subscribe: Posts | Comments

Facebook: rape jokes no worse than ‘pub jokes’

12 comments

Jane Osmond
WVoN co-editor

Two weeks ago I wrote about a Facebook page, entitled ‘You know she’s playing hard to get when your chasing her down an alleyway (sic)’ which appeared to be advocating rape against women and also featured posts relating to child abduction.

Since I wrote the piece events have moved on somewhat and other articles about this page have appeared in the Huffington Post and WebProNews.

Also, we estimate that thousands of people have reported this page as a result of both the WVoN article and other people, equally incensed, who are posting links all over Facebook asking people to report it.

Meanwhile, as a result of a letter collaboration between WVoN, CRASAC, Birmingham against Rape and Rape Crisis (England and Wales), on Wednesday this week (17th) I was invited into the studios of BBC Coventry & Warwickshire radio to talk about why we were calling on Facebook to take the page down immediately.

The interview, which can be found here , features my statement (3 minutes in), then a spokeswoman from Index on Censorship, followed by a statement from Facebook (see below for transcription).

Further in (41 minutes) is Mary-Ann Stephenson from Coventry Women’s Voices who does a brilliant job talking about the wider harms that encouraging and thus perpetuating the existing rape culture can do women’s chances of being taken seriously when raped or sexually assaulted.

In addition, over at the ‘I bet we can find 1,000,000 Proud Feminists on facebook’ page, the tireless Orlagh has started a petition – which can be found here: please sign it.

I have reprinted the Facebook statement below: as you can see Facebook appears to be arguing that rape and child abduction jokes are no more serious than a pub joke.

However a quick glance around the internet shows us that Facebook are quite capable of censoring pages when they feel like it, such as a page featuring a topless statue of liberty, political statements made by liberal commentators, and The Pansy Project, a group against homophobic abuse.  The Pansy Project received this Facebook statement:

“Among other things, groups that are hateful, threatening, or obscene are not allowed. We also take down groups that attack an individual or group, or advertise a product or service.”

Facebook also, only this week, made this statement in response to being asked to attend a meeting with the Home Office after allowing two men (now sent to prison for four years) to incite rioting through a Facebook page:

“We look forward to meeting with the home secretary to explain the measures we have been taking to ensure that Facebook is a safe and positive platform for people in the UK at this challenging time.” (BBC News, August 19, 2011)

Therefore a preliminary conclusion seems to be that Facebook is, at best, inconsistent in terms of applying its own polices and at worst actively refusing to take issues such as rape and child abduction seriously.

This brings to mind the image of a few young lads – kind of like the young lads who are making the rape ‘jokes’ – in a Facebook back office somewhere, sniggering at the page and dismissing the very real harms and offence that this page is causing.

Also being dismissed is the collaborative letter mentioned earlier – the Guardian have expressed no interest in this at all, and to date neither has the Times.  The letter will be sent to all the broadsheets by the end of this week, but I am becoming a tad disillusioned by the reaction of the mainstream media.

Not wanting to equate sniggering boys in a back office with grown up male news editors, I do have to wonder why the news organisations are not taking this seriously.

After all, if you think about it in the context of the statistic 1 in 5 women worldwide will be sexually assaulted or raped in her lifetime – is this page not newsworthy?  And if not, do we have to ask ourselves what is?  Perhaps it really is the sniggering boys who are in charge.  And that is scary.

Watch this space for more updates: this story is not going to be allowed to fade away.

——————-

Facebook statement to the Annie Othen Show, 17.8.11, BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire; available until 24.8.11

We want Facebook to be a place where people can openly discuss issues and express their views whilst respecting the rights and feeling of others.

We have now more than 750m people around the world of varying opinions and ideals using Facebook as a place to discuss and share things that are important to them.

We sometimes find people discussing and posting about controversial topics

It is very important to point out that what one person finds offensive another can find entertaining – just as telling a rude joke won’t get you thrown out of your local pub, it won’t get you thrown off Facebook.

  1. Jane Da Vall says:

    Why do they want to attract people who find that entertaining to their site? Are they valuable consumers? The only way to speak to them is with $$. Is this page good for their business?

    • Jane Osmond says:

      Hi Jane: there is one person who is systematically taken screen shots of some of the worst comments and then sending them to the advertisers who appear on the page. Another is taking screen shots of the posters and tracking them down and informing schools, universities, parents.

      • Jane Da Vall says:

        That’s an excellent idea. Going to a site’s advertisers has been shown time and again to be the most effective response.

  2. Lots of expletives deleted here. ‘A rude joke’? Facebook are trying to call this a ‘rude joke’? Gah. And what’s that nonsense about pages not advertising? I suppose profile pages don’t count then.

    I wonder, if someone started a page about how funny emasculation is, or something like that, how quickly would they be thrown off Facebook?

  3. vicki wharton says:

    What it shows is a generation of men that have grown up thinking hurting women and children is funny …

    • Jane Da Vall says:

      No, it doesn’t show that at all, Vicki, it shows that some men think its funny, and they look to be boys mostly.

      It shows also that the people at Facebook think it could be funny. Since Facebook are the ones with the world watching them, they are the bigger problem than those boys, in my opinion.

  4. “I wonder, if someone started a page about how funny emasculation is, or something like that, how quickly would they be thrown off Facebook?”

    There are at least two pages praising penis-cutters, Bobbit and that new one. I just pointed that out, but my comment never appeared. Maybe this one will.

