Rights, Privileges, and Just What Planet Are You From?

Okay, it’s been a ranty kind of month . . . what can I say? I alluded to people thinking that a college education is a “right” in this country in my last post, and yesterday, I’m listening to the morning chat on the radio station, and Lo! we have a “right” to dress as we please in this country. Someone pass me a copy of the Constitution because I’m darned if I can remember reading that. Apparently some woman (pictured above) boarded a plane in a mini-skirt and was asked to leave and/or cover up. Well, I think that’s just about the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard in a good while (and I hear ridiculous things all the time, some of them coming from my own mouth), but do I think that this woman has a “right” to wear what she wants? Er, no. And it’s not just semantics here, folks, believe me. People are truly and deeply confused about what constitutes a “right” and what constitutes a “privilege.”

We have The Bill of Rights (in America) and we have the U. N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other than that (and maybe state laws) we have no others. We have certain rights that we may or may not take for granted: the right not to be held in slavery, the right to vote, the right to bear arms, the right to a nationality, the right to peaceful assembly, the right to a speedy trial before a jury of our peers, the right to speak freely, and the right to worship as we wish. We also have certain rights outlined in the Miranda warning, should we ever be arrested. These are rights. It is not a right to drive a car or to live a smoke-free existence or to attain a college degree; it is not a right to watch what you want on television or to dress as you like or to have electricity in your house.

Americans, in particular, seem to bandy about the word “right” and its fellow heavy-hitter “freedom” with extreme and wanton abandon. As an American, I find this somewhat embarrassing, though I do understand where it comes from (or where I think it comes from). Watch the news for a week, and you’ll undoubtedly hear people claiming the right to all manner of things from the right to go to a baseball game to the right not to be harassed by telemarketers. Do I love going to baseball games and hate being called by telemarketers? Yes! Do I feel my rights are violated if I can’t or if I am? Um, come on, what planet do you think I’m from? Heck, I don’t even think I have a right to end a sentence with a preposition if I want to; I just happen to know that it’s acceptable to do so.

So this morning’s radio show consisted of a bunch of callers whining about how they, as Americans, have the right to dress as they wish. How absolutely silly is that? Are we permitted by law? Probably. But that’s hardly a right. We’re also permitted by law to cross intersections on the crosswalk (zebra crossing), but that’s not a right, either.

There’s a difference between things that a society permits, either by law or understood social agreement, and things that are our rights as citizens of a given country or of the world (or at least of the parts of it overseen by the U. N.’s human rights declaration). Something once permitted by law may be outlawed (such as smoking inside public buildings), but no rights are violated. They couldn’t be because it’s not a right to smoke inside public buildings, and it never was. Likewise, something once illegal (women voting, slavery) can be a violation of someone’s rights, and that, I think, is where the grey area comes into play for many Americans, in particular. But there is a big difference between holding certain people enslaved or denying the vote to women and being able to watch your favorite television show. (Okay, that’s a bad example—I’m calling my lawyer if someone tries to stop me watching Lost or Supernatural.)

Maybe one of the indicators of a distinction between a right and privilege is whether or not some people are protected by law, while others are not (as in the case of Civil Rights and enfranchising women). For instance, maybe it is a right that people be allowed to marry legally (if not in the church or religious institution of their choice). Maybe because heterosexuals are given legal protection and social, even the health and longevity benefits of marriage, homosexuals should be, as well. Denying these privileges by denying the right, then, becomes a true question of one’s rights. It is, I think, a totally different kettle of fish to suggest, demand, or wish to be married in a religious ceremony if the religion doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage. But religious laws aren’t civil laws, and in this country, the state cannot govern the rules of any religion and (most thankfully) vice versa.

Marriage (gay or straight) as right or privilege is an interesting question, though, and one that is (obviously) being asked and answered and asked again in our country’s courtrooms and around water coolers. Whether or not Sassy Sally can wear a tight-fitting or barely there outfit on a plane . . . well, that’s got nothing to do with rights, freedoms, or much of much besides personal matters of (lack of) taste, (im)modesty, and/or (in)decency. All fun stuff to talk about, but let’s not get carried away and confuse this with a rights violation; frankly, flying in an airplane (fully dressed to meet anyone‘s definition of modest) is not a right.


