Freedom of speech, it’s for everyone

A reader was kind enough to send me a link to just the sort of Fetlife thread that I like to rant about, so here goes. That thread is here, but I’ll summarize it quickly for people who don’t do Fetlife: some schlub is convinced that the answer to all of our female dom/male sub prayers is to make ourselves identifiable by, uh, putting paperclips on our shirt collars. Because getting shitty one-line messages from random asshats isn’t annoying enough, apparently I need to conveniently tag myself for further harassment in real life, waste my time making up excuses for why I’m wearing a paperclip, and run the risk of some total asshole outing me while I’m having lunch with my coworkers.

Shockingly enough, he didn’t react particularly well when people told him they didn’t like his idea, and started whining about how he has freedom of speech and everyone who exercised their own freedom of speech to tell him why his idea didn’t appeal to them is apparently a great big meaniepants mcpoopyhead. I know I shouldn’t be surprised anymore, but it always hurts my brain a little to see how fast men who supposedly worship women change their tune when women disagree with them. And for extra irony points, as far as I know everyone who said they didn’t like his idea was relatively polite about it and he still started whining and crying about what horrible people the supposed “haters” are.

I do want to acknowledge the one thing this guy didn’t get totally wrong, though. Usually when men complain about not being able to find dominant women to pester they don’t have any sort of suggestion to fix it. Mr Paperclips had a shitty suggestion, but at least he had one and I’m sad to say I’ve heard far worse. I may be in no hurry to explain why I’ve got a paperclip on my shirt over and over, but at least it’s less obvious than wearing handcuff jewelry or a t-shirt with a kinky slogan.

The part that makes me want to flip tables and set them on fire is the whining about freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is immensely important, I’m not denying that. However, Mr Paperclips’ freedom of speech was never under debate and never attacked in any way. Literally zero people said he didn’t have the right to talk about his idea, just that it was a crappy idea and they weren’t going to participate. What I truly wish the freedom of speech!!!11!!! whiners understood is that freedom of speech is for everyone. You get to have your opinion and so do I. I might even, horror of horrors, have opinions about your opinion, which I have just as much right to talk about as you do.

That kind of behaviour makes me seriously doubt that the freedom of speech whiners actually care about freedom of speech at all. If you even vaguely understand the concept, then it’s obvious it has to apply to everyone equally. Trying to shut down other people’s freedom of speech tells me that what you actually want is total freedom of speech for yourself and people who agree with you, and no freedom at all for people who disagree with you. We can all agree that’s shitty and hypocritical, right?

It would also make me really happy if people understood that freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences. That is, while I don’t think people should be jailed or face criminal charges if they’re not making threats or spewing hate speech, they should understand that acting like an asshole means that people might somehow get the idea that they’re an asshole and ban them from their group/forum/blog/website or otherwise choose not to interact with them.

And finally, I’m going to quote an xkcd comic that I think perfectly sums up the “freedom of speech!!111!!!” argument:

I can’t remember where I heard this, but someone once said that defending a position by citing free speech is sort of the ultimate concession; you’re saying that the most compelling thing you can say for your position is that it’s not literally illegal to express.

4 thoughts on “Freedom of speech, it’s for everyone

  1. I just recently had this very same conversation with someone, about the same issue. I basically explained that free speech is also consequential speech. What comes back all depends on what is said, and to whom.

    • It just bugs me that it even has to be said. Shouldn’t it be obvious that a) freedom of speech applies to everyone or it’s not freedom, and b) if you act like an asshole, people are going to make decisions about how to interact with you accordingly.

      As a bit of an aside, Dr Nerdlove recently posted a really good article about How To Share Your Unpopular Opinion (Without Being An Asshole). I think he does a really good job of explaining the difference between having an unpopular opinion and being a dick.

  2. Nope. What neither you nor Mr. Paperclip appear to understand is that Freedom of Soerch has nothing at all to do with speech among individuals. Here’s the text of the Constitutional amendment:

    “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech …”

    You see, it has nothing to do about posts on FetLife. It says the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT can’t abridge your freedom of speech. So people can disagree with you (as you rightly point out), and your boss can forbid you calling a client a big, fat jerk, and your mom can wash your mouth out with soap if you curse. And yes, absolutely, your words have consequences.

    But a post in FetLife is not a free speech issue.

    • I’m Canadian, as is Fetlife, so if you’re going to be an annoying pedant at least get it right. The correct quote (at least according to wikipedia) is:

      Freedom of expression in Canada is guaranteed by section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:

      2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: … (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication
      Section 1 of the Charter, the so-called limitations clause, establishes that the guarantee of freedom of expression and other rights under the Charter are not absolute and can be limited under certain situations:

      The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. (emphasis added)

      I thought it was fairly clear that I was talking about freedom of speech in the colloquial “I have the right to have an opinion!!11!!!” sense, not the charter of rights and freedoms sense, but I guess not everyone has particularly good reading comprehension. Say something worthwhile next time if you ever want another comment approved.

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