Banned In Boston: Censorship of Messages of Healing in a Time of Pain
By Kit Murray Maloney at O’Actually
(Originally published on HuffingtonPost.com)
I’ve heard “This is needed but not here, not now” too many times. This time, I’m hearing it from the leadership of the JKF Library and TEDxBeaconStreet in Boston, MA.
My talk is my message: It’s time to celebrate women’s sexual pleasure, including female orgasms and self pleasure, for safety, healing, and empowerment. read on…
I hold a Masters degree in Gender and Social Policy from the London School of Economics. For the past two decades, I’ve been an activist, academic, and entrepreneur committed to advancing the safety of women’s bodies and sexuality.
In April, TEDxBeaconSt named me as a selected and approved speaker for their November TEDx event in Boston, MA. The venue was then confirmed to be the JKF Library, an institution which claims to celebrate courage.
Less than a month before the talk, I was censored and restricted from this opportunity.
Men in leadership positions, told me that my message and ideas are “Important, well articulated, and need to be heard.” And yet, “Not here, not now.”
It’s 2017. It’s time for men in power to release their fear, listen, and let women speak.
If you agree, please continue to read for the full account of the censorship. I explain what happened and share my letter to Mr. Rothstein, the head of the JFK Library. I sent it on Nov 9 and have had no response.
In the spirit of allowing women’s voices to be celebrated not silenced, please share this post. #yeshereyesnow
Selected as a TEDxBeaconSt Speaker
My background and my message was clearly understood by John Werner, TEDxBeaconSt licensee and curator, when I applied in March of this year. I then went through his selection process. In April, I was named a speaker for their Nov TEDx event. In June I met in person with John and about a dozen fellow speakers and speaker mentors in Boston. In that discussion he praised me further. I quote from memory, “Kit’s going to get up on stage and give a rallying cry for female masturbation. It’s going to amazing, be spread widely, it’s really important stuff.”
I then went about my writing process. In a conversation with my TEDxBeaconSt assigned speaker coach on Sept 29th, I first caught wind that the JKF Library was threatening to ban me from speaking. My coach and I agreed that this should have no impact on how I designed and articulated my message. I continued development.
In mid-October, I learned that I was flagged by Steven Rothstein, the head of the JFK Library. I would have to get a complete draft of the talk prepared within four days and present it to him. This struck me as a wildly sexist hoop, but I decided to jump through it. What happened after that is documented in the letter I wrote to Mr Rothstein below. In short, after I presented on Oct 22nd there was wide spread praise of the talk. Steven himself said it was “important, well articulated, and needed to be heard.” Then he censored it by telling John Werner/ TEDxBeaconSt that I was not permitted to speak.
Two days later, on Oct 24th, John called to tell me that he would not allow me to speak through TEDxBeaconSt on Nov 18th. He said he was committed to my talk, that it is “amazing” but that it would have to come at a later date and at a different venue, neither of which he could provide any certainty about. He shifted and back peddled.
He strongly implied that he only selected me because of who my father is. When I decided to pursue giving a TEDx talk, I had a distant memory that my father and John had met many years prior. So I asked my father if he happened to have John’s email because the application process was unclear. My father did email John once in the beginning of 2017 saying, “My daughter is interested in applying to speak through TEDxBeaconSt. Could you please let us know about the application process?” John’s implication that he selected me because of who my father is, came after all these months of him repeatedly and consistently giving enthusiastic support of my talk. The notion that my father influenced his decision is both untrue and one of the oldest sexist tricks in the book – make a woman think she is there not because of her own proven merit but because of her relationship to a man.
John then said he always meets his speakers in advance. I reminded him of our in person June meeting where he told the room about my background and about the importance of my ideas.
John continued to boast of his contacts at various TEDx locations and TED itself.
On Oct 26th, John texted me asking him to call. I had just landed at Reagan International in Washington, D.C. for travel unrelated to TEDx. I asked him if and how he would like to collaborate in explaining to several thousand people in my community as to why I would no longer be speaking at TEDxBeaconSt in Nov. He responded with a directive, “Kit, you tell them that the curator of TEDxBeaconSt said you were not ready.” That was the first time I ever heard mention or concern that I wouldn’t be ready by Nov 18th. I replied that I would absolutely not be telling that lie.
Ten minutes later he called back asking me to consider speaking at TEDxMidAtlantic on Oct 28th, two days later. I explained that I was not in DC for TEDx related work but that I would consider this as an option and get back within the hour. I did so, letting him know that I was a yes. I also asked for reassurance that if I were to drop my plans and spend the next 48hrs preparing to go on stage, that I would indeed go on stage. His words: “Kit, I will not pull out the rug from under you, again.”
