Why Protecting The Free Press Is Our Most Important Job Right Now

Why Protecting The Free Press Is Our Most Important Job Right Now

My voice is just as important as any one else's, regardless of political party.
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Last week I read a great article from the New York Times by Jim Rutenberg headlined "Independent Press Is Under Siege as Freedom Rings." Reading it around the Fourth of July, I remembered the value of our First Amendment and its true meanings.

Here are a few things that bother me: people who yell ignorant, racist, homophobic, or misogynistic slurs and think that they get a free pass because of "free speech." Free speech does not encourage a shut-down of everyone whose beliefs do not align with yours. And this behavior is certainly not something that should be encouraged by others (let alone our president.)

What should be encouraged is a civil and rational discussion of viewpoints, especially opposing ones, that end in a better understanding of each other. Realizing that there cannot always be a compromise, and realizing that neither party's mind will be changed by these discussions, is crucial. But if we can understand each other better, at least we are moving forward.

Here's where the free press comes in: if our president slams every news outlet which does not praise him to the ground (yes, I am referencing the aggressive tweet towards CNN) how can we even begin to engage in this two-way discussion?

And why is it that the people who yell "free speech" when they want to insult someone are the same people who yell "fake news" when a journalist calls our president out on his wrongdoings?

If you have free speech, then so do I. I deserve just as much opportunity to express my opinions against President Trump as someone who agrees with him. That is what free speech means. It runs both ways. We have left-wing news outlets, and right-wing news outlets, and independent news outlets. We don't just pick one. That isn't free press; it's censorship.

I reserve the rights to make my own decisions, have my own opinions, and maintain self-respect. None of that will include being silenced out of fear. Just as other people will have their say, I will also have mine.

For me, protecting the freedom of the press is important because it means protecting my ability to say what I want to say, write what I want to write, and be who I want to be without fear. President Trump will not get a "free pass" on attacking journalists for doing their jobs.

The New York Times reported Courtney Radsch, advocacy director for the Committee to Protect Journalists, stating, "Targeting individual journalists or media outlets, on- or off-line, creates a chilling effect and fosters an environment where further harassment, or even physical attack, is deemed acceptable." I could not have said this any better myself, and I commend Ms. Radsch for all her work.

To cower in fear of a loud-mouthed, ignorant figurehead is to disrespect myself. To feel as if I have to hide my opinions is to disrespect myself. To think that I cannot stand up to a disrespectful man because he is the president is to disrespect myself.

And I will not disrespect myself.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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No, I Don't Have To Tell You I'm Trans Before Dating You

Demanding trans people come out to potential partners is transphobic.
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In 2014, Jennifer Laude, a 26-year-old Filipina woman, was brutally murdered after having sex with a U.S. marine. The marine in question, Joseph Scott Pemberton, strangled her until she was unconscious and then proceeded to drown her in a toilet bowl.

Understandably, this crime triggered a lot of outrage. But while some were outraged over the horrific nature of the crime, many others were outraged by a different detail in the story. That was because Jennifer Laude had done the unspeakable. She was a trans woman and had not disclosed that information before having sex with Pemberton. So in the minds of many cis people, her death was the price she paid for not disclosing her trans status. Here are some of the comments on CNN's Facebook page when the story broke.

As a trans person, I run into this attitude all the time. I constantly hear cis people raging about how a trans person is "lying" if they don't come out to a potential partner before dating them. Pemberton himself claimed that he felt like he was "raped" because Laude did not come out to him. Even cis people that fashion themselves as "allies" tend to feel similar.

Their argument is that they aren't not attracted to trans people, so they should have a right to know if a potential partner is trans before dating them. These people view transness as a mere physical quality that they just aren't attracted to.

The issue with this logic is that the person in question is obviously attracted to trans people, or else they wouldn't be worried about accidentally going out with one. So these people aren't attracted to trans people because of some physical quality, they aren't attracted to trans people because they are disgusted by the very idea of transness.

Disgust towards trans people is ingrained in all of us from a very early age. The gender binary forms the basis of European societies. It establishes that there are men and there are women, and each has a specific role. For the gender binary to have power, it has to be rigid and inflexible. Thus, from the day we are born, we are taught to believe in a very static and strict form of gender. We learn that if you have a penis, you are a man, and if you have a vagina, you are a woman. Trans people are walking refutations of this concept of gender. Our very existence threatens to undermine the gender binary itself. And for that, we are constantly demonized. For example, trans people, mainly women of color, continue to be slaughtered in droves for being trans.

