A ranty, funny, dead-serious intersectional feminist blog.

Five Things I Know After #FBrape



I’m exceedingly proud to have worked on the #FBrape campaign to end gendered hate speech on Facebook, and of our success in getting the corporate giant to back down. It was an exhausting week, but the rewards were many, and I wouldn’t take it back for anything. Not even to avoid the inevitable trolling that has followed.

Yeah, they did. It’s amazing to me how many people seem to think that rape culture on Facebook is something to be protected and defended by coming to #FBrape and calling campaigners “bitches” and “cunts” and “fascists” and claiming that our victory is some kind of blow to everything thinking people ought to hold dear.

I just can’t even. But as I said, I’m proud, exhausted, and mostly satisfied. We did an important thing, and we’re still doing it.

Here are a few things I took away from the campaign:

  1. We need each other: Women are sick and tired of being in the majority and yet being treated as though our right to safe public spaces don’t matter. We are fighting back. Thousands of us pulled together, and we couldn’t have done it any other way.
  2. We need men: Rape culture will not go away unless men participate in the fight. Many men joined us in the #FBrape campaign, and their voices helped so much to counter those who showed up to ridicule us. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, men who campaigned, for being with us during this week of intensive work.
  3. We need our allies to be present during our struggles, not just during our successes: Feminists who couldn’t seem to find time for the campaign while it was happening are jumping on the bandwagon (and the popularity of the hashtag) now that we’ve won. I can’t help but wonder where they were when the hard work was getting done. I hoped for better.*
  4. We’re ending rape culture: Ending rape culture on Facebook is a huge step toward ending it in society as a whole. Facebook is a microcosm of our society. It is a community that has set a standard of behavior for its members, and finally, it has stated for the record that violence against women is strictly counter to that standard. Their response was very corporate, but it was a complete turnaround from their “our system is working” response three days previous. There is work to be done. We have to keep them honest. But this is a WIN and I’m CELEBRATING.
  5. This is not about free speech: Free speech, while important, is only one of our civil rights. Much as your right to own a gun doesn’t preclude my right to not get shot, your right to free speech does not trump my right not to be surrounded by images suggesting that beating, raping, and killing people like me is acceptable, expected, and funny. This is hate speech, it encourages (read: incites) violence against women,  and it cannot be tolerated in civilized society anymore than we allow racists to harass and threaten people of color in public spaces. We don’t. We can’t. My right to exist safely trumps every rape-joker’s right to free speech, and I will fight to ensure that my right—and every other woman’s—is protected.

*This is not directed at anyone who is likely to read this, but at high-profile professional feminists (the most conspicuous of whom was Sheryl Sandberg, of course) who suddenly had articles in major publications after Facebook caved. It just made me a little sad, that’s all.


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35 responses

  1. Pingback: Beware of False Prophets and Fear Mongers – janetkwest

  2. Sin City Siren

    Reblogged this on The Sin City Siren.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:37 pm

  3. The difference here Paul, is you are refering mostly to the jokes. I am not refering to that as much because its gone way beyond that. I’m refering to the photos of graphic violence featuring real victims. Yes, you can actively search for this stuff and avoid it if you so wish. But this is facebook. Rape, murder, beheading – really don’t belong on Facebook imo. And it is my opinion, because its not my company. However, I still have a voice and I can complain to the advertisers just as much as those posting this content can complain or start a compaign to these advertisers in response if that is what they want to do. Are 50% of a companies consumers going to boycott their product because a social network they advertise on don’t allow them to post these depictions of violence? No. They will go somewhere else. Problem solved.

    As for the photos themselves being ok to post, that is dubious. Other than the graphic violence (which is real in many cases) there is copyright and privacy issues that could outlaw them. In the case of dead victims I would think the family has a say it what goes. Its not just opinion that they are wrong if the law also says they are wrong. Where would you draw the line if this is considered ok? Is it ok to post child pornography (actual child victims being harmed) and turn it into a funny meme. Is that ok? Facebook has decided to draw the line here and I think they are right to do it.

    The jokes. Are they jokes? Are they geniunely funny to some? Or a way to continue abuse without consequence? Are they hateful? I think Facebook has a responsiblity to curb this to avoid inciting violence among other reasons. Remember the cartoon that got a guy sentenced to death? The written word has an affect on people, and to deny that this matters is irresponsible.

