People “Lean In” to Facebook’s Policies on Gender-Based Hate Speech

This is an update of last week’s post (see below):

Our book group just read “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. According to its Amazon descrip, she (and let’s be honest, her writing and research team) examine “why women’s progress in achieving leadership roles has stalled, explains the root causes, and offers compelling, commonsense solutions that can empower women to achieve their full potential.” Does it do that? Totes.

Some of the more interesting points in the book have to do with…..wait for it…..sex and relationships:

Research supports [the idea] that equality between partners leads to happier relationships. When husbands do more housework, wives are less depressed, marital conflicts decrease, and satisfaction rises. When women work outside the home and share breadwinning duties, couples are more likely to stay together. In fact, the risk of divorce reduces by about half when a wife earns half the income and a husband does half the  housework. For men, participating in child rearing fosters the development of patience, empathy, and adaptability, characteristics that benefit all of their relationships. For women, earning money increases their decision-making ability in the home, protects them in case of divorce, and can be important security in later years, as women often outlive their husbands. Also — and many might find this the most motivating factor — couples who share domestic responsibilities have more sex. It may be counterintuitive, but the best way for a man to make a pass at his wife might be to do the dishes.

Yeah, what she said! (And these are not just Sandberg’s observations — all of the above points are meticulously footnoted with their research-study sources  — as is the entire book.)

There has been some major poo-pooing of this book, by both men and women, some who didn’t even read it, some who even consider themselves feminists! Do all of her points and suggestions apply to every single woman in America? No. Is it weird that she doesn’t openly thank any of her nannies in the acknowledgements? Yes. But how anyone can argue against the call for more real equality between the sexes — and that’s all this book really does — is beyond us. Jessica Valenti said it best: “Here’s a nationally known woman calling herself a feminist, writing what will be a wildly popular book with feminist ideas, encouraging other women to be feminists. And we’re worried she has too much influence? That she’s too . . . ambitious?” Yeah, what she said!

The only legitimate complaint that has anything to do with Sandberg that we’ve come across is the fact that the company Sandberg leads allows Facebook pages like “Fly Kicking Sluts in the Uterus,” “Kicking your Girlfriend in the Fanny because she won’t make you a Sandwich,” “Violently Raping Your Friend Just for Laughs,” “Raping your Girlfriend” (to name a few) — which feature pictures of battered women — while it bans images of breastfeeding mothers. Last week, in “An Open Letter to Facebook” published on HuffPo, 43 women’s groups urged Facebook to apply the same standard to gender-based hate speech as they do to content that is violently racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic: “In a world in which hundreds of thousands of women are assaulted daily and where intimate partner violence  remains one of the leading causes of death for women around the world, it is not possible to sit on the fence. We call on Facebook to make the only responsible decision and take swift, clear action on this issue, to bring your policy on rape and domestic violence into line with your own moderation goals and guidelines.” Yeah, what they said!

UPDATE: Thanks to the Internets, people got outraged and companies pulled their ads. The pressure applied resulted in this statement released from Facebook earlier this week:

In recent days, it has become clear that our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like, particularly around issues of gender-based hate. In some cases, content is not being removed as quickly as we want. In other cases, content that should be removed has not been or has been evaluated using outdated criteria. We have been working over the past several months to improve our systems to respond to reports of violations, but the guidelines used by these systems have failed to capture all the content that violates our standards. We need to do better – and we will.

Hopefully what they said will prove true.