38 thoughts on “Rights, Privileges, and Just What Planet Are You From?

  1. The “heavy hitters” of freedom usually have the narrow mentality of differentiating rights from privileges. They thought they owe it to themselves (blindly) to fish everything irrevocable and not, and they claim to have every excuse just so they can “enjoy” what is taken for granted by others. Excercising one’s rights doesn’t mean applying it to every situation possible. My dream of coming to work in my jammies may need reconsideration after the airplane incident. 🙂

  2. Brava! well written!
    (Hey, if I looked like THAT I might flaunt it too!)Maybe the female flight attendants didn’t want the male flight attendants distracted??)

  3. Bah, I couldn’t agree more, the word “rights” is bandied around way too freely.
    I think it’s funny when prisoners complain about having their rights violated cause they don’t have a TV in their cell or their sentence is lengthened…please, don’t make me laugh. Actual human rights are few and far between.
    It’s all part of the same thing as the compensation culture, political correctness gone mad.

  4. i have to admit that i sometimes get ‘rights’ and ‘privileges’ confused. i’m funny that way. but i agree that people spout off about rights quite a bit, and i don’t think most of them know what they’re talking about. it just seems so easy to say.

  5. Jay, that’s perfectly put: “Excercising one’s rights doesn’t mean applying it to every situation possible.” And I so think that going to work in your jammies should be okay. A right? No. But a damn useful and good privilege. 🙂

    Thanks, Sans, and yes, if I looked like that, I would certainly flaunt it. Well, maybe with a bit more style, but still . . . LOL

    Oh, Tally, don’t even get me started on prisoners’ “rights”! That’s a PERFECT example of what I’m talking about. Gah! Yes, Mr. Axe Murderer has the RIGHT to watch tv or to . . . do anything they wish? Excuse me, but no. I, who have not yet axe murdered a single person, don’t have those rights, how does he? AND you are dead right about this being a product of a compensation culture and political correctness . . . it’s amazing, really, how many RIGHTS prisoners have that I don’t. Gahhhh!!!

    I think we all get that confused, Kerry. This was definitely a post I had to think about because some things seem to be inalienable rights, or should be, but they aren’t. So I get where you’re coming from. It’s easy to say we have this right and that freedom because we have so many of both in this country. Which is good, but the downside is that we don’t know the difference between a right and privilege and just a petty desire. Sigh. *hugs*

  6. It would be nice to think that this is just a question of semantics, but alas no. I think it is funny that people are so concerned about their “rights” to dress as the please, when our government has tread on so many of our actual rights these past few years.

    Please pass the Constitution…oh yes, and a side of the Patriot Act!

    PS. Ok, the girl in the airplane is 23. Oh my, really?

  7. Nice post Fuzz…although I always feel so woefully inadequate after reading one of yours. You have such interesting, thought provoking blogs. I have….. the Trail of Poo! Oh well…it takes all kinds right? (:

    As to little Miss Thing in her mini skirt…well heck…I see young girls wearing far less everytime I take MIL to Wal Mart. And if the airlines want to post a dress code I suppose thats their business….but you’re correct….mini skirt wearing isn’t in the Bill of Rights…at least not yet!!

  8. ooh, marianne brings up a good point that i hadn’t even thought of. but i guess people would rather squawk about their ‘right’ to wear slutty outfits on airplanes. somehow it’s much more sensational.

  9. Firstly, I see nothing wrong with the pic (as it’s posted here) with regard to dress-code; Cher is *expected* to look like this 24-7 and not only by her own standards either, so she would have boarded without fuss had she simply gone onboard as a ‘standard’ fair-paying passenger; oops, me-thinks the Airline company would have a sudden problem with double standards which it could actually live with and bent-rules to suit (ppsstt … I don’t think there would be any ‘rights issue’ in such an occurance actually; it would have never reared it’s head.)

