Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fuck That

I have an account on Linked In where I belong to a few groups focused on visual art and careers in the arts.  One of the moderators posed a question about free speech and profanity.  There is a whole subset of discussions on that alone but he was wondering with regard to that particular group should comments be deleted for certain vocabulary choices participants make when commenting on the board.  Frankly, I fail to see what makes "bad" words inappropriate in a professional context, especially in the arts when you think about all the forms and expressions of artists we are supposed to be open to. 

Coincidentally, this conversation started almost the same time that the issue came up on the docent blog on which I contribute as a member of the docent staff. I responded on Linked In with this:

"Frankly if one's vocabulary choices are appropriate to the content of what he/she expresses then there is no bad language.

What's offensive is to ignore this basic rule: Say what you mean and mean what you say. You know, capturing the intensity of an emotion or thought might be best summarized with what some people call profanity. But they're just words and at some point you have to say what you mean. And at some point, people choose to be offended by inconsequential things.

It's not merely a defense of the crude on my part. In getting to some of my career goals I will likely work with a very broad spectrum of "the public." Some of those persons will likely be from disenfranchised communities or other challenged circumstances. I should ignore the validity of their experiences and perspectives because they don't speak eloquently? That's ridiculous. How can I ever want to take a proactive role in using art as a social outreach tool if I deny others voice simply for having their own means of using that voice?

What lowers the level of discourse is to dismiss critical content because you think words are bad. Worse, people oft employ the bad words defense as a means to deflect attention away from the content because the content makes them uncomfortable. They would like to avoid this discomfort so they blame others for speaking out of turn as a means to kill the conversation. That undermines real discourse and is a source of real offense.

If we're on this board, participating in this discussion then we work in or around the arts and are concerned with all forms of expression. It's a disservice to enact this kind of censorship for petty reasons when really some of us should be more proactive in questioning what it is that truly makes us uncomfortable."