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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » Vulgarity or political statement?

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Author Topic: Vulgarity or political statement?
lizenny
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If you haven't heard about it, here's a story on something that happened recently at a high school in Minnesota when two girls showed up at school wearing buttons that said "I (heart) my Vagina". Tell me what you guys think about it.
http://www.unknownnews.org/0504260421Winona.html

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Posts: 110 | From: Worcester MA | Registered: Mar 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
DarkChild717
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It's in response to the Vagina Monologues, which are incredibly popular and controversial.

I've got no problem with it in a high school. I'd assume that by that time, most, if not all students have some idea what a vagina is. In addition, it may just help with the self-concious issues some girls seem to have, what with vaginoplasty and other extreme measures.


Posts: 2789 | From: The Evergreen State | Registered: Jun 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
dailicious
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This actually is a message that is protected by the freedom of speech in the U.S.

The buttons clearly have a message, and it is one that is understandable based on many issues concerning women today.

It is most certainly a political message.

As the article addresses, freedom of speech is in place to protect messages that are not popular. People cannot raise an issue with a message because it offends them or they disagree with it, because that is exactly the type of speech that needs to be allowed.

quote:
But Principal Nancy Wondrasch said others find the buttons offensive.

"We support free speech," she said. "But when it does infringe on other people's rights and our school policies, then we need to take a look at that."


That right there, an offensive message does not mean it is a vulgar one and does not mean it cannot be spread. There actually IS NOT any right people have that would protect them from seeing the message on these buttons. Sure, they have the right to speak out against the message, to ignore it, to not agree with it, but no right is being infringed by these people wearing the buttons.

Also, to bring up another point, if students chose to wear buttons that say: "Sexuality is vulgar." "I do not support your vagina." that sort of thing, those buttons would also have to be allowed, the coin is double sided here.


To address the issure of vulgarity, more...

Vulgarity would be defined, in a school setting, in cases of the following:

Offensive language or offensive imagery (so, for example, if instead of the word the buttons showed a picture of a vagina, THEN an issue of vulgarity could be raised and the schools would more than likely win).

Also, actions associated with a verbal message can be stopped even if a message itself can't, most of the time. (It's a bit more difficult to explain this one... um, for example: if a student was clearly promoting a message that safe sex was important because of the issue with AIDS and STDs, and so along with this message he handed out condoms. This could be stopped by the schools because of the action that goes along with the message. The student could still spread his message of safe sex, but the condoms could be disallowed.)

I love Constitutional Law, and I could blabber on about freedom of speech for hours. But I won't, so basically this is definitely a political message and protected by free speech.

(I also support the message and almost want to steal the idea, but anyway...)


Posts: 3382 | From: Denver, Colorado | Registered: Mar 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Jim007
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quote:
Originally posted by dailicious:
This actually is a message that is protected by the freedom of speech in the U.S.

Actually, it may not be. While the First Amendment would certainly protect the girls in most public places, the rules regarding freedom of speech are a little different when applied to schools.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California which obviously isn't conservative in its opinions on the 1st Amendment:

quote:
The school is not allowed to prohibit or censor speech or press activities by students based on its content (what you are saying), unless what you are saying falls within one of these three exceptions:

1. it is legally "obscene";
2. it is libelous or slanderous (that is, it is untrue and harms someone’s reputation, and you are careless, or you know, or should have known, that it is untrue when you write or say it); or
3. it creates the immediate danger of causing students to commit an act that is unlawful or in violation of school rules, or that would cause a substantial disruption of the orderly operation of the school.


So, the issue really comes down to whether or not the pins cause a disruption to the learning process. Honestly, I don't think the article is specific enough to determine if the pins would actually fall under this category.

What I'm worried about is that the issue could get wrapped up in the fact that the pins contain the word "vagina". The school, and the courts if it gets that far, could end up looking as if they don't support women's rights (especially if the situation is depicted as this article depicts it...just look at the title) by banning the pins. The issue isn't about women's rights, its about whether or not the pins cause a disruption. The situation wouldn't be any different if some students wore pins saying, "I (heart) my penis."

