In Absence of Firm Policy, Facebook “Rape-Joke” Pages Spring Back Up

Several new rape-humor pages have already popped up on Facebook in the days since the original pages were removed. Several more were never taken down in the first place, reports the Huffington Post.

The newly created pages include such “jokes” as “you know she is playing hard to get when she resists the chloroform” and “you know she’s playing hard to get when you use another roll of tape.”

Obviously, it would be next to impossible for Facebook to prevent these pages from being created. But there’s also little cause for optimism that once the pages are reported, Facebook will be diligent about deleting them.

When Facebook removed some of the offending pages last week, it made no official comment or clarification of policy. Activists responded by calling for the company to issue a formal statement that rape is never funny and that such pages will be deemed a violation of Facebook rules (which bar speech that is “hateful, threatening or incites violence.”)

Instead, Facebook has done just the opposite: released a statement clarifying that in the future, such pages will be allowed to remain as long as they are clearly labeled as humor.

If Facebook thinks this is all about a misunderstanding, they have not been paying attention. The problem has never been that feminists missed the point that the pages were intended as jokes. We never mistook them for a serious call to go out and commit rape. Our point is that sexual violence is not funny and that reducing it to a punch line perpetuates rape culture.

Statistically, someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes in America (though it is difficult to ever know the accuracy of such statistics in a society that renders so much assault invisible). Many women are harassed or assaulted in some way so regularly—from catcalls to being groped to enduring suggestive innuendo or worse from co-workers to being date-raped—that these things have become normalized as an inevitable part of the experience of being a woman. This is what it means to live in a rape culture. 60 percent of sexual assaults are not reported, often because they assume they will not be believed or taken seriously. This is a culture that allows sexual violence to happen in large part by silencing victims and treating their tales as jokes.

I’ve never met a feminist without a sense of humor, though we are often accused of never being able to “lighten up and take a joke.” This is just one way in which women are silenced in our culture–by being labeled as uptight and prudish when we actually attempt to point out misogyny. In fact, I am a huge believer in both the power and the importance of humor. Satire can be an extremely potent, especially when it takes risks. I have seen laugh-out-loud funny Onion headlines that manage to drive home a point better than any serious journalism I have encountered on some subjects.

But the fact that humor has powerful potential does not mean everything labeled as humor has an inherent value. And when so-called humor uses violence against a specific race, gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity as its punch line, at some point it crosses a line and becomes hate speech. Misogynist, racist or homophobic jokes are never “just jokes.” They reflect and reinforce actual hateful attitudes. When do we say “enough is enough”? If Facebook is bombarded by a multitude of “jokes” about violence against people of a particular race or ethnicity, will a note in the headline that this is meant to be “humorous” make those jokes okay?

Facebook’s belief that you can nullify the harms of hate speech by labeling it a “joke” is simply a cop-out. The corporation’s behavior so far has been condescending and dismissive of women’s concerns. And so we continue to call on Facebook to issue an apology and take a firm stance against the promotion of sexual violence. Anything less is simply unacceptable.

You can add your name to this Change.org petition to let Facebook know that we won’t let up until takes a firm policy against sexually violent hate speech:

[iframe http://www.msmagazine.com/blog_change_widget6.asp 650 300]

Facebook screen shot taken November 10, 2011.

Comments

  1. Cat Weatherup says:

    Whole-heartedly agree.

    Now how about a campaign to get Hollywood to stop raping and killing women on just about every show on TV?

    • Cat,

      I’m so glad you mentioned that! Every time I DIAL PAST one of those oh-so-popular cop shows, some woman is dead or kidnapped, etc. Makes me wonder who writes this stuff and why do so many people watch it!

  2. Vicki Wharton says:

    Try this too:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/0711

    About the role of using humour to legitamise hate speech …

  3. Feminist Metalhead says:

    I hate that site. Too many teens in my province are committing suicide from endless bullying. Facebook and cyberbullying has played a big role in their deaths. May my brothers and sisters rest in peace.

  4. While reading this post I realized there is some information that was neglected by the writer of this article. Women aren’t the only sex that are assaulted. ‘Many women are harassed or assaulted in some way so regularly.’ I understand the groups that are being written are involving the words like ‘she’ and ‘her’ but when the author is using statistics about the general population like how someone in the US is assaulted every 2 minutes, that statistics includes both sexes. The article was very informative about how ridiculous FaceBook’s rules. I just wanted to point out that both sexes can be assaulted. It isn’t just women that are susceptible of being assaulted/ raped.

