Hell yes. A major online community is cracking down on instances of abusive language towards women and guess what? It's a really big fucking deal and you should feel good about it.
Today Fark announced it would add misogyny to its moderator guidelines. For those who aren't familiar with the site, Fark (founded in 1999) was one of the first major link aggregators. They also just became one of the first sites of its kind to outright ban misogyny in comments. Let that sink in for a moment. They're doing what many other sites have said is virtually impossible because of technological reasons or because of it would cause the absolute goddamn collapse of all civil liberties and free speech or something. But Fark.com founder and site admin Drew Curtis said fuck all that noise. He just laid some serious smack down in the battle to stop online harassment of women. In a message posