Canada Censorship News


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Porn Controversy Distraction

A university professor recently showed a film about pornography in her class, and was suspended. As reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Dr. Jammie Price showed The Price of Pleasure: Pornography, Sexuality and Relationships, an anti-pornography documentary, and that showing formed part of student complaints against her. How significant a part is uncertain - there were a number of complaints against her, and Dr. Price seems to suggest the university, Appalachian State, was simply looking for a way to get rid of her:
Ms. Price told The Chronicle she believes the administration is punishing her because she has spoken out about things on the campus, including what she describes as a male-only poker club that includes administrators and faculty members.
"Men in the poker club gain more power, privileges, and income than others on the campus, and protection from student charges," she said. "Since I started speaking out about this poker club, I have been bullied and harassed."

This seems like a blatant case of sexual discrimination, however The Chronicle focused on her dismissal and suggested censorship with the misleading headline "Tenured Professor Is Placed on Leave After Showing a Film About Pornography." A blog post by another professor noted the misleading headline, but ignored the discrimination accusation, instead worrying about the lack of due process (a valid concern).

Meanwhile, writer Gail Dines, author of the anti-pornography book Pornland: How Porn has Hijacked our Sexuality (which I criticized in an earlier posting), has written that this incident shows that universities are only interested in supporting pornography, and claims that Dr. Price is being punished for daring to criticize porn.

Dines is making the common mistake of confusing studying with enjoying. As some one who has studied pornography at university, I often explain that simply because you study something does not mean that you support it. If I had written university papers on toxic waste, people would not assume I was hoping to live in a sewer. And Dines is assuming the pornography was the cause of the suspension, because it suits her goal of promoting her book. Dines writes, appropriately, that porn is big business, but fails to note that there is also money in opposing porn.

But these errors are minor, compared with overlooking the accusation of discrimination. For all the progress in gender equality that has been made, the old boys club is still very much in evidence at many institutions. That's not as interesting a story as writing that a film may have upset some students and/or the porn industry, but it is a much more important one.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Bullying III - Pot calling Kettle

I previously suggested the film Bully had deliberately courted a ratings controversy by its choice of language to include. Defenders of the film typically noted that the language was 'real' and, in typical anti-censorship fashion, claimed you can't censor the truth. The director has stated he included swearing to make the bullying more real.

It seems the director also made decisions about what not to include, again to make the film more real. One of the subject children, who according the film committed suicide due to bullying, had also been diagnosed as bi-polar, with ADHD and Aspergers. There is evidence that several other factors significantly contributed to his suicide, detailed in this Slate article. The director's comment about not including the full mental health background or the other issues?
“I really felt that by not disclosing it, we wouldn’t allow the audience to prejudge,” he said. “It was a decision we thought about a lot. Ultimately, we thought the film would be more powerful without it.”
More powerful, yes, and also possibly harmful, according to the Slate article. I'm not surprised that a documentary excludes material that does not support its claims, but it is a little rich for the director to be defending his language content on the grounds of truth, which he has committed far greater sins of omission.