    • Jane Osmond says:

      Hello Dan thank you for your comment. If you find pages that are offensive to you on Facebook, you are welcome to get your own petition and campaign together to try and get Facebook to take them down. You can always link to ours if you think this will help.

    • Ta, Dan. I can’t find the pages you mention though, only one about Lorena Bobbit that has been culled from Wikipedia (and is illustrated with a picture of her ex-husband) and one in Italian which appears to be suggesting a solution to domestic violence, but I could be wrong as my Italian is non-existent. No jokes or that sort of thing.

  5. Facebook pages that joke about cutting off men’s penises (and grinding them up)

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lorena-Bobbits-BIG-mistake-She-forgot-the-grinder/119778581422205

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Beware-Dont-eat-from-the-Lorena-Bobbit-hotdog-stand/271124534912

    Italian page hero-worshipping Lorena Bobbit for her violence against a man
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/la-violenza-sulle-donne-soluzione-come-lorena-bobbit/122576007929

    Free Catherine Becker Page (woman who recently drugged her husband (he wanted a divorce, he was not abusive) and cut off his penis and put it in the waste disposal.
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Free-Catherine-Kieu-Becker/190474051007423

    Featuring photos of knives in the gallery, and a comment from the page owner saying ‘Lets remember that Catherine never killed any1. She may have killed the fun part of his romantic hopes & dreams but she did not leave him 4 dead.’ Apply the same logic to rape and see how that sounds.

    The point? Facebook is full of gender hate on both sides. As id the internet. You don’t have to use Facebook, but run a petition if you want. Feminists always seem to want anything they don’t like or agree with banned. I don’t think that achieves much, especially for feminism’s image, as most people prefer free speech and get tired of people telling them what they should or shouldn’t be allowed to see or read.

    • “http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lorena-Bobbits-BIG-mistake-She-forgot-the-grinder/119778581422205″

      34 likes.

      “http://www.facebook.com/pages/Beware-Dont-eat-from-the-Lorena-Bobbit-hotdog-stand/271124534912″

      91 likes.

      “Italian page hero-worshipping Lorena Bobbit for her violence against a man
      http://www.facebook.com/pages/la-violenza-sulle-donne-soluzione-come-lorena-bobbit/122576007929

      1,047 likes, Google translate suggests that it says ‘violence against women as a solution’ – are there any Italian speakers handy to translate? Also, I believe I pointed that page out to you, Dan. Like Isaid though, I don’t speak Italian so I’m not sure what the page is about.

      “Free Catherine Becker Page (woman who recently drugged her husband (he wanted a divorce, he was not abusive) and cut off his penis and put it in the waste disposal.
      http://www.facebook.com/pages/Free-Catherine-Kieu-Becker/190474051007423

      As I said earlier, 335 likes. And 169 who like the ‘don’t free Catherine Kieu Becker’ page, another 14 on another page with the same title and 50-ish likes on a page saying ‘Free Catherine Kieu Becker page advocates violence against men’.

      “Featuring photos of knives in the gallery, and a comment from the page owner saying ‘Lets remember that Catherine never killed any1. She may have killed the fun part of his romantic hopes & dreams but she did not leave him 4 dead.’ Apply the same logic to rape and see how that sounds.”

      What we are objecting to here is a page that invites serious and violent sexual assault against women and thinks it is funny. I’m not defending these pages here but they are not the same. As I said in the other thread the ‘isn’t rape funny?’ page conerns me more, with it’s 183,019 likes. Apples and pears, Dan.

      “The point? Facebook is full of gender hate on both sides. As id the internet.”

      In my many years online I have seen lots and lots and *lots* of ‘gender hate’ against women, objectification of women, jokes about hurting women, jokes belittling women, insults towards women. And sometimes, the men who make these statements also insult other men, typically with some sort of jibe about penis size, or how the object of their ridicule is actually female and therefore lesser, or perhaps gay and therefore lesser. Your own examples back up my experience. Even if a thousand of those likes on the page we’re protesting are there to protest about it, even if there’s five thousand, that’s still well over a hundred thousand people who saw that phrase and thought it was funny or relevant enough to click like. Compared to a couple of thousand total over all the links you posted.

      “You don’t have to use Facebook, but run a petition if you want. ”

      …thanks? I suppose?

      “Feminists always seem to want anything they don’t like or agree with banned.”

      Really? Sweeping generalisations this early on? OK. Men always seem to get their boxers in a bunch at the slightest hint of disagreement.

      “I don’t think that achieves much, especially for feminism’s image, as most people prefer free speech and get tired of people telling them what they should or shouldn’t be allowed to see or read.”

      See, I am not concerned with feminism’s image. It’s not an image thing. So far, this campaign has prompted discussion. I would hope one of the things discussed is why people object so strongly to the message – implied or otherwise – of this page.

      We are all entitled to free speech. Some people are going to use theirs to say that pages like this are hateful. Some people are going to use theirs to complain about how it’s somehow *still* the fault of the women when they fail to have a sense of humour about the thought of being chased down an alleyway and attacked. ‘Free speech’ is not the same as ‘saying douchebaggy things and not being pulled up for it’.

    • Jane Da Vall says:

      “Feminists always seem to want anything they don’t like or agree with banned. I don’t think that achieves much, especially for feminism’s image”

      Dan,
      If you take everything you don’t like that a woman had said, collect it together and call it feminism, I can see why you wouldn’t think much of it. Why are you attributing the opinions of anyone here to anybody other than the people here?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>