Dear Social Media Platforms,
We really need to talk. It’s not me, it’s you. It’s 2019 and you have redefined how we interact and process new information in real time. You allow us to build communities of like-minded people. You enable us to access our favorite celebrities and businesses. You deliver breaking news as it happens. You help people spread their message far and wide, or raise awareness for their campaigns. But I’ve noticed some things that have really impacted our relationship.
We deserve protection from those who wish harm on us or threaten to carry out that harm themselves
You know how I’m a huge feminist and women’s rights advocate. I advertise this fact on all of your platforms. People can get pretty hostile towards this, and many women are the targets of sex- and gender- based harassment. It can get pretty nasty. There are threats. It’s not just us though. People who advocate for LGBT+ rights or racial justice are often also targeted. Since we belong to a marginalized demographic (and some are even more marginalized if they belong to several different demographics), we deserve protection from those who wish harm on us or threaten to carry out that harm themselves. Yet more often that not, the people actively targeting us are being protected by community guidelines and miscellaneous policies. YOUR policies.
I have had posts removed for sharing official rape statistics from the F.B.I. I know women activists who have had their accounts removed for unclear violations, while accounts that promote hate speech, doxxing, and harassment of women are mysteriously left up. How are these posts NOT violating guidelines? I get that you’re all about “free love” and being accessible on a variety of devices. I get that it might be hard to rein it all in, but this unbridled access eventually gets to a point where so many of us don’t feel like we are protected by you. Honestly, sometimes I feel like you’re protecting the ones we need protection from.
Privileged people understand the power imbalance that exists between men and women, and they will fight (and threaten) to keep that imbalance in their favor.
About a year ago, I was targeted (along with several other women) by “Men’s Rights Advocates” who posted personal photos with libelous statements. I know a woman who was contacted by one of these men with her personal information such as her address. Why would somebody feel the need to make these threats? I’ll tell you. Privileged people understand the power imbalance that exists between men and women, and they will fight (and threaten) to keep that imbalance in their favor. Some of us lost our accounts, while the people making threats were never disturbed or had any content removed. We don’t harass and threaten. THEY do. We’re not the threat. THEY are.
Honestly, sometimes I feel like you’re protecting the ones we need protection from.
So what’s it going to take? Does one of us have to be attacked or even killed “irl” before you take notice? That’s a funny phrase about all of this: “real life”. Am *I* not a real person, holding this real phone in my real hand, screaming into the endless void of the World Wide Web, hoping to reach other real people? This IS real life. We all continue to be real, after we exit or sign off of your apps.
I really like you, but things need to change. How? I really don’t know – hopefully by talking about it. Like we are doing right now. I’ve always said that communication is key for any relationship to thrive.
I reached out to multiple publications about this, but I couldn’t get them to care. So that’s why l’m telling you all of this – because I need YOU to care. Do it for me?
Ashley Hesse is a 20-something writer/musician and women’s rights activist. She is a former beauty/special FX makeup artist who put down the makeup brushes and raised her fist in solidarity to help fight the social injustices against women all over the world. When she’s not crusading for social justice and defeating bigotry in all its forms, she also enjoys feeding her soul with musical theatre, red lipstick and Ghirardelli brownies.