Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Washington Post Features

June 3, 2013

Viral campaign targets Facebook groups celebrating violence against women

STILLWATER — Earlier this week, Facebook announced that it would take immediate steps to monitor pages and posts that celebrated violence against women. The catalyst? A viral campaign by several feminist groups that, within seven days, turned Facebook's seediest underbelly into a public outrage.

              

The push began with an open letter to the site posted on Women, Action &  the Media (WAM), which spotlighted anti-woman Facebook groups such as "Violently Raping Your Girlfriend Just for Laughs" and "Fly Kicking Sluts in the Uterus." An accompanying gallery features stomach-churning images of battered women with captions like "She broke my heart. I broke her nose."

              

A Twitter campaign garnered 60,000 supporters' tweets imploring Facebook to revisit its policies, and several advertisers - most notably Nissan U.K. - announced they would pull ads from the site unless changes were made.

              

Soraya Chemaly, 47, a Washington-based writer-activist, was a main player in the campaign, along with WAM and the Everyday Sexism Project. In the edited transcript below, she speaks about her involvement and the challenges ahead.

 

              

Q. What drew you to do this kind of activism?

              

A. I've always been a feminist, even back in the early days. Now, I've been writing as a feminist cultural media critic: the role of gender in our culture, with a strong interest in sexualized violence. I've written about sexual harassment in the workplace. I write about street harassment - we tend to trivialize it, but globally it's the normalized control of women in public spaces.

              

Q. It's interesting that you write about street harassment, when Facebook has become, in many ways, a version of a public street.

              

A. We take our experiences online with us. I call it the digital safety gap - men are much more likely to say they feel safe online. . . . We can't separate online life from the real world. . . . You don't have to go out of your way to find this [violent material] online - anyone with fingertips and eyeballs could have found it. You would type "slut" into Facebook and come back with 30 public groups.

              

Q. Was there an inciting incident for you that launched this project?

              

A. When I first started writing about [violence against women online], people began writing me for help, because they were experiencing danger online. . . . One woman wrote me that the man who had raped her had essentially illustrated the rape on Facebook. A moderator might have thought, "That's just a drawing." But that's not how the woman was experiencing it.

              

Q. Some commenters have suggested that the solution is to de-friend offenders, not to request systemic change.

Text Only
Washington Post Features
  • A 'wearable robot' helps her walk again

    Science is about facts, numbers, laws and formulas. To be really good at it, you need to spend a lot of time in school. But science is also about something more: dreaming big and helping people.

    April 23, 2014

  • McCain 1 House Republicans are more active on Twitter than Democrats

    Your representative in the House is almost certainly on Twitter. Your senator definitely is. But how are they using the social network? Are Democrats more active than Republicans, or vice versa? Who has the most followers on the Hill?

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Victimized by the 'marriage penalty'

    In a few short months, I'll pass the milestone that every little girl dreams of: the day she swears - before family and God, in sickness and in health, all in the name of love - that she's willing to pay a much higher tax rate.

    April 17, 2014

  • To sleep well, you may need to adjust what you eat and when

    Sleep.  Oh, to sleep.  A good night's sleep is often a struggle for more than half of American adults.  And for occasional insomnia, there are good reasons to avoid using medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription.

    April 17, 2014

  • Search teams will send unmanned sub to look for missing Malaysian airliner

    Teams searching for a missing Malaysian airliner are planning for the first time to send an unmanned submarine into the depths of the Indian Ocean to look for wreckage, an Australian official leading the multi-nation search said Monday.

    April 15, 2014

  • DayCareCosts.jpg Day care's cost can exceed college tuition in some states

    Most parents will deal with an even larger kid-related expense long before college, and it's a cost that very few of them are as prepared for: day care.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • 10 tips for surviving a severe allergy season

    My colleague Brady Dennis reported recently that the arrival of warmer weather will soon unleash a pollen tsunami in parts of the country where the winter has been especially long and cold. Here are some survival tips from Clifford W. Bassett, an allergy specialist and assistant clinical professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine.

    April 9, 2014

  • news_twitter.jpg Travelers fly on Air Twitter

    The enlightened age of social media has dawned over the airline industry, casting shadows over telephone call centers and on-site agents. Facebook and Twitter are racking up the friends and followers while the hold music plays on.

    April 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • To get quality care, it helps to be the right kind of patient

    I am a family physician. Sometimes I must step out of the comfort of my clinical role and into that of patient or family caregiver. Generally, these trips to the other side of the exam table inspire a fair amount of anxiety.

    April 8, 2014

  • Fast, cheap test can help save lives of many babies

    As Easley did more research into her daughter's death, she learned that a pilot program had started just months earlier at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Md. (Easley had delivered at a different hospital in the Washington area.) The program's goal was to screen every newborn with a simple pulse oximeter test that can help detect heart problems such as Veronica's, allowing doctors to respond.

    April 8, 2014

AP Video
Business Marquee
College Sports
Pro Sports
Facebook