“If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all” – Noam Chomsky.
Chomsky is, in my opinion, fundamental to understanding the social relations and societal organisation that we find ourself within today. The relevance of the above quote can be acutely felt and reflexed upon in relation to one of today’s Guardian articles discussing direct action by associated Object feminist activists. It is in correspondence to a decree by Tesco earlier this year outlawing customers from wearing pyjamas in the view that it could make some customers feel uncomfortable! In response, Object are wanting to illuminate the hypocritical double standard attitude of Tesco, as they continue to sell pornographic magazines without any cover blankets to protect fundamental human liberty – as Chomsky is so clear in promoting, above.
What human liberty, you may ask? How is it liberty to protest against freedom of speech? Well freedom of speech in that instance, would be only specifically and relatively defined. There is no freedom or equality in promoting objectifying images that some women and men do not want to see when they walk into their local news-agents. There is no freedom and equality when it comes to making women feel unnecessarily uneasy, as though they need to meet some sort of ‘ideal’ to be considered worthy. Of course, worth is defined in relation to capitalist commercial centred interests.
Crucial reading for this would be Noami Wolf ,The Beauty Myth, where she eloquently describes the effects of commercialisation and ‘idealised’ constructions of women upon women’s confidence and self of esteem. What women and men against these methods attempt to do is promote women’s sources of power and creativity, such as through emphasising the power through positive identification with the lines on women’s face, which are often wrongly seen as defunct of moral worth. The moral worth is again relative to capitalist constructions of what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.
These forms of direct participation are important when creating a counter movement to the insurgent capitalist movement against women’s rights. As Chomsky is so right in saying, we have to accept counter arguments and expressions. With this, there has to be compromise, of course. Blanket covering of pornographic magazines offers this compromise, as it still provides consumers the ‘right’ to buy the magazines, whilst upholding the rights of many women and men who want to work and go into the shops unhinged by images that in my opinion, devalue creativity expression.
Morally, as yes morally here is also relatively defined, we have to provide better regulation and support movements against practices that undermine specific groups autonomy and agency of free expression whilst not undermining the right of others groups for equal expression.