#YesAllWomen – Women’s bodies as a delivery mechanism for statements about men’s power.

I ran a slightly different version of this post in March; in light of the weekend’s events, and the subsequent #YesAllWomen responses, I’ve decided to re-up it.

*******

I wrote the above headline as a tweet recently, just after reading about the recent stabbing death of a teenage Palestinian girl by her brother, “for allegedly shaming her family.”

Ever since writing those 72 characters, though, I can’t stop thinking about them. Because that’s it, that’s the whole story: Women’s bodies are used as a delivery mechanism for statements about men’s power. Everywhere. All the time. Witness Friday’s shootings near UC Santa Barbara.

Honor killings are a particularly obvious example (the kind of example that allows Westerners to feel that we’re off the hook on these issues) because a family’s honor is defined by how chaste the men are able to keep their women. If the women stray (or are perceived to have strayed) from a very narrow definition of proper behavior, in certain cultures and circumstances the men are not only free to kill the women, they’re expected to.

But as we were reminded this weekend, women’s bodies are not just the delivery mechanism for statements about men’s power in Foreign Places that are Far Away. They’re used for making such statements all around the globe, every day, all day.

Rape. Sexual assault. Workplace harassment. Street harassment. Domestic violence. Outright murder. In each case, the attacker or harasser is making clear that his victim (and whoever else might be listening) knows who’s got power over whom. The victim’s body is a tool toward these ends.

Likewise the fight to legally prevent women from having access to the reproductive health care of our choice. When male politicians and cultural leaders declare that pregnant women are “hosts”, or that women who want access to birth control as part of their healthcare are uncontrolled sluts and/or prostitutes, or ask if women want access to abortions, why can’t men have access to rape? – they’re declaring their right to deny women physical autonomy.

When women don’t earn as much as men for the same work, and are only sporadically allowed access to the same work; when women cannot afford to better the physical conditions of their lives without the aid of a better-paid husband; when it continues to be culturally suspect if a man is supported by a woman, and culturally rewarded if a man earns enough money to “allow” his wife to not work — women’s physical productivity is a tool with which men assert or declare their power in the workplace, in society, and at home.

Polygamy; male “scoring” vs. female “sluttiness”; women as cooks but not as chefs; women as accessories but not as leads; women told to be pleasant to men who are rude; women told they’re not Real Geeks; pre-teens who can’t walk to school without hearing grown men talk about their bodies; girls and women told to shape and re-shape their bodies by an entertainment business dominated by men — all are direct examples or outgrowths of the same principle, a principle that frequently overlaps with others: Brown men may not be seen as having as much power as white men, nor poor men as much power as the rich, the cultural elite need to be protected from the unwashed, all of it in an endless cycle of social drama and jockeying for position. As is often true for oppressed populations, some women support this status quo, serving to perpetuate the very system that hurts them and their sisters — but their involvement doesn’t change the basic fact.

And that basic fact is this: At the end of the day, I cannot be sure that my body is mine. My daughter cannot be sure that her body is hers. Our bodies are free game to whatever man needs to tell the world that he is powerful. Our human right to physical autonomy is not a given.

Women’s bodies are delivery mechanisms for statements about men’s power. Everywhere. Every day. And as a recent study shows – it really is all women.

All damn day long.

In defense of “not all.”

The words “not all” are having something of a moment. Not necessarily the kind of moment they might want to have, but it sure is a moment.

All across the internet – on Twitter (of course), but also well-known and less-known blogs, among cartoonists and meme producers, at Jezebel and Vox and even at Time magazine – activists of all stripes are decrying and/or mocking the whininess of people who announce (often quite loudly) that Not All men/white people/straight folks/what-have-you are “like that” – whatever the “that” might be. Racist assholes. Misogynist jerkwads. Homophobic douche-nozzles. And the like.

And I see the point, I genuinely do. Oppression and bigotry are daily, often deadly struggles, and the idea that we need to watch out for the delicate emotional states of people who (consciously or unknowingly) benefit from the fruits of oppression and bigotry can be flat-out ridiculous, not to mention adding insult to literal injury.

But look. I’ve been a social justice activist my whole life, around issues that tend to make people very angry, in particular gender violence and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Trust me when I say that I have more than a little experience with people saying truly horrible things, and expecting me to explain away the horrible things that other people say or do. I’ve been mansplained, Jewsplained, Arabsplained, Gentilesplained, OppressionOlympicssplained, and then mansplained again for good measure, ad nauseum. And yet I am forever producing some version of “not all.” Even if through gritted teeth.

