Monday, 28 November 2011

Just because we're on the same side, it doesn't mean we're allies

One of the most disappointing and frustrating things I have come across is when people and organizations who should be allies in a united cause decide that the their-way-or-the-highway tactic is more important than working together. Don't get me wrong - constructive criticism goes a long way towards perfecting the battles against oppression. Sometimes the only way forward is for allies to stop pushing ahead and listen to criticism about how they may be going in the wrong direction or inadvertently harming those they're supposed to be supporting. But to go far beyond that to willfully making an enemy of someone who shares the same end goal really seems counter-intuitive.

This week there's an online protest organized by "End RapeBook", which asks people to either disable their accounts, or not login to FB for a week in order to send a message to FB that it's disinterest in applying their own Terms of Service to pages that mock and advocate sexual violence is not acceptable. From the FB page description:

Too many pages on Facebook advocate, support, trivialise or feed into rape culture. We know that normalising rape and sexual abuse leads to higher and more frequent instances of these crimes. Facebook have defended pages such as "You know shes playing hard to get when your chasing her down an alleyway [sic]", claiming that implied - or even explicitly stated - abuse, violence or rape against women... counts as freedom of speech, rather than hate speech, despite heavy criticism for charities, Facebook users and advertisers.

Facebook's response: "Groups or pages that express an opinion on a state, institution, or set of beliefs - even if that opinion is outrageous or offensive to some - do not by themselves violate our policies."

We want to send a loud and clear message to Facebook that their tolerance of rape/assault will not be ignored.

Facebook's response: "Groups or pages that express an opinion on a state, institution, or set of beliefs - even if that opinion is outrageous or offensive to some - do not by themselves violate our policies."
We want to send a loud and clear message to Facebook that their tolerance of rape/assault will not be ignored.

We ask that you boycott any and all companies and products that are advertised on Facebook until they stop tolerating the promotion of rape and sexual violence. Money talks and, by withdrawing funds, the companies will be putting added pressure on Facebook to stop tolerating the promotion of sexual violence.
Help send a unified message to Facebook that sexual violence is not a state, an institution or a set of beliefs; it is a abhorrent crime that occurs daily to millions of people. Facebook, by defending violent humour, is defending abusers/rapists.

Seems pretty straight-forward and honourable, right? I mean, I'm avoiding logging in to Facebook this week (aside from right now at Second Cup - damn you wifi asking for FB or a credit card!) in a show of solidarity because supporting one more campaign only helps all other campaigns against rape culture, amirite? If only one would be so lucky.

A little over a month ago, at the beginning of the campaign, one of the organizers apparently ran afoul of another group who mistook her for a troll for trying to "trick" people into disabling and cancelling their accounts. She tried extending an olive branch to clear up the misunderstanding, but instead was told off.

Weird, but organizers are human and as such, it was brushed off as one of the hazards of trying to communicate via text.

Then, a couple weeks ago I found myself banned from the FB page for, what I thought, was an innocuous discussion on tactics with the end-goal of combatting rape culture. Odd, I thought. In that particular convo I had been diplomacy incarnate. Oh, well. Best to just leave them to their tactics in the interest of the more important overall goal.


And then this came to my attention:

Why I no longer support the Rape Is No Joke campaign on Facebook

If the content of her complaint isn't strange or distressing enough, the comments by the RINJ organizers take this into Twilight Zone territory (or, perhaps more accurately, teenaged-angsty Twilight territory). The amount of hostility levelled at this blogger is completely out of proportion to her post, but is quite in line with what the End Rapebook organizer experienced.

Now, it may seem  counterintuitive to start a blog by saying "Can't we all just get along?" and then to out someone who's behaving badly. But, I don't see any value in allowing an organization, one gaining in worldwide popularity at that, to bully, intimidate and harass people who really have the same goal in mind. This isn't just an issue of not seeing eye to eye. The organizers seem hell-bent on alienating people and on making enemies in the anti-rape movement. Is this baffling tactic the result of high schoolers (I hear the organizers are young, could be wrong) not understanding the techniques of diplomacy normally employed by anti-rape organizations that have their own PR teams? Is this the technique of people who really want to do good, but whom have not done the hard work to understand the various layers of oppression and how not to contribute to the problem they're seeking to redress? Is this a group of trolls who want to delegitimize earnest anti-rape groups? 


I really have no idea. I wish I did so I'd know how to react other than to share this in frustration. 


Sigh. Funny-faced kitteh.

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