    Allowing graphic images of violence and rape not only condones those images, but normalizes them – that is dangerous. Dehumanization leads to violence. Have a look at talks by Tony Porter and watch Miss Representation documentary for more on dehumanization.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:59 am

    • Yes. Everything you just said. Thank you.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:03 am

    • I’ll address the child porn thing as I’ve made a point about that elsewhere. There is child porn on Facebook. Again, only seen it thanks to this campaign (another negative) but now I know it’s there, I’m just not going back to that page. People complained they’ve reported it and it’s still there etc. – so fair enough, Facebook aren’t always on top of it. That’s understandable considering manpower and technical limitations. Anyway, my point is – I’m just not going back to that page. Sorted.

      I disagree with the notion of normalization, dehumanization etc. as it is represented by this campaign too, but I’ll be writing an essay if I go into that.

      In the wider context you’ve presented, you must surely also acknowledge the relativity of it all. E.g. some of the “jokes” don’t use photos of beaten women; they might just use a girl who is asleep and they’ve twisted it into the joke. Likewise, anti-abuse campaigns have been known to use the very same (violent) images for shock value. Discretion will (hopefully) still be applied, but there’s a chance absolutes and generalisations will be imposed if we carry on in this way.

      The advertisers aren’t complicit though. It was always a stretch to imply they were, and to make it into a matter of how easily Facebook can be forced by targeting their profits has trivialised the point of the campaign, as it hasn’t succeeded on any degree of merit – only on coercion.

      Most importantly though, it’s all time that would have been better spent on real action. There’s an illusion that something greater is achieved here, but really it’s just placation. Facebook is placating the campaigners, and many campaigners are patting themselves on the back, placating themselves. A lot of them (e.g. random Facebook users who signed a petition) will think they’ve done their share now and move on.

      Remember as well, not everybody in your campaign is as smart or rational in their approach as you. This sort of thing breeds other extremes in itself, as it appeals to a variety of people with a variety of differences in their views.

      I suppose ultimately my point of view is just as futile as it’s not like I can convince everybody out there to ignore things or move on. This is largely a matter of discourse now.

      I do enjoy discussing this – particularly with people who are smart enough to discuss it properly such as yourself – but I’ll bow out now as I don’t want to go on forever on this page. You two take care.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:52 am

  4. Paul, have you actually seen the content that was posted? I’m not trying to change your mind, you are entitled to your opinion. But I was campaigning too after the awful things I viewed on facebook. Only, after the campaign ended and I looked through more photos I realized I hadn’t seen the half of it. Some of those images will literally haunt me. They weren’t jokes, many were real women after being raped, beaten and mutilated. Don’t these people deserve dignity, respect? What is free speech about posting images of them (probably without permission) and using them as the butt of someone else’s (extremely) sick jokes? In my opinion it is not a meaningless campaign as you say. It may be meaningless to you as you have obviously not been affected by rape or abuse. I have. Things like this are important. These attitudes should be challenged, not accepted. It doesn’t do anyone any good to accept them.

    June 1, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    • Thanks, Louise. The campaign certainly wasn’t meaningless to me. I and thousands of others worked very hard to get Facebook to apply their existing content standards to this content. Facebook is a community, and as such, has the right to establish guidelines for acceptable behavior–which they have. There is no “free speech” on Facebook.

      June 1, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    • Hi Louise – this is going to get quite long, but you’ve asked some good questions so I’ll try to answer…

      Sure I’ve seen the content. I’ve seen this sort of thing in the past, and on a fairly infrequent basis since. In the context of this campaign, it was easy to see more of it as the campaign drew my attention to it once again. This is actually one of the things I find counter-productive with regards to the campaign, as it causes the content to spread to a wider audience as a result. Some may argue that this causes “awareness” and is therefore a good thing – but also it surely helps the content reach more people who might find it funny or whatever.

      I don’t argue for free speech, as I find this argument easy to dismiss. I argue in terms of personal responsibility and controlling one’s own personal experience. To me, if I see something I don’t like, I accept that it’s me who doesn’t like it – so I will then try to avoid it from that point on. In terms of Facebook, I find this easy to do. I avoid any pages with content I dislike – then, if a friend posts content I dislike, I just hide it, discuss it with them or whatever I feel is appropriate, because I’m taking responsibility for my own opinion – and acting based on my own dislike. For example, let’s assume I don’t like jokes about Jewish people – I will do my best to not subject myself to those jokes. Even if all else fails, and they still keep reaching me (which is unlikely) – I would then stop using the site, because it’s not working for me. When it comes to humour, it’s highly subjective so I wouldn’t want to force my own views on somebody else.

      Additionally, Facebook isn’t the only place where each of these particular styles of humour exist. So if we think of the bigger picture – let’s assume Facebook isn’t so popular or doesn’t exist – these images still exist elsewhere, and the onus is still on me to avoid them.

