November 16, 2012

Facebook’s Message to Women: Our Lives Don’t Count. {Trigger Warning}

{This is the fourth article in a series discussing concerns that Facebook is anti-feminist. Please refer to the original article, a direct, thoughtful response from Facebook Policy Management, and the response from several of the groups mentioned in the original article. ~ Ed.}

Imagine being raped.

It’s not hard for many of us. Statistics show that one in three women will be raped during their lifetime. The most conservative stats show that one in five will be raped, depending on whose statistics you are looking at or where you live.

Frankly, I don’t care if it is one in five or one in three. It is still too many. Rape is an epidemic.

Rape is not understood. It is not talked about. But it needs to be. Soraya Chemaly wrote an explicit article several weeks ago that should be required reading for men and women alike.

Many of us have been molested, stalked or nearly raped. In fact, according to The United Nations, 70 percent of women will experience violence of some kind during her lifetime.


Women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria, according to World Bank data.

So imagine, you are at a party with friends. Someone you know through friends pulls you aside. You are charmed. You’ve had a bit to drink, so you agree to let this seeming gentleman drive you home. But things quickly go amiss. He becomes aggressive. You realize where this is going, but you are now alone, and he is twice your size.

You try fight him off but he rapes you anyway. Vaginally. Anally. Orally. Repeat. You end up beaten and bruised and broken. You report it to the police. You get an exam. You are traumatized again. Your rapist, like 97 percent of the rapists out there, gets off with not one day in jail. While you live with this moment for the rest of your life.

Every time you smell a certain scent, every time you hear a certain song, every time you see a certain type of man, you are back, re-living that moment. You live it again and again and again.

Now, imagine that this is funny.

Surprisingly, this is not uncommon.

An ongoing readers’ poll by The Oklahoma Daily shows that out of 152 voters, 50 percent felt that it was acceptable to make jokes about rape and sexual assault. The people who post (both men and women) on these pages do not look upon their actions as violent as they are not (or so they claim) physically harming anyone. ~ Shreya Sen

Last week, I wrote an article about Facebook’s policies towards women. The post apparently hit a nerve: we have had close to 50,000 views and hundreds of comments all over the web.

Many women contacted me privately to say they wished they could help but were too triggered by the posts we were trying to tackle. Which brings me to an important point that can not be emphasized enough:

Rape doesn’t just happen one time. Many rape victims experience the trauma repeatedly when triggered.

Victims of sexual assault are:

>> Three times more likely to suffer from depression.

>> Six times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

>> 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.

>> 26 times more likely to abuse drugs.

>> Four times more likely to contemplate suicide.

Combating rape culture is critically important. Even women (and men) who do not identify as feminists can agree on that.  Interestingly enough, as I have been compiling data, I have not found one page on Facebook that promotes raping boys or men.

So if you still cannot identify with being raped, imagine having the same conversation about your five-year-old son. Is it still funny to see a picture of a young boy wearing a shirt that says, “Rape my shitter”?

All children must be protected on Facebook. Last week, I was alerted to this petition, which I hope you will sign.

Petition: Facebook Must Block Illicit Images and Videos of Children

Along with others, Men Against Prostitution and Trafficking (MENAPAT.org) began to uncover the extent of child pornography on Facebook beginning in 2010 – and it’s massive. In the course of their research, MENAPAT discovered thousands of false profiles created each month featuring child pornography and code words used to connect with other pedophiles. In one day-long sweep alone, a MENAPAT member found over 1,400 images of child pornography, from toddlers up to 14-year-olds.

Child pornography on Facebook primarily manifests through closed groups created by pedophiles to share photos and videos of abused children and through profiles of abused children, created by their pimps or abusers. Often, specific sex acts can be “ordered” on Facebook, and can include extreme violence and heinous brutality.

Despite the severity and prevalence of child pornography on Facebook, the company has not implemented effective policies or procedures to prevent child pornography or cooperate with law enforcement to report illegal images. It’s time Facebook took child pornography on their site seriously, and made it their responsibility to stop facilitating these crimes.

As a mother who has both a son and a daughter, I find this outrageous and unacceptable. Rape is everywhere on Facebook. This is not an isolated problem that some crazy feminist is bitching about. Frankly I have better ways I would like to spend my time. But I am livid, and this needs to stop.

In response, several women have started a new page to report misogynistic pages: Rapebook.  Members are asked to share troublesome pages here so that we can report them in mass. Our hope is to shut pages that promote rape down.

This page only works if we report the pages on it. It is not enough to just “like” the page. For this to be an effective campaign, we must all participate. I realize that this is a trigger warning for some, and if it is for you, you are excused with blessing. For those women who have not experienced sexual violence, please participate. And men, we welcome your participation.

Other suggestions have been to boycott Facebook entirely and move to other social media platforms.

