Friday, 26 September 2014

banned books and censored literature- is it ever right?

While listing all the banned books I've read I started thinking about my views on censored literature.

My first instinct is to preserve freedom of speech, that hateful books, even those like Mein Kampf, should be available, as even though the views expressed are disgusting, people still have the right to hold these views. Plus books such as these are historical documents, they are revealing of society and culture.

Some of the reasons for banning books is in my opinion puritanical, sex, drugs and swearing in a book written for adults doesn't bother me. If you are sensitive to these things, the solution is simple - don't read the book. Violence, drug taking and sex in literature isn't promoting these activities, it is just portraying human realities.

banned for 'promoting' lesbianism 

Also the banning of these books is obviously influenced by homophobia, racism and sexism. The inclusion of many books on the banned list by African-American women such as Toni Morrison and  Maya Angelo, is act of misogynoir, Black female sexuality is seen as obscene. I'm sure many more explicit books passed through the censors as they cover white, male, heterosexual sexuality, rather than the experiences of women.  

On the other hand- I can completely see why some of the novels have been banned, especially in schools. I am in favour of racial slurs being blanked out, or been moved all together. For example, references to g****w**** or the n-word have been taken out of new editions of Enid Blyton. These words are offensive and inappropriate and should not be read by impressionable children.

Novels such as Gone with the Wind and To Kill a Mocking Bird have been removed from schools because of the racist depiction of black people. In both books African-Americans are portrayed as infantile, servile, low intelligence and of need of a 'white saviour'. Without the contextualising these books, and discussing the historic and current impact of racism, these books could be problematic. Therefore, I totally approve of the restriction of these books in schools. However, I don't believe in a blanket ban, as again these novels provide a snapshot in time and are representative of time when these views were common place. In the right hands racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic or otherwise offensive novels can be a useful educational tool.

This all just my personal opinion of course, and I'll to hear yours! Leave your comments about banned books and censorship in the comments below.

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