      Anyway, I can understand that this campaign feels important (and even worthwhile) to some people for the reasons you stated – as it speaks to a personal experience. But my point is that personal experiences differ. So in your own personal space, you have the right to control what is important to you – but I don’t understand why you would then need to apply that to everybody else, as not everybody else has the same experiences and outlooks. Even if you managed to eradicate the content from Facebook 100% – what is achieved? It will still exist on some other site. You’re not changing people, only “moving them along”.

      With regards to the people in the images themselves, this point can be applied in the same way – people might think “Ok, they’ve captioned an image in a way they think is funny. But that image is a real photo – that’s wrong!” – that’s fair enough – but it’s still a personal view which doesn’t necessarily need to be applied universally.

      So I guess what I’m saying is – it doesn’t matter what occurs in terms of Facebook policy – it’s not really solving a problem (as you see it) overall – it’s just moving it around. It’s only really helping you to not see more of it – but really, you always had the ability to just avoid it anyway.

      I’ll end by referring you to this one-eyed Youtuber, who makes an additional point which I agree with and you might find interesting to watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54jlFRzsTcs

      June 1, 2013 at 5:46 pm

  5. Thank you for your efforts. I’ve had recent experience with YouTube where intelligence is lost when people reply to a comment. All that they can say are genital derogatory words. I’m willing to keep jumping into action.

    June 1, 2013 at 2:36 pm

  6. I don’t agree with anything you’ve said, or with this campaign.

    Personally, what I believe is that it should be my choice what I look at and what I don’t look at, or hide from myself. Campaigns like this remove that choice from me, and from others.

    Your own likes/dislikes may not be shared by others, and you have no right to force them upon others – regardless of how strongly you believe in your cause, or what evidence you present for your position.

    Ultimately, however, there is no victory in this. If somebody I know is ever raped or beaten up, I won’t blame you at all, but I certainly won’t thank you – and if I live the rest of my life without a friend or family member ever being raped, it won’t be thanks to this meaningless campaign.

    Leave the Internet alone – it will always be filled with all sorts of things, and any attempt to reverse that is both futile and unnecessary. Your time would be much better spent volunteering and getting out there working closely with people who help victims and try to affect real change. If you do this as well, then great! That is a worthwhile thing to do, and I applaud you for it. This stuff to do with photos and humour doesn’t help any victims of anything – it only exploits them in the name of a bizarre ideology.

    June 1, 2013 at 7:50 am

    • We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this. BTW, I’m not asking for all content offensive to me to be removed from the Internet. This campaign asked Facebook to enforce their existing standards, under which photos of breastfeeding are banned, but images encouraging dudes to “tape her and rape her” are not.

      June 1, 2013 at 8:57 am

      • I agree that we will have to disagree. Thank you for approving my comment anyway.

        June 1, 2013 at 9:10 am

        • I always approve polite comments. Contrary to what some people *coughtrollscough* believe, I am always willing to consider differing opinions. I can’t learn otherwise.

          June 1, 2013 at 9:53 am

  7. I found your blog and FB page via another FB page and I am glad that I did. What you have done shows we are not just “complaining” that this is a legitimate issue that needs to be taken seriously. I was shocked when my 23 yr old daughter said, oh yeah I see memes like that all the time, they’re just being idiots. I explained that it was more than people just being “idiots” that is abuse on so many levels. That for someone like me, who has been sexually and physically abused, it brought the trauma back all over. I hope more young women and men see what you have done and the door that has been opened and the new road that has been paved. Bravo!

    May 31, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    • Thank you! Yes, there’s so much of it out there, and this is a huge step toward changing the culture that says it’s perfectly ok. It’s not, and everyone needs to understand the reasons why. More on this soon.

      June 1, 2013 at 3:26 pm

  8. Reblogged this on The Journey Of My Healing and commented:
    Incredible article!

    May 31, 2013 at 4:03 pm

  9. Melanie

    I’m happy all the hard work came to some sort of resolution, as corporate as it is, but the work is hardly over. Now we have to hold them to their word. I didn’t do much (a single post and two tweets) but I was glad to have a voice to add, though it was only a whisper. I’ll keep speaking out against violence against women. Someday our collective voices will truly be deafening.

    May 31, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    • Thanks for your help, Melanie! Yes, we have to keep the pressure on until things actually change.

      May 31, 2013 at 3:32 pm

  10. craftspagan

    Glad to have helped a tiny bit. Well done!

