By Lori Dresner, Managing Editor/News Editor
Who is served and who gains power through censorship? Those were some questions discussed at the latest What’s Current Wednesday (WCW) on the afternoon of October 5 in Century Room C. About 11 students and faculty members participated in the discussion, which was facilitated by Dr. Kathleen Butterly Nigro, associate teaching professor and director of the Gender Studies program.
An Associated Press article published in the New York Times, titled “Romance Novellas by Women in Nigeria Challenge Tradition,” was the guiding piece of the discussion. Nigro pulled from the article six relevant topics: censorship, education, control, illiteracy, misogyny, and revolution. She wrote each topic on a piece of paper, which she pointed out individually as the discussion progressed.
Nigro explained that she chose this particular article to guide the discussion because “We learn so much globally about people…We really don’t understand the very basic expectations we have for our lives, which although we may want something different, we do have some freedom of choice to make our lives different.”
She went on to say that freedom of choice is a big difference between Western women and women in other countries, who have absolutely no choices. She referenced a point in the article that said a 13-year-old Nigerian girl was forced to marry a 38-year-old man, whom she poisoned and killed. Even though a human rights attorney agreed that the girl had a right to do so, her family rejected her.
Further referencing censorship of women, Lynn Staley, associate teaching professor and assistant director and advisor of Gender Studies, asked audience members, “What do men get out of keeping women from reading or becoming educated?”
“I feel like it’s competition and also not wanting to give up their own power,” said Rosie Jones, graduate, gender studies. “It was like Martin Luther King…the oppressors aren’t going to easily give up their power.”
Jones continued, “I think it also comes from this fear of women binding together, for the fear that women will do the same thing to men [that men] have done to women, and I think the fear is also intertwined with a culture of misogyny.”
Nigro also suggested that globalization of social media has been causing shifts, citing controversies involving textbooks in Texas. She talked about Mexican and Latina coalitions arguing against the rewriting of Mexican-American history and the way that their cultures are being portrayed in new textbooks. Critics voiced concerns over a proposed textbook called “Mexican American Heritage,” which some scholars say contains factual errors, lacks content, and promotes racism and culturally offensive stereotypes, according to St. Louis Public Radio. In September, the education board met over whether or not the state would adopt the textbook for the 2017-2018 school year. In November, the education board will vote on whether or not to approve the textbook.
“So I think that that’s important, that social media has now made it possible for people who were voiceless to have a voice,” said Nigro.
During the discussion, audience members also referenced some of their own personal experiences. Some shared stories of what they learned from having the freedom to read what they wanted, and how certain books that are sometimes controversial, such as Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, had a strong impact on their life.
The next WCW discussion topic will be Campaign Financing: A Brave New World, on November 2 at 2 p.m. in Century Room C. Dr. Wally Siewert, Director of the Center for Ethics in Public Life, will facilitate the discussion.