To read the rest of this, please go to xoJane.

For my birthday, would you be so kind….

emily-and-daddy-cropped-13September 21 is my birthday.

It is also the second anniversary of the execution of Troy Davis by the state of Georgia, and also day #921 in the Syrian civil war, which has forced about six and a half million people to run from their homes into an unknowable and deeply frightening future.

Every year on his birthday, actor Nathan Fillion (Buffy, Waitress, Castle, and most importantly: Firefly) asks people to give to his favorite water charity; it’s a lovely thing, and some years, I’ve even done as he asked. And so, inspired by Mr. Fillion, I’ve decided to do a similar thing, if on a much smaller scale (I mean – I know you love me as much as you love Nathan Fillion. There are just a few million fewer of you. Is all).

If you enjoy this blog, or my writing over at The Daily Beast, or the piece I just ran on xoJane (of which, by the way, there will be more in the future), or if you like my Tweets, or, heck, maybe you know me personally and maybe I make you laugh every now and then — and if you have a little spare dosh to pass around — please consider celebrating my birthday in one of the two following ways:

  1. troy davis suitIn Troy’s memory, please purchase I Am Troy Davis, published this week and written by my good friend Jen Marlowe and Troy’s sister, Martina Correia-Davis, who died of breast cancer soon after her brother was killed. It’s the story of Troy, his remarkable family, and the on-going struggle to end the death penalty. (And not for nothing, but Jen is a hell of a writer). Can’t say it better than Susan Sarandon: “I Am Troy Davis is a painful yet very important book” — unless it’s Maya Angelou: “Here is a shout for human rights and for the abolition of the death penalty. This book, I Am Troy Davis, should be read and cherished.” If you make your purchase through the non-profit publisher, Haymarket Books, it’ll cost you $18.
  2. There are more than six million Syrians who have run from their homes in fear. About two million of them have crossed international borders; more than four million remain within their war-torn country, trying desperately to get by. There is so little that we can do to reach out and help the Syrian people — but we can reach out to support the folks working night and day to support them: Please donate to the UN Refugee effort. This is how I’ll be honoring my own birthday, and all who have raised and loved me so far.

    Syrian refugees filling their buckets at Atmeh refugee camp, in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, Syria, Apr. 5, 2013 source

    Syrian refugees filling their buckets at Atmeh refugee camp, in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, Syria, Apr. 5, 2013 source

And hey, if you happen to be Nathan Fillion? Thanks for everything, man. And please celebrate my birthday with me.

Training the world – on little girls and body image.

I maintain something of a bi-cameral approach with regard to writing about my children: I write about them, but I don’t use their names (their last name is different to mine, which helps); I write about them, but I write only happy things, or uplifting things, or things that are far in the past. Nothing that would embarrass them, nothing that is truly personal and private. I owe them that, I think. They didn’t ask to be born to me.

Today I’m going to break down that wall, though, because I believe my own daughter’s well-being actually, in a very broad way, depends on it. If you know my girl, or if you ever meet her, I’m asking you here and now: Please don’t discuss the following with her. It would, genuinely, make her sad.

The girl.

The girl.

But how am I to remain silent, when she sits in the back of my car, tears streaming down her face and wondering, in a tiny and strangled voice, if anyone will ever love her?

The girl is tall, and broad, and strong, and round. She is 10, and as she has throughout her young life, she has a belly. It’s not small – it’s a real belly. The kind of belly that many young girls have until they reach puberty, and which is usually eclipsed by the appearance of breasts. As girls grow into women, our shapes change — but they don’t usually change entirely. Mine didn’t. If you were born big and soft (9 lbs 3 oz, and she was four weeks early), you’re never going to become anything much different, unless you literally do physical damage to yourself in the effort.

“Do you think I’ll ever be skinny?” she asked in that same car ride.

No, honey, no. I do not think you will ever be skinny. “Skinny” (like “fat”) has no real value, it tells us nothing about the worth or even the health of the person, it’s a descriptor. It’s like “tall” or “blue” or “left handed” – it describes something, it doesn’t tell you that thing’s worth. Or, worse yet, we’ve made “skinny” (and “fat”) into a weapon, a weapon we use to wound people.

