Anna: Why I’m making a big deal about Facebook Rape
This weeks Saturday Guest post deals with a trend that annoys me, which is nothing next to how my friend, this posts author, views it. Here Anna looks at a term being used around Facebook and how its use belittles the harsh, often violent, and always distressing (if that’s a strong enough word) reality behind its proper meaning.
‘Facebook rape’ describes the practice of defacing a facebook account that has been left logged in, usually by changing the person’s status or personal information. Used very widely, the term ‘facebook rape’ has become accepted to describe this mild sabotage, and few people seem particularly bothered. If you search facebook for the phrase (I don’t advise it) you will find pages of groups in appreciation of facebook rape, several more offering ‘victim support’ to those affected by facebook rape and less than 5 groups that suggest all this might be, y’know, a bit off.
So why has this term gained popularity? In part it is another example of the word ‘rape’ being misused, a phenomenon this is complicated in itself. While the media is frequently reluctant to describe rape as rape (link ‘rape as rape’ to: http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2008/04/woman-held-captive-and-repeatedly-raped.html), people use the word colloquially to mean ‘anything bad that happened to me’. The word ‘rape’ is ignored when it should be used and employed when it shouldn’t, and this means that a) the media presents rape as uncommon when it is not and b) people trivialize rape when they appropriate the word for any situation in which they feel wronged. When the word ‘rape’ is misused in these ways, it becomes distorted; rape has a specific meaning; it is a crime and it isn’t a synonym for ‘violation’. While facebook sabotage could be cruel or upsetting, that still wouldn’t make it rape.
People do not just misuses the word ‘rape’ on facebook, but facebook broadcasts information in such a way that it allows the misuse to spread rapidly. Facebook allows terminology to reach large amounts of similar minded people, but I wonder if the term ‘facebook rape’ is itself a perverse reaction to the format of the site. Facebook encourages you to identify with your account and requires you to use your full, real name; your facebook account is not supposed to be a persona, but a virtual projection of yourself and consequently when someone sabotages your account they sabotage you. Your facebook account is not something you own, that can be hacked or sabotaged, but a person that can be ‘raped’.
So why is this funny? If people identify with their account on some level, even if it is an ironic one, why do they want to talk about raping their friends? I think that this is only possible if facebook sabotage, basically a virtual ‘kick me’ sign pinned to your back, is the nearest you are likely to get to actually being raped. On facebook, where everyone is constantly smiling and raising a drink to the camera it is easy not to think about consequences, about real women (predominantly) who have really been raped. When people use the term ‘facebook rape’ they both confuse the definition of rape and ignore the experiences of people who have actually been raped, and that is why I am making a big deal about ‘facebook rape’.
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