Monday, May 21, 2007

is feminist a dirty word?

Right now I am in the public library trying to discover a new blog. Trying, not succeeding. So far I can see the posts, but the comment policy is off limits. My attempts to navigate there are thwarted by a pesky: “access has been denied for the following reason: banned phrase found.” What message could inspire more curiosity? Believe you me public library, my imagination has conjured up a much lewder phrase than appears on the forbidden page.

What is lewd anyway, and I do I really want the library board deciding? One answer is that libraries are community space; communities should be able to set standards of conduct; and if I have a problem with the internet use policy I should appeal to the community to change it, or not use their internet. Besides, think of the children you crazy dyke—without web filters they’ll ruin the sanctity of libraries, not to mention their brains, by looking up smut.

Will my blog be blocked for that last sentence?

What sort of banable material is on Lucky White Girl? From what I’ve seen so far, it is a nice feminist, pro-NPR, anti-global warming type of blog, the kind you’d take home to meet the parents. Well, the presence of censor-worthy content has certainly made me want to read more.

Don’t worry, the irony has not escaped me. The same sensibility pulled racial or homophobic speech largely out of the realm of the acceptable is keeping me from enjoying a feminist blog. This makes me wish I knew more of what the law, and some cool scholars, have to say on free speech. Especially what they have to say about the distinction between public and private spaces, and between speech and other conduct. Is the internet a public space? What about the public library? In my mind there is a distinction, however blurred and conditional, between speech that offends and speech that endangers. Also between speech that offends and speech that limits some folks’ ability to occupy a space in the same way the majority does. I am just blogging off the cuff here though, no real authority.

I more annoyed at my inadvertent acceptance of the content filtering software than I am at its presence. Maybe when I signed up for the library network I agreed to an acceptable use policy that said something about that. I don’t recall. Certainly when I logged on this time, there was no notification. A quick perusal of the library home page doesn’t reveal an “acceptable use policy” either. Web users should know what they are getting into.

I am not getting all worked up over this one. Not by a long shot. From the MPAA to Google, there are much more powerful organizations controlling what gets said in the public sphere and how we say it. It is just one of those examples of de facto censorship alive and well when you don’t even know it is happening. Couldn’t resist sharing.

1 comment:

cd said...

Me here, commenting on my own blog. I've surfed a bit more on the odd, yet not expensive waves of the public library and found a lion's share of interesting LGBTQ sites (, etc to be a "no-go") They contain too many "weighted phrases," whatever that means. My next stop is the site for the web filter to see what the criteria are.

While I'm commenting, damn fine blog you have here, CD.