    I think there is confusion of rights and ‘rights’ or, what’s considered right or to be ‘right’; No, I am not splitting hairs here because there is no clear definition of either rights or ‘rights’ (and did you lose me yet?) So the lady was asked to leave because the Airline company didn’t agree with her right using their right as a measure of ‘right-ness’; that only leaves the question of who’s right (oh gosh, what a dilemma it all is now!)

    Just picking out one of what you mention is the right to not be pestered by tele-sales. Here in the UK it’s against the law for any company to make unsolicited calls to a domestic phone number. I know this is right because the telephone company said it’s not right that they do this and they have a list (which they must consult) with my telephone number on it that says “Hey, you can’t do this and if you do you committed an Offence and broke a law not a right.” On the other hand, the domestic phone client has the right to have his/her phone number removed from said list and give the tele-sales company their legal right to contact said customer to spew out the verbal garbage that tele-sales have; a case of ‘whatever floats your boat’ but at least banning them in the first instance is the way to go; this way no one has to struggle for either their rights or their ‘rights.’


  10. I so agree with you about the rights and privileges. We went through similar discussions after the no smoking law passed in Ohio. OY!

    As for the girl and her apparel, probably she treated another passenger to a ‘Basic Instinct’ view of her panties, just as she did on the Today show when she sat down. However, IF she was in fact, lectured in front of the other passengers and IF the airline has no clear ‘dress code’, I gotta say that she and her mother have a bit of a point that the airline was wrong. And, this week, I’ve heard of two more incidents with passengers being denied the ability to fly or requested to cover up due to apparel. Which customer takes priority and why?

    Anyway – great rant as usual. 🙂

  11. Again, the word ‘rights’ seems to be on everybody’s lips here these days; it’s become the new means of complaint – not ‘I don’t like this’, or ‘I think there might have been a misunderstanding’, but ‘ my rights to X have been infringed’. I don’t think it’s very often used by intelliegent people or even people who know what it means. Good stuff as usual, Fuzzy! I hope you’re not fighting a rearguard action though. I didn’t know we could stop telemarketeers over here somehow. I want to know more!

  12. Rights, like national boundaries, exist only in the human mind. They have no objective reality. As Frankie said, there is not even a clear definition as to what constitutes a ‘right’. It is a purely subjective matter. Show me one hundred people, I’ll show you one hundred different versions of the same so-called ‘right’. Even formularised ‘rights’ (such as the UN charter of human rights) are interpreted individually, subjectively. Bottom line for most people is the principal “I have the right to have rights, but only if I can define what they are myself”.

  13. If Little Miss Slut has the right to dress like that, I have the right to disagree, don’t I? And really, are either one a right? I’m guilty of using my judgement as a right, and she is guilty of bad taste.

  14. It is my “left”! ? I enjoyed re-reading the ‘rights’ by the way. Why aren’t they called dexters? LOL – Pssst. I don’t think I like Mash either…it doesn’t seem to offer blogs…or am I missing it. Dunno. Hugs dear Fuzzy Slippers.

  15. In other words it is not her RIGHT to show her NETHER regions in a plane full of kids. It might be considered lewd and lacivious behavior. It might be disruptive, but now she is going to make all sorts of money and next week no one will remember this whole blooody thing? I loved your post. Very righteous and I could not agree more.

  16. It’s a good things this country has so many lawyers who need the money or fame and take on these clients who feel there “Constitutional Rights” have been violated. And the sad part is, alot of these asinine cases win!
    I watched the news about that girl who got on the plane dressed like that, and yes it is my opinion that she looks trampy…but that is how alot of girls her age choose to dress these days and people should be used to it! There should be no monetary compensation thrown her way because she had her wittle feelings hurt or suffered emabarrasment….get over it!
    You are so on the mark…The Constitutional Rights need to be rewritten! LOL……Can you imagine that?!
    And sadly, this is why America is such a joke to other countries!