Donna said it best:

Vote with your feet. Organize to dump FB and move to one of the other social media platforms Trista listed. I don’t understand why people are so hell-bent on sticking with Facebook. These are strong, powerful, self-assured women Trista is describing, and yet when confronted with the problems of Facebook, everyone seems to act like a victim of domestic violence: “I would leave but…” If it were a local business treating women this way, you would not stand for it and you would most likely boycott. FB should be no different.

While this is extremely tempting, I fear that we are not organized enough (yet) as a group to make a big enough impact.

That said, I would encourage women to begin to look at what else is out there and pick alternatives that work for them.

This is not a problem that can be solved overnight. And we need more feminists to step in and help, especially those with web experience.

Anna shared an interesting comment:

I personally think, as a woman who works for a tech company, one of the biggest problems is that there are hardly any women working in the tech sector. Why has all of the content mentioned in the article been moderated? Because the moderators, the Facebook policy makers and the board of directors at Facebook are, overwhelmingly white, middle-aged men.

Until more women and girls begin to work in the tech sector, the mainstream media of the next generation, will unfortunately be run by men and the rape jokes will only become more and more acceptable.

Consider the official response from Facebook

Controversial Rape Pages: We prohibit content we deem to be genuinely harmful, but allow content that is offensive or controversial. Harmful content is generally defined as that which leads to or organizes real world violence, theft or property destruction, that which intentionally and directly inflicts emotional distress on a specific private individual, and that which is broadly illegal. A list of prohibited categories of content can be found in our Community Standards document.

We seek to prohibit such attacks while giving people the opportunity to use language – even when highly offensive – to express their opinions, tell jokes, and engage in other activities that we believe do not represent direct threats of harm. When evaluating speech on Facebook, we analyze the nature of the speech itself, as well as its perceived intent as indicated by any additional context we may have. We believe this additional information is important, since identical words may be hateful in one context, or off-color attempts at humor in another (such as with stand-up comedy).

If we believe that a page was created to attack a protected group, we will remove it immediately. Our goal is to eliminate such attacks while still preserving free speech. I want to assure you that we understand your concern about the pages you referenced in your article. They are abhorrent not only to me, but to many other people who work at Facebook. Having said that, as long as these types of pages do not violate our policies as explained above, we err on the side of allowing people to express themselves.

A complete response from the women and pages who contributed to the original article can be found here.

Rape jokes are beyond highly offensive. They contribute directly to rape. Women make up half the population on this planet. Although we are not a “protected group,” perhaps we should be given some consideration as such given the high proportion of women who experience sexual violence.

Kyberian shared an insightful comment in response:

There are dozens of scientific studies that show that environments where you have a lot of jokes about rape and other forms of violence against women, produce more rapists and people who commit violence against women. Pages like “It”s not rape if you yell surprise” *are* encouraging violence against protected groups.

They cite Reddit as pursuing similar policies to protect free speech, and Reddit is an absolute den of rape apology, child pornography and misogyny. Hate speech is hate speech; it just doesn’t get recognized when the people in charge of recognizing it are all straight white males without the empathy skills or the education to understand what happens to anyone not in their privileged little club every day.

It seems Facebook needs a women’s studies course.

Misogyny (mi·sog·y·ny) is the hatred or dislike of women or girls. According to feminist theory, misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways, including sexual discrimination, denigration of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification of women.

I realize that Mark Zuckerberg does not have children, but I have to imagine someone at Facebook does. And that at least someone there has a daughter. And I have to imagine that that person would not find a joke about raping his daughter funny.

Furthermore, taunting on Facebook, which apparently is also allowed, has directly contributed to suicide. Case in point: Amanda Todd.

Prior to her suicide, she shared her story on YouTube for the world to see. Apparently, she had been harassed online since the age of 12. A man created a page on Facebook to further torment her, using a picture of her breasts as his profile picture. Her story continues to get worse from there. My words cannot do Amanda justice.


Bad behavior happens everywhere, so it is easy to write it off. But what is particularly disturbing about this case is that it was Facebook pages that allowed her perpetual harassment to continue even after she changed schools several times.

While Facebook may be a “free” service, it is hardly a non-profit. Facebook earns heaps of money based on mass participation. While they can do whatever they want, it may cost them their female customers.

How many girls are being harassed like this on Facebook? How many women experience trauma because of “funny” rape jokes which are allowed on Facebook?

Facebook, perhaps you should reconsider your policies. You “protect” our nipples but promote the mutilation of our vaginas. Are the lives of women worth so little to you?


Note from the Author: 

I wish to thank the hundreds of women who have supported this cause over the last weeks. These articles are not just one of us. They are an expression of many of us. We need more women (and men) to help.

We may be few now, but we will grow our movement. And we will stop this.

Please make your voice heard at the Response to Facebook letter. We welcome your comments.


Ed: Kate B.

Like equal rights for all on Facebook.


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