The definition of censorship has been left open to interpretation, but what is the real definition of censorship?
Censorship-a relatively new concept for most people. Like furlough, censorship has become part of the daily vocabulary.
From celebrities to writers to friends over text, everyone is talking about censorship.
But what does censorship mean?
Wikipedia relates censorship to be:
‘the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information, on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or “inconvenient.”’
There seems to be a misunderstanding around censorship, not alone in the Wikipedia definition. Everyone has a right to an opinion, but when that opinion is harmful to others: does this call for censorship?
Even more important, does ‘inconvenience’ or ‘sensitive material’ call for censorship?
Censorship in 2020
There is a fine line between what is ‘appropriate’ and what is not. It would be wrong to silence someone who is using self-expression. Perhaps part of that self-expression is to work out what they believe by voicing it. If uncomfortable topics are to be shut down, it influences what people speak about. It is never a good idea to drive expression underground.
This is already happening within our society. It is of particular relevance at the moment, in light of Black Lives Matter and the Trans movement. Not to mention Me Too, Mute R Kelly and Katie Hopkins.
The interesting thing about these movements is although they are about the embracement of human rights collectively; anyone who differs is immediately shut down.
J.K Rowling and the Trans community Fallout
This has been discussed most recently in reference to J.K Rowling and the Trans fallout. The offence has been taken to J.K Rowling offering an opinion on the topic.
Rowling made comment on Transgender people using female public toilets. There was a suggestion that this was not supported by Rowling who felt such a situation could leave women vulnerable to abuse. Rowling has been sexually assaulted in the past.
What happened next was an avalanche of disgust, outrage and abuse towards Rowling’s opinion. It is just an opinion.
Where it is understandable transgender people want to have the same rights as anyone else of that gender. There will inevitably be areas too problematic to agree on at this time.
As a woman, I can empathise with how shameful it must feel when a trans-gender woman is denied access to a changing room. There have been discussions in this area in particular because it was suggested Marks and Spencer were opening up their changing rooms to all. Some women spoke out condemning the brand.
As much as I would happily like to welcome transgender women into the same changing room as I, I think J.K Rowling does have something to say on this.
However, the opinion held has been shunned on Twitter, and even criticised by Daniel Radcliffe and co-it has been suggested.
The debate goes much further than this, however, and Rowling goes into much depth on jkrowling.com.
An Opinion Without Meaning to Cause Offence
The point is, that Rowling has an opinion and there is a right to air it. Whether Rowling is offensive or not is perspective. From a trans perspective, it could be offensive, this is understandable. Transgender women, it is being suggested: pose a threat to women when left unattended.
However, these angles do need to be thought about. Unfortunately, sometimes, the offence will happen, and often it is not intentional but part of a process.
Thus, maybe this is what is important on whether something is ‘censored’ or not? The transgender movement seems to be making a case for censorship concerning Rowling. Yet, censorship is most definitely not shaming. Shaming an opinion does not make it ‘objectionable’, as Wikipedia states as grounds for censorship.
Where trans people may see this as objectionable, the safeguarding of women also has to be taken into consideration.
If the intention is not to hurt, but to be truthful, then this could pave the way for the boundaries of censorship to be served, justly. I think it is obvious Rowling did not mean to offend, Rowling is an educated and astute woman. Fair and universal, renowned for the charitable foundations she supports. This is not only from monetary value but also through philanthropy.
Ironically, the current notion of censorship does not seem to have boundaries. Countless individuals are speaking out about the fears of this cultural wave, and its threat from it. Many other famous individuals have spoken out in support of Rowling because it highlights the dangers of censorship.
The row has grown in force so much so Rowling’s latest book has suffered in sales, it is believed.
I would argue the danger is not in the words someone utters, but in the lack of perspective, people have for it.
If an opinion, for example, a racist opinion, seeks to ostracise, condemn and separate. Then, these are grounds for censorship. Examples of this would be Katie Hopkins and associates.
Personal boundaries rather are not too far from the notion of censorship.
Would you put up with a friend promoting hate for another group?
Then, these are the boundaries of censorship. Censorship belongs to these ranks, and not the ranks of discussion or intellectual integrity.
Rowling’s discussion may be ‘sensitive’ and ‘inconvenient’ but this is not true censorship. It is vital that this distinction is made.
Life, after all, is an inconvenient truth.