    • Hi Robert,

      You’re correct in pointing out that men are sometimes victims of sexual assault as well, and obviously sexual violence is just as horrible regardless of who the target is. However, over 90% of victims are women. I would never wish to dismiss or downplay the experiences of individual men who have been victims of assault, but men as a group do not live with the same presence of assault and harassment in daily life in the same way that women as a group do. Our culture specifically promotes and supports sexual violence against women in a systemic way. That’s not to say that men are never victims, or that they suffer any less when they are. But there is a clear gender divide with regard to who is the likely target of sexual assault, and it’s that culture of sexual violence against women I’m addressing here. I appreciate your comment; it can be difficult to discuss the gender dynamic at work with regard to sexual violence without coming across as invalidating the existence of male victims.

  5. Jack Holden says:

    I’m tempted to make some sort of ironic joke like, “we should burn books too” but there are more things wrong here than the rampant disregard for freed of speech. I agree with Robert that rape is not just a women’s issue and that by referring to it as such silences the thousands of men who’ve been raped. Just because they’re not the majority doesn’t mean they don’t get a voice. As for humor, it’s valuable to note what the joke is. People don’t joke about rape to minimize it’s significance or because they don’t think it’s important. The “you know she’s playing hard to get when…” series is making a joke out of “playing hard to get” saying it’s stupid and justifies rape. And now most of them are there solely to make fun of you for taking yourselves too seriously. Being angry and offended about some teenage kids giggling over their new Facebook page or some movie that depicts rape helps no one. You are not helping your cause by doing this.

  6. Emelio Lizardo says:

    It’s entirely understandable that 90% (unverified) of rape victims are women seeing as women are the gate keepers to sex. There’s really no market scarcity of male sex.

    Not to mention that the definition of rape has expanded to even the trivial and verbal.

    We joke about all kinds of things, joking about them doesn’t translate to affirmation. Frankly, with all the emoting about rape it’s impossible to have any kind of rational discourse.

    Next PETA will be campaigning about Hamster and duct tape jokes.

    Humor is humor, get a life.

  7. Emelio, perhaps you should get a life. Maybe go read some books about rape written by women instead of ranting your own ill-informed opinions.

    Yes, men are victims of rape too, but as Angi says, there’s a clear gender divide on the issue – women constitute the overwhelming majority of victims. And importantly, men are usually the perpetrators, regardless of the sex of the victim. I don’t see any women creating rape joke pages.

  8. Listen, its not ‘right’ but people should be able to have the right to say what they want, even if you don’t agree with it. You should be ashamed at the level of censorship you are trying to impose on peoples free speech, even if your heart is in the right place. Free speech isn’t just there to protect the speech we agree with or deem socially and morally acceptable.

  9. Humor? Censorship? Do we even have to think twice about why Facebook is out of line for allowing these harmful, hurtful jokes about a heinous crime? Would “Groan” and friends want lynching jokes, given the murder and terrorism associated with historical lynchings of African Americans in our country? Rape jokes target a specific group of people and minimize the pain and suffering that go along with the post-traumatic stress of rape, not to mention the grief created when a loved one has died after having been raped. Joking about such a crime sanctions and encourages it.

  10. …Tell me this is a joke.

    Facebook, shame on you. Rape is not funny. Ever. Not when it’s committed to a man or a woman.

    80.000+ likes. Perfect. This shows just how much hope I have for the world.

  11. Emilio,

    Women are the gate keepers to sex!? No means no. Women are just as sexual as men, but men seem to like it when girls are prudish. Just like “nice guys finish last,” sexual girls get dumped.

    If you only knew that most of my sorority sisters don’t “hold out” on sex because they want to manipulate or because they don’t really want to have sex, but they “hold out” because they’re afraid the guy won’t respect them.

    Most of them have “booty call” friends. Maybe if you respected women, they’d want to have sex with you. Maybe if men didn’t say rape jokes, we could be more sexual and not be accused of “asking” to be raped. Maybe if you stopped all the “slut” and “whore” jokes, you could have more sexual power.

    Open your eyes. Women aren’t the “gate keepers,” you take away what little power we have by limiting our sexuality. We have no control over our sexuality. If we like sex, we’re sluts; if we “hold out” we’re prudes. This is the game you men play.

    90% of women are sexually assaulted, not because women are the gate keepers, but because men feel entitled to our bodies. Yes, we should have the right to say when we have sex!! Why is that so hard for you to understand? The vast majority men don’t have to have sex if they don’t want to. Why is it asking too much for women to have the same right over their bodies.

    Oh, and while men are sexually assaulted, the vast majority (96%) of sexual assaults are reported against men (men assault other men!).

  12. 7 out of 10 women aged 18-34 are gang-raped in college.

    98% of all women have been gang-raped by age 40 – harming their educational chances.

    Only 6 out of 10 CEOs in the top 5000 companies are women.

    • 7/10? 98%… Are we talking world wide statistics? It sounds a little unbelievable. I don’t mean to sound like I’m part of the problem, but I’d like to know where that particular statistic came from.

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