Writer, producer and director Deborah Coughlin reflects on why blocking people with opposing views to your own and essentially living in an echo chamber is not going to solve the world's problems
It doesnt matter what newspapers we follow, or who we block, in just two weeks many of us will be sat around the dinner table with people who have wildly different opinions to our own. Well be in free fall from whatever happens in the election this Thursday, passing the sprouts to a Trump-loving Granny, and explaining why vegans dont eat goose-fat potatoes to a Thunberg-dissing Uncle. Theres no hope of an echo chamber at dinner time on Xmas day.
We are in an age where increasingly young people are viewing free speech as dangerous, but theres no way most of us can escape it when it comes to family and friends back home. While some people quite rightly do decide their families beliefs are too toxic for them to be around, many of us just arent going to no platform our Nan and will either grit our teeth, or. argue.
Ive just put together the most diverse book of womens thought leadership in one of the first books of its kind Outspoken: 50 Speeches by Incredible Women. From Boudicca to Michelle Obama. As a feminist writer who has always wanted to unearth the voices of uncelebrated women I wanted to make sure amongst the women we all know, there were women less well-known, and even with the women we know to include speeches we wont be so familiar with.
It includes Oprah, Emma Watson, Kate Tempest, Hilary Clinton, Vivienne Ming, Virginia Woolf, Sojourner Truth and many more, and it was important to me I included women who would disagree with each other. I wrote it because ten years ago the only sound bite I knew that didnt come from the mouth of a man was Thatchers The ladys not for turning. And Im no fan, Ive never voted Conservative in my life. How could this be the only woman whose words I knew off by heart?
So I went on the hunt for other women. Book after book I found on speeches, all with 99 men and a Pankhurst, or 49 men and a Thatcher. Man, after outspoken man, heck it was easier to find the transcripts of genocidal maniacs than a woman. Where were all the outspoken women?
I wanted to know what women had said before me, so that I could stand on the shoulders of giants, be inspired, and not be doomed to repeating the work they had already done in my own feminism. Here are four of the most inspiring gems Im taking with me to Christmas Dinner.
Audre Lorde shows us why its important to muster the courage to say what you think. Death, on the other hand, is the final silence. And that might be coming quickly, now, without regard for whether I had ever spoken what needed to be said, or had only betrayed myself into small silences, while I planned someday to speak, or waited for someone elses words she said in her speech Transformation of Silence at the Lesbian Literature Panel in Chicago 1977, before going on to say that if we swallow the things we care about we will die in silence, and then asking, What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say?
If you speak up, you put yourself in the firing line, now more so than ever, particularly if you are a woman of colour. In 2017 Amnesty International found that of all the abuse sent to women MPs, almost half was sent to just one MP, Diane Abbott, a woman who has spent a lifetime speaking up. She told her colleagues in the House of Commons about her experience in a speech that same year. Now they press a button and you read vile abuse which 30 years ago people would have been frightened to even write down.
Ever heard of Margaret Smith? Well, she was the first woman to ever be nominated for the US presidency, and in 1950, as a moderate republican, she gave a Declaration of Conscience speech, that sought to tackle a political time almost as devisive as our own where anyone on the Right was called a fascist and anyone on the Left a communist. Today our country is being psychologically divided. As An American, I condemn a Republican Fascist just as much I condemn a Democratic Communist. They are equally dangerous to you and me and to our country. As an American, I want to see our nation recapture the strength and unity it once had when we fought the enemy instead of ourselves.
And what could a common enemy be? Greta Thunberg, the voice of 2019, has a unifying message which focuses on our collective home, our planet, and being a child does not stop her from speaking out. I am 16 years old. I come from Sweden. And I speak on behalf of future generations. I know many of you dont want to listen to us. You say we are just children. But were only repeating the message of the united climate science.
All these women had to take the bold step of speaking up for what they believe in. Not one of them says its easy, all spoke in front of people they knew would either disagree with or dismiss them, and they have all been targets of abuse, theyve all had people say they shouldnt be allowed to speak.
How can we apply this while we are pulling crackers? Well, we can say what we think. We can listen, disagree and try and persuade respectfully. No name calling! And we can find common goals to work on together. Its important we remember we are all human. Thatcher made it into my book, next to Wales first communist Mayor Annie Powell. Both have something to teach us.
