If you are in Great Britain, however, the ringmaster has created some new aspects to speech, that we should all be very aware of, especially if you are vacationing there, and take some time in your hotel room to Tweet, post on Facebook, and so on. In Great Britain, speech, whether spoken or written, can get you "nicked." (That's Brit for thrown in jail)
They take hate speech very seriously over there, and they are actually prosecuting people for it. Women can feel a bit more confident that the government is actually doing something to keep them from being verbally abused in public.
What is worrisome is to me is a larger picture of the concept of "hate speech" in general. If you are going to incorporate hate speech into the element of a prosecution for a hate crime, combined with other elements, that is one thing. But what happens when we start prosecuting just the speech itself? Those men--some, not all-- my wife said, will be deterred from committing the act, and women can feel like they are in a more civilized and safe world when they walk in public. Yes, some might.
And you know where I'm going now: yes, that "slippery slope". How do you draw the line--and where is it drawn---as to what is "hateful" or "disrespectful" to someone's gender or race? Does the legislation of "hate speech" stop at verbally catcalling (which I find offensive enough to were I will gladly intervene on any woman's behalf and risk an ass-beating if necessary to make a point)? What if I wear a t-shirt espousing some sort of symbol, group, or concept that a black person, a Muslim, a woman, a white person, an elderly person, finds disrespectful and hateful. Who decides? Or do I just get arrested first, and wait to see if the prosecution can convince a jury that I should face the punishment of the government.
In America, we have lived under the Constitutional protection that acts can be illegal, up to the and including the point where speech actually threatens the public peace (like threatening to overthrow the government or kill the president).
Expression, in all its forms, has always been protected. From expression, even the types most of us find ugly, we have learned who is out there and how they think, and I like that. Whether it is a statue of Christ in a bucket of urine (a famous work of "art") or someone ranting on Facebook, or someone writing a thoughtful editorial in a newspaper, the diversity of thought and expression has enriched and educated us. Well, some of us. Others will be ignorant and abusive regardless of what is legal and what is not.
I do not want my wife, or any of my daughters (I have three) to suffer the verbal abuse of some Cro Magnon asshole who thinks of her only as a sexual object. And at the same time, I don't want to live in a world where I--or you--can be served an arrest warrant for speaking out against, or for something that others find distasteful or disrespectful. If you as an individual want to confront me on that, fine. I don't want some bureaucrat in government doing so.
I'm on the tight rope here, looking down at both sides, not wanting to fall on either one.
Help me out.