I don’t often pay attention to my WordPress dashboard, but this post caught my eye a couple of weeks ago. The post was quite funny and it piqued my curiosity about the standards for posts on Freshly Pressed. I hadn’t realized that people actively tried to get onto Freshly Pressed, and I found this post, which outlines some of the standards for blog posts that make it to Freshly Pressed. Unsurprisingly, the WordPress staff consciously avoid making hard-and-fast statements about what will or won’t make it onto the dashboard, but it is not hard to read between the lines.
I don’t much care about making it onto Freshly Pressed – the subjects about which I write are not necessarily eye-catching to the majority of the population – but I am automatically excluded, I would imagine, by the “no bad stuff” rule which struck up some amount of debate in the post’s comments (the other rule that caused debate was the “include images or visuals” clause, but that is a separate issue). Thinking about the Freshly Pressed “bad stuff” issue got me thinking about free speech, LGBT education in public schools, etc.
WordPress has the right to set standards for what it features on its front page. The Powers That Be could decide they only want to feature cooking blogs, for example, and that is their prerogative. They host our blogs for free on their site so we don’t have much stock in how they run their enterprise. But here’s the wording for the rule about content:
“1. Write unique content that’s free of bad stuff.
Each post that makes it to Freshly Pressed contains original content created by the WordPress user. Bad stuff includes (but isn’t limited to) plagiarism, hate speech, fear-mongering, adult/mature content, improperly used images that belong to someone else, spam or content that is primarily advertorial.”
Most of that is pretty innocuous: who doesn’t want bloggers to avoid plagiarism and hate speech? But lumping “adult/mature content” into “bad stuff” indiscriminately is a slippery slope. How do we define “adult” or “mature” (or how should we define them)? Is there a line to be drawn between WordPress exercising its right to moderate its own content and de facto discrimination?
In employment law, there exists a distinction between “disparate impact” and “disparate treatment.” So, a company publishing an ad asking for job applications that states: “Transgender people need not apply” is overtly discriminatory and considered disparate treatment. But, having a rule, for example, that “all men must dress in X way and all women must dress in Y way,” or stating that “we will not hire people who need hormone therapy covered by company health insurance,” though not overtly aimed at trans people, may have an (un)intended, disparate impact on trans employees.*
So where do the Freshly Pressed standards fall on that spectrum? On the one hand, free speech yada yada, “I have the right to put my thoughts about everything out on the internet.” On the other hand, WordPress has the right to organize their content how they choose. But free speech aside, the other underlying issue, which came up a few times when people mentioned “bad stuff” in the comments on the post, is “What is appropriate for minors to read?”
I am not a psychologist or an educator, so I cannot speak to the science or the theory behind when and where to expose kids to particular ideas. But those ideas are often there even if adults have not spoken to the kids about them. I certainly had some inclinations of the trans issues when I was a little kid, but I didn’t have the language to speak or think about them. I dearly wish someone had sat me down and explained the word “transgender” to me as a seven year old. I think my childhood would have been a lot smoother.
When school boards get caught up in the debate about discussing homosexuality in sex-ed courses or when you see pundits flipping out about kids becoming trans by watching Chaz Bono on Dancing with the Stars (*cough* Keith Ablow *cough*), it makes you think about what concepts kids can truly handle. I am of the belief that they can handle most anything if presented carefully. Parents choose to talk with their children about sex in general at a wide variety of ages, and it doesn’t seem to be the age that you first had a talk with your parents about sex that affects your relationship with sex (except in cases where people are actually harmed by not being able to talk about it). I’ve also read some great articles and anecdotes about kids who seem to get LGBT issues much better than most adults (e.g. “My daughter said that she had always been sure she was a girl on the inside and on the outside. Then she furrowed her brow in concern for my friend. ‘It would be hard to be one thing inside and one thing outside and not get to be the one you say you are.’”).
I’m not saying I think a seven year old kid could sit down and read my blog and not need to have a conversation with an adult about it. I’m not even saying that I’m sure a seven year old kid should read my blog. But some kids are dealing with the same issues and could use a chance to see they are not alone. And others will never deal with those issues and need to realize that trans people are people too. Are we really doing ourselves or our children a favor by “shielding” them from particular ideas?
* These concepts as understood by a future lawyer, not yet an actual lawyer, so please take my legal analysis with a grain of salt.
“‘Freshly Pressed’ and Thoughts on Education” by https://growingupgareth.wordpress.com/ is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at https://growingupgareth.wordpress.com/.