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Facesmash

Godalmighty Soraya Chemaly’s article on misogynist shit on Facebook is horrifying and scary.

Earlier this week I wrote about how the use of photography (especially without the subject’s consent) intensifies harassment, abuse and violence against women.  Quicker than I could type “Feministe” this Change.org petition appeared in my inbox:  “Please sign to remove 12 Year Old Slut Memes from Facebook.”  One of the offending page’s profile photos is of a pink-lipped and pouty child (she looks a lot younger than 12) wearing a tank top that reads “I love COCK.”  Now, anyone can create a page in Facebook (published at Facebook’s discretion) and this page doesn’t openly advocate violence against 12-year-old sluts.  It is, however, the virtual equivalent of street harassment and, as such, demonstrates the way the photography serves to exponentially magnify the effects of subtle and real violence along a broad spectrum.

But Facebook won’t remove it. It treats it as “Humor” and thus not to be taken down.

This is pretty much Facebook’s attitude and why it deals with this page and assorted others by adding [Humor] to titles.  As a result, according to Facebook’s interpretation and adherence to its own policies, they will not take down Boobs, Breasts and Boys who love them, unless the boys are babies since they do take down photos of breastfeeding mothers.  They will not take down  [Controversial Humor] rape pages, but they will remove a photograph of a woman crossing the street in New York City because she is topless (legal in New York, but not the sovereign state of Facebook).

They do take stuff down, but they won’t take down “Humor” about beating up women.

And, yes, I know, I know, the 12-year old slut meme page does not openly suggest, say,  hitting a pre-teen girl who makes the mistake of posting a photo that lends itself to Dom and James’ critical insights, nor does it make jokes about raping children or women.  Other Facebook pages, with fans ranging from the tens to the hundreds of thousand, however, do.  For example, “[Satire] Kicking a slut in the vagina and losing your foot inside” is still up and does not specify age of slut to kick…

Ah the ever-popular joke about kicking a woman in the cunt and getting your foot dirty! I’ve had those. The “joke” about kicking me in the cunt has offspring that include the “jokes” about the slimy boot. Those jokes are so funny – no wonder Facebook won’t take them down.

Why is it so hard to imagine a world in which girls and women are not daily subjected to the use of hate-filled violence against us as entertainment?  Endorsed more than tacitly by a major cultural force like Facebook?

It is arguable that misogyny is in Facebook’s DNA and integral to its culture. In defending his woman-denigrating representation of Mark Zuckerberg’s alcohol-fueled creation of Facemash, the precursor to Facebook, Aaron Sorkin wrote that “that was the very specific world I was writing about…Facebook was born during a night of incredibly misogyny… comparing women to farm animals, and then to each other, based on their looks and then publicly ranking them.” Even aside from the subjective nature of what people find funny and the erroneous use of the word “Satire” it is hard for me to ignore this origin story when considering Facebook’s gender selective interpretations of what constitutes “threatening,” “violent” and “hate speech,” in its content censorship choices.

Some of this is news to me. It creeps me out.

Comments

  1. Beatrice says

    Yeah, I’ve read this already on Feministe.
    You can guess once whether an idiot came along to cry about censorship.

    I don’t want any government to censor them, but I would love if Facebook censored them and even better – if they learned to censor themselves. I don’t expect every asshole on this planet to renounce his evil ways, but it would be nice if social sanctions against them became harsh enough that they realized expressions of their nasty sexism are not acceptable.

  2. ~G~ says

    Do they have “humor” pages targeting ethnic and racial minorities? Honest question. What about homophobic ones.

  3. ~G~ says

    @myself #2- Yes, they do. Didn’t take long to find. Just search on various hateful words. As for the page targeted by the petition, it says it is run by two 19 year olds and it is most popular in the 13-17 year old crowd. That should tell themselves something about themselves.

  4. PG says

    I honestly don’t understand why you keep perpetuating the lie about someone said they wanted to “kick [you] in the cunt” when they never did, and in fact it was you perpetuating the myth in the first place the assumption that someone wanted to “kick [you] in the cunt”?

    I don’t get it, Ophelia. Maybe it’s the second-wave Dworkin type feminism that’s gotten to you, but you can’t just make things up about someone wanting to “kick [you] in the cunt” and then pass it off as truth. That’s not the mind of a sceptic. Then again, the Steinem’s and Dworkin’s of this world considered marriage to be a patriarchal institution of rape and they had thousands of followers (read: zealots).

    Consider this: In Australia, the word ‘cunt’ is endearing. Usually reserved for codgers, mind, but a word of endearment nonetheless. Example: “How are ‘ya, ‘ya old cunt?” That is a common enough phrase in the outback. It’s also used as a compliment, in the sense of ‘wicked’ or ‘awesome’. In Australia. In Britain, it’s used asexually as a slur. If you climbed out of your bubble, you would see these things are not so black and white as you make them out to be. These Facebook groups are satire. They don’t spell out reality or desire, it’s parody. I’m sorry the rest of the world are not humourless husks.

    Yes, even the ’12 year old slut meme’ Facebook group. You don’t have to like it, or even consider it humourous. I don’t think it’s funny or particularly witty, nor do I consider the other groups you mentioned particularly funny or witty, but you know what the difference is? I acknowledge they’re satire or parody and not dead serious. By the way, note I haven’t said anything in this post that’s sexist or misogynistic — nor have I ever on FTB but that’s neither here nor there — so I would appreciate if you would lay off on that card.

  5. says

    It’s not a lie. I didn’t say someone “wanted to” kick me in the cunt – I said “The “joke” about kicking me in the cunt has offspring that include the “jokes” about the slimy boot.” That’s not a lie. Your calling it a lie is the lie.

    I’m not going to lay off anything. I’m not remotely interested in what you would appreciate.

  6. PG says

    Actually, I might have been unfair. While no one really has said they would like to ‘kick [you] in the cunt’, I could be confusing you with Greta Christina. If so, I apologise for any offense taken.

  7. says

    That’s another lie. To repeat: I didn’t say anything about “they would like to”; I said jokes about. There are many many jokes about. Do not come here and say there are not, because that is not true.

    And no you don’t. It’s not a matter of “offense taken.” It’s a matter of you announcing I lied when you can’t possibly have found out anything on the subject or you would have seen that I did not lie. It’s not me just taking offense; it’s you doing an outrageous thing. Several people have made many jokes about kicking me in the cunt. Don’t come here and call me a liar for saying that.

  8. jenniferphillips says

    You’re absolutely right, PG, the most pertinent part of this post about pervasive sexism and misogyny in social media IS the one line Ophelia put in about her experience with this particular bit of ‘humor’. I’m ashamed I didn’t see it before.

    I see that you were so keen to share this insight with us that you didn’t pause to discern which of the FTBitchizAin’tShit bloggers you were addressing, but given the urgent point we were all missing, I’m perfectly willing to overlook that.

    Keep up the good work!

  9. says

    Hard to say 12 yr old slut memes should be banned when there is similar stuff on US talk shows all the while. Quick google shows a 9th grade ‘slut’ on Maury Povic. Obviously being on TV you don’t get to see the ‘comments’ from those watching but I doubt they are much better.

    Don’t particularly want to stand up for the page but they are pretty damning of the things these girls do and say. There does not seem to be a lot of sexualising more ridiculing (Comments are another thing). I just cringed reading the status someone posted, ‘Just found out I’m pregnant, 75 likes and I keep it’… So horrible, but banning? If they ban Maury as well I’ll agree as I hate his exploitative shit.

  10. says

    Following the thread of pages and people have turned that one into a ‘free speech!’ issue. I’m sure 4chan will happily host it if it is ‘banned’ from Facebook…

    One of the mods for the 12yr old page is trying to make out it is a public service for parents to see what their little darlings are up to on the internet. Bit of a stretch to say the least but I think at least some of the outrage should be directed at parents and maybe Facebook. Some of these kids need help, might be there are plenty of support networks? A lot of the shocking nature of this page comes from what real children are doing and saying on their public Facebook pages.

  11. says

    4chan hosting it is a very very different thing from Facebook hosting it. Kind of the way an article in the New York Review of Books is different from an article in People.

  12. Radi says

    Shit like this is why I closed my Facebook account. I was considering creating another one just for atheist activism stuff, considering I’m an officer on the board of a 501(c)(3) registered organization, but good grief! I think I’ll stick to email, thankyouverymuch.

  13. mildlymagnificent says

    “How are ‘ya, ‘ya old cunt?” That is a common enough phrase in the outback. It’s also used as a compliment, in the sense of ‘wicked’ or ‘awesome’.

    Really? In my Flinders Ranges wanderings and in conversations with friends who are mining or farm workers, I’ve not heard that so much. I’ve heard ‘ya old cunt’ replace ‘ya old bastard’, but only a couple of times. Most importantly, I’ve never heard it used by or to women. And I’ve never, ever heard it used for awesome or wicked – I suggest that it would be very much a niche or local usage.

    By and large, it retains its full power of vulgarity and insult.

  14. says

    oolon

    Don’t particularly want to stand up for the page but they are pretty damning of the things these girls do and say. There does not seem to be a lot of sexualising more ridiculing (Comments are another thing).

    Stop that shit.
    It’s actually somewhat 100% irrelevant whether they’re slut-shaming the girls or fat-shaming them or anything.
    We are talking about 12 year old children
    You know, children.
    People with limited cognitive capacities. People with a developing brain and limited capacities to figure out the consequences of their actions.
    People who also quite often commit suicide because of constant bullying and cyber bullying.
    Would you defend that shit if it were about disabled people who are technically adults but who have a legal guardian because they have the mental capacities of a 12 year old? No? Then don’t defend that shit being flung at people who have legal guardians because they have the mental and emotional capacities of a 12 year old because they are actually 12 years old.

  15. says

    PG @ 5

    Consider this: In Australia, the word ‘cunt’ is endearing. Usually reserved for codgers, mind, but a word of endearment nonetheless. Example: “How are ‘ya, ‘ya old cunt?”

    Which Australia is this? Platonic Australia, or just some rarefied sub-section of the actual continent?

    I appreciate that there isn’t uniformity of language, in terms of connotations, across the content, ‘cunt’ being no exception, but to just flat out say that it’s an endearing term in Australia seems outright ridiculous.

    I hear it spoken all the time, especially on public transport in the northern suburbs of Adelaide, and I’ve never heard it used endearingly in such a circumstance. Mostly I’ve only heard it used like that, in funky, post-feminist, middle-class, hipster type cliques.

    And I’m pretty sure Catherine Deveny wasn’t using it as an endearing term when she called Campbell Newman one.

    Despite the mythology of the region, I rather doubt that Elizabeth is that different to Coburg or Alice Springs when it comes to the word in question.

  16. johnthedrunkard says

    It is a cross-cultural sickness, far beyond the 19-year old, to-dumb-to-even-be-fratboy world. Breast feeding: obscene, stupid pin-up culture: daring, or is it ‘edgy’ this week?

    This lunacy helps to make the wasteland where assholes like this flourish. Grotesque sexualizing of girls too young to have a real opinion on the matter is disgusting on the face of it. And it goes under-reported all the time.

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