I edited, practiced, and got myself ready. And yet, John did not have the influence he advertised. The organizers of TEDxMidAtlantic kept me in the wings waiting all day on Sat Oct 28th. I was never called to the stage. They later emailed me to thank me for my flexibility and say that they were only able to squeeze in one additional speaker, a well known man. I don’t believe there was ever any serious intent of having me speak in DC. I believe rather that John attempted to have me on record saying, “I’m not ready.” Even though a “not ready” then would have been for a talk in two days in DC instead of in three weeks in Boston. But I never gave them that satisfaction. Because I was ready. I am ready.
My letter to Mr Rothstein, head of the JKF Library is below. It was sent on Nov 9th, 2017 and I have yet to receive a response. For further information about this censorship, please go to my Facebook, Instagram and my blog through O’actually.
Letter to the JFK Library – Nov 9, 2017
I’d like to express my disappointment in your interference and censorship that resulted in my removal as a speaker for my previous approved talk through TEDxBeaconSt at the JFK Library on Nov 18th, 2017.
Many months ago, I pitched and was enthusiastically accepted to give a talk by TEDxBeaconSt. As someone who grew up in the Back Bay and went to school behind Fenway Park, I have a deep affinity to Boston. I was thrilled to be coming home to give this talk.
I later learned that the venue of the TEDx talk would be the JFK library. Courage, vision, and innovation are all principles that I very much support and aspire towards. Both my mother and my aunt have spoken at the library. I was excited to follow in their footsteps.
When I heard murmurs a month or so ago that the library itself had flagged me and was threatening to restrict my ability to speak, I was deeply concerned. Concerned not only because I believe in the importance and relevance of my message but because it never dawned on me that the library as a venue would intervene to censor talks from TEDxBeaconSt’s selected speakers.
It just didn’t compute. My talk is not partisan and it is about an idea, an idea which was selected by TEDxBeaconSt. It is also about women’s sexuality, but why would that be censored by a hosting venue?
After all, I am speaking at the library but I’m very clearly not giving a JFK library talk. I’m giving a TEDx talk and all you’d seen was the title: Celebrating Women’s Sexual Pleasure for Healing and Bettering the World. TED and TEDx is about sharing big ideas and new ways of thinking. My talk fits into that. It also highlights women’s sexuality and embraces female masturbation. But the Kennedy’s are known for big thinking and courage and expressing the very things that are hard to say because they know doing so is important.
I was told that for me to go forward, I would have to get my talk prepared a month before other speakers. That as the head of the library I would need to present to you and be vetted by you. And I did. And you praised me and you praised my talk.
Some of your words: “[Your talk] is very important and you do it in a very thoughtful and articulate way. And I say this as a man, but I think it needs to be heard.”
You then proceeded down a path of attempting to disguise unfounded censorship. You said that it would be better for me to give the talk elsewhere. This is an all too familiar trick. A painfully transparent attempt to have me see you as doing me a favor while you actually take away an opportunity I earned. No. Let me assure you, none of your behavior, certainly not the restriction of my ability to present through a TEDx talk, has been beneficial to me. Yes, I will eventually get my message out widely, but it will be in spite of your censorship not because of it.
Secondly, you implied that somehow I couldn’t give my TEDx talk at the JFK library because it is a federal building? A federal building is exactly where both the spirit and truth of freedom of speech is celebrated and protected – not censored. The library is neither a private club nor a religious institution and it therefore holds no exemptions to our 1st Amendment, and my protection under it.
As you know because it is clearly stated on the The JFK Library’s website, the library does not endorse any talks given at the venue. TEDx regulations specifically restrict any identifying signage from their videos of the talks. A point that makes it even more confounding that you would choose to intervene and censor in this manner.
I also take umbrage with your mention of the JFK centennial as somehow being in conflict with me speaking. I understand the centennial as an opportunity for the library to host a myriad of events – NONE of them sanctioned or endorsed by the library – to attract visitors to building. I’m not in conflict with that in anyway. I was intending on bringing dozens of supporters to the library for my talk – many Bostonian’s who’ve never been as well as supporters from as far away as Nevada, Florida, and even London.
This is silencing happening in 2017 Boston at a presidential library – a place for learning, idea sharing, and expansive thought. You had an opportunity to be a partner in healing and moving forward and yet choose fear and silencing. Banning me and my message of celebrating women’s sexual pleasure for healing is not to be taken lightly. Please don’t allow yourself to think it is somehow separate or less destructive than any other form of silencing. Everything that is being brought to the surface right now is interconnected.
You said that I’ve “raised an issue that [you] think needs to get talked about that doesn’t get talked about.” And I agree.
However, for leading an institution that celebrates visionaries, your actions lack the very courage you and the library expound.
When you accepted your current role, you wrote that you are dedicated to social justice and human progress. You said you “have built [your] career around assisting individuals that have been in the shadows of society.” Unfortunately those words do not presently ring true.
Finally, please don’t use the experience of being exposed for your censorship as an excuse to preemptively silence and restrict others in the future. From hearing my talk you know that what I want most in this world is for a wide variety of messages of love and healing to have the chance to reach people who most need love and healing.
Kit Murray Maloney