Facebook and violence

janewebI’m not one of the people who deserves the kudos and credit for conceiving and launching the brilliant #FBrape campaign. I’m just one of many people who saw it happening and jumped in to contribute. It was something I was thrilled to see happening and now feel proud of having supported.


I’ve seen some critique of the campaign lately (here is one:http://thelesbianmafia.tumblr.com/post/51621489286/our-thoughts-on-facebook-giving-way-to-campaign-against) – and I applaud efforts to have conversations about these issues, so I’m adding my thoughts as a way to support dialogue.


It was a call for censorship, and that’s bad

There is a narrow place where conversations about hate speech and freedom of expression becomes troubling for me to work through the maze of ethical implications. Fortunately regarding the #FBrape campaign I don’t need to go there. If the effort to challenge rape culture and domestic violence had been to pass LAWS that held FB responsible for the images, we might have to confront those troubling places. But what we did was apply social pressure – including an implied time honored strategy of boycotting advertisers. This was not a call for censorship, and when we label it that way we encounter problems distinguishing actual censorship from freedom of expression. If we do not draw the line as a legal one we land in a strange house of mirrors where we end up asking why an essay critiquing the #FBrape campaign is any more or less a call for censorship than the campaign itself was.

Educating would have been better

I will happily support those who have the energy (and the faith that efforts to educate will be effective) to do so. But it’s not an either or, many strategies working toward a goal are wonderful. I am a bit uncomfortable with the implication that it is the job of women to *educate* men as to why rape isn’t funny, but kudos to those who want to take it on.

It shone a light on hypocrisy

If FB had not been disallowing images and speech that targeted groups besides women, this might have been less clear. If FB had not been removing images of women’s bodies that showed breastfeeding or post mastectomy tattoos we might have had a more difficult time making the case that FB policies were being applied in discriminatory ways. But both of those things were true, so a large part of what I felt we were doing was pointing out hypocrisy.

What is reflected back to us matters. Sometimes it even creates.

If I view social media as only a mirror of our society, then it may seem a bit misdirected to address the reflection rather than the cause. While I agree it’s also a reflection I do think it is more; it’s an exchange that also creates and encourages. Most critiques of main stream media approach these issues as one of medias ability to influence and create culture by projecting the ideas it would like to see (iow those that have been paid for) as norms.

Lets talk about humor

I suspect that each of us (no matter WHO we are) has been told something we find offensive was humor, AND that something we found funny was offensive. The study of humor itself provides such fascinating and fertile ground for exploring cultural norms. And when the only exception remaining that allows a particular sentiment is humor I think it’s an indication that the time is right to address it.

Hashtag critique

I too felt discomfort with the choice of hashtag. Im also someone who doesn’t like the use of phrases such as “rape of the earth” even though I’m in agreement with the environmentalist sentiments that lead to its use. In this case I set my concerns aside for two reasons. First, this was a case where the images we protested did include actual rape and examples of domestic violence so it was not purely metaphorical. Second, I am aware that I will not agree with every choice made by every person in an action that I support. Both that standard and the stakes are too high. I might mention it if I see the phrase “rape of the earth” being used in an environmentalist context, but that doesn’t mean I wont go support the action.

The critique I haven’t heard

The thing that made me the most uncomfortable was the use of capitalism (ie implied boycott and pressuring of advertisers) as a means to an end strategy. Means-to-an-end things always give me philosophical headaches. But I’m like that, I can overthink when sometimes it’s better to just stop it n take ACTION knowing that activism is like humans – never perfect. If I wait for perfection in activism I’ll not only be forever still and silent, I’ll also fall down that rabbit hole of hypocrisy since it’s not like I’ll achieve perfection myself…