*Follow Deborah on Instagram @deborahcoughlin
*Deborahs book, Outspoken: 50 Speeches by Incredible Women is available now
- The Right Constitutional Philosophy for This Moment - The Atlantic - March 31st, 2020
- Lebanese Activists Fear Hezbollah-led Government Is Using Coronavirus to Solidify Power - VOA News - March 31st, 2020
- Improving decision-making in the face of growing misinformation - Ecofin Agency: Economic information from Africa - March 31st, 2020
- Ming Pao row: If we learn anything from the virus outbreak, it should be the importance of free speech - Hong Kong Free Press - March 31st, 2020
- Freedom of speech 'is the property of the left of politics' - Sky News Australia - March 31st, 2020
- No one is safe from the puritanical poison of wokeness says SIR JOHN HAYES - Express - March 31st, 2020
- ASG introduces three resolutions, votes on advocacy committee - The Daily Northwestern - March 5th, 2020
- Why Toby Young and other robust white men are using free speech to whip universities - The Guardian - March 5th, 2020
- A Slap in the Face: Chinese Readers Share Their Coronavirus Stories - The New York Times - March 5th, 2020
- Opposition to Ted Nugent - Villages-News - March 5th, 2020
- Bitcoin Is the Technology of Dissent That Secures Individual Liberties - Bitcoin Magazine - March 5th, 2020
- NRB Resolves that Religious Liberty & Freedom of Speech Must Prevail - MissionsBox - March 5th, 2020
- The Guardian is not a fan of Toby Young or free speech - The Post Millennial - March 5th, 2020
- No platforming nowhere near as productive as debate or conversation - The Badger Herald - March 5th, 2020
- When The PC Police Come For Our Books - The Jewish Press - JewishPress.com - March 5th, 2020
- Following the crowd - Education - WORLD News Group - March 5th, 2020
- How progressives and conservatives have changed the debate over freedom of speech - Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) - February 27th, 2020
- What transgenderism and Islam have in common: Destroying free speech - Lifesite - February 27th, 2020
- Hitler would be very proud of the Aalst Carnival in Belgium! - The Times of Israel - February 27th, 2020
- Facebook and Zuckerberg keep getting freedom of expression wrong - The Next Web - January 21st, 2020
- Sheffield Arena urged to cancel event by 'homophobic' Trump ally - The Guardian - January 21st, 2020
- Ninth Circuit Affirms Anti-Libel Injunction, Rejects Overbroad Portion - Reason - January 21st, 2020
- What we still havent learned from Gamergate - Vox.com - January 21st, 2020
- Montclair State Univ. Sued for 'Unconstitutional' Speech Policy and Favoring One Student Group Over Another Based on Their Beliefs - CBN News - January 21st, 2020
- POV: Trump's Executive Order Aimed at Protecting Jews Will Have a Chilling Effect on Freedom of Speech at Colleges - BU Today - December 21st, 2019
- 92% of Americans think their basic rights are being threatened, new poll shows - USA TODAY - December 21st, 2019
- Trump's Executive Order Targets Federal Funding to Universities in Suppression of Speech on Palestinian Rights - International Middle East Media... - December 21st, 2019
- Washington State's Mike Leach responds to Donald Trump impeachment: 'I'm yet to hear what he did wrong' - Sports and Weather Right Now - December 21st, 2019
- Impeachment won't slow the global rise of the radical right but an alternative vision might - Salon - December 21st, 2019
- Over Regulating Intermediaries: Threat To Free Speech? - Inc42 Media - December 15th, 2019
- Charter of Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom to be adopted - News - The University of Sydney - December 15th, 2019
- Is YouTube Cracking Down on Free Speech With New 'Harassment Policy'? - NewsBusters - December 15th, 2019
- Johnson orders universities to protect freedom of speech - Stock Daily Dish - December 15th, 2019
- Freedom of speech must trump safe spaces in universities, minister says - Stock Daily Dish - December 15th, 2019
- Alberta premier says energy war room will be respectful as it takes on critics - CFJC Today Kamloops - December 15th, 2019
- Amnesty International Canada Questions Freedom of Speech and Assembly - Reason - December 13th, 2019
- Drawing the Line: When Does Freedom of Speech Go Too Far? - SUNY The New Paltz Oracle - December 13th, 2019
