Nel's New Day

May 28, 2013

Facebook Guidelines Need to be Changed

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:08 PM
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MySpace was a popular social network several years ago, but it was quickly taken over by Facebook and pretty much disappeared. Now, the most popular social network is showing very bad judgment.

Last week, protesters boycotted Facebook advertising because the network permitted images of domestic violence against women at the same time that it banned ads about women’s health. Companies that pulled their advertising include online bank Nationwide UK, Nissan UK, and J Street. Dove, a Unilever brand running a “self-esteem” ad campaign for women, faces pressure on Twitter although Procter & Gamble responded, “We can’t control what content they [our advertising] pops up next to. Obviously it’s a shame that our ad happened to pop up next to it.”

Zappos replied that users upset by an ad appearing next to a date rape image “click the X to delete the ad.” Zipcar is still advertising but “expressed to Facebook the critical need to block this content from appearing.” Audible will also keep its advertising on Facebook:

“Audible does not condone or endorse violence against women,” but it “takes pride in and respects the rules that govern our Facebook community and because of this we do not delete negative posts. However, we must delete, and will continue to delete, any content that contains offensive, graphic images.”

As of this morning, 15 companies have disassociated from Facebook advertising.

A Facebook spokesperson said that content featuring battered women, rape, and violence falls under “poor taste” or “crude attempts at humor, but it does not violate its policies. The network screens anti-Semitic, Islamaphobic, and homophobic hate speech but not images of violence against women. At the same time, Facebook rejected an ad about breast cancer because it showed a woman’s breast.

The ad about breast cancer disputes false claims that abortion causes higher instances of breast cancer. The company argued that the ad violated their guidelines preventing the “advertising [of] adult products or services, including toys, videos, or sexual enhancement products.” The ad linked to a page on the National Cancer Institute website reassuring women that “having an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a woman’s subsequent risk of developing breast cancer.”

Michelle Kinsey Bruns, the online manager of Women’s Media Center and the creator of the ad, said that the rejection shows “the absolute inconsistency that Facebook is willing to apply to a woman’s body as an object of violence, but a woman’s body as a medical object is too scandalous to be approved.”

Also removed from Facebook have been images of “mastectomies, breastfeeding mothers, and other non-sexualized depictions of women’s bodies” and labeling them as “pornographic,” while allowing photographs and forums that make light of abusing and raping women. That content often falls under the “humor” section of Facebook’s content guidelines.

Examples of what Facebook refused to remove—because of the “humor”—are a page titled “Slapping Hookers in the Face with a Shoe” and a picture of a woman lying in a pool of blood with the slogan “I like her for her brains.”

In The Guardian, Emer O’Toole defined the problem:

“The [protest]holds a mirror up to a pervasive element of our culture that many either fail to acknowledge or aggressively insist that feminists laugh off. Officially, violent misogyny is not condoned, and most corporations won’t endanger their brands by being associated with it. Unofficially, violent misogyny is still very much de rigueur. Facebook is a conduit between these official and unofficial attitudes to women and, as such, provides an opportunity for radical intervention.”

Since the protest started a week ago, over 100 women’s movement and social justice organizations have become involved, and people have sent over 60,000 tweets and 5000 emails in an attempt to end gender-based hate speech on Facebook.

The petition that people signed had four demands. The first one reads:

“Make a public statement that rape is never acceptable; that promoting sexual violence and violence against women is repugnant; that Facebook will remove content that advocates rape, sexual violence, and violence against women; and that the terms of service/community standards will be updated to specify this.”

Last month, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was under fire because his political group to back immigration reform switched to spending millions of dollars on ads promoting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.  Activist organizations, including, the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters and Progressives United, suspended Facebook advertising in protest. Zuckerberg’s PAC, supposedly a progressive organization, also ran ads praising Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) for trying to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for attacking Obamacare.

According to activist Soraya Chemaly, Facebook plans to change its approach to hate speech. The response from Facebook read:

”We prohibit content deemed to be directly harmful, but allow content that is offensive or controversial. We define harmful content as anything organizing real world violence, theft, or property destruction, or that directly inflicts emotional distress on a specific private individual (e.g. bullying).

“We realize that our defense of freedom of expression should never be interpreted as license to bully, harass, abuse or threaten violence.”

Toward that end, they said that they would review and update their guidelines and update training for teams who evaluate reports of “hateful speech or harmful content on Facebook.” In addition, Facebook  claims it “will increase the accountability of the creators of content that does not qualify as actionable hate speech but is cruel or insensitive by insisting that the authors stand behind the content they create.”

We all need to watch Facebook and see if they live up to their promises.