These are almost exactly the words I used with her in the car, words very similar to words she’s heard her whole life — or, at least, since the first time she was called “fat” and understood it to be intended as a cruelty, when she was 4. When she was 9, she could already use the phrase “objectification of women” correctly.

And the other day, in that car, tears streaming down her face, she finally said “I know, but you’re training me. You’re not training the whole world.”

My daughter is exactly as God and her genes intended her to be: She is funny and lights up a room and won’t take no for an answer. She is very smart and loves being very smart and can sit in a corner and read for two hours at a stretch. She will spontaneously dance to just about anything, and will run around the playground with her friends all afternoon if time and homework allow. She is a person of healthy appetites, in all senses: She would like a bigger bite of the world, please, and also some more ice cream, while you’re up. She thoroughly enjoys her food, except when she doesn’t, at which point she can’t be bothered to have another bite. She knows that too much ice cream isn’t always good for her body, and she is learning that sometimes “no” is the best answer — but she’s always heard “no” from time to time, and always had that “no” acted upon. Her diet is healthy, and she knows that, too, and likes it. She is also, if I may, beautiful. Gorgeous, in fact, with milky-peachy skin and deep brown eyes and hair that falls in waves all around her beautiful smile.

But the girl lives in the world that her father and I cannot reach, she doesn’t live within our arms. She lives in a world where 10 year old girls are already so bone-deep aware of how we treat women who do not fit a certain, very narrow, paradigm that they worry they will never be loved. She worries — a lot — what strangers think of her when they see her from a distance; she worries that the people who know her are kind only because they know her.

She is 10. She is healthy. She is strong. She is wicked smart. And she sat in my car, weeping about her body.

There is only so much her father and I can do, only so much real science we can bring to bear on the lies and misapprehensions peddled by the diet industry and swallowed whole by those around us. There is only so much we can do about the fact that every adult woman she comes in contact with is steeped in the same lies and misapprehensions, the vast majority of them openly bemoaning their sacred bodies and bonding over self-loathing. “I’m getting fat!” one of the girl’s friends said at school the other day, a friend who is so slight she might blow away on the next strong wing.

There’s only so much I can do. It’s already in her. And even though I never say it out loud, it’s in me too. I hate it, but there it is, telling me how little I’m worth because I refuse to punish my only body for being something other than that which I am told it should be. I cannot tell you how much it hurts me, how furious it makes me, to know that this is what she feels and what she faces. I’m weeping as I type. And there’s almost nothing I can do. I cannot train the world.

But maybe, maybe – if we all work together, maybe if we’re kinder to ourselves and each other, more loving toward these fabulous machines that move us through our lives, less willing to accept shaming that cloaks itself as wisdom – maybe together, we adults can make the world in which our little girls are growing into wonderful women a better place. Maybe.

Please help me. We’re the adults. My daughter, and probably yours, needs our help.  They need our love.

***************************************************

UPDATE: My Twitter friend Kris Lindbeck sent me the lovliest essay I may have ever read about human bodies — all of them. Please click through to read. “I’ll tell you what people look like, really: they look like flames. Or like the stars, on a clear night in the wilderness.”

*************

UPDATE 10/6/13: All of a sudden this post is getting a ton of love from Facebook, and I’m very grateful — and Facebook is not the easiest thing to search, so I honestly don’t have any idea why today, or what the source(s) is (are). If it’s you – thank you!

A few resources re: Manning’s transition from Bradley to Chelsea.

Not an expert, not a member of the LGBTQ community, etc, etc, all the caveats. Also, FWIW, I’m pretty convinced that Manning’s massive leak to Julian Assange, a foreign national, in the knowledge that Assange would turn around and indiscriminately dump unprecedented amounts of classified information into the public domain was not a good, right, or smart thing to do. Aside from anything else, Manning was a soldier at the time, and had taken an oath. As Josh Marshall wrote at TPM yesterday

Soldiers get in huge trouble for going AWOL, even though one individual soldier abandoning his post seldom does much damage to a country or an army. This is a far graver insubordination with incalculably more widespread consequences….. I think a military force requires a substantial amount of secrecy to operate in any reasonable way. So when someone on the inside breaks those rules, I need to see a really, really good reason. And even then I’m not sure that means you get off scott free.