- RTI is Inbuilt within Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression, says Bombay HC - Moneylife - December 13th, 2019
- Opinion: The clear line between hate speech and free speech - DW (English) - November 26th, 2019
- Appleton school board signs off on policy that some say endangers free speech, others see as a constitutional safeguard - Post-Crescent - November 26th, 2019
- What to Be Thankful For | Cato @ Liberty - Cato Institute - November 26th, 2019
- Universities Enabling the Hijacking of Free Speech When Jews are Involved - The Times of Israel - November 26th, 2019
- Documentary Takes Aim At Higher Eds Free Speech Violations - Washington Free Beacon - November 26th, 2019
- Should the First Amendment protect language deemed to be hate speech? - The Vector: NJIT's Student Newspaper - November 26th, 2019
- Fight to protect your freedom of speech - The Saint - November 26th, 2019
- Improv joke reaction: What about free speech? - Mount Airy News - November 26th, 2019
- Trump defends Yovanovitch attack: 'I have freedom of speech' | TheHill - The Hill - November 17th, 2019
- 'Critical Infrastructure' Bill Is a Major Threat to Freedom of Speech - Shepherd Express - November 17th, 2019
- Free speech rights a concern in Wisconsin water resolution - Minneapolis Star Tribune - November 17th, 2019
- Freedom of speech and freedom from lies - Opinion - Cape Cod Times - November 17th, 2019
- Trump: 'I Have Freedom of Speech Just as Other People Do' - MRCTV - November 17th, 2019
- Freedom of speech and its consequences - BCLocalNews - November 17th, 2019
- Free speech in Canada: It was bad five years ago. Do you think it's gotten better since? - National Post - November 17th, 2019
- The American Internet Sucks. The Alternative Is China. - BuzzFeed News - November 17th, 2019
- On free speech, a new era and that blocking thing | Editorial - Chico Enterprise-Record - October 27th, 2019
- Sydney University to consider updating Freedom of Speech Charter - News - The University of Sydney - October 27th, 2019
- SABAG: Promoting Anti-Semitism By Perverting The Freedom Of Speech - The Daily Wire - October 24th, 2019
- Analysis: The Long Arm Of China And Free Speech - NPR - October 11th, 2019
- There are differences between free speech, hate speech and academic freedom and they matter - The Conversation AU - October 11th, 2019
- The Coalition: Where protesting free speech is only a right for the Right - Independent Australia - October 11th, 2019
- Free Speech Moment for Facebook! Platform Allows Trump Ad That CNN Banned - NewsBusters - October 11th, 2019
- Is Free Speech an Absolute Right, or Does Context Matter? - New York Times - August 25th, 2017
- UC Berkeley tries to reclaim its free speech legacy - The Mercury News - August 25th, 2017
- Unlikely Allies Join Fight To Protect Free Speech On The Internet - NPR - August 25th, 2017
- 73% Say Freedom of Speech Worth Dying For - Rasmussen Reports - August 25th, 2017
- Poll: 85 Percent Say Freedom of Speech More Important Than Not ... - Breitbart News - August 25th, 2017
- When 'free speech' becomes a political weapon - Washington Post - August 22nd, 2017
- Alt-Right 'America First' Rallies Move Online After Boston 'Free Speech' Protest Is Overrun - Newsweek - August 22nd, 2017
- A free-speech rally, minus the free speech - The Boston Globe - August 22nd, 2017
- Freedom of speech is for all - The Register-Guard - August 22nd, 2017
- The Fight Over Free Speech Online - The New Yorker - August 22nd, 2017
- Free Speech: The Left Moves In for the Kill - PJ Media - August 22nd, 2017
- Why Even Nazis Deserve Free Speech - POLITICO Magazine - August 20th, 2017
- So, just how guaranteed is your freedom of speech online? - New York Post - August 20th, 2017
- Our View: With freedom of speech comes great responsibility - HollandSentinel.com - August 20th, 2017
- Is hate speech protected by American law? Quartz - Quartz - August 20th, 2017
- Fighting Neo-Nazis and the Future of Free Expression - EFF - August 18th, 2017
- Free Speech and Assembly in Hong Kong - New York Times - August 16th, 2017
- Free speech comes at a price - Spectrum News - August 16th, 2017
- Strange bedfellows: The ACLU, free speech and Neo-Nazis - ABC News - August 16th, 2017