Stanford, Facebook and Rape Culture
Over the last few days I’ve been approaching my Facebook newsfeed with trepidation, because I find it disturbing to be subjected to the image of a rapist’s smug face over and over again. I understand the reasons people are posting these images and I certainly share their outrage, but I just personally don’t want to have to look at him.
Having said that, it recently came to my attention that Facebook removed one of the most prolific of these images that stated: “My name is Brock / I’m a rapist”.
Let me repeat that: Facebook removed an image of a convicted rapist for stating that he is a rapist. No matter how I personally feel about having to look at this meme, it is appalling that it was forcibly taken down. The image was subsequently reinstated after public outcry, but that does not diminish the fact that taking it down in the first place was an entirely fucked up yet completely unsurprising decision, from an organization with a long history of making fucked up decisions about what does and does not count as appropriate content.
A while back, I reported a Facebook user’s comment that literally encouraged the rape of another commenter’s daughter. Facebook’s initial reply? “We reviewed the comment you reported for promoting graphic violence and found it doesn’t violate our Community Standards.”
Facebook’s Community Standards: A-ok with promoting rape, not so much with stating the fact that a rapist is a rapist.
This is what rape culture looks like.
A while back I decided that I was no longer going to engage with the type of person who thinks rape culture doesn’t exist, on the same grounds that I would not engage with someone who doesn’t believe the Earth is round: the validity of the facts is no longer up for debate, and contrary opinions do not have enough value to be taken seriously. Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
But I am going to take one more kick at the can here, because this Stanford case seems to have hit a nexus of visibility and scandal that for once falls on the right side of the accuser. For those who might still struggle to understand the concept, the term “rape culture” does not mean a culture where everyone rapes, or every man rapes, or rape is legal, or rape is openly supported by most people.
Instead, rape culture is made up of the subtle, subliminal, pervasive messages found everywhere in our society that rape isn’t a big deal, rapists will be lightly punished if at all, and rape victims are partly to blame for what happens to them.
Rape culture is Facebook’s knee-jerk decisions to suppress messages that support victims and allow messages that enable rapists – decisions that are only reversed after an outcry that might affect their public image. Rape culture is when a convicted rapist in an absolutely clear-cut case with two credible witnesses can walk away with a six-month sentence, and some people still feel sorry for him.
The Earth is round, pigs can’t fly, and rape culture is real.