Trigger warning. This post will involve frank discussion of violence and rape.
When I was growing up, I used to laugh so hard at Pepe Le Pew. Stinky things are funny. They’re even funnier when they chase you. Farts are funny. Skunks are funny. I honestly don’t remember ever thinking, “JEEBUS PEPE LEAVE THE DAMN CAT ALONE.”
Pepe’s antics are “odor-able,” according to Looney Tunes. It’s a kids’ show. Cartoon. But when I was considering what to use for a lead-in, twenty-eight-year-old me got a shock. Because watching the first YouTube video of Pepe to pop up made me uncomfortable. Kitty says no. Pepe says “Le yes!” (Also, let’s just say that Looney Tunes were unabashedly racist and leave at that for the sake of staying on topic. *shakes head*)
There are all too many weird parallels between the average Pepe Le Pew episode and the actual, real, terrifying rape culture that exists in our world. He goes after her because of what she’s wearing — a white stripe that the cat usually acquires by accident, even. It’s actually pretty arbitrary. It’s Pepe’s interpretation of that stripe that makes him think it’s okay to go after the kitty and grab her. And the damn cat is terrified! Remember? She fights like the dickens. That’s not cute kid stuff. That’s…horrifying.
But you know what’s more horrifying? That it took about twenty-five years or so for me to get how not funny that really is. Because it’s a cartoon. It’s supposed to be funny. It’s supposed to be a joke, not blatant endorsement of “Who cares if she says no?”
These days, memes are the new cartoons for adults. We crack up at George Takei and all his funny shit. We ogle the omniscient Cheezburger for hours. We revel in FailBook and Grumpy Cat and all the other myriad captioned photos that pop up in our lives every day. And somehow, Pepe Le Pew became a real boy. Erm…skunk.
It’s been around for ages. On Facebook. There’s a whole heap of Facebook pages categorized as “humor” with names like “Raping a pregnant bitch and telling your friends you had a threesome.”
Photos of women with black eyes that are captioned, “Next time don’t get pregnant.” Photos of women tied up, bleeding, dangling from a car trunk. Photos that say, “Don’t wrap it and tap it. Tape her and rape her.”
This. Fucking. EXISTS. It exists. And Facebook says it’s “just humor.” They’ve told countless people who report these images that it’s not hate speech. They cite free speech. And even worse? Facebook has been deleting the report histories of people who’ve flagged these groups and images. I’m not kidding.
So Everyday Sexism has spearheaded a campaign to hit Facebook in the only thing they seem to care about: the moneybags. They’re screenshotting every image they report — with the sidebar ads. And they’re calling on advertisers to pull their money from Facebook until the company changes their policy.
Because Facebook is vigilant about racist posts. Religious intolerance. Hell, put up a photo of a woman breastfeeding her child, and you’ll get slapped on the wrist with your photo removed faster than you can say, “Parenting.”
But violent, graphic depictions of women that encourage rape, beating, and even murder? Facebook says that’s just dandy.
Already there are over 50,000 tweets with the hashtag #FBRape. Heaps of small (and increasing numbers of larger) businesses are yanking their money out of Facebook. But Facebook refuses to respond, refuses to listen, and refuses to change their policy that clearly puts women behind the rest of the world when it comes to being worthy of respect. A policy that believes men have more a right to joke about violating women than women have to feel safe on their website. Because if someone you know “likes” one of those photos, it could pop up in your news feed. I hope you don’t know anyone who thinks that stuff’s funny.
What can you do? If you’re a company or small business that pays for Facebook advertising, pull your money. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want your ad to show up on those pages — their algorithm targets users, not pages. It can show up next to something abhorrent without your consent. Pull your money. You can tweet with the hashtag. Maybe at 100,000 tweets. 500,000 tweets. 1,000,000 tweets. Maybe Facebook will listen. Tweet directly to Facebook. If you’re really serious and can handle seeing the images, wade in and start reporting. But make sure you take screenshots of the images. Document if and when your report histories get deleted. This proves a couple things — it proves that you reported it and that Facebook wants to erase the record of you doing so.
I can’t believe that’s even happening — blatant cover-ups and stonewalling in the name of “humor.”
I won’t post any of the pictures here. You can find them for yourself.
But I’m done sitting by quietly. I’m sincerely considering removing my Facebook pages until they change their policy.
What are you going to do?
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