The thought that women should be subservient to men and resigned to the household makes me mad. I’m sure it made you mad, too, when two men decided to shout their belief in it over megaphones on Middle Path last week. As much as it pains all of us to hear that we have to deal with these people, like it or not, they have a right to say their opinions as much as I have a right to transmit mine here.
The First Amendment is one of those things that you think you know, but then when the issue comes up in real life, you can’t quite understand it. Why allow everyone free speech if some people use their speech to anger others and engage in spewing hate? That’s where the exceptions exist.
Speech that incites violence or other unlawful behavior, along with such other offenses as child pornography do not enjoy First Amendment protection. Did the opinions of the men on Middle Path incite people to behave unlawfully? The answer is no. While the opinions of these individuals caused people to laugh, cry out in disbelief and provoke anger, they did not cause anyone to act unlawfully.
False statements of fact are pretty self-explanatory. Now I understand that a person would like to tell me that saying a woman’s sole job in life is to make her husband happy is a false statement of fact, but it isn’t. It’s an opinion and people are entitled to them so while you may believe that women are equal to men, some individuals view them as servants, and that is an opinion, not a false statement of fact. I can just as easily preach that the Flying Spaghetti Monster forgives all sinners. A false statement of fact would be that birds have no wings, or fish walk on two feet.
Did these two people make any threats? Maybe you were so engulfed in outrage that you didn’t notice they simply stated their views. While one can see them as misguided, people are entitled to their opinions.
We can’t stifle people from saying what they want as long as they aren’t threats, falsified facts, or words that incite unlawful actions and violence. Putting up pride flags around the demonstrators is an excellent example of protesting a protest, because the First Amendment cuts both ways.
We are just as entitled to our speech as they are, so instead of complaining about how misguided those two people were, preach your own values. Preach that women are equals and that science proves that abortion is OK. If you don’t like someone’s opinion then voice your own instead of trying to silence them.
Griffin Burrough ’18 is undeclared from Summit, N.J. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.