    May 31, 2013 at 2:06 pm

  11. i hate to sound like part of the problem. i mean that, but you’re getting shot has already been included into the cost of gun “freedoms”. same thing goes for “free speech”… if you are offended and/or injured, well, “freedom ain’t free”. i know that’s kind of shitty, but i also know that until it’s personal, people ,sometimes, just can’t flesh out a viable concern. if you are on the receiving end it’s really black and white, but from the outside looking in it’s a quagmire, at best. someone asked me how i felt about rape today. i told them i want to kill rapists, and a select few other abusers. people who post the kind of trash you’re working against i merely want to beat with a pipe while they listen to the riot act. i know from abuse. i say all the eggheads should be able to figure out a way to let the hive self censor. i have no clue how that would or could work, but in nature the undesirables are herded out

    May 31, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    • Free speech that incites violence isn’t protected–is actionable. I argue that this speech incites violence. More on this soon!

      May 31, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    • Also, the hive doesn’t self-censor, but this *is* an example of the community speaking out and asking Facebook to enforce standards that were already in place. So again, there’s no “free speech” model to defend, here. (Not that I’m saying you are, just sayin’.)

      May 31, 2013 at 2:14 pm

  12. Great to see that some companies were ashamed to have their ads next to violence against women, even tho Facebook wasn’t ashamed to host that content in the first place. I had been reporting hate groups occasionally over the past year, things like “Get your gf pregnant so her boobs are bigger.” Everytime Facebook ignored my reports or even said “this does not qualify as hate speech, it’s allowed.” They also kept making the report process more difficult to go through, as reporting for hate speech against women got burried under three prior selections, first i had to indicate that the post was harassing me and then qualify it as “hate speech based on gender or sexual orientation.” Since there are so MANY hateful pages against women, it should be super easy to report, only one click to select “report hate speech,” come on!

    May 31, 2013 at 12:02 pm

  13. This is really great and I congratulate you on your victory! And I agree, men and women need to stand up and fight continuously, not just online, but always, in order to slay this beast and any other form of injustice going on in the world.

    May 31, 2013 at 11:59 am

  14. Thank you for your work on this! I helped a little. I messaged various companies complaining about advertising on these kinds of pages.

    re “It’s amazing to me how many people seem to think that rape culture on Facebook is something to be protected and defended by coming to #FBrape and calling campaigners “bitches” and “cunts” and “fascists”

    The first amendment was put in place to keep the government from dousing political speech. Keep the leaders from becoming tyrants. I seriously doubt they were concerned with allowing women to be called cunts. And really, why would that be so important to anyone?

    May 31, 2013 at 11:01 am

    • Thank you so much. I think we really have to keep talking about this free speech thing, because while I agree that speech should be entirely free on the Internet-at-large, I believe communities must sets standards for acceptable behavior in order to survive. In fact, all communities do.

      May 31, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    • Anthea Brainhooke

      Never mind that the First Amendment only applies in the USA and an awful lot of FB users are not in the USA. ;)

      June 5, 2013 at 2:45 pm

  15. Jaime Dughi

    Yes, thank you Rosie. I’m glad I was able to participate in this campaign once you brought it to light for me. I could not agree more with point #3. I was very disappointed in my feminist friends who completely ignored my posts and asks for help with this campaign. And these are the women who are very open and vocal with me about violence against women. Why are they afraid to put themselves out there? Maybe that is another topic for you to cover in your blog. It’s completely baffled me. But again, thank you for all the hard work you put into this campaign.

    May 31, 2013 at 10:59 am

    • Thanks, Jaime! I so appreciate your efforts.

      May 31, 2013 at 1:52 pm

  16. Well done! Congratulations on all your hard work and success. It’s a huge step forward.

    May 31, 2013 at 10:40 am

    • Thanks, Elsie! <3

      May 31, 2013 at 10:42 am

  17. sosayselizabeth

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of the work you’ve done. Your blog and your work are amazing, and I am so glad to have found them. They have been an inspiration, they have been eye-opening, thought-provoking, and have helped me see things maybe I would not have otherwise, as I begin my journey with feminism. Keep fighting the good fight. I’m standing right here with you.

    May 31, 2013 at 10:24 am

    • Welcome to the party! Have some cake. :)

      Thank you for your words of encouragement and support. They mean more than I can say.

      May 31, 2013 at 10:26 am

  18. “This is not about free speech:” I agree and congrats on your success. Every website has the right to regulate what kind of content is allows. I rarely go on FB and only have about 10 or 12 friends I know from the real world. We just share family photos.

    May 31, 2013 at 9:25 am

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