The justification of transphobic oppression is often that transness is inherently disgusting. For example, the "trans panic" defense still exists to this day. This defense involves the defendant asking for a lesser sentence after killing a trans person because they contend that when they found out the victim was trans, they freaked out and couldn't control themselves. This defense is still legal in every state but California.

And our culture constantly reinforces the notion that transness is undesirable. For example, there is the common trope in fictional media in which a male protagonist is "tricked" into sleeping with a trans woman. The character's disgust after finding out is often used as a punchline.

Thus, not being attracted to trans people is deeply transphobic. The entire notion that someone isn't attracted to a group of very physically diverse group of people because they are trans is built on fear and disgust of trans people. None of this means it is transphobic to not be attracted to individual trans people. Nor is it transphobic to not be attracted to specific genitals. But it is transphobic to claim to not be attracted to all trans, people. For example, there is a difference between saying you won't go out with someone for having a penis and saying you won't go out with someone because they're trans.

So when a cis person argues that a trans person has an obligation to come out to someone before dating them, they are saying trans people have an obligation to accommodate their transphobia. Plus, claiming that trans people are obligated to come out reinforces the idea that not being attracted to trans people is reasonable. But as I've pointed out, not being attracted to trans people supports the idea that transness is disgusting which is the basis for transphobic oppression.

The one scenario in which I would say a trans person should disclose their trans status is if they are going to have sex with someone and are unsure if their partner is attracted to whatever genitals they may have. In that case, I think it's courteous for a trans person to come out to avoid any awkwardness during sex. But even then, a trans person isn't "lying" if they don't come out and their partner is certainly not being "raped."

It is easy to look at the story of Jennifer Laude and claim that her death was due to the actions of one bigot. But it's more complicated than that. Pemberton was the product of a society that told him that disgust towards trans people was reasonable and natural. So when he found out that he accidentally slept with a trans woman, he killed her.

Every single cis person that says that trans people have to come out because they aren't attracted to trans people feeds into the system that caused Jennifer Laude's death. And until those cis people acknowledge their complicity in that system, there will only be more like Jennifer Laude.

SEE ALSO: Yes, You Absolutely Need To Tell Someone You're Trans Before Dating

Cover Image Credit: Nats Getty / Instagram

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Denial Of Service Is Not 'Liberal Hypocrisy' If You're Actually Complicit In Discrimination

Honestly, that's a weak insult.

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The United States has been politically divided for centuries, but the division has been exacerbated by the election of President Donald Trump. In most cases, the divide is between liberals/Democrats and conservatives/Republicans. It extends to every issue, from gun control to evolution. To each side, something is usually the other side's fault.

Common arguments that liberals hear from conservatives are that we are "hypocrites" and " sensitive snowflakes." But many — not all — of them do not realize the nuances of the issues at hand.

Recently, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was kicked out of a restaurant, the Red Hen, in Virginia because she works for President Trump. Naturally, both liberals and conservatives went nuts, albeit for different reasons. Liberals cheered the restaurant, while conservatives criticized it in the media and posted bad Yelp reviews.

Some then came out and directed their anger at liberals, calling them hypocrites for complimenting the Red Hen. After all, liberals got angry about Memories Pizza, the pizzeria in Indiana that refused to cater or serve gay weddings.

The difference is that liberals are only throwing hate and anger toward people who hate or support the discrimination of minority groups.

Think about it. Where was the conservative outrage after the pizzeria debacle? It was non-existent. Instead, Memories received over $50,000 from supporters. Where is the Republican outrage now that the Supreme Court has gone against the Constitution and upheld the Muslim ban? Yet liberals are the ones "spreading hate."

That is not to say that each and every individual Republican or conservative is a bigot. But the simple fact is that they are still siding with racism, sexism and other prejudices. They're still supporting these things through inaction and by voting for those candidates. In other words, they're complicit.

That is why we liberals are so angry — because hate toward oppressed people is winning out. And no, conservative white women actually do NOT count as the oppressed.

Why is having empathy for people who are different from us considered so terrible?

Yes, ideally we would all band together to improve this country and move it forward. Sadly, that will probably never happen in this lifetime.

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