  17. I didn’t follow the airline story too closely, but I didn’t realize the question of “rights” was brought up. I thought she might have been treated a little rudely or even a bit unfairly since there must have been other miniskirt-clad people on the airplane at some time or another. But I get what you’re saying… mode of dress is not a constitutionally protected right. Although complete lack of dress is unlawful in most states… I think? LOL

  18. I’ll tell ya what,.. If i got showered, dressed, got a cab and dragged my ass to the airport for a 6a.m flight to the U.K like I occassionally do, I would be some pissed off if some woman behind the service desk told me I couldn’t board the flight because of something I am wearing. She is clean, you may see her legs,.. but SO WHAT!? She sits her ass down on the seat of the plane, for the duration of the flight.. no one can even see you when you are tucked away in those tiny lil seats, and she gets off!! big woop!!! I see people in fricken p.j’s getting on the plane,… alot of people are desperately rank of body odour,.. and this girl gets denied because her skirt is too short. i think maybe the person who told her that was having a fat day…and got a lil jealous!!! … We are ALL flippin criminals now,.. they wont even let us bring a bottle of water on the airplane, theytold me that maple butter was a LIQUID, now you tell me when the last time you POURED your butter on to your toast!?.. and now they are going to tell me how to dress!?!?!? See, that in itself sends me to a fit of blood boiling anger. I dont think that i’ve passed security once in the past 6months that I didnt get severly pissed off. hahaha listen to me.

    anyways, about this whole “right” thing. I completely understand. I heard someone say the other day that it was there right to have a drivers license past a certain age,.. i said no dear, it’s a priveledge. And if you mistreat, or take that priveledge for granted… it will be taken away from you. It’s not a right.

    Lovely thought provoking blog… now come to mine and read about my stinky patients… hahahahahahah Yer, thats what i’m going to do … if my patient shows up, skantly clad i will send them home and refuse them the massage!!!! LOL ffs.. how stupid

  19. Intriguing blog. There clearly needs to be a definitive line drawn between what constitutes a right versus a privilege. To me, a “legal right” is a choice of action that is unalienable, inviolable, and stipulated by the U.S. Constitution and the Amendments, and for which there is punishment under the law should it be transgressed. A “privilege” is a behavioral choice that does not hold any sway in the legal system; a privilege is not protected by the U.S. laws, and its violations are not considered “crimes” and thus are not punishable, legally.

    But I also think there needs to be a distinction between *moral* rights versus *legal* rights. The former are dictated by our conscience, e.g., our right to privacy, respect, equality, unconditional love from our parents, and dare I say freedom and its associated and necessary responsibilities. However, unlike legal rights, moral rights are not always guaranteed by law… Further, the penalties for violating moral rights are intrinsically self-imposed: our feelings of guilt, shame, remorse, as these violations of moral rights are not considered crimes under the law.

    Moral rights can become legal rights when the majority of a populace (and their representatives in the legislature) comes to a consensus and enacts the moral right into law with particular codes of conducts enforceable by the justice system.

  20. Btw, in your example @ the passenger’s claiming a “right” to dress as she pleases. She has that *moral right* insofar as her right does not infringe upon other people’s rights…However, it is considered a privilege as her dress code is *not* mandated by law.

  21. I’m not sure the way you dress has anything to do with your morals. If one girl wears a bikini, which shows her stomach, and just as much body as the rest,… but say one is a different material, or has a thinner strap, does that make one person have higher morals than the other?…

    I think it’s a matter of being decent or the amount of respect…(and that opens a whole new can of worms, because respect is lacking in the world we are living in today) when going into a public place… and it just depends on what the definition of decency in the public place that you are going into…

    who sets these rules? I am sure that some at the airport would dislike her apparel, because of jealousy or because they were just backward… others wouldnt give two hoots about what she wore… as far as I am concerned … these people just have to much friggin time on their hands, and need to get over the power trip. It was ridiculous.

