Two weeks ago, Facebook made a small change to its Community Standards, redefining what is considered “obscene.” Specifically, the company now allows its customers to publish photographs of women breastfeeding in which an exposed nipple might be seen. This may seem like a small change, but since Facebook has one billion users—making it the third largest “country” in the world—this new approach to breastfeeding is significant.
In the spring, it looked like things were looking up in terms of being able to have relevant conversations on Facebook when the social media site committed to taking rape and violent threats more seriously. But in the months since, it has become overwhelmingly clear that Facebook has no idea how to monitor content, be it misogynistic, violent, racist, or a combination of the above.
Welcome to the latest installment of Ms. Opinionated, in which readers have questions about the pesky day-to-day choices we all face, and I give advice about how to make ones that (hopefully) best reflect our shared commitment to feminist values—as well as advice on what to do when they don't.
Dear Ms. Opinionated,
My close friend is getting married to a man who is, for lack of a better word, a jerk. When he has disagreements with her, he resorts to meanness and personal attacks almost instantly. He also does the same thing to me -- albeit only on the internet. If I post something on my Twitter or Facebook that he disagrees with, he'll never disagree politely. Instead, he flies off the handle and starts posting mean-spirited comments and sending me mean messages.
Baltimore feminist group FORCE took the world by surprise last December when they launched a line of fake Victoria's Secret, dropping underwear emblazoned with phrases like "Consent is Sexy" and "Ask First" at Victoria's Secrets around the US and promoting the fake Pink Loves Consent line on the internet. The spoof came off brilliantly, using a well-coordinated "feminist Facebook army" to hijack Victoria Secret's social media and broadcast the a discussion of consent to millions of mainstream shoppers. Last week, I talked with FORCE organizers Rebecca Nagle and Hannah Brancato about what they learned from the Pink Loves Consent campaign, how Facebook and Twitter have censored their spoof, and the details on their next action, a Valentine's Day protest that will install a temporary monument to rape survivors in Washington DC.
BITCH: What choices did you make while planning Pink Loves Consent that made it so wildly successful?
HANNAH BRANCATO: The big decision was that we couldn't sell the underwear. This is a spoof, we're using Victoria's Secret's trademark, so we couldn't legally sell anything. There was all of this intense energy around the project when it first launched but the only thing people could think of doing was buying the underwear.
REBECCA NAGLE: The first thing they asked was, 'Where can I buy this?" And I think it was powerful to come back and say, "You can't buy it, it's an idea." Instead of sending people to a checkout cart, we're sending people to resources, to saying, "Here's a zine you can make."
Not only does the ad offensively use women's bodies to sell a product it, also needlessly sexualizes a non-sexual product. It's ChapStick for god's sake! And now I have to think of this lady's ass every time I rub it on my lips? What? I didn't want that!