February 14, 2013

One Billion Rising Fights Violence against Women & Girls

For years, February 14 was known as “V” Day for those who could not bring themselves to say “vagina.” Written by Eve Ensler 17 years ago, The Vagina Monologues is a play in which women discuss feminist topics, emphasizing how the vagina empowers women and addressing women’s views on physical and emotional sexuality. On the 15th anniversary of V-Day, Ensler has initiated the One Billion Rising campaign to protest violence against women.

At some time during their lives, one in three women are subject to violence—domestic abuse, gang rape, female genital mutiliation, war, etc.  Half of the seven billion global population are women. That means that one billion women alive now will be, or have been, subjected to violence.

Joanne Tosti-Vasey wrote that the violence against women may be even more pervasive. The United Nations reported that the percentage may be as high as 70 percent of women and girls who experience sexual or physical violence during their lifetime. “Among women ages 15-44, the incidence of this form of violence – mostly perpetrated by husbands, intimate partners, or people the women know – accounts for more disability and deaths than occur from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents, and war combined.”

Today flash mobs, dancers, and other artistic expressions around the world gave vision to unifying events designed to “Break the Chain” of violence against women and girls. “Violence is like climate change,” said Connie Madden, one of the participants. “People do not want to look at it. We need to shine a light on the violence and change what we do. Instead of the growing cultural clashes around the world, we need to find ways to come together as one human race, rather than warring tribes.”

This February 14th may have brought the largest art event in history, including the beautiful posters and videos easily available online.

Jasmine Whitbread wrote,

“Violence against women begins with violence against girls. In many countries, this begins even before birth — estimates suggest that there are more than 100 million ‘missing women’ as a result of sex-selective abortions.

“For far too many girls this violence continues through childhood. In its most obvious forms, that means that millions of girls face being victims of sexual violence, female genital mutilation and forced into early marriages. In the next decade more than 100 million girls are expected to be married before they reach 18. Early marriage increases the likelihood of early pregnancy and that substantially increases a child’s risk of ill-health and even death. Babies born to girls in their teens face a 50 percent higher risk of dying before age one than babies born to women in their 20s.

“But violence comes in less obvious forms too. Excess female childhood mortality is on the rise in several areas of the world. Globally, there are 107 female child deaths for every 100 deaths amongst male children. Often because of a lower value put on them girls eat last (and least) in vulnerable households around the world and have less access to healthcare than boys. Gender discrimination towards women is inseparably linked to child survival–studies have repeatedly shown that the mortality, health and well-being of children are intimately linked to the health of their mothers.”

Ensler said,

“I think it’s really important that when we dance, we think about what dance is and why dance is important. I think most of us women, we don’t wear what we want. We don’t go where we want at any time of the day. We don’t move the way we want because we are always afraid at some level of being attacked or harassed or hurt or raped or invaded. And when we dance on the 14 th the whole idea is we break out of this cage of patriarchy, of fear, of intimidation, and we blast open the boundaries that have kept ourselves, kept our creativity, kept our vision, kept our bodies in prison.”

Even if you didn’t join a flash mob or dance group, wear One Billion Rising colors red and black tomorrow to keep the spirit of the day alive. Tell everyone you know about this problem—especially the 22 male GOP senators who have just voted against the passage of the Violence against Women Act. And tell people about the five male senators who refused to endorse an amendment that would ban human trafficking.

Over one billion women in the world suffer from violence. This is unacceptable.

December 7, 2012

NOW Comes to Town, Part 2

Yesterday’s blog dealt with the importance of NOW in the area of women’s reproductive rights, probably the issue that NOW is best known for. But NOW addresses other vital issues of equality for women.

Violence against Women:  In addition to domestic violence, sexual harassment and assault, hate crimes, violence at women’s clinics, violence from poverty, the country’s judicial system also victimizes women, particularly survivors of violence. All these tragedies result from the nation’s attitudes toward women and its efforts to “keep women in their place.” The GOP worked hard during the recent election to do exactly that while convincing women that Republicans supported women and that their War on Women was a ridiculous myth.

The fact that 92 percent of the Republicans in the House or Representatives and over 90 percent of the GOP senators are men, most of them white, is clear evidence of the part that the GOP wants women to play. The first 19 committee chairs that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) named are men. Ridiculed for this, he appointed one woman to chair a committee—the House Administrative Committee, making Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI) sort of a “housewife.” Men will lead the other committees on science, education, foreign affairs, finance, etc.

The rejection of women is worse in state legislatures. For example, when a Michigan woman legislator dared to use the word “vagina” in speaking out against a horrendous anti-abortion bill, the House speaker’s spokesman accused her and another woman of having “temper tantrums.” The speaker then silenced Reps. Barb Byrum and Lisa Brown, keeping them from addressing the legislature. He compared the situation to giving a “time-out” to naughty children. Nothing like this has ever happened before, and men would certainly never receive this treatment.