  22. Morals as it pertains to how one perceives right and wrong. Morals need not be mandated by society or anyone else, just your own conscience. In the passenger’s case, I think she believes she can wear whatever she wants. That is, she feels she has a “moral right” to dress as she pleases. And I agree, she does. It is not against the law for her to wear a mini-skirt, tank top, etc. However, had she chosen to run around a public place *nude*, now, that is against the law because nudity is *specifically* addressed in a section of the U.S. legal statutes and codes.

    I personally don’t find anything wrong with how she dressed. But that does not mean she didn’t offend others’ moral code of conduct. But again, the law can *not* treat her any differently from any other passenger because she did not do anything *legally* wrong, just *morally* wrong in the minds of the airline attendant(s).

  23. but this is the question.. since when does some airline attendant have the right to judge what is morally right or wrong? Our morals are a very personal, sacred thing, and depends alot on how we were raised. To some, how someone dress has NOTHING to do with morals. Like you say, if she was walking around stark naked,..lol that definately has something to do with an indency, a seared conscience, and bad morals. it’s all a very individual thing.

    what was done to her was wrong. I think we both agree on that. Oh, and nice to meet you CoCo 😀

  24. they are going to start judging people on what they wear? seriously this is a flippin airline! It’s no different than a busline, or a train.. it’s just a way of transportation… and if they are going to be that picky on what we wear, there should be a section of our ticket that states a dress code… seriously, it’s ridiculous eh?

  25. Wow, I LOVE these comments; you guys, as usual and always, ROCK! I think, Blackie, that you have a point about morals being personal, but I also see the point that Coco is making and that is the difference between a right, moral or otherwise, and a privilege. And for us to be bogged down in the episode being about rights really serves my whole point; it’s NOT a right to wear a bikini or a suit of armor. This is our country (or Western thought in general, my fabulous Canadian friend) mucking up the issue. People judge people by what they wear all the time, even unconsciously. But it’s what we do with or about those judgements that is an issue here perhaps. I dunno. Shrugs happily and smiles that anyone debated anything on my page . . . . Weeeeeeee!

    And Mitch, if we, as humans, live only with and accepted only objective reality . . . . well, that’s just a bit of red herring. We have rights, just as we laws; this isn’t negotiable, not in our reality. Granted, it’s ALL made up, but that doesn’t make it any the less “real.” I mean we decided that murder is wrong, that incest is wrong . . . is it inherently so? Probably not. And if we argue yes, these are inherent wrongs . . . well, on what do we base that argument? Again, on things that are subjective, made up. That something doesn’t exist, I guess, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t or shouldn’t have power. Indeed, that it doesn’t “exist” in some meaningful, if subjective, way.

    FrankiE, you talk about this in the perfectly circular way that it should be spoken of; however, I do think, as I’ve just said to Mitch, that there are rights. They do exist for us; whether or not they fit our own moral code is another question entirely. Does someone feel “right” in taking a life in certain circumstances? Sure, maybe. Does that mean they have a right to do so? Very different use of the word (and not just grammatically changing a noun for an adverb).

    Coco, I love what you say about the difference between a moral right and a legal one . . . and I think that gets to the crux of the matter in that when we feel morally outraged or taken advantage of, we are most likely to scream about rights violations. Even if none exist. I think setting ourselves up as the moral authority leads to a great deal of this and to the confusion and general idiocy that goes with it. People claim to the right to the most bizarre things (peeing on a tree), but . . . LOL. I LOVE this!! Yay!!

  26. It has been long debated whether rights are inherent or a creation of a human mind. I guess rights are a bit of both, wouldn’t you say? Humanity would live in a state of chaos without written rights. Lawyers would be out of a job as well ;-p

    I guess since we live in a country where some personal rights are protected under the law, this fact is celebrated to the point where a person will hide behind it when it is convenient. The word “right” gets tossed around so much as a result, which is really sad. This makes me angry, especially considering what sacrifices were made for these rights.

