Whatever one may think of the US, the recent #TakeAKnee controversy has highlighted its memetic status as “land of the free”.
Last season, a number of largely black NFL players began kneeling instead of standing for the pregame national anthem to protest police brutality. To American patriots, the symbols of the country are held in a quasi-sacred regard. Many of these same people often declare themselves champions of free speech, but believe that the right shouldn’t extend to “denigrating” the anthem or the flag. Seems a little hypocritical, doesn’t it?
When this attitude reaches government level, it becomes authoritarianism. Donald Trump wants the NFL to expel all players who “take a knee” or otherwise protest while the national anthem is playing. So far, he has yet to take action while the #TakeAKnee movement spreads out of American football and even worldwide (there are rumours that several international footballers will do the same during the next round of World Cup qualifiers). You know why it’s spreading worldwide, Donald? Your big mouth. You are threatening to take away freedom of expression and we won’t stand (literally) for it.
Freedom of speech is about the freedom to state something and freedom for people to disagree with it. This is what’s happening right now. Nobody’s being prosecuted, nobody’s being attacked, and I hope it stays that way.
In shades of the Emma Watson controversy from a few months ago, it’s no surprise to hear Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke talk about the abuse she’s recieved from radical feminists because she happens to do nude scenes. After all, the Dworkinistas argue that women are forced into such, that porn in particular is misogynistic violence.
It’s an attitude I find hypocritical. Feminism used to be synonymous with “women’s liberation”, ie. giving women the same rights and freedoms as men. If a man can choose to go into porn or do a nude scene on a TV show, surely a woman can. Her body, her choice. The fact that proponents of this have to call themselves “sex-positive feminists” is a reflection of the splintering of the feminist movement. Merely calling yourself a “feminist” is no longer good enough. You have to qualify it with whatever special interests you have within the sphere.
So why be against a genre which allows women so much freedom? It’s not like incidences of sexual assault in clothing-optional industries go unpunished, nor are they as frequent as the opponents claim.
And if you don’t like it, why not just live and let live? There are a lot of things I don’t like but I’m not calling for them to stop.
It is my belief that writers should write what they want, how they want.
There is a misconception prevailing in some circles that, for example, a writer who writes a racist character must be racist themselves. They twist our works into manifestations of subconscious bias. And I find this ludicrous coming from a background of literary criticism.
Firstly, they fail to realise that writing is by and far a left-wing profession. I have yet to meet a writer who is openly on the right. The left wing almost always depicts the racists, the sexists, the homophobes, the general bigots, as the bad guys. That’s most likely what they’re doing here.
Secondly, to suggest that a writer is bigoted for writing a bigoted character is a baseless attack on their integrity intended to pigeonhole them into writing “acceptable” characters. Let’s say a protagonist is a reformed racist skinhead who spent twenty years in jail for murdering a black man. The character struggles with his new life and trying to expunge racist thoughts from his head. This is a fantastic, gritty, realistic character but they’d still think that the author is racist for writing about his battle. The very best characters have layers of good upon bad upon good upon bad, skeletons either in or out of the closet. If these people had their way, we’d only be writing characters who wouldn’t seem out of place in a 14 year old’s Undertale fanfiction*.
So don’t let anyone shame you for what you write. There should be no limits to the greatest gift of them all- the imagination.
*This is not a dig at fanfiction, a hobby I strongly support in order to help the creative mind blossom. In fact, I have an old essay on the subject in which I argue this very point.