At the same time, I’m also pretty well convinced the the level of government and military freak out over Manning’s actions does not accurately reflect the damage done, the intent, or the person responsible. As Amy Davidson wrote in The New Yorker yesterday: “This sentence, given all we know about Manning and what he did (and what was done to him), is a strikingly harsh one.”

I highly recommend that you read both pieces (both of which also discuss the Edward Snowden case and both of which are excellent, in very different ways), but, that’s not what I’m here about.

This morning Manning came out as transgender, and asked to be called Chelsea and referred to with female pronouns henceforth. I happen to have read something at Boing Boing some time ago (possibly as long as two years ago) that indicated that Manning identified as a woman — a hugely complicating factor for anyone making the kind of moral and ethical choices that the then-20 year old Manning felt duty-bound to make (as Davidson wrote yesterday [before the request had been made to transition to female pronouns]: “He thought, his lawyer argued in the trial, that he might save someone, or everyone”).

As far as I’m concerned, you are who you tell me you are. Chelsea Manning is a woman. Period, full-stop — and it’s a matter of sheer good manners and civility to refer to her as such. Whether or not I agree with the actions which earned her a dishonorable discharge and 8-35 years at Fort Leavenworth is utterly and completely beside that point.

So. Here are just a few resources that I’ve found useful as I’ve attempted in recent years to become more familiar with the reality of trans folks. I hope you find them helpful, and would love any added recommendations.

  1. Transgender Terminology – a vocabulary resource (the good, the bad, and the don’t-ever), by GLAAD.
  2. Led by the Child Who Simply Knew – a beautiful feature article in the Boston Globe about a girl who knew she was a girl even though her family thought she and her twin brother were both boys.
  3. How To Make Love to a Trans Person – a beautiful poem about how we talk about bodies and making love: “Break those words open/ Like a paramedic cracking ribs…. Scratch new definitions on the bones.”
  4. A good (brief) definition and explanation of “cisgender,” a recently coined term which roughly means people who identify with the gender they were assigned (“it’s a girl!”) at birth.
  5. And finally, I’ve posted it before, I’m posting it again – Hank Green’s video on Human Sexuality. It’s remarkable, and less than four minutes long.

Troy Davis’s nephew got accepted to a prestigious college – but tuition is tough.

dejaun*

You will remember Troy Davis, executed by the State of George two years ago for a crime he did not commit. While fighting for his life and for an end to the death penalty, Troy was particularly involved with and proud of his nephew De’Jaun, and was known to regularly help De’Jaun study for tests over the phone from death row.

An excellent and dedicated student, De’Jaun was accepted to the prestigious Morehouse College (where the President spoke this past May), but his family has been beset by sorrow after sorrow in recent years (all of them also costly): A few months before Troy was executed, De’Jaun’s grandmother/Troy’s mother suddenly died; then Troy was killed; then De’Jaun’s mother/Troy’s sister Martina, long living with cancer, also died — all within about eight months.

And of course, no matter what, tuition is never easy. My friend Jen Marlowe (who produced the videos about Troy’s case for Amnesty, and has written a book about his case and his family) has organized a fundraiser for De’Jaun — if you have a few extra dollars, De’Jaun could surely use the help with his school expenses.

We couldn’t save his uncle, and we couldn’t save his mom. But maybe we can help him through school. That’s what community does. If you’re in a position to help, please click here.

Dishonest loathing.

head-deskIt’s interesting to discover that you’re being hate-followed, hate-tweeted, hate-read. Bracing, even.

First of all, it’s a phenomenon that I genuinely don’t understand. Like, to a fault. When someone makes my head pound with anger, or consistently says things I find utterly untenable, I ignore that person as much as humanly possible. Which, when you’re in my business, can be a problem. Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, settler leader Dani Dayan, Washington Post columnist Jen Rubin — love them or loathe them, I have to know what they’re saying. I often depend on people with steadier dispositions to keep me informed, and occasionally find myself an hour or a news cycle behind the curve. So there’s the “huh?” aspect.

And then there’s the fact that I thought I knew who hated me: The right. The Israeli right, the American right, the Jewish right — people who live on that side of the fence and who happen to have come across my work hate me. They call me the worst things they can think of, and feel they’ve righted some wrong in so doing, and I either ignore or block them (depending on the effort they’re making to inform me of said hatred), because engaging with all of that is genuinely pointless. If the person in question happens to be in a position of power (hi, Dani Dayan!), I engage for the sake of furthering my own cause, not because I think that we’re likely to come to a place of mutual understanding.

