How Facebook hurts women

Daily Life

October 11, 2012 – 7:52AM

Ruby Hamad


In Damned Whores and God’s Police (1975), her historical analysis on women in Australia, Anne Summers describes the trap patriarchal society sets for young girls:

The female child has (her) sex role and an awareness of its low status impressed upon her…she is threatened with insecurity and feeling of worthlessness unless she submits to it. But she is immediately caught within a contradiction…conformity to it means accepting a low status which (itself) engenders feelings of worthlessness.

Summers was referring to the predicament female children face when they first become of aware of parental expectations regarding gender roles. But fast forward forty odd years, and, whilst things have undoubtedly improved for western women, when it comes to female sexuality at least, this fundamental contradiction that both demands and punishes conformity remains entrenched.

The latest woman-hating page to take Facebook by storm, 12-year-old slut memes, demonstrates how women and girls are still expected to exhibit certain sex-role behaviours, only to be excoriated for conforming to them.

“As long as there are sluts, we will put them in their place” the page, which has over 215,000 ‘likes’, proudly boasts. Other writers have already discussed how Facebook’s refusal to remove the page demonstrates its cavalier attitude towards misogyny. Whereas blogging website Tumblr deleted a blog by the same name (the blog has since reappeared and at the time of writing has yet to be removed), the best Facebook was willing to do was add the caveat ‘[Controversial Humor]’ to the page’s title.

Not surprising for a site that removes images of women breastfeeding but thinks Wiping makeup off your shoe after a long day of kicking sluts in the face (87k likes) is merely‘[Humor]’ , and, Kicking a slut in the vagina and losing your shoe (11k likes) is acceptable as long as it is labelled ‘[Satire]’.

But this isn’t just about Facebook. It’s about society’s willingness to make excuses for hatred of women as long as we can pretend it’s just a [Harmless Joke].

Moreover, it shows just how our supposedly ‘enlightened’ younger generations are absorbing society’s dim views on female sexuality.

12 year old sluts memes is run by two Australian university students, James Silverwood and Dominic Terry, who claim to have created the page because they ‘hate to see young girls embarrass themselves.’ So aghast are they at the ‘sexualisation of minors’, that they feel the best course of action is to humiliate girls by reproducing images posted on private profiles to a wider audience, complete with captions such as ‘Your boobs stay in your f***ing shirts, you whores!’

At 19 years of age, Silverwood and Terry must be aware of the extent to which girls are influenced by pop culture. Everywhere they look, girls see women’s bodies objectified and sexualised with, as Ariel Levy wrote in Female Chauvinist Pigs, the emphasis not on female sexual pleasure but on making women’s bodies attractive to men.

Even as a girl’s virginity is hailed as a ‘precious gift’, young women learn that being ‘hot’ is pretty much how women’s existence is justified. Female bodies are commodified to sell everything from beer to animal rights to men’s deodorant. Porn stars are mainstream celebrities, every reality star worth her salt has a sex tape on her CV, and mainstream magazines reward their ‘Woman of the Year’ with a naked cover shoot even as her male counterparts remain fully clothed.

As Melbourne University cultural studies professor Michelle Smith said last week in a talk at the Wheeler Centre, “there is not a sphere of life where being sexy is not the ultimate achievement of a woman.”

It is unsurprising that young girls will act on these signals. However, unlike celebrities, ordinary women are not insulated by fame and money from the double standard that simultaneously fetishises female sexuality and condemns women for playing along.

Girls who succumb to the expectation that they make themselves conventionally sexually attractive to the male gaze face the inevitable ‘slut’ backlash. Meanwhile, other girls who don’t conform to the sexual ideal can only gain status by distancing themselves from the ‘sluts’. Divide and conquer.

While (almost) no-one seriously still expects women to stay virgins until their wedding day, women nonetheless tread a fine line between how much sexual activity is acceptable and how much is just plain slovenly.

Slut-shamers try to justify their actions by claiming they don’t hate all women, just the slutty ones. But what exactly makes a woman a ‘slut’? Five sexual partners? Two? Twenty? Can a 12-year-old girl be a slut if she’s never even had sex? There is no real definition because, in reality, there is no such thing as a ‘slut.’ It is simply an arbitrary insult aimed not only at ‘sluts’ themselves, but all women, who are meant to quiver in fear that it may be used against them if they fail to navigate conflicting expectations of how women should dress and behave.

And that’s the whole point. By masking all-out misogyny as [Humorous Disapproval] of just some women, patriarchy gets to perpetuate itself into infinity. 12-year-old slut memes reflects society’s attitudes to women because rather than criticise the culture that encourages girls to objectify themselves, it attacks the girls themselves. “We continue”, warns Michelle Smith, “to insist on girls remaining sexually innocent, through criticism of girls who wear revealing clothing and the shaming of teen mothers and sexually active girls”.

Young women are routinely humiliated for the unforgivable sin of submitting to the sex role behaviour that is imposed on them at a young age. But here’s the contradiction; girls who buy into the sexual-objectification-equals-empowerment trope are duly ridiculed, but those who aren’t ‘hot’ enough to be objectified are treated with utter contempt also.

In a culture that glorifies both virginity and ‘hotness’ young women simply cannot win. And that’s [No Joke].


15 thoughts on “How Facebook hurts women

  1. Well written piece and I agree completely.

    I wonder if those same people, that run such pages, took “behead those that insult Islam” as satire? “Hey, chill. It’s all a joke!”

  2. Thank you for writing such a poignant piece and increasing my and others awareness. It inspires me to be more present and try my best to not play a role in their game. I will play my character instead, an all encompassing happy tramp/saint “Helena” x

  3. I wonder if James Silverwood and Dominic Terry realise they have pretty much ruined their chances of professional employment in what field they study.

  4. The page is simply bullying, it may be funny in parts, many people appear to think so. But it is the kind of humour that is offensive and nasty. In the end it only makes the creators look bad. And yes I know they don’t make all the posts etc, but they are responsible, as they created the page, effectively publishing the posts, which if it comes to a defamation case will be very interesting.
    What is really offensive is D and T’s justification for doing it. They do not understand the bad logic AND the double standard behind their own reasoning. They are the same as every other bully who when held to account says: ‘it was just a bit of fun’. Yeah it’s funny to hurt other people, until it happens to you.

  5. Hey Folks, go google Zuckerberg and the start of Facebook.
    You will find Silverwood and Terry are doing something very similar to what the young Mark Zuckerberg did with his first version of Facebook. .. No Surprise Here.

    • So you are saying that Dom and Domber are insufferable dweebs and social misfits who stumbled upon a platform already developed by someone else and used it to get revenge on women who had rightly rejected them?

      Yeah we could wear that.

      Big difference is that Zuckers is a halfway decent programmer. He probably could have made a good living writing software for Microsoft or Apple.

      Dom and Domber are just dweebs.

  6. the author of this article is a fucking moron. “fetishes female sexuality and simultaneously condemns those who play along”. what a laugh. ever seen a victorias secret model condemned? no? funny that. maybe that’s because showing how much skin you show and how many men you’ve had sex with are completely unrelated!

    the author truly cannot tell the difference between men liking women and men hating sluts. there is a hell of a difference between showing off your assets and sleeping with every man you meet. i could literally write an essay in response to this moronic author. pornstars are not celebrated. men might be attracted to them in a purely physical sense, but that’s it. if you think we’d actually be interested in a relationship with them you’re possibly the dumbest person alive.

    the whole idea of “conflicting expectations of how women dress & behave” is absolutely absurd. if you actually think men want women to sleep around you need to have your head examined. the fact that you think we want you to pose for bikini shoots or similiar somehow also means we want you to sleep around is absolutely baffling. your logic is somehow that you think that we think that how much flesh a woman exposes is some sort of metaphor for how many men she has/is willing to have sex with, and therefore why we encourage women to take their clothes off (because if she’ll take her clothes off she’ll sleep with a lot of guys. ergo by encouraging her to take her clothes off we’re encouraging her to sleep around).

    how you actually came to this i have no idea but you couldn’t be more wrong if you tried. as i said earlier, how much skin you’ll show has absolutely nothing to do with how many men you have/will have sex with. us men realise this. for some reason your retarded brain cannot.

    • Cool, so in that case you’ll join me in condemning the “12 year old sluts” meme facebook page. After all they are entirley judging girls on how they dress, and stating based on the amount of skin they are showing, that they are sluts, which you are saying is completely wrong. That’s right, isn’t it?

  7. In the case of the horrible ’12 yo slut memes’ page there is no hiding the fact that it is two pathetic excuses for men who are behind it.. But we need to step away from the whole ‘patriarchy’ crap, which in turn helps to breed sexist ideas around men.

    In contemporary Australia it is far more likely that a female will be on the receiving end of degrading comments on their appearance and/or sexuality from fellow females then from a male.

    • “In contemporary Australia it is far more likely that a female will be on the receiving end of degrading comments on their appearance and/or sexuality from fellow females then from a male.”

      Source? And, let’s be clear here, is it okay for people to be judged for their clothes if they’re being judged by the same gender? It sounds suspiciously like saying “Well women do it, so it’s okay for guys to do it too”

      Even if it is true, and I have my doubts, you surely would disagree that the level of degrading commetns is comparable. You woudl agree that women are far less likely to say “This woman deserves to be raped, and that’s why I raped her” than men for instance, right?

  8. Facebook is just a way for these adolescent attention seekers to broadcast messages of hate with no repercussions. If they were to say these things in front of people they wouldn’t live long and healthy lives. Social media is breeding keyboard warriors, search for a suicide victims page and see the low levels the human race will go to for their 6-9 “likes”.

  9. Why is humanity so self loathing? Males and females procreate our species. All of our individuality is shaped by our culture which is a tide of both genders rolling forward. We are people, we survived the ice age and we are discovering many things in science, creating art and music. W
    hy would we ignorantly reduce ourselves by objectifying our youth and creating a vile hate campaign against one small piece in the whole set?

  10. An intelligent and honest piece of writing about a frightening subject. Jesus you should try opening your eyes and thinking outside that box your living in.

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