In defense of offensive speech: Our progress is linked to ideas that once angered many

Abigail Anthony, rising junior at Princeton University
USA Today

Excerpt: Every right I have today results from movements once deemed “offensive.”

The idea that I, a 21-year-old woman, am not solely dedicated to housework would astonish the founders of Princeton University, where I am a student. It was less than 60 years ago that Princeton began admitting female students, but now women compose 50% of its undergraduate population. Women were largely excluded from American politics until only a century ago, but today I am a student in the Department of Politics. American society has progressed so greatly since its founding that now I can marry another woman, or a woman who has undergone gender reassignment surgeries.

The gauge of “offensive” evolves so drastically and rapidly that we cannot employ it as a reliable measure for appropriate conduct. We exercise many rights today – including the right to free expression – because unorthodox ideas were eventually recognized by society as acceptable. This does not immediately warrant all offensive propositions as valid, but proves it is prudent to consider such ideas.   Yet, many of my peers – and some of my professors – desire to restrict free speech. In the spirit of considering controversial opinions, I will afford them the courtesy of entertaining their proposition, although they rarely extend such grace to conservative perspectives.