I always wonder how personal I should get on my blog. Mostly, the answer is: not very. I find it easier to keep everyone at arm’s length, never to reveal too much or be too opinionated on any topic.
But this is different. Now we’re talking about censorship, something that every writer should have an opinion about.
Recently, in the Springfield News-Leader, Wesley Scroggins, an associate professor of management at Missouri State University, wrote an opinion piece classifying Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK as “soft pornography” because of two rape scenes in the book.
Umm, what??? Since when is rape considered pornographic? Pornography by definition is: “The depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement.”
Hold on a second while I repeat that last part: “…to cause sexual excitement.” (And, yeah, I got that straight from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.)
Let me just say, and this is where it gets uncomfortable for me because I do tend to keep my personal life private, but as someone who was molested repeatedly as a child, calling rape (or anything rape-related) “pornographic” is over-the-top offensive. And insinuating that Laurie Halse Anderson had any intention of stimulating anyone’s sexual appetite is not only insulting, it is repugnant!
I want to add that there are other books currently being targeted as well. Sarah Ockler’s TWENTY BOY SUMMER is being challenged in a Missouri school library because one parent thought the title was “promiscuous”; there was the Ellen Hopkins un-invite from the Humble Texas book event; and in Stockton, Missouri Sherman Alexie’s THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART TIME INDIAN has been banned.
We’re talking about books here, BOOKS! These are ideas, thoughts, an absolutely essential tool of freedom. Books are the way we can experience and grow and learn…even if the topics they touch on are not always the easy ones. As a parent, my thought is that if you don’t want your children reading about something specific (like rape), then be responsible and get involved in their choices. But please, please don’t tell my kids what they should—or more importantly, shouldn’t—be reading. That’s dangerous ground to navigate.
There are so many people who make these arguments much more eloquently than I do, and you should totally read their posts here (Sarah Ockler on banned books), here (The Rejectionist, defending SPEAK), here (CJ Redwine on why books like SPEAK are important to girls who have survived rape), and here (Myra McEntire giving a Christian take on the subject).
But here's what it really boils down to: I don't want someone else shoving their beliefs down my kids’ throats. And, in return, I won’t shove mine down theirs.