The same patronizing attitude clearly emerged during last fall’s political campaign when one after another conservative tried to explain the different permutations of rape—that some rape is worse than others in strata from “easy rape” (thanks to GOP senate candidate Linda McMahon from Connecticut) to “legitimate rape” (from Missouri’s GOP senate candidate Todd Akin) past Richard Mourdock’s pregnancy from rape being “gift from God” when he failed in his run for senator from Illinois.

In 31 states, admitted rapists can legally sue for visitation and custody rights of the children born of their attacks. In California, the Moraga school district blamed an adult woman for having been raped in the school when she was twelve years old.

JP Morgan is also using the “slut shame” defense after Kimberly Shultz sued the company and vice president/senior project manager, Derrick Gilliam for extensive and coercive sexual harassment followed by forcible rape. The complaint also says that the police refused to help. According to the complaint,” JP Morgan’s Human Resource Department engaged in an unconscionable course of conduct, including making illegal inquiries into Schultz’s sexual history and background, making unauthorized disclosures of Schultz’s medical conditions in violation of Schultz’s HIPAA rights, and in general preparing the company’s defense to what it perceived would ultimately become a lawsuit.” JP Morgan is blaming Shultz.

Rape in the military has become a major issue as more and more frequently women service members are willing to be upfront about the men in the military who raped them.  Last Tuesday, the Senate finally adopted a provision sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) to lift the ban on women in the military using their health insurance for abortion care in cases of rape or incest. The bill will almost surely fail in the House because of that chamber’s anti-woman culture.

Eighteen years ago, Congress passed the Violence against Women Act (VAWA), designed to improve criminal justice and community-based responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking in the United States. A recent report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows VAWA reduces intimate partner violence. From 1994 when VAWA was passed to 2010, rates of intimate partner violence for women and men decreased by more than 60%. Unanimously reauthorized in 2000 and 2005, VAWA reauthorization passed the Senate in April but has been held up in the House because that chamber doesn’t want to protect college students, LGBT victims, immigrants, and Native American women abused by non-native spouses on tribal lands.

An example of how insensitive people are to the need for extending VAWA  came yesterday from Dana Perino, Fox News host and former George W. Bush White House press secretary. While discussing Kansas City Chiefs’ line backer Javon Belcher’s murdering his girlfriend before killing himself, Perino said that women should “make better decisions” to avoid being beaten or killed by their abusers.

We are ending the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence that began on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Soraya Chemaly has provided 50 facts about domestic violence.  #50: Number of members of Congress who have gone through an educational training program on health, economics, violence, and gender norms: 0.

Racism: Since a “black man” (who happens to be half “white”) was elected to the White House, racism in the United States has become more common and overt. Conservatives blame President Obama for the rising level of racism in the country, yet the racist attitudes result from his being elected to the highest office in the United States. An example of racial hostility toward him is when  John Sununu, while campaigning for Mitt Romney, described the president as “lazy” and “incompetent.” The racist attitude toward the president has also transferred to all the people who might vote for him, leading to the states led by Republicans passing a large number of voter suppression laws.

The GOP refusal to extend VAWA, primarily because it would protect Native American women, is another indication of the conservatives’ racism. One of the additions to this act would fill the legal gap in which tribes cannot prosecute a non-Indian, even if he lives on the reservation and is married to a tribal member.  A provision of the extension act provides tribes with concurrent authority to hold domestic violence perpetrators accountable for their crimes against Native women–regardless of the perpetrator’s race. Conservatives have claimed that protecting Indian and immigrant women is “unconstitutional.”

In addition, women of color are paid less than white women—who are paid less than men—and are forced to pay more than any other classification for such items as automobiles. (More about that tomorrow.)

Lesbian Rights: Today is a ground-breaking day: the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear two marriage equality cases this term, Hollingsworth v. Perry opposing California’s Prop 8 ban on marriage equality in the state and Windsor v. United States, in which the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Section 3 of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) discriminates against same-sex couples. SCOTUS has not yet declared whether it will hear the Arizona case where lesbian and gay state employees challenged the elimination of equal health care coverage for their families. The court’s ruling will decide whether lesbian will have more rights or lose the ones that they have now in the nine states that have legalized marriage equality. (That’s a subject for another blog!)


Jane Abbott Lighty, 85 (left), and Pete-e Petersen, 77), of West Seattle were the first same-sex couple of hundreds to have their marriage license signed in King County (WA) after being partners for 35 years.

Tomorrow, Part Three will deal with more lesbian rights, economic justice for women, and the proposed Equal Rights Amendment.

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