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Your First Amendment Rights

Thursday, September 13, 2012

In the past two days, you have undoubtedly heard or read about the tragedy that occurred in Libya and the subsequent riots at embassies in Egypt and Yemen. I have no intention of making this a political statement. I work very hard to try to stay neutral in all political matters. The reason I mention it is that the protests occurred after a fourteen minute trailer for an anti-Islam film was put on Youtube. To say that it is hateful would be a massive understatement. The man who made it is not, of course, responsible for the violent attacks which came after. There's enough blame in this situation to go around and around and around.

The reason I bring this up is because since the tragedy, freedom of speech has been mentioned in nearly every report I've heard. Freedom to say what you like regardless of how vitriolic it really is. Freedom to be vicious and vocal in one's opinions.

There's a trend towards that exercise of freedom in our internet culture. Not long ago, I commented on a woefully sexist and tiny-minded article on CNN about "Girl Geeks". The responses to my comment suggested I hadn't taken my medication today and that I should shut up. The language in those responses was filthy but I don't want to post that here. Look at any video on YouTube and you'll undoubtedly find fifty comments filled with mockery, fat shaming, sexism, racism, xenophobia, and assorted other bigotry.

Fact is, one has a right to say whatever one likes. I would never use my blog as a forum to suggest otherwise. But at some point, what one says MUST have consequences. Having the right to say what one wants is not the same as having the right to avoid accountability for it. The two come hand in hand. Standing up and saying something unpopular, bigoted or not, should demand courage to face what comes after.

Okay Jolene, this is a health/fitness blog. What does this have to do with anything?

Because accountability for what we say and think absolutely applies to our bodies. One of my first posts on SparkPeople was a blog apologizing to every woman I've ever judged. One of those women was me.

Fact is, all of us work hard to stop judging each other, to stop body shaming and create an environment here of appreciating the bodies we have.

But if you and I stand in the mirror every single day and say hateful hurtful nonsense to the image we see, we must be prepared to accept the consequences. Looking in the mirror and hating every fold and bulge and dimple of cellulite does NOT lead to body acceptance and it has never made anyone thinner.

It leads to hatred.


You have the right to say to your body, "I wish you were otherwise. I wish you were perfect. I hate these stupid love handles and if I see cellulite on my thighs for one more minute, I will cry." I've done it. I catch myself still doing it.

But I work hard to nip that nonsense right in the bud because I hold myself accountable for it. I want to love my body. I am desperate to. So if I am willing to say whatever I will to the image in the mirror, I also have to be willing to give up the love I have worked so hard to build for this imperfect vessel.

We've heard it again and again. We are our own worst critics. If someone came up to you or I and said to us what we so often say to ourselves, we'd break down.

So stop. Stop breaking yourself down. Demand accountability for your own words.

The other side of freedom of speech is blindingly positive. You and I have the right to say what we like and to use those words to BUILD. To be constructive. To be humorous. To share our opinions and thoughts and anger and happiness with the express purpose of doing good.

So do good. Build. Accept.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    "But at some point, what one says MUST have consequences. "

    Yes, agreed. There is a great responsibility that comes with the power of words. Thanks for the reminder.

    Great Blog! And very timely, relevant and thoughtful!

    1999 days ago
    Vanquishing that negative self-talk has GOT to be one of the very TOUGHEST parts of this journey...ugh!!

    Great efforts! Remember this especially when your body isn't living up to your expectations...!

    2010 days ago
    Thanks for putting your thoughts down and sharing them.

    Although I understand the right to free speech ends when it endangers others (like shouting "fire!" in a theater), I'd never applied that idea to my "self talk." You brought up a very good point, and made me think differently about what I say to myself.
    2014 days ago
    Nice blog. Some great points in there.. well written. Thanks for sharing.
    2014 days ago
    Great blog on many points....
    2014 days ago
    That was a poignant blog! Point well made. Really got me thinking about affecting some changes in my internal dialogue. emoticon
    2014 days ago
    emoticon Woo! Go Jo!
    2014 days ago
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