    Where the trampy outfit is concerned, however, we at least have a privelage to dress as we wish in this country (within reason, of course). She wants to look like a silly person, so let her.

  27. At first, I only looked at her hair which I thought pretty and higlighted by mother nature to a bright color, I guess, ‘Blonde’ people call it.

    I noticed her tribal rag (which you called ”miniskirt”) only when I read about it in the post.

    But on a sombre note, I must say that any supposed ‘right’ is automatically rendered invalid if it causes anxiety, discomfort, embarassment to all others around you, which is actually violation of their right to travel and exist peacefully.

    I think on similar grounds people who might think it’s their right not to check their body odor and stink horribly, should be banned from lurking about in public places where one can’t help rubbing shoulders with the other.

  28. Fascinating blog, I read about her case, you are right she doesn’t have to bring constitution here. The Airlines could have sorted this out politely, but both made a big deal. This dress is provocative but the thing is this has become a common sight everyone is wearing like this in the streets, near the place I work. Unless Southwest Airlines specifically states this type of dress is not allowed they have a right to enforce, but they didn’t she should be allowed to go. Nobody uses common sense and decency anymore, they dress at will, they use laws at will instead of being consistent. Great blog Doc. Cheers.

  29. Ack! The airline security people should have been glad that she was so dressed, or undressed as this was the case, that it was harder for her to conceal weapons of mass destruction. I for one would feel more at ease with a practically naked passenger sitting beside me than with someone dressed from head to tow in a bed sheet. (Er, Mr. what is that big bulge under your wrap?) This whole episode was stupid and I agree with one of the comments about this girl and her 15 min of fame not to mention the money she will make because the airline was so stupid. And are they the same airline that killed a woman passenger for pitching a hissy fit because she was late for her flight? And then tried to say she wriggled out of handcuffs and choked her own self to death? Puleeeeze! And btw. I don’t need anyone telling me what my rights are. I know legal as opposed to human rights are different, but I think we have wayyyyyy too many rules and regulations in our world these days and that very fact tramples on MY right to live a peaceful life.

  30. Right On! (No pun intended) Think locally they are trying to make a law about having underwear poking out the top of your pants. I think if they just told the guys where this originated they would probably not do it. (Prison sign for homosexuals when they are available).

  31. Gosh, this craetes a bi of a stir. In Atlanta a law was recently proposed and may have passed that regards “Sagging”. This is more related to gang type activities than suggestive dress.
    I came up in the 60s and 70s. Perhaps the “Now” generation has forgotten the Mini skirts of that time and Hot Pants. In the schools, these items were frowned upon by conservatives yet we were in a freedom of expression movement. Now we’ve advanced into the 21st century and many things that were overlooked are being rethought. Now I must consider the image as portrayed. If I were married, my wife would probably slap me for looking! Good thing I’m not!

  32. My spelling is horrible “creates a bit”. 75 % of the worlds attorneys live in the US. They do keep busy. In another century, it will be illegal to drink milk after 9 AM an who knows what else. But thats my spin.

  33. We have slowely been loosing a lot of our rights. I think it starts in school with our children. It seems our kids can’t say what they mean and can’t play. They are being told how to express themselves. You can’t tell another child ” I don’t want to play with you”. It is considered being rude or insensitive. This is just an example.
    Now for being told to change or cover up. I agree the lady above appears fine. But I do wish people had more common sense in what they wear. I do not mean looks. I mean in what body parts they are exposing. I have been on a plane and have seen more than I would like to see and definitly did not want my son to see. I say panties should be a must if your skirt is only 2 inches below your butt.

  34. Oh! Oh! Oh! I always arrive at your site expecting something over-the-top intelligent and passionate. You do not disappoint, dear Rant Diva! This is as beautiful as anything you’ve ever done, and it sends me thinking in new directions, which is a great gift to the world.

    Thank you for being you! And for sharing this with the world!

  35. sry not been around a while, wishing you everything that santa can give you to make you extremely happy. take care and love as always.

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