Contemplating on Democracy

Is it okay if people tell and use jokes about the Aetas? Is it acceptable if some people call others as “niggers” or “kawawang lumpo”? Or in some cases, is it all right if a filmmaker decides to portray women as willing participants in sexually degrading acts? Questions like this brought up several issues and arguments. And some people claim that civil rights are more important than civil liberties. Thus, freedom of expression must be restricted because of the harm it does to equality.

People argue that there are two specific issues that need to be restricted. One of which is called “Hate Speech.” It is any kind of speech that degrades people based on their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, disabilities, appearance, sexual orientation and the like (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hate_Speech, December 14, 2009). The rationale behind this is that hate speeches creates a hostile environment. It denies people based on color, disabilities, gender (not only on women but also on homosexuals) and the like. It is argued that hate speeches does not only wound and offend feelings of other people but it also reinforces stereotypes of who is superior and who is inferior, and propagates structures of social and economic inequality.

Another issue is regarding Pornography. “Most pornography eroticizes the domination, humiliation, and coercion of women, reinforces sexual and cultural attitudes that triggers in rape and sexual harassment, and contributes to the androcentric objectification of women.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pornography, December 14, 2009) For some Feminists that advocate anti-pornography, they see pornography as a powerful device in maintaining the social inferiority of women (**Dworkin, A., 1999). The degrading images exposed through pornography communicate a message to men, that it is appropriate for women to be dominated and sexually exploited. In some cases it treats women as second-class citizens.

Though there are some answers regarding these issues that support the other side of the story. Like regarding hate speeches, critics say that the proper way to respond to hate speech is not to ban it but instead it should be heard and then answer it with more and candid speeches (Hentoff, N., New York: HarperCollins). Similarly, these critics retort to those who are anti-pornography. They say that people (who are anti-pornography) will ban not only the vilest pieces of pornography but also the genuine art and literature that take sex as its subject (**Strossen, N., New York: Scribener, 1995).

There are two fundamental values we need to put into consideration that concerns this issue –Equality and Freedom, which are pitted against one another on issues that directly touch our lives. Where do you stand on the issues of hate speech and pornography? Do you believe that some expressions should not be free because it denies the people their right to equal treatment or do you believe that free expression is valuable to all and must not be restrained despite its capacity to harm? Do you believe that pornography should be banned because it degrades or demeans women and contribute to their social subordination, or do you believe that the effort to ban it will lead us to censorship? These are just some questions which I left here and depend the answers unto you. It is still our choice on which stand we will take.

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