But late last night it was brought to my attention (and I foolishly went to where the information led) that my name has become shorthand for… something? among an entirely different set of people, who are located roughly speaking on the left. I think that the general, shared notion is that I’m not sufficiently pro-Palestinian, and (I imagine) that speaking from a position of Jewish/Israeli/American/white privilege, I get everything wrong and really should just shut up. In yesterday’s case, I’d made a Jewish mom joke involving Ramadan and the recently signed New York Jets player (and Palestinian-American) Oday Aboushi, who I’d been defending against the most egregious slander (click here), and, by dint of ignorance, stepped on a sensitive issue — but I’m given to understand that this is not the first time I’ve been terrible.

Everywhere you go in life, there are people who never read beyond the 140 characters in front of them. There are people who read with eyes already closed. There are people who build an identity and/or a community based on an idea and that identity/community is more important than… I’m not sure what the end of that sentence is. The truth? That seems too grand a conclusion though, because try as hard as I might to strike an honest and consistent balance between what I believe to be the legitimate rights of Palestinians and Israelis (or any other rights and issues), I certainly can’t know for sure that I have ahold of the truth and someone else doesn’t. All I can do is try.

And I suppose that’s the thing: Context matters. Nuance matters. Past behavior matters. And for my money, more than anything else, honesty matters. The people who make a principled point of hating “Emily Hauser,” on the right or left, aren’t being honest. It’s not about me. It’s about them. My name and the occasional disembodied line from my work are tools they use in a battle in which I have no part.

For what it’s worth, this is why I very rarely join the rampant online exchanges that amount to talking about someone behind their back. Unless I am absolutely, personally certain that the person in question is consistently, and influentially, a bane on the human or civil rights of living, breathing human beings, I’m just not going to go there. Aside from anything else, I only have so much time and energy, and I want to devote them to fighting for achievable ends. Name-calling and snark neither help nor convince anyone.

Now, of course, I presume that one of my hate-readers may very well read this, and present it as whiny, or an indication of my lack of fortitude, or hate-amusing, or I don’t know. Something. That has nothing to do with me. But I can’t do anything about that.

I can however continue to do the work I’ve done for 25 years, continue to struggle for and toward civil discourse, and continue to do my best to be honest and accountable. For the all the rest, as we say in Hebrew: אלוהים גדול — Elohim gadol. God is great.

PS Which is not to say that there aren’t reasonable arguments to be had with me. There most certainly are. But that’s something very different.

Painting a green line through Jerusalem.

green line Jerusalem

An activist paints a literal Green Line on June 5, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel. (A. Daniel Roth)

There is a green line that runs through the city of Jerusalem.

It exists only on maps, and pretty much only on maps not printed by the State of Israel or other Jewish institutions, but it exists, and it represents a part of the international border between Israel and the West Bank as of June 4, 1967.

It exists even though official Israel and its supporters have done everything within their not-inconsiderable power to erase it in word and deed, creating a municipal behemoth that is currently one hundred times larger than the city was a century ago, pushing Palestinians out of neighborhoods and family homes and rendering fundamentally unholy the very city towards which Jews pray three times a day.

Today is June 5, of course, the anniversary of the opening salvos of the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel captured Jerusalem and the West Bank from the Jordanian army, the day to which many Israeli and Diaspora Jews look as the beginning of a miraculous liberation of our holy city—which is why a small group of Israeli and Diaspora activists chose this day to remind the world that no amount of governmental sleight-of-hand can change the fact that a border exists, and it runs through the very heart of a city that is endlessly declared Undivided.

Anti-occupation collective All That’s Left brought out paint and brushes, got down on the ground, and painted a literal green line where it exists on maps and should exist in political reality. Presumably because they’re good citizens (in Hebrew parlance,yeladim tovim Yerushalayim), rather than paint directly on the ground, they painted on long pieces of cardboard, and as they painted, they engaged with onlookers.

“Some have joined in the painting, others have yelled ‘jerusalem is only for Jews!’,” activist A. Daniel Roth tweeted as he painted, and later: “Religious Jewish woman agrees extremism is a problem, but wont concede the occupation is the cause…. Now the police are reading our literature and asking about the greenline that we are painting.”

