The other day a guy I knew on Facebook posted a meme which hit every single one of my feminist points. He defended that I don’t get to decide what’s right and wrong. He defended his position that a version of this post with a woman looking disgusted is acceptable because he thinks it’s ok. I have some things to say about that!
Could I have scrolled past it and said nothing? Of course I could. The guy who posted it was someone I considered a social media friend. I pointed out this post saddened me as it’s a good example of rape culture. I was kind, polite, non-attacking. He chose to attack me for pointing out offensive sexual material pertaining to illegal sexual acts committed by a man and humiliating women in the process. I quietly unfriended him and left the groups in which he participated. I decided that with his attack and refusal to entertain that he could be wrong or view things another way, it was better for me to let him be on his way.
My point in writing this post isn’t about the incident with this person and who is right or wrong. It’s a reminder that in the USA we have freedom of speech. There are very few things which are prohibited legally. This right doesn’t mean that anything and everything one says is acceptable and right.
I can choose to use this freedom of speech to call blacks niggers. I could fill my social media world with hate speech. I could pass off jokes about transgendered people which are hurtful to them, their families, threaten their rights and makes them feel unsafe. I can pass off jokes about the Holocaust and be anti-Semitic. I can say horrible, hateful things about Republicans and pass things off as humor which encourage the degradation and harm of others. I have the right to do all of these things under free speech.
With rights come responsibility. What I joke about in the privacy of my own home with my friends and husband is extremely different than what I joke about in public. There is no chance for harming another with my humor. Inappropriate humor isn’t wrong. There is a time and place for everything. In the proper context there is the full knowledge that we are not being complicit in harming others. Not all humor is intended to harm despite how raunchy or socially wrong it is.
Joking publicly about sexual assault, illegal sexual acts, humiliating women, harming children and animals, hatred of a group of people whether it’s what you believe in or not supports those who are OK with those things. Silence is being complicit. Allowing social wrongs to happen and not saying anything is telling the world that you’re not going to say or do anything about what happens. You’re going to allow it to continue.
So yes, I could have chosen to look at this post as raunchy, inappropriate humor and scrolled on like so many people expect others to do. The rules to what’s acceptable seem to disappear when we sit behind a computer screen. If you’re offended, you’re wrong and weak. I chose to give someone I liked the benefit of the doubt that a polite comment about the message behind the post might offer a different point of view and open a conversation about his choice of posting material. I’ve had a few people tell me I should have just kept scrolling and ignored it.
At what point are we, as a society, going to start enforcing that there are limits of what you can say in public before you get called on it? I chose to be kind because the relationship mattered to me. Had I told him he was being a misogynistic ass encouraging illegal sexual behavior and he’s a creep that likes to humiliate women for not putting up with sexual assault… I wouldn’t have been wrong or outside the lines.
I say this over and over again, what you put anywhere on the internet isn’t private. Others see it. You MUST take responsibility for what you put out there. What you say and do in public, including the internet, is what people will think of you. None of us are required to comment nicely or just scroll if you’re spewing crap. Take responsibility for what you put out there!! With the right to freedom of speech comes the responsibility to use it wisely.