Here Ye, Fear Ye #2

If you missed the last “Here Ye, Fear Ye”, it is a new feature on the bog where I’ll share stories and articles about censorship, intellectual freedom, or other related issues. Sometimes I stumble across awesome stories or cool info but don’t necessarily have the time to make a full post of each one, or don’t have enough to say beyond just “Read the article! It’s interesting and can say it all better!” This is a place for those stories. All caught up now? Good. Here’s the second installment.

Column: Parents protesting ‘pornographic’ scene in Picoult’s ‘Nineteen Minutes’ ignoring context – This article in The Concord Monitor (which yours truly has been published in *shameless self-promotion, ho!*), addresses the recent controversy in a NH high school over the inclusion of the book Nineteen Minutes in assigned reading. The book has been used in previous years, but this year the school did not notify parents ahead of time of the explicit content on one particular page. This administrative error led to an angry influx of parental complaints and even an arrest at a school board meeting, as seen on WMUR news.

However, as was the case with Speak and other such books, the context and the purpose of the scene in question was lost amid the moral panic of high school students finding out about, reading about, learning about, or having anything to do with sex. As the article puts it:

This is not pornographic teen sex.

This is rape.

The point of this scene isn’t that unprotected sex is amazing, and teenagers everywhere should go out and try it right now, as some parents seem to say.

But the lesson also isn’t that Josie shouldn’t have been drinking. The lesson isn’t that she shouldn’t have ever had sex with her boyfriend before this night. The lesson is that even someone you trust can violate you. And the lesson is, that is never your fault.

The lesson is that anyone – even a smart girl, even a girl from a good family – can be in an abusive relationship and anyone can be manipulated into staying in one.

Like with Speak, saying that a scene or book about rape, abusive relationships, or sexual/relationship violence is in any way glorifying or encouraging teen sex is not just incorrect and ignorant, it is wildly insulting and cuts to the heart of the problems surrounding sexual violence and abuse in our society. The article hits the nail on the head, saying, “It’s apparently easier to work the public into a fever about teenagers learning that semen is sticky than it is to tell them their bodies are their own, their lives have intrinsic value and anyone who hurts them – physically, sexually, or emotionally – does not love them” (“Column: Parents protesting ‘pornographic’ scene in Picoult’s ‘Nineteen Minutes’ ignoring context“).

The Nine Films That Have Passed the Bechdel Test in 2014 – This article takes a look at the films released so far this year that feature more than one named female character who talk to each other about something other than a man. This test does not determine whether an individual movie is in itself feminist or not feminist or whether it even handles female characters in a well-written and non-exploitative or stereotypical way. However, it does gage widespread trends and problems with representation when applied across the board or at a specific cross-section of movies.

The article also broaches the issue of why there are still so few movies that pass the Bechdel Test, when movies that did made more money than those that did not last year, proving that the old “movies with women don’t make money” excuse no longer cuts it. Included among the list are movies such as Belle, Divergent, and Vampire Academy, which feature elements/issues commonly cited as the reason for a book challenge, including addressing race relations/racism, dystopias (particularly teen dystopias), and vampires/the supernatural.

However, the article sadly leaves Tiger Eyes off of its list of recent Netflix releases. Tiger Eyes, based on the book by Judy Blume, is a female-driven coming of age film that passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors and even passes my own representation test, the Terra Nova Test, that asks whether a movie a) has an interracial couple/romance that, b) is made up of an outgroup/minority male and ingroup/majority female when it, c) isn’t the point of the movie. If you have not yet seen or read Tiger Eyes, I can’t recommend it enough.

The Most Commonly Spoken Language of Each State (That’s Not English or Spanish) – Tying in with some of the issues addressed in Tiger Eyes, these maps show the most spoken language in all 50 states besides English and besides English and Spanish. While almost never addressed in the banned books discussion, language plays a huge role in censorship and intellectual freedom, from access to information or employment to representation to what literature is respected or included in the classics canon to cultural anxieties/divides to erasing histories, perspectives, or whole cultures from the dominant narrative. And, go Yupik and Navajo! It’s nice to see indigenous languages holding their own.

I have discussed minority languages several times on the blog (see the Watch Your Language section in the bar on the right for more), as language is inherently political whenever cultures clash, whether due to occupation, immigration, war, genocide, or diaspora. In addition, the cultural divide around English/Spanish is plainly visible in the Arizona law that essentially banned all books with non-white characters or that address minority cultures/ethnicities in an attempt to stay “neutral” in the political quagmire surrounding said divide/anxieties.

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About boundandgaggedbooks

Shannon is a freelance writer and folklore buff. She has a degree from Hampshire College in Creative Writing/Mythology & Religion, with an emphasis on epic/oral traditions, their anthropological implications, and their modern counterparts. Her work can be found in Fabulously Feminist, Wolf Wariors: The National Wolfwatcher Coalition Anthology, The Concord Monitor, Redhead Magazine, and The Climax.

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