Community standards

Trish Bendix at Slate also writes about Facebook’s tendency to recoil at the word “dyke,” though as an aside in a longer piece on dyke marches under threat.

[M]uch like the larger community has done with “queer,” lesbians have been working to reclaim the word for their own use and identification for decades.

“Lesbians have long been the object of vicious ‘name-calling’ designed to intimidate us into silence and invisibility,” wrote J.R. Roberts in the 1979 essay “In America They Call Us Dykes.” “In the Lesbian/feminist 1970s, we broke the silence on this tabooed word, reclaiming it for ourselves, assigning it to positive, political values.”

Since then, dyke has been a political identity for many young lesbians, its meaning expanding to, as Roberts detailed, “a strong independent lesbian who can take care of herself.” The word was used for a feminist lesbian magazine (DYKE: A Quarterly), Alison Bechdel’s famous long-running comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For[,] and perhaps most famously, the all-women’s motorcycle crew Dykes on Bikes. And when the political activist group Lesbian Avengers decided to pull thousands of women together as part of the LGBT March on Washington in 1993, they did it under the name the Dyke March. Its success spawned siblings in several other cities, many of which are annual parts of Pride celebrations taking place this month.

Yet even within cities that hold dyke marches every year, some women find it hard to locate any positivity or power in the word’s meaning. And this, along with a lack of organizational support (some of which stems from queer women’s [in?]ability to volunteer free time and labor) and external logistical pressures, has placed the institution of the dyke march under threat.

And other pressures I can think of.

In May, Facebook removed a popular group out of New York called Dyke Bar Takeover, citing “hate speech” in the use of dyke in their name. Group creator Alana In says this happened after having been on the social media site for about a year; she noted that the group is a response to the shuttering of many lesbian spaces. DBT wants to create opportunities for queer women to gather together in bars that support their mission and help with their fundraising efforts, all of which goes to local relevant charities and organizations.

“Since I posted about it, I’ve heard not only in dyke spaces but also in other activist communities where they get backlash from Facebook on trying to reclaim language,” In said, “and it says a lot because you wonder how many people are being silenced for trying use words from an activist vantage point. It just shows Facebook is not reviewing any of the information that is being put out there—it’s an algorithm. They just shut things down.”

The group has since been reinstated (after making several complaints), and a rep from Facebook, Ruchika Budhraja, told me that “community standards make it clear that we do not allow hate speech on Facebook … However, certain words or terms are used self-referentially and/or in an empowering way … In those instances, we permit use, but we ask our users to clearly indicate their purpose so that we have the context we need to understand why a word was used or an image/video shared.”

Well that’s bullshit. “Community standards” absolutely do not make it clear that they don’t allow hate speech on Facebook, given all the experiences women have had reporting misogynist hate speech on Facebook and being told sorry this doesn’t violate our precious community standards.

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