MAFS’ Dean Wells has been taken to task by dating app Bumble after he called a ban on body shaming by the app a violation of his right to free speech.
In an open letter released on Wednesday, Bumble hit back at Dean’s comments, arguing he does not, in fact, have the right to say whatever he wants on their platform.
The uproar began when the popular dating app announced on January 28 that their terms and conditions had been updated to ban ‘unsolicited or derogatory comments that are made about someone’s appearance, body shape, size or health’.
At the time the former MAFS groom took to Instagram to criticise what he saw as an intrusion on his right to freedom of speech.
“Yet another example of our freedoms being taken away one by one,” he wrote on Instagram.
“Little by little our right to say, think and do whatever we want is being eroded.”
Now Bumble has hit back in the scathing letter personally addressing Dean’s criticisms.
Bumble addresses Dean in open letter
“Dear Dean,” the letter was addressed, before outlining their recent changes.
They describe ‘body shaming’ as: Forcing your opinion of what constitutes a ‘good body’ onto others. It can include fat-shaming, thin-shaming, health shaming, or anything in between.”
Then they turn their attention to Dean’s comments.
“We read that you slammed these rules as a violation of your freedom of speech — in fact, you claimed that the right to “say, think, and do whatever we want is being eroded.”,” the letter continues.
“We reject the idea that it’s acceptable to say someone is too fat, too thin, too tall, too short, or whatever your complaint might be.
“You’re not entitled to make unsolicited comments to someone about their body just because it doesn’t meet your standards.
“You don’t have the right to make someone feel undesirable because you don’t find them attractive.
“But we do have the right to ban you from our platform if you do.”
The letter goes on to explain the lasting impact body shaming has on people, with a particular focus on women’s experience of the action.
“Here’s something that you might not realise,” the letter reads. “From the earliest of ages, people across the gender spectrum, but particularly women, are taught to feel embarrassed and ashamed of their bodies.”
“The pressure to look a certain way starts young, and unsolicited comments about weight, height, body hair, or skin can cause damage that lasts a lifetime.
“Body shaming can do harm to the mental and physical health of the people on the receiving end.”
The letter ended with some pointed, personal advice to the former reality star.
“Keep your personal opinions about their body to yourself,” the letter states.
“Not sure if a comment about someone’s body might be welcome? Just find something else to talk about.”
After his inflammatory post kicked off a firestorm online, Dean later took to his Instagram stories to explain that while he did not personally feel deprived of calling women he might be interested in whatever he wants to, he is arguing for the principle of freedom of speech to be upheld.
“You can't have free speech but then decide which things people are allowed to be free to speak about,” he argued.
“Like, you have to have free speech for all and for everything, and just suck it up. It's just words. Yeah, it sucks, but just block the person, kick them off.”
Dean, and many others, may not realise that freedom of speech in Australia is not as cut and dried as simply saying what you want, where you want, when you want, to whom you want.
Do Australians have the right to freedom of speech?
Technically, Australians do not legally or constitutionally enjoy ‘freedom of speech’ in the way it’s popularly understood – the way that citizens of the United States do, for example.
Where in the US, the right to freedom fo speech is enshrined in the First Amendment of the constitution, in Australia we enjoy the right to hold opinions without interference and to freedom of expression under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
According to Article 19, those freedoms are subject to restrictions “for respect of the rights or reputations of others and for the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals”.
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