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Freedom of Speech vs. TW

Updated on July 9, 2017
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I have a B.A. in English with a minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies. I've been a Goth since age fourteen, and a Pagan since age fifteen.


Anyone who knows me knows that I like to make people laugh whenever possible. I like to mix intellect with humor, every time I can. I’m a member of a group for genderqueer people. For those who do not understand what that is, kindly refer to my article on the topic. Someone requested terms that their boyfriend could call them that would be gender-neutral. What a great idea. I saw some lovely examples.

Of course, I had to be funny to lighten the mood. So, I thought “What is the most gender-neutral term a Dom/Domme calls their sub?” Technically, thinking on it, pretty much any term could be used interchangeably, but at the time I thought “bitch” was the most amusing. I didn’t bring up that I meant it in terms of a BDSM relationship, but thought it would translate quite obviously: "Your bitch? I think it's gender-neutral, these days." To make it more clear that it was a joke, I included a wink.

Multiple users found it funny. The one who posted the original question, however, did not.

It would have been one thing if they had simply ignored my joke, which is what I would have done in their position, had I not found it funny; instead, they decided to act as though I had said the most offensive term that exists in the English language. First, they insinuated that I’m immature for finding it funny, saying that they’re “too old” to think that way. I would normally let this go, but I had done nothing wrong while they chose to insult me. I responded, "I'm 29. Let's hope that I never lose my ability to make or take a joke, then. That would be an unfortunate way to live." Again, I added a wink face.

This is when another user with a masculine name chimed in to inform me that the term is “sexist.” Well, I would never have known that! Thank you! In all of my twenty-nine years of having a feminine appearance, though identifying as genderqueer, I have never been called that as an attempt to insult my gender. I finally responded with this:

“I'd like to note the humor that a person with a masculine name is telling someone with a feminine name that the term is 'sexist.' Alert the media! I've never been called a 'bitch' for my intelligence and self-esteem because it threatened a dude! If it weren't for this lesson today, I never would have known that it could be used as such! How dare I take away its power by embracing its meaning, and willingly use it as a joke in other circumstances, too! I should be living a life of fear when I see a word that was originally made to refer to a female dog. Oh, yes, I guess women are the weaker sex. I should simply abide by this idea, and stop disarming the patriarchy."

After this, I saw another response from the original poster. They were claiming that because they had a traumatic experience in which they were called a “bitch,” the word is now a “trigger.” The real story was that they had been attacked, and called a bitch during the attack. This comment inspired people to decide my joke was horrible.

I did respond one last time, which made the point that the traumatic attack should be worse than a word that was used during the attack. Furthermore, the word used during the attack does not grant the victim a privilege of deeming it so much of a “trigger” that the world is now not allowed to use it around the victim.

This brings me to the point of this article: Freedom of speech vs. Trigger Warnings.

In films, for example, we have awareness of what the film will be about. It’s not a mystery. People don’t go to the movies for a new film without having a clue as to what it’s about. They go because knowing about it made them want to see it.

Let’s take the controversial 13 Reasons Why series. After there was a suicide by someone who watched it, people with depression were angry that there weren’t “trigger warnings” before the show.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the plot of 13 Reasons Why: “The series revolves around a high school student, Clay Jensen, and his friend Hannah Baker, a girl who committed suicide after suffering a series of demoralizing circumstances brought on by select individuals at her school. A box of cassette tapes recorded by Hannah before her suicide details thirteen reasons why she ended her life.” [Wikipedia]

Yes, clearly it needed a trigger warning before the show starts. Reading the synopsis has no indication that it’s about suicide, and it’s the creators’ fault that someone imitated it. (sarcasm)

Political Reflection

I used to consider myself very liberal. I thought that being liberal meant being for equality, and fixing what’s wrong with society. You look at conservatives and think, “Wow, how backwards.”

Now, I look at the people I used to consider my allies and think, “What’s wrong with you?”

I used to think that when the Left would say “The Right is trying to make us look like we want more than equal rights,” they were being truthful. In reality, a lot of the Left really is looking for more than equal rights.

We used to want simple things: Equal rights for everything. Now, it’s “Why isn’t the world looking at me like I’m more special than everyone else because I’m [insert social group]?”

The Left is making me sick.

If the Right uses religion for profit, the Left uses human rights the same way. Each side pretends to fight for what’s apparently missing in society. In reality, neither cares. They’re only furthering the selfishness in society.

Have your trigger warnings. There are examples of situations and ways to use them that make sense. The article "Here’s What Trigger Warnings Are – And What They’re Not" is well-written, and makes fantastic points about helping those about to view things that may trigger them.

You don’t harass someone for hours for using a word that was used during your traumatic experience. Anyone who sympathizes with you is sick. Embracing harassment because the harasser went through something traumatic is disgusting.

What’s next? While walking down the streets of New York, when a stranger you pass says “bitch” during their own conversation, you proceed to follow and yell at them because they used one of your “trigger words” in your presence?

Where does it end?

© 2017 social thoughts


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