Does the phrase "I (heart) my vagina" cause a disruption? Based on what the girls' intentions are, no, I don't think they do. However, I'm guessing that many students didn't focus on women's issues when they saw the pins. The girls may not have intended for that to happen, but nevertheless many students probably focused on sex itself rather than women's rights, and therefore that could definately be considered a legitimate reason for banning the pins.

Perhaps the girls would be better off wearing pins that said, "We Support Women's Rights," for instance. That, in my opinion, would do a better job of "sparking discussion about violence against women, about women's rights" than "I (heart) my vagina" does. And of course, it would avoid any disruptions that the word "vagina" might.

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For tomorrow we die

~DMB

[This message has been edited by Jim007 (edited 04-30-2005).]


Posts: 63 | From: U.S.A. | Registered: Apr 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
JamsessionVT
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Jim brings up a good point.

However I just realized the point I was going to make previously when I read this post earlier (you'd think at 16 I'd have some brain cells left )

How often do you think back to sex ed and remember having to use the proper terminology (vagina, penis, scrotum, what have you) and having the whole class laughing when the teacher said "penis" or "vagina" out loud. It's pretty common. People are uncomfortable with words like these, even if they are the proper terms, because some have been brought up with the idea that "that is a bad word and you shouldn't say it in public" (how this mentality was brought about I have no idea, for I'm more offended if I hear "d*ck" or "c*nt* used casually)

And since it's only human nature to react hostily to things we are uncomfortable with, we've got another situation on our hands.

Think about this: if the buttons had said "I (heart) my reproductive system" do you think people would have responded as they did? Probably not. It may look a little funny on a button to some, but I doubt if it would have caused this big of a uproar. On the other end of the spectrum: what if the button had said "I (heart) my c*nt"...then there would be a reason for pandemonium, since the c-word is, in general, considered crude and demeaning to women.

So what can we learn from this? Is it better to follow law or common sense? Personally, a good mix of both would be nice, but unfortunatly that doesn't happen as much as one would like


Posts: 3987 | From: Greater Burlington Area, Vermont | Registered: Apr 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
lizenny
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quote:
Originally posted by Jim007:
So, the issue really comes down to whether or not the pins cause a disruption to the learning process....many students probably focused on sex itself rather than women's rights....Perhaps the girls would be better off wearing pins that said, "We Support Women's Rights," for instance."

While I don't like the idea of trashing good intentions because people with dirty minds or people who refuse to think in general might take it the wrong way, Jim007 has a point. If this display was enough to disrupt the learning process then it would be appropriate to ban them. However whether they were of any significant detriment to the learning environment is unclear from the article. I seriously doubt that two pins about two and a half inches in diameter floating around your average U.S. public school are really enough to create a "substantial disruption". The phrase "I (heart) my Vagina" does provoke thought as any effective statement should. A pin with a message that will ultimately be ignored would be of better use to cover a stain. (I cover stains with them all the time. ) It provokes thought in a way that "We Support Women's Rights" sadly would not. However with my experience in public school I'm beginning to have doubts on whether thinking is allowed or whether it counts as one of those "substantial disruptions".

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You catch more flies with manure than you do with honey.


Posts: 110 | From: Worcester MA | Registered: Mar 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
dailicious
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Ah right, that tricky substantial disruption bit, forgot about it. I do understand that freedom of speech is different when linked with schools, but wasn't thinking of all that it entailed since the main issue was political speech versus vulgarity. The message is definitely not vulgar, but I hadn't thought of the disruption argument.

Though, I'd still argue the case that the disruption the buttons would cause would not be substantial enough for the buttons to be disallowed.

But that comes down to court rulings, in the end.


Posts: 3382 | From: Denver, Colorado | Registered: Mar 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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