We need to remember that we have no right to tell others what to do with their art, with their voice. During the final stretch of this [adjectives withheld] election, I saw magazines and brands and celebrities and artists speaking out. It was amazing to see them voicing their support because they have purchasers of their goods or their art or their performance at stake. And, usually, following posts endorsing a woman candidate for president, this woman saw a slew of comments attempting to silence them, telling them in different ways, in many ways, to shut up; telling them that their opinions are not wanted, that they should stick to tasks supposedly assigned to them (such as entertaining the masses with their movies or fashion or books or something else the consumer wanted to consume), and that being exposed to their thoughts is not one of the reasons they are being “followed” on social media by these people who want to be the ones to determine who does and does not get to make public their opinion (or have freedom of speech. Basically if you’re a public figure of any kind—except a politician [or not, as in the president-elect’s case. my head hurts: the irony here is astounding.]—, these people think you’ve lost that most basic of rights.). When you kill freedom of speech, democracy dies.
We need to remember that it is every person’s and every artist’s responsibility to use their voice for what matters. It is their responsibility to use the platform they have to speak up for continued progress. Know the courage it takes to do that. Know that the speaker is likely aware of the fury that suppressors of free speech will unleash. Know that they are familiar with the possibility that they might lose “fans” because of this. But they do it anyway. They speak for themselves and they speak for those who cannot, for those whose voices will not be heard, for those who don’t have a voice. They speak because the issues confronting us are important. Because our lives depend on it. Because our future and the future of humanity depends on it.
In social media, the way it has grown, the mini celebs that have come from it, many of us, most of us, have such a platform that we can use in whichever way we choose. It is a matter of choice. And we cannot take that away from anyone, person or brand or company.
Those who are against it might watch fewer movies, buy fewer books or magazines or paintings or clothes. But to the ones expressing their thoughts and support and opinions it matters more that they take a stand, that they pick a side. Because that is of value to them, that means something to them. You can read into it—if you know how (and many people I know astonishingly don’t)—and you can understand something about values, about courage. And, it is possible, you might even understand something about art.
I am tremendously hopeful when I see those who know they have something to lose by being vocal against hate, against racism, against misogyny doing it anyway. It tells me that, at least to some, there is more than just popularity and money at the heart of all this. That there are in this world responsible artists (many writers, actors, musicians, singers, fashion designers, artists of all kinds were, are, with Hillary Clinton), and even companies, who have been given an audience for their voice by us, the public, the people who form their following, and they are using that voice. That, friends, is what a voice is for. That is what our voice is for. And we have no right to silence it.
Always remember the truth in what Martin Luther King, Jr. said:
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.