Monthly Archives: January 2012

How Facebook Can Really Help Women Connect

Facebook recently launched a “Women Connect” app, calling it “an online platform for organizations and causes to connect and share information with supporters about issues of gender equality and women’s empowerment.” Apparently, it’s a part of Facebook’s “Diversity campaign.”

Taking action to further gender justice is admirable, but some people see Facebook’s internal actions as out of step with this stated mission. The top comment to greet me on the Women Connect page, ranked up through users hitting the “Like” button, reads: “I’m glad that FB is supporting this but they also need to get their own house in order – for example by taking down misogynist & pro-rape pages and dropping their stupid censorship against images of breastfeeding.”

The almost 200,000 people who signed the petition demanding that Facebook remove pages promoting sexual violence and violence against women would most likely agree. As would the thousands of members telling Facebook to leave breastfeeding pictures alone.

In November, Facebook took some action after a #notfunnyfacebook Day of Action on Twitter denounced their excuse for pro-rape pages: “what one person finds offensive another can find entertaining – just as telling a rude joke won’t get you thrown out of your local pub, it won’t get you thrown off Facebook.” A number of pro-violence pages were removed, but Facebook still missed the point, permitting the hate content to remain live if the tag [Humor] or [Satire] was simply added in front of the page title. Facebook users can report content as abusive internally, however when the policy is to protect rape apologism, that won’t get rid of the pages.

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San Francisco Threatens to Tear Down Pro-Choice Posters, Block Walk

Victory! After 100 people signed the petition in just a few hours, the Department of Public Works quickly came to an agreement to allow the Walk for Choice to take place Friday and the banners to remain up until Saturday evening.

Anti-choicers rip down posters for a “Trust Women” event. Women’s rights advocates complain about the vandalism. What does the city do?

Threaten to tear down the rest of the banners.

Somer Loen, an organizer for the Bay Area Coalition for Our Reproductive Rights (BACORR), has launched a petition on calling on the San Francisco Department of Public Works (DPW) to “protect free speech for pro-choice organization.” In preparation for Trust Women Week (Jan. 20-27) the Silver Ribbon Campaign — of which BACORR is a member organization — put up banners to raise awareness, featuring slogans such as “Fix the Economy — Support My Autonomy” and “Reproductive Rights Are Human Rights.” Loen reports that they had a permit for the banners and an event on Jan. 20th, but the anti-choice Life Legal Defense Fund filed a “bogus” complaint with the city.

Loen and her fellow organizers were looking for a way to deal with vandals destroying their posters when the DPW shockingly invalidated their original permit for a Friday walk, refused to issue a new one requested for Sunday (so as to not overlap with a Friday Occupy event), and announced the remaining banners would be removed.

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U.S. Women’s Football Players Say: Let Girls Play!

More than 35,000 people have joined a popular campaign on calling on the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association (NCISAA) to allow girls to play football.

Members of the U.S. National Women’s Tackle Football Team launched the online petition on after they heard that starting linebacker Mina Johnson, a student at Southampton Academy in Virginia, was forced to sit on the sidelines when an opposing team threatened to forfeit rather than play against a girl. The opposing school was a member of the NCISAA, which prohibits girls from playing on boys’ varsity teams.

“The members of the U.S. national women’s team and I felt it extremely important to support Mina in her desire to play football,” said Adrienne Smith, who launched the campaign on on behalf of her teammates. “At one time or another, everyone on the U.S. national team has faced similar discrimination. We wanted to show unanimous support for Mina and her teammates, as well as her coach and community, by speaking as one voice through our petition.”

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Victory! FBI Acknowledges That Rape Really Is Rape

Happy New Year — out with the old, and in with the new!

More than 140,000 members signed a petition launched by Ms. Magazine demanding the FBI recognize that rape is rape — and it worked. On Friday, the Obama administration approved a new nationwide definition of rape, the first change in 80 years. Goodbye and good riddance to the FBI’s narrow Uniform Crime Report definition: “The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.”

And a hearty welcome to the new definition: “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” For the first time in decades, this federal definition of rape includes victims of all genders, forced oral and anal sex, and drugging or unconsciousness. “With a modern, broader definition, FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics will finally show the true breadth of this violence that affects so many women’s lives,”  said Ms. Executive Editor Katherine Spillar. As these statistics are utilized to understand crime rates and trends, which in turn influence decisions about funding and prioritization, this change can have a real impact in reducing sexual violence across the country.

The glaring discrepancy between the reality of rape and the FBI’s definition spurred Ms. Magazine to launch the “Rape Is Rape” campaign, spotlighting the stories of and seeking justice for survivors who discovered their violation wasn’t legally considered rape. Once the non-profit organization started a petition on and brought this travesty to the attention of members like you, nearly 150,000 people jumped up to tell the FBI that rape is rape,  making this one of the most popular Women’s Rights petitions of all time.

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