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In the Wake of Charlie Hebdo, Free Speech Does Not Mean Freedom From Criticism

In the Wake of Charlie Hebdo, Free Speech Does Not Mean Freedom From Criticism
On Wednesday morning, the French satirical paper Charlie Hebdo was attacked by three masked gunmen, armed with kalashnikovs, who stormed the building and killed ten of its staff and two police officers. The gunmen are currently understood to be Muslim extremists. This attack came minutes after the paper tweeted this drawing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. (“Best wishes, by the way.” Baghdadi: “And especially good health!”) An armed attack on a newspaper is shocking, but it is not even the first time Hebdo has been the subject of terrorist attacks. In the face of such an obvious attack on free speech, voicing anything except grief-stricken support is seen by many as disrespectful. When faced with a terrorist attack against a satirical newspaper, the appropriate response seems obvious. In this case, it is the wrong response. Here’s what’s difficult to parse in the face of tragedy: yes, Charlie Hebdo is a French satirical newspaper. A call “TO ARMS” is gross and inappropriate.

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Trifles for a massacre Who is it that threatens free speech? When the French government bans all Gaza solidarity demonstrations at the height of a vicious massacre in Palestine, it’s not a threat to freedom of speech: it’s a public safety measure. When the French state bans Muslim women from wearing the veil in public, it’s not a threat to freedom of speech: it’s a defence of secularism. When fanatical Zionists plant a bomb under the car of a French Jewish journalist who won’t toe the party line on Israel, it’s not a threat to freedom of speech: it’s a criminal act, certainly, but not an existential threat to the general ability for you or for me to say whatever we want. In the UK newspaper offices are raided by spies and kids are sent to prison for burning artificial poppies; this isn’t a threat to free speech either.

International Anti-Street Harassment Week: 10 Things You Can Do To Stop Street Harassment  March 18-24 is International Anti-Street Harassment Week and it should be taken seriously as a matter of equality, access to public space and civil rights. "Meet Us On The Street" is the rallying call for International Anti-Street Harassment Week, a movement started by the organization Stop Street Harassment. Last year, marches took place in Cairo, Kabul, Washington, Philadelphia, Delhi and other cities around the world. "Harassment restricts girls' and women's access to public places," explains Holly Kearl, author of "Stop Street Harassment" and founder of the week long project. "This is not what we want for the next generation of girls. This is a time for people to raise awareness about the issue and create community-based solutions to make public places safer for everyone."

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Jennifer Lawrence? Emma Watson? These aren't the feminists you're looking for Recently, a young woman asked me how we can make feminism more accessible to men. I told her that I don’t care about making feminism more accessible to men. In truth, I don’t care about making feminism more accessible to anyone. I care about making the liberties that men enjoy so freely fully accessible to women, and if men or celebrities claiming feminism for themselves has become the spoon full of sugar to make that medicine go down, so be it. But it irks me that we more easily embrace feminism and feminist messages when delivered in the right package – one that generally includes youth, a particular kind of beauty, fame and/or self-deprecating humour. It frustrates me that the very idea of women enjoying the same inalienable rights as men is so unappealing that we require – even demand – that the person asking for these rights must embody the standards we’re supposedly trying to challenge.

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