Activist Emily Schaeffer explains:  “It’s disturbing to me that the average Israeli or visitor to Israel is able to go about daily life without noticing the occupation and oppression that exist on the other side of the Green Line, and that is because that line has been erased, both literally and conceptually.”

And of course, Israel has erased the international border, the Green Line, in many, many places, all up and down the West Bank, via settlement construction, Israeli-only roads, and the land-grabbing Security Barrier. The simple act of brushing green paint down a Jerusalem sidewalk was intended, activists say, to call attention to the entirety of occupation—not just that in the nation’s capital—on the anniversary of its beginning.

Yet it’s undeniable that the occupation is most easily denied in Jerusalem. Israeli and Diaspora Jews know what and where the West Bank is—they might support Israel’s settlement in that land, but they can’t fool themselves that it’s anything but a military occupation, at least for now.

But the average Israeli long ago stopped thinking of Gilo, Pisgat Ze’ev, Ramat Eshkol, and French Hill as settlements. They’re just neighborhoods. Nice places to live, where the kids can run through the hilly yards behind sandstone apartment blocs.

Reminding them, the Diaspora community, and the world at large that these neighborhoods (and many more like them) are every bit as illegal as the West Bank hilltop communities they see on the nightly news is an important, subversive act.

Because if American and Israeli Jews are going to support the settlement project and all it entails—occupation, human rights violations, a possible end to the two-state dream—they need to be honest about it. They need to actually see what it means, especially in our holy city.

Green paint and cardboard are a good place to start.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

Breaking: Facebook promises action on gender-based hate speech.

facebook-like-iconHuh! Seven days after the launch of the #FBrape campaign, Facebook has responded in just about the best possible way. From the company’s statement:

Many different groups which have historically faced discrimination in society, including representatives from the Jewish, Muslim, and LGBT communities, have reached out to us in the past to help us understand the threatening nature of content, and we are grateful for the thoughtful and constructive feedback we have received. 

…In recent days, it has become clear that our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like, particularly around issues of gender-based hate…. We need to do better – and we will.

The statement then lists a series of concrete steps, “that we will begin rolling out immediately” — these include:

  • a review of Facebook community standards and an update to its hate speech guidelines
  • updated training for teams responsible for reviewing “hateful speech or harmful content”
  • increased accountability and transparency for creators of questionable content
  • establishing “more formal and direct lines of communications with representatives of groups working in this area, including women’s groups,” and other outside resources, such as the Anti-Defamation League’s Anti-Cyberhate working group, legal experts, “and other groups that have historically faced discrimination.”
  • undertaking “research on the effect of online hate speech on the online experiences of members of groups that have historically faced discrimination in society, and to evaluate progress on our collective objectives.”

This is all very, very good news indeed, and as someone who’s advocated around a lot of painful issues in the course of her life, I almost don’t know what to do with it. You mean – people can see reason? Within a reasonable amount of time? Really?

And it’s all thanks to the folks at the Everyday Sexism ProjectWomen Action and Media, and activist Soraya Chemaly – from their statement about the day’s events:

Facebook has admirably done more than most other companies to address this topic in regards to content policy.

…“It is because Facebook has committed to having policies to address these issues that we felt it was necessary to take these actions and press for that commitment to fully recognize how the real world safety gap experienced by women globally is dynamically related to our online lives,” explains Soraya Chemaly.

“We have been inspired and moved beyond expression by the outpouring of energy, creativity and support for this campaign from communities, companies and individuals around the world. It is a testament to the strength of public feeling behind these issues.” says Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project.

Jaclyn Friedman, executive director of Women Action and the Media (WAM!), said: “We are reaching an international tipping point in attitudes towards rape and violence against women. We hope that this effort stands as a testament to the power of collaborative action.”

We are hopeful that this moment will mark an historic transition in relation to media and women’s rights in which Facebook is acknowledged as a leader in fostering safer, genuinely inclusive online communities, setting industry precedents for others to follow.We look forward to collaborating with these communities on actions both big and small until we live in a world that’s safe and just for women and girls, and for everyone.

Now, of course, Facebook still has to deliver on all these fine promises – but you know what? Rape culture and domestic violence apologists are EVERYwhere. What we don’t have everywhere are efforts to combat those things. Facebook is to be commended for this swift and solid response, and its willingness to be in dialogue with the very people who called it on the carpet. This is a very powerful, very hopeful thing.

And I have to say: I’ve been active around the issue of sexual assault since the mid-80s, and I have seen huge cultural shifts in just the past few years. Today’s outcome would have been completely inconceivable even just five years ago, I think. It’s utterly remarkable to me – in fact, I think I’m in a little bit of shock.

But it’s the good kind of shock! So thanks Facebook! And thank you very much to all the folks who read this blog and spread the word. We are a part of something that made real change for good. Give yourself a high-five for me, ok? : ) THANK YOU!

Why isn’t it hate speech if it’s about women?

Facebook-Unlike

PLEASE SEE VERY IMPORTANT UPDATE, HERE.

I am famously Not On Facebook (well, “famously” among you folks, anyway), but not being on Facebook doesn’t mean that I’m entirely unaware of the phenomenon. And it strikes me that, much like Twitter, there are probably nearly as many “Facebooks” as there are users, all the various different little cultures that have been created and propagated on that platform, most users largely unaware of most of the other cultures that exist right along beside them (kind of like, you know: in the Real World).

Which is why I’ll bet most Facebook users have no idea how much vile, violent anti-woman hate speech is posted there daily, under the guise of free speech and/or “humor.”

This week, Soraya Chemaly, Jaclyn Friedman and Laura Bates posted an open letter to Facebook on HuffPo that reads in part:

We are calling on Facebook users to contact advertisers whose ads on Facebook appear next to content that targets women for violence, to ask these companies to withdraw from advertising on Facebook until you take the above actions to ban gender-based hate speech on your site.

Specifically, we are referring to groups, pages and images that explicitly condone or encourage rape or domestic violence or suggest that they are something to laugh or boast about. Pages currently appearing on Facebook include Fly Kicking Sluts in the Uterus, Kicking your Girlfriend in the Fanny because she won’t make you a Sandwich, Violently Raping Your Friend Just for Laughs, Raping your Girlfriend and many, many more. Images appearing on Facebook include photographs of women beaten, bruised, tied up, drugged, and bleeding, with captions such as “This bitch didn’t know when to shut up” and “Next time don’t get pregnant.”

These pages and images are approved by your moderators, while you regularly remove content such as pictures of women breastfeeding, women post-mastectomy and artistic representations of women’s bodies. In addition, women’s political speech, involving the use of their bodies in non-sexualized ways for protest, is regularly banned as pornographic, while pornographic content – prohibited by your own guidelines – remains. It appears that Facebook considers violence against women to be less offensive than non-violent images of women’s bodies, and that the only acceptable representation of women’s nudity are those in which women appear as sex objects or the victims of abuse. Your common practice of allowing this content by appending a [humor] disclaimer to said content literally treats violence targeting women as a joke.

For me, reading about it wasn’t enough to really jolt me — what jolted me was seeing pictures.

I won’t post any here, because they’re truly disturbing, but if you’d like to see what Chemaly, Friedman and Bates are talking about, you can click here, herehere, or here.

The first example is the one that shocked me into taking action, and after having a dispassionate exchange about Facebook ad policies with me, it was the second one that inspired my Twitter friend and J Street’s new-media associate, Ben Silverstein, to make this happen:

What these posts are, pure and simple, is hate speech. We don’t often call open misogyny hate speech, but that’s what it is. If it’s your idea of a joke to meme-ify a picture of a woman cringing in fear with the words “Women deserve equal rights… and lefts” (as can be seen here), then you are (to quote Facebook itself) “attacking a person based on… gender.” Indeed, you’re attacking half of humanity. That is hate speech.

If you want to help put a stop to this kind of willed blindness about the dehumanization of women, you can click here to learn more and do some pretty simple things: Send a tweet. Post to an FB page. Maybe write an email. That’s it. Five minutes, ten minutes. One minute.

But if Facebook and their advertisers are flooded with protest, if enough people with money to spend on ads are horrified enough, if FB is hassled enough – things can change. And that means we have to flood them with protest. We are the only ones who can.

One image – not horrifying, except for the idea behind it, and it’ll give you an idea of what I’m talking about. Please take action — this kind of thing is part and parcel of the culture in which one in every five women is raped in her lifetime, and one in every four is the victim of violence from an intimate partner.

When we laugh, or just ignore it — we say it’s ok. But it’s not ok. And we need to call it out.

violence against women

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,712 other followers