Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Censorship

I'm not usually one to censor things. I'm not usually even one to have tact and keep my thoughts in my head, so much so that Laura is sometimes afraid to go out in public with me. Usually, I'm the one swearing up a storm, even if there's a six year old in front of me.

Last week, I got a nice eye opener.

Censorship:
It feels like someone placing a hand over your mouth
The portion of my memoir that I'd selected to read for my bullying presentation used the f-bomb two or three times. There were also some other questionable things, that after consulting the teacher, we agreed that entire sentences should be deleted, and if not deleted, reworded. When we finished editing, we had what we deemed a PG rated, middle school classroom appropriate, piece of non fiction. Something, completely un-Lynne like.

Then we discussed important things (like politics, before the election).

Days later I arrived at the school, and she printed off my chapter. I read through it (skimming mostly) mildly dejected that my beautiful words had been cut. I felt it took away from the intensity of the piece. As a writer, I was offended that duct tape was being placed over my hands. I've been influenced by strong women like Kerry Cohen who go out and tell their stories to a room full of strangers. Still, I sucked up my pride, did my presentation on bullying, and then I read the piece that we had so adamantly deemed PG.

Me with one of my slides :)
And while I read, I could hear the words through the ears of a sixth, seventh, and eighth grade girl. I saw jaws drop. I saw eyes pop open. I knew their thoughts were mainly, "Am I hearing this in school?" Part of my pausing after reading was so the girls could digest what I'd read. Part of it, was so that I could digest what I'd read.

It turned out that my piece was still intense. It still got my point across. There were no f-bombs. Several suggestive sentences had been taken out. But the piece itself held true to the story, and I was suddenly, very, very happy with the changes we'd made.

Yes, Kerry Cohen talks in front of those strangers. Those strangers are usually adults. The strangers I was talking in front of were young, impressionable girls. Yes, I want them to read what they want to read. BUT, maybe they should be at least mildly braced for things they hear.

I think the moral of this post, is that you should know when to censor yourself, and when to let 'er rip.


8 comments:

  1. I was just talking to my daughter about this the other day. She doesn't seem to have the ability to censor herself--something which people NEED to have. She's twenty-one and kinda talks like a trucker and I don't care. I talk like a trucker. haha.

    It's just...words. Powerful, but only dependent on how they're being used. Still, sometimes, you gotta cut it off. You can't be out in a store full of little kids throwing around the f word. NOT cool. She's working on it. :) Congrats on your speech going so well!!

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  2. I've too often gotten in trouble for using the word "butt," and I was even asked to not read something because a character said that something "sucked."

    There you go.

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  3. Excellent point. I'm glad that you made such an impact even with a whittled down version of your story. Just goes to show you that a powerful enough story cuts through censorship (even the school-mandated kind) :)

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