Hurt feelings shouldn’t shape censorship

Luigi Ghersi cartoon Colby Patterson
Luigi Ghersi

Luigi Ghersi

While it may be true that children were put on this earth to trouble their mothers, it can also be said that mothers were put on this earth to embarrass their children. During a family vacation to Yellowstone, my brother decided to test my mother’s patience by wearing a tank top she felt was indecent and then refusing to take it off. My mother in turn threatened to remove her shirt. The situation ended with my brother backing down, thankfully sparing us — and the wildlife — the embarrassment of public indecency.

According to the Daily Herald, the teenage son of Orem resident Judy Cox wasn’t so lucky when his mother decided some shirts being displayed by PacSun were indecent and demanded their removal. This story illustrates another example of blurring the fine line of personal opinion versus what actually constitutes public indecency.

The T-shirts being displayed featured images of nearly naked women in sexually suggestive poses. They so offended Cox that when the PacSun manager refused to remove the display, Cox herself refused to blink and purchased every shirt in stock for a cool $567. Apparently Cox has no plans to use these shirts to clean her toilets or give them away as white elephant gifts at a neighborhood Christmas party. As the Daily Herald reports, she plans to return them to PacSun “on day 59 of a 60-day return policy.” Such tactics will surely work for me down the road when I decide to purchase every magazine with a sexually suggestive cover in the checkout line at Target to spare my community the indecency of vacant-eyed starlets showing a little skin. However, unlike Cox, I will not be returning the magazines, because frankly I could use the fashion advice and the top 10 tips for great sex.

In a way, Cox did herself a favor by buying every offensive shirt from PacSun. If she hadn’t, she could have been confronted by flocks of people wearing those naughty shirts on the streets of Orem. Such an event could have led to a standoff similar to the one my own mother faced that day in Yellowstone when confronted with my brother’s indecency. Cox may have been forced to use the threat of removing her shirt if those people refused to remove theirs. By purchasing every shirt, she successfully prevented the people of Orem from being offended by those soft cotton porn images as well as taking away the choice of others to buy them. After all, nothing does a better job of preventing temptation than censorship.

Freedom of speech is such a fickle issue — we all want it, but generally only on our own terms. Cox has every right to be offended by any image that violates the values of her finely tuned eye, but to demand what essentially is censorship crosses the line. I could choose to be offended by her last name, which, to my finely tuned and somewhat warped mind, seems sexually suggestive. Perhaps I should demand that her last name be edited out of this very article. If that doesn’t happen I will simply snatch up every last copy of The Daily Utah Chronicle that has this article printed in it and thus prevent students’ eyes from being soiled by the indecency of her last name.

But in doing so, I would also deny every student the opportunity to read this incredibly well-written rant about the fine line between personal opinion and public indecency, and in good conscience I simply can’t do that. Instead I will deal with being offended by my perceived indecency of the last name Cox, and rather than cross the line of censorship, I will look the other way when I see the name. I will choose to compromise my own values by allowing the public to make their own choices in determining what is indecent. And in a way Cox is allowing for the same sort of compromise by choosing to return those T-shirts and letting “their corporate office figure out what to do with them.” I have a pretty good idea of what PacSun will do with those T-shirts once they get them back. Those T-shirts will end up exactly in the same place they were before, which is fortuitous because I plan on buying every single one of those now-famous T-shirts. I’m going to sell them on eBay.