On 21 May, Women, Action, & the Media shared an open letter to Facebook. In the letter, Laura Bates (Everyday Sexism), Soraya Chemaly (writer), Jaclyn Friedman (WAM!), and many other supporting organizations asked that Facebook take immediate responsibility for the offensive material it allows – material related to rape and domestic violence. Facebook has censored other forms of hate speech but the violent photographs and rape jokes which abound on its sight have not been dealt with and moderators continue to approve these violence-praising posts.
In the open letter, campaign supporters wrote:
“The latest global estimate from the United Nations Say No to Violence Campaign is that the percentage of women and girls who have experienced violence in their lifetimes is now up to an unbearable 70%. In a world in which this many girls and women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime, allowing content about raping and beating women to be shared, boasted and joked about contributes to the normalisation of domestic and sexual violence, creates an atmosphere in which perpetrators are more likely to believe they will go unpunished, and communicates to victims that they will not be taken seriously if they report…”Facebook has long allowed content endorsing violence against women. They claim that these pages fall under the ‘humor’ part of their guidelines, or are expressions of ‘free speech.’ But Facebook has proven willing to crack down on other forms of hate speech, including anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and homophobic speech, without claiming such exemptions.”
This is a battle worth fighting because it extends beyond Facebook. This is a prime example of rape culture – the culture which accepts rape jokes as hilarious, degrades women through violence and sexual mockery, and attacks survivors of sexual violence. Everyday Sexism and WAM! are asking us for help in standing up to Facebook’s tolerance of rape jokes and violence against women. They encourage us to contact advertisers, those whose ads have appeared on Facebook next to gender-based hate speech and rape jokes, and ask that these companies remove their advertisements from Facebook. While reporting offensive pages and images is good, it is not enough. Facebook, though deeming an attack against someone’s sex as hate speech, continues to refuse to remove sexist, misogynistic images. Facebook will not feel obligated to carry out their own policy unless they feel the pinch from their advertisers.
Over 16,000 tweets and 1300 emails were sent in the first 48 hours and advertisers like Nissan UK have pulled their ads! Meanwhile, companies like Dove and Audible have failed to respond to the requests. Some are removing comments related to this campaign from their Facebook pages. VistaPrint has said they will not act. [Update 24 May: Dove has also stated that they will not be removing their advertisements from Facebook. Many consumers, including this one, have pledged to boycott Dove’s products unless the company changes its mind. Thus far, more than 6 companies have removed their ads!]
To take action in this campaign against gender-based hate speech on Facebook, you can tweet (#FBrape), e-mail, or send Facebook messages to the prominent companies whose ads often appear next to violent and hateful content. WAM! provides all the information needed (including sample messages) and it takes a matter of minutes to contact each of the companies involved. If the fight against rape culture and violence against women is important to you, please consider joining this campaign! Join Everyday Sexism and WAM! and take action against gender-based hate speech on Facebook here.
WAM! provides examples of material promoting violence against women that appears on Facebook. If you want to see what specifically the campaign is speaking out against, you can view those images here. **TRIGGER WARNING: please know that most of the images (and their commentary) are quite graphic and psychologically disturbing. View with caution.**
To find out more about the Everyday Sexism Project, visit their homepage, http://www.everydaysexism.com/.