On November 2, feminist activists organized together to protest Facebook’s refusal to remove pages that contained jokes about rape and violence against women from their site. Facebook’s Terms of Service bans language that is “hateful, threatening,” or contains “graphic or gratuitous violence” — which you will quickly find out if you make a “joke” about, say, dragging a black man behind a pickup truck. And if you post pics of yourself breastfeeding or anything just “too sexy,” like Courtney Stodden did, you’re in trouble. But Facebook rationalizes that their Terms of Service doesn’t include “jokes” of hate, threats, or gratuitous violence against women — because those are joke-jokes, right, bro?
The progressive web site Change.org collected 188,000 signatures asking Facebook to ban rape jokes and jokes about violence against women. Throughout the day on November 2, activists tweeted the names of offensive pages like “We’re gonna have sex tonight” “Why?” “Because im stronger than you are” to the @Facebook handle on Twitter. And finally — finally! — Facebook listened and responded.
The good news is that Facebook removed a half dozen rape joke pages, like one titled “What’s 10 inches and gets girls to have sex with me? My knife.” (But whhhhhy?! LOL! That’s so funnnny!) According to Mashable.com, Facebook had declined to remove such pages in August because “what one person finds offensive another can find entertaining.”
The bad news is that Facebook did not remove plenty of other pages and, according to Huffington Post and Mashable, even more rape joke pages have since popped up. In a statement to Mashable, a Facebook spokesperson wrote:
We find many of these pages to be ignorant, just as we may object to other statements made on Facebook and around the web, but we believe that people have the right to hold such opinions as long as they don’t result in direct harm.
Translation: they only did a little bit of the right thing. But it wasn’t the right-enough thing. Facebook says it is protecting free speech, which is true; even the most vile of free speech (rape jokes, racism, homophobia, etc.) is protected under the First Amendment. But the water doesn’t hold with their excuse: the site takes down other offensive pages, but lets some remain. It’s hypocritical. And it’s indicative of a larger problem in our culture where sexual violence and violence against womenis something to giggle about, rather than make your stomach drop.
If you’re at all wondering how raping children isn’t so flat out horrifying that it spawns severe, immediate action, look no further than the tenor of our pop culture at large. When we laugh or ignore instead of condemn, we become complicit. So, specifically: shame on you, Facebook, for not doing the right-enough thing.
Contact the author of this post at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter at @JessicaWakeman.