Facebook login screen with 'Rape: Never Funny' text

Outing rape culture

This is a guest post by Jane Osmond. Jane is a co-editor of Women’s Views on News, a researcher and chair of a charity that works with women in street sex working.

Trigger warning for quoted rape threats.

Recently Geek Feminism featured a link to the Women’s Views on News (WVoN) campaign which is attempting to get Facebook to take down a particularly offensive page entitled “You know she’s playing hard to get when your (sic) chasing her down an alleyway’.

The main thrust of the campaign is to get Facebook to acknowledge that by allowing this page (and all that are similar) to remain on the site, then Facebook—as a powerful virtual entity—is perpetuating rape culture: a complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women.

As a writer for WVoN I came across this page when a link was pasted on “I bet we can find 1,000,000 Proud Feminists on facebook’; I then wrote the first post for WVoN, was ignored by Facebook, sent out a media release, got media coverage, got quoted, was contacted or alerted to other groups in other countries who were also protesting, got the page whitelisted and am now keeping up the pressure at Rape Never Funny.

To date, the most interesting question I have been asked about why WVoN is persisting with the campaign is “Do you think Facebook will change its policies as a result of this campaign?’And I found myself saying “yes’.What’s more, I found myself being surprised by my answer.

In more detail, we all, as women, recognise that rape culture is part of the world that we live in and it is not even peripheral, but actually IS the world we live in, so why would a grassroots campaign against the world biggest social network—which, by default, is run by corporate drones only interested in making the most money possible—win?

Because:

  • since the campaign started, there are now similar campaigns in four countries in the Western world
  • there are many more campaigns that have been started and have perished on the vine only due to lack of media attention
  • women HAVE HAD ENOUGH of being told to sit down, be quiet, and stop being hysterical
  • it is time that the world that women form 50% of listened to what women are saying—that rape culture is a WAR against women and it claims thousands and thousands of casualties every day

The scale of the denial of this war is breathtaking: if one of my favourite species from Star Trek (the Borg, obviously) or favourite characters from Babylon 5 (the fabulous G’Kar) popped down to earth to have a look at us, they would find a society that is compromised, with half of its population being systematically attacked by the other half and the people with the power and those who listen to them busily pretending that this is not happening.

I would argue that women who see the hidden war against them are constantly struggling with the knowledge that society refuses to recognise their reality. They are attacked from every side as they struggle to maintain a coherent narrative about the reality of their lives and maintain an identity that does not fit in with the identities “allowed’ for women. For some women this identity is “feminist'; and these women write, talk, blog and do whatever they can to fight the prevailing sexist hegemony.

For other women, perhaps those who are too firmly enmeshed in “allowed’ female identities, “feminist’ as described and perpetuated by superstructures all over the world, is a step too far. Even so, they still display uneasiness about the very real differences between their lived realities – that being a woman is to be in danger, and the messages – “calm down dear’.

Therefore, women KNOW they are at risk of sexual assault and rape at all times, but society, and Facebook, allows this fact to be joked about, thus both denying its seriousness and reinforcing the cultural denial.So women have to live with the dichotomy of not being able to walk down the street safely after dark, being unable to be an effective actor in their world without being threatened with sexual assault, rape and even murder (witness the recent Geek Feminism focus about women bloggers being under attack) but at the same time are told that it is not really happening, it is not really serious, and to “calm down dear’, by everyone around them.

However, for me, what will turn this tide—ironically—is the internet, which although highlights and underlines not only that rape culture is alive and well, allowing the voices of hatred behind it to write and joke with impunity; also allows women a voice that will not be silenced.

Slut Walk, which although problematic on some levels, would not have been possible without the internet, Geek Feminists gather together on this site to discuss and exchange their stories, Women’s Views on News keeps us up to date with the news from a female standpoint; all of the oppressed, marginalised and disenfranchised women in the Western world, and increasingly the non-Western world, are getting access to the internet and outing themselves as people with a stake in the societies they live in.

And that is why I think Facebook will, at the risk of losing its own place in society, have to change its policies: women are here, women are talking, and women are not going away.

This post was submitted via the Guest posts submission page, if you are interested in guest posting on Geek Feminism please contact us through that page.

2 thoughts on “Outing rape culture

  1. John C Barstow

    As a positive sign that women’s voices *are* being heard, it’s worth noting that the FBI is moving towards a much more inclusive definition of rape.

    This should start shifting the conversation in law enforcement – if this language is adopted, it will reflect the reality a whole lot better than the current definition.

    The new definition also recognizes that men can be victims, which is the subject of its own taboos and issues in rape culture.

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