freedom of speech

Prompt: T-Shirts in the News Again

Recently, the prompt was about describing the response of a character when put in an internal and moral conflict when confronted with an offensive t-shirt. Another t-shirt is in the news again this week as a SxSW conference attendee wore a shirt handed out by Comedy Central at the conference and was taken off a pending flight by Southwest Airlines for violating their dress code.

Taking our original prompt further, what would be the perspective of the person realizing that the free t-shirt was considered offensive, especially after seeing hundreds if not thousands of them on fellow conference attendees? What about the airline staff seeing the shirt and having to respond? What about the passengers watching this event?

A quick search for similar incidents found that in 2011, a couple protesting outside Dollywood for more inclusive and equal rights for LGBT folks were told their t-shirts, which read “Marriage Is So Gay,” had to be turned inside out or they had to leave as it violated their dress code policy, while saying that the park is open to everyone of “all shapes and sizes.” The married couple was a lesbian couple, 76 and 84 years old.

Consider that perspective as an alternative prompt, both from the women’s perspective, the staff at the entertainment facility, and as a bystander. Does age change the character’s response?

In 2014, a scientist working on the Rosetta comet mission wore a t-shirt featuring scantily clad women as sex objects at a press conference, creating a furor. He made a public apology and broke down in tears as he admitted to his mistake, upset that he could have possibly offended or hurt anyone.

What about his story?

In 2013, a t-shirt manufacturing and online sales company was forced to close after a public uproar about the t-shirt they created that implied rape was a good thing. The owner admitted he made a mistake and the mistake cost him his twenty year old company. (more…)

Prompt: T-Shirt Said “Not Responsible for Lost or Stolen Virginity”

This prompt is based upon a news story about a person wearing a controversial t-shirt at a university sports game, created by a local sports bar.

“It was pretty much towards the end of the game when things were getting pretty exciting,” said fourth-year medical student Erin Avondet, who spotted the T-shirt. “I spotted it and at first I was just totally taken aback, just completely shocked. I didn’t know how to comprehend it.”

The shirt reads “We are not responsible for lost or stolen virginity!” which appears below the Blue Jay Bar logo.

“The big thing I perceived was the use of the word stolen. That obviously implies it’s just being taken away from you without your permission,” Avondet said.

Avondet posted the picture online and it has been shared thousands of times. She said many people share her disapproval of the message.

“There are so many people that are victims of rape, and I think having that open conversation, starting that conversation is important,” Avondet said.

The prompt was to write about a situation where your character is outraged about an insensitive t-shirt, garment, or situation. Discussing the prompt, we realized that there are layers here in writing such a character driven moment. There are times when a person is offended by something but must constrain their response due to social norms. We can’t throttle everyone we don’t agree with, and protect freedom of speech while promoting responsible behavior.