Conversations are abandoned because of community censorship


Maybe you’re like Christy on Facebook and you don’t need the Women’s March. Maybe you’re Susan, a woman who marched because many women can’t.

But maybe you’re neither.

Maybe you stood at the front lines of the Sioux Falls march, sign held high and “Pussyhat” on tight. Maybe you chose to watch the marches spanning the globe in disappointment or even disgust.

But maybe you’re neither.

Maybe you’re someone who believes in birth control, equal pay and full access to healthcare for transgender people. Maybe you don’t even have an opinion on the Women’s March.

Or maybe you’re too afraid to voice your opinion at all.

That is why we, at The Collegian, believe that no matter what you believe, you should be able to voice your opinion.

People like Christy and Susan expressed their opinions, one for and one against the Women’s March. But other people felt they couldn’t do the same because they didn’t want to be judged by their friends or family. They feared community censorship, something that, we believe, is killing the American people’s ability to have a dialogue about important issues.

An example of community censorship is how “feminist” has become a dirty word. The moment someone openly describes themselves as a feminist, the conversations that follow don’t usually involve discussions on misogyny and equality, but rather they devolve into name-calling or expressions of prejudice.

But on the opposite end of the spectrum, “pro-life” is becoming an equally dirty word.

Some opinions were shut down at the march. They were often ignored and disrespected if the person’s opinion didn’t align with the purpose of the march.

Censorship is shutting down a conversation, whether it’s controversial or someone isn’t comfortable with it. If an opinion is shut down with insults or dismissal, it is a form of censorship, and it happens every day.

According to the Women’s March website, the protest connected more than 5 million people worldwide, including LGBT+ people, people of color, disabled people and other minority groups. It served as an occasion of empowerment for sexual violence survivors, veterans and service members. It gave people of all genders and sexualities, races and ethnicities, political affiliation and religious decisions, liberals and conservatives a place to march together in solidarity.

Although the march seems to be inclusive when it comes to diverse groups of people, what conversations were had, if any, between those with varying opinions? They were probably more along the lines of yelling, arguing or making fun of someone else for their opinion, instead of educated and intellectual conversations.

Community censorship happens. It’s going to continue to happen. But the problem isn’t that community censorship exists — that’s inevitable — the problem is that we let a lack of respect for diverse opinions, as well as basic knowledge about our rights relating to freedom of expression, interfere with such intellectual dialogue. This disrupts our ability to have a constructive conversation. 

That is why we, at The Collegian, advise you to initiate a respectful conversation.

Community censorship happens face-to-face, which builds up an emotional response. It happens here at South Dakota State University among professors and students. It happens behind a screen, which leads to a barrier of defense and, sometimes, a more calculated answer. It happens on social media between co-workers, classmates, friends and family.

We get it, it’s difficult to stay calm, respectful and mindful. It’s challenging to understand and respect an opinion so vastly different from your own. It’s not easy to overcome the severely emotional and controversial conversations that need to be had, but do it anyway.

Have these thought-provoking discussions, but have them respectfully because, remember, dignity goes both ways.

All people, regardless of their opinions, deserve respect. Including the extremists, the liberals and the conservatives, the republicans and the democrats, the transgender and the disabled, all women and all men. Regardless of who the conversation is with, always remember to be respectful and mindful.

So whether you’re a “Nasty Woman” or not, have a conversation — just don’t be a jerk.