You may have read about the Facebook rape page campaign. Its objective was to make Facebook walk its talk on hate speech and such. Here's the talk:
B. Prohibited Content - You agree that you will not promote, or provide content referencing, facilitating, containing or using, the following:And here was the walk (a condensed list of examples), until quite recently:
5. Content that is hateful, threatening, defamatory, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.
@facebook “Riding your Girlfriend softly, Cause you dont want to wake her up” #notfunnyfacebook http://chn.ge/szNQw0Facebook initially defended such pages as jokes, which are allowed, even if in bad taste. This naturally suggests that any kind of hateful or violent speech can be allowed as long as it's turned into something that might look as jokes.
@facebook “Let’s have sex.. LOL jk i’m a rapist, were doing it wether you like or not” #notfunnyfacebook http://chn.ge/szNQw0
@facebook “Kicking sluts in the vagina because its funny watching your foot disappear” #notfunnyfacebook http://chn.ge/szNQw0
@facebook “1.5 Million ‘likes’ and I will rape my mom!” #notfunnyfacebook http://chn.ge/szNQw0
@facebook “It’s Not Rape If You Yell Surprise” #notfunnyfacebook http://chn.ge/szNQw0
@facebook “Whats 10 inches and gets girls to have sex with me? my knife” #notfunnyfacebook http://chn.ge/szNQw0
In any case, Facebook agreed to remove the pro-rape joke pages.
I didn't write about the campaign when it was happening because I was still sick and thinking was like pouring out molasses from a narrow-necked bottle on a cold January morning. And this is a tricky topic in lots of ways.
That's the backstory as journalists like to say. What I really want to write about is the new incarnation of one of those old joke pages because of what it taught me.
The page is most likely the one about "kicking sluts in the vagina." I swear that yesterday it was still called Wiping-makeup-off-your-shoe-after-a-long-day-of-kicking-sluts-in-the-vagina. But today it is called Wiping-makeup-off-your-shoe-after-a-long-day-of-kicking-sluts-in-the-face.
The change at least clarifies what the joke is supposed to be: Sluts wear a lot of makeup so when you kick them in the face you gotta clean your shoes. I was desperately trying to figure out how the makeup got in the vagina in the older version of the "joke." Before the kicking, I mean.
But that's not the aspect of the page which taught me something. It's the comments, many of them by women, which find kicking sluts in the face (or the vagina) very funny.
So how do those commenting on the page define the term "sluts?" Clearly the women who like the joke don't think that they themselves belong to that despised group. "Sluts" is Other Women Of A Certain Type. But is that how the creator of the page means the term to be understood? Or is it synonymous for "women?" And how many of the commentators think it's the same as women in general and how many think it's those nasty women who are loose about their sexuality?
I can't tell the answer to that question. But what I have learned from that page is that the term "slut" has not been reclaimed in any meaningful way.