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.
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:
@emilylhauser J Street doesn’t put a lot of money into FB ads, but we’re done until this is addressed.
— Benjamin Silverstein (@bensilverstein) May 23, 2013
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.