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



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


  1. Reblogged this on .

  2. I am in no way excusing the fact that FB a) has lousy policies about not permitting images of women nursing and b) is apparently home to some truly vile material.

    My question, I think, is: is FB taking the material down when they’re alerted to its ugly existence? Given the sheer quantity of content on that site, I have to imagine they rely at least somewhat on people reporting TOS violations. And surely this kind of ugliness is a TOS violation. Is FB taking this nastiness down when people tell them it’s there?

    • That’s the worst of it – no, they’re not. This was their response to the fourth example I linked to above:

      [click on the image to enlarge their reply]

      Like it says in the open letter “These pages and images are approved by [Facebook’s] moderators.” It’s just mind-boggling. So the real goal is to change policy.

  3. Reblogged this on Dree Speaks Freely and commented:
    The dark side of Facebook and how to combat it.

  4. Minty

     /  May 25, 2013

    Reblogged this on Mints And Wisdom and commented:
    It’s horrific!

  5. I reluctantly started a FB account in order to promote my blog, but have not spent much time on the site – and had NO idea FB operated with such blatant double-standards.

    Up until now, I admired Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, as she has been a strong proponent for the status of women, particularly in leadership. But this takes her down a notch, to say the least – all the efforts she has been making to improve the status of women mean little when her own company allows itself to be a platform for such filth.

  6. druidwinter

     /  May 25, 2013

    Reblogged this on winterdominatrix and commented:
    Face book is busted, sexism abound

  7. Reblogged this on There Are So Many Things Wrong With This and commented:

  8. Reblogged this on skipping over quicksand and commented:
    I’m also Not On Facebook and find its policy on Free Speech very dangerous. People who believe rape and violence against women are suitable subjects for humour are sick and should take a serious look at their own views on society. On Twitter @EverydaySexism is vociferously campaigning against Facebook’s continued willingness to publish these sickening images and its continued reluctance to remove them.

  9. Alana Suskin

     /  May 26, 2013

    Thanks Emily. It won’t be on my work twitter account, but it will be on my personal accounts….

  10. Darth Thulhu

     /  May 26, 2013

    Thanks so much for this. Don’t have a platform to reblog on, but this absolutely needs to be ejected from acceptable publishing practice in a flipping 21st Century Western media company.

    The official sanction is beyond ridiculous.

    • It’s so indicative that people of good will (and Rachel is far from the only one) assume that it’s a violation of TOS – and it actually isn’t.

  11. Reblogged this on Association of Me.

  12. “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).”

    Astute observation. You’re dead right. Also, in case you didn’t see it:


  13. My observation would be until the underlying social cause is addressed, there will always be a cavalier attitude in regards to violence against women. At the root of this is the archetype myth of all our world’s ills are on account of a woman in collusion with a snake:

    “Do you not know you are each an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer of that forbidden tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert – that is death – even the Son of God had to die.” -Tertullian

    ‘Church Father’ Tertullian’s example is very clear. What is little understood is how society has been shaped by this worldview for millennia, even people who’d not been indoctrinated into this worldview for generations, are nevertheless socially shaped by it, via the known phenomena of intergenerational violence. The violence is not in every case physical, it is first and foremost a mental violence, and archetype is the underlying social template from which the violence springs.

    It may be a bit tough to accept many, perhaps most people experiencing revulsion at the outcomes are more often than not accepting of the stories inculcating malignant behaviors. To use the bluntest possible example, symbolic ritual cannibalism is practiced by countless Christians weekly (communion) and likely they don’t give 2 seconds thought to the idea of what impact these images, inculcated since earliest childhood memory, have on our world. It is as simple as people are so numb to the images of violence, they are blind to the cause and effects.

    I’m not certain what it will require to effect meaningful change, outside of the collapse and destruction of the culture wherein the violence is incubated. Something like the gods of olympus overthrow of the titans…

    Nevertheless my hat is off to all who devote energy to curtail the madness-

    • In a way, I think that this is precisely what such campaigns are trying to address – this “humor” reflects perfectly society’s ancient indoctrination against women, and if we don’t make a point to call it out, our unthinking acceptance of it will continue to harm women. Just as you say: “It is as simple as people are so numb to the images of violence, they are blind to the cause and effects.” So we work together to draw attention to ideas and behaviors that are unacceptable and damaging and slowly but surely, people’s vision changes and their attitudes with it. In many cases, the attitudes are already in the right place – folks just don’t realize how messed up some parts of humanity can still be. So you let them know.

  14. Reblogged this on JerkBusters and commented:
    Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, really needs to step up. If she is authoring books encouraging women in business to “lean in” and close the gender gap, she needs to use her supposed influence to clean up her own house.

  15. Jane Ivy

     /  May 28, 2013

    We need to combat this. This disease needs to be ridden from this earth.

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