Monday, May 10, 2010

The Blogging Gender Gap

At RT I was moderator for the HOW TO BE A BLOG QUEEN panel. There were two guys and two gals speaking and I was the youngest (in terms of years blogging and number of average hits) so perhaps my opinion shouldn't carry as much weight. But when the topic turned to "things you shouldn't blog about," there was a definite gender divide. The other woman and I thought it was wise to avoid politics, but the guys liked to stir the pot. Their blogs are visited by tens of thousands of people a day. 'Controversial' translates into lots of hits evidently.

Controversial translates into "gut-wrenching" for me. People get enough aggravation watching the news. They don't need it from me.

But John Scalzi said something that did make sense to my mind. He said "Own what you write." By that he meant state your opinion clearly and be prepared to stand by it.

But still, I don't write techno-thrillers or political espionage. I write romance. Historical romance, at that. My characters might be Whigs or Tories but who cares what my political thoughts are?

There is a highly successful writer here in New England who gives a political diatribe instead of talking about writing every time she's asked to speak. I don't agree with her politically so it's frustrating to listen when I'd really rather hear what she has to say about the craft and business of writing. But she "owns what she says."

So, at the risk of controversy, I'm prepared to do a little pot stirring today. It's something I feel strongly about. It's the First Amendment.

Recently in California some high school boys were threatened with explusion for wearing t-shirts with American flags on them on May 5th, Cinco de Mayo. The rationale for sending them home from school was that hispanic students would be offended.

That's a weak argument.

The first amendment doesn't guarantee the freedom of only non-offensive speech. This is America. We can say (or in this case wear) any silly thing we like. Whether we offend people or not.

The creators of South Park are developing a new show called JC in which a character representing Jesus is supposedly adapting to life in Manhattan. Will it be offensive to Christians? Bank on it. Do I wish they wouldn't do it? Of course. I don't like seeing anyone's faith demeaned, especially my own. Do I support their right to do it? Absolutely.

I also uphold my right to not watch JC. Or patronize any of the show's sponsors. That's how the first amendment works.

Those kids should be allowed to wear their flag t-shirts any day they please. And hispanic students should be able to wear shirts with flags of their choice. And NO ONE should get upset about it. This is America. You can say (or wear) what you want. And if you hear or see something that offends you, you don't have to listen or look. What you shouldn't do is threaten violence or try to silence the person who offends you. I had a civics teacher who always said, "My rights end at the tip of your nose." Makes sense.

Ok, now it's your turn. Say any silly thing you want.


Kim in Baltimore said...

Thanks, Emily, for a thought provoking post. The comment "Own what you write" is great advice but today’s technology and culture encourages bloggers to leap before they look.

As a military veteran, I wholeheartedly defend anyone's right to free speech. But I also remind bloggers about the responsibility that comes with free speech. I have read some blogs that challenge an issue with the intent of addressing it. I respect that approach. But I have also read some blogs that provide useless, even destructive, words that simply serve as a means for the blogger to see his/her name on the Internet. I have no time for that. But these bloggers still have the right to free speech. I would hope, though, they realize the precious gift of free speech and find a way to celebrate it rather than abuse it.

EmilyBryan said...

Agreed, Kim. There are plenty of bloggers who delight in offending as many people as possible.

Wouldn't it be fun if they were simply ignored?

librarypat said...

Thanks for a thought provoking post, Emily. I had not heard of the flag T-shirt incident you mentioned. Things are getting out of hand. Take it a step further and do not allow anyone to wear jewelry depicting religious symbols. No cross or star of David necklaces. Do not allow women/girls to wear scarves on their heads. All because someone might be offended. That makes as much sense as complaining if someone wears an Earth Day T-shirt. It is not just the First Amendment that is being forgotten. This country was founded on freedom in your beliefs and tolerance, neither of which is very widespread today.
Many have forgotten that the richness and greatness of this country is due to the rich diversity of the people who have come here and made it home.
A growing vocal group has been shouting that this christian country has no room for those who do not share their beliefs. The Founding Fathers kept religion out of the government and the running of the country. They included the freedom to worship and believe as you wish. That extends to everyone, not just those who share the christian faith. They forget the original religion in this country was not Christianity. A benediction at a public event has often turned into an in your face christian challenge. These same people who feel they have the freedom to speak their piece, would complain if the benediction prayer were from the Moslem, Hindu, Buddhist, Wicca or other faith. They are all valid and represent portions of the population.
The venom that is coming from some bloggers and radio & TV personalities is frightening. It is hateful, destructive, inflammatory, and often outright lies. They are trying to stir up a mob and are using freedom of speech as a weapon/excuse. They forget that every freedom also entails a responsibility.
It is becoming frightening to see this freedom being used in an attempt to destroy the system that guarantees it. I don't know what the answers are, but our country is in deep trouble if the current atmosphere of intolerance and self-righteousness continues.

EmilyBryan said...

Pat--I'm not offended by public prayer no matter who's doing the praying. At the rate we're going, we need all the prayer we can get.

That said, prayer is usually a very personal, very private thing. A public prayer tends not to be directed to God. It's more for the consumption of the people who are listening. It's like a speech given with everyone's head bowed and eyes closed.

I wonder if we'd have the same complaints about public prayer if the ones doing the praying were truly talking to God instead engaging in thinly veiled preaching.

librarypat said...

So true, Emily. And that is the problem. I do not mind public prayer and a moment of silence and reflection. However, since moving to the South, more often than not they turn into "Praise Jesus and Hallelujah!" sessions. In a public forum, where the prayer is meant for all in attendance, if God is mentioned it should be in general terms so it applies to which ever deity a person worships. Unfortunately, that is not the case here. It is an atmosphere where Catholics are not Christians, and if Jesus isn't your Savior and the King James Version isn't your Bible you will burn in Hell no matter what your beliefs are.
Many priests have said that our religion the path we have chosen. It is the right one for us. Others have chosen different paths and that is OK, it is right for them. Neither is better, just a different way to get to the same place. I just wish more people would see it that way and not constantly force themselves on everyone else.