Monday, November 11, 2013

It's Time to Censor Censorship

As far back as I can remember, I have had a book in my hand. Around the age of ten, I started reading my mother's Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and John Saul books. I watched HBO and The Movie Channel late at night unsupervised. When questioned about my reading material, my mother would respond with "she understands what she is reading." And I did. I was emotionally mature enough to understand what I was reading and anything that I didn't understand, whether it be words I was unfamiliar with or situations I just had no frame of reference for, I asked. This is how I grew up. While my parents didn't share my musical tastes, they never told me I couldn't listen to a certain genre or band, didn't make me cover my eyes during scenes of nudity in movies. My parents didn't believe in censoring me, or censorship in general.

Growing up like this, it was always a shock to go to friends' houses where censorship was present, where certain types of music were verboten to the point where CDs were confiscated from bedrooms during school or outings (even after the age of 18). I didn't understand why the coddling was necessary; wasn't their child going to get the literature/music/movie/whatever outside of the home?

I often see on Goodreads threads that start out "what age is appropriate?" when it comes to books, especially the classics. There really isn't such a thing as an appropriate age for a book, in my opinion. The appropriate age is when the child is emotionally ready to read it. Granted, emotional maturation usually follows a certain steady path, but others (like myself) mature earlier than others, or have a higher reading level than other children. If a child is intellectually curious enough to read a book on their own, they're going to ask questions if they don't understand-- it's part of that whole "intellectual curiosity" thing.

On a separate note, a pet peeve of mine: I don't understand people who self-censor, especially in social media. As an educated, intelligent woman, I am a huge advocate of swearing, and nothing makes me grind my teeth more than seeing someone write something like "f@%k" instead of flat-out saying "fuck." What the hell is the point? Who are you protecting? If you're too offended to even write out the word, then why even try to use it in your vernacular? In my mind, words like fuck, shit, piss, cunt, hell, and damn are far less offensive than nigger, fag, dyke, spic, and chink. "Swear" words are, at face value, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and nouns, whereas the slurs are deliberately used for hate. If you're going to censor anything, check yourself next time you pass on the latest hate speech disguised as a joke.

Censoring ourselves and what our kids are reading, watching on TV, or listening to for music is like saying "I'm okay with being a mindless robot," because really, it's taking away a certain aspect of creativity, independent thought, and passion from our lives. Some people make the argument that swearing is coarse language that is never necessary but I feel that powerful words, placed with strategy in an impassioned speech or even song can deliver so much impact to the listener.

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