considered an act of prejudice against a person or group of people. Islamophobia is is considered an act of prejudice against a person, group of people, OR a religion. Islam is a religion, an idea, and as long as believers in the religion are permitted to practice their faith they are enjoying their rights under the First Amendment. People are protected by the First Amendment, not ideas. Religious believers are protected by the First Amendment, not religions.
Religion has no rights. Those who practice the religion do. Have I said it enough times yet?
Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born into a Muslim family in Somalia. She was subjected to female genital mutilation at a young age, and fled to the Netherlands to escape an arranged marriage to a distant cousin, where she was granted asylum and eventually citizenship. Defying all odds, Hirsi Ali was successful in school, and in life. Yet by speaking out against Islam’s promotion of honor killings and female genital mutilation, Ayaan was granted the social justice version of the scarlet letter.
The newest wave of social justice seduces participants with the promise of protection, empowerment, and advocacy of those who have been historically disenfranchised: women, minorities, immigrants, and victims of sexual assault to name a few.
Why, then, was Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Women’s Rights Activist who has long campaigned to raise awareness of violence against women, not invited to the cool kids table and offered support as well? Because Hirsi Ali has been branded Islamophobic, and due to a combination of her criticism of Islam and her recent public criticism of modern Western feminism’s focus on “trivial bullshit,” has received minimal support from those operating under the cloak of “intersectional feminism.”
The socially constructed protection of ideas that is extended to Islam and a variety of other religions stops existing whenever the dread word “Christianity” is uttered. The recent implementation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana left many proponents of LGBT causes infuriated. While mostly containing language that addressed employer/employee relations, a gray area loophole was discovered that would allow for the denial of services by a company based on religious purposes. Emotions regarding this bill ran so high that even non-religious cheerleaders of the free market were written off as homophobic bible thumpers.
Sensitivity in words is not expected when addressing those who hold any perceived “privilege” or “power.” This is typically equated to straight, white, non-trans men and religious conservatives. The promotion of misandry, anti-white, and anti-Christianity speaking has become so commonplace with the growth of internet “activism” that such sentiments carry little surprise anymore. The increasingly common slogan of “punch up, don’t punch down” has been implemented widespread in order to shelter women, minorities, and gay people from awful things like “jokes” and especially “satire.”
While LGBT people in the United States indisputably encounter more inequality at a government level than any other group (marriage equality is jumping out at me), you often hear less about the government sanctioned discrimination and more about manufactured slights fueled by faux outrage. Often, extremists with any sort of agenda, noble or not, will add context to a statement in order to be able to portray it as an attack on a historically oppressed group. It is a method which increases personal relevance, as well as self-victimization.
Obsidian, creators of the game Pillars of Eternity, recently came under fire for the content of one of the graveyard epitaphs in the game. The content was written by one of their backers after contributing a certain amount of money during development. The writing was vague, considering some read the statement as being about a man who got drunk and had an accidental homosexual sexual encounter, and some saw it as the promotion of “transmisogyny” and threatened to boycott the company. While the content was removed, celebration was short lived. The backer created a new epitaph, mocking the outrage the first one caused.
If you haven’t played the game, it also features a tree with the bodies of dead children hanging from its branches – a feature that few people discussed, as they were too busy adding context to a quote in order to make it offensive.
Whether you agree with Lionhead Studios, or Hirsi Ali, or Obsidian is irrelevant. The issue is whether their right to free speech should be respected. Cultural advancements occur as the result of scrutiny, and scrutiny can not exist without free speech. Yet any issue claimed as the pet project of the “social justice” crowd is not afforded the same opportunity of examination that brought the historical cultural advancements of our country.
Tolerance is a mindset that every individual is capable of. Tolerance comes from a place of understanding. Understanding comes from critical thinking and asking questions. And yet, tolerance of alternate lifestyles and belief systems is being demanded while limiting access to the necessary components of understanding.
In recent months, the politically correct have waged a war of ideas. Proponents of pre-approved sensitive speech employ shaming tactics and assign labels to any person, company, or industry not entirely compliant with the checklist of pre-approved representation and execution of their particular product. Fear of what such irrational branding could mean for their livelihood often leads to self-censorship. Those who don’t comply are left tarnished.
Once upon a time, ideas helped shape a person’s identity. Now, ideas are a person’s identity. The challenge of an idea is seen as a dangerous and violent attack on a person’s character. You can not utter the phrases “men’s rights,” “violent extremists,” or “biological sex” without a mob of the verbally trigger happy ready to tell you why you’re the worst person in the world.
The combination of a one size fits all movement with shaming tactics, manufactured outrage, and the preemptive character assassination of any detractors has made this a terrifyingly successful campaign.
The First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech was not enacted to protect opinions that are popular, or easy, or even kind. If only unchallenged and majority-accepted opinions were allowed, then no such protection would be necessary. Freedom of speech is a promise to protect the speech of dissenters from government intervention. No speech is protected from criticism, a sentiment that once encouraged a thriving society of debaters. Ideas are not protected, but a person’s right to have and share them is, and always should be.
America is currently in the throes of a cultural civil war. The war of ideas. The war of freedom versus feelings. And with companies, industries, and even politicians in fear of the negative branding that automatically accompanies even the slightest dissent, the laissez faire approach is no longer an option.
*This article is riddled with my opinions. Because this is my blog, and I can do that. I welcome any and all debate on the issue, because I feel strong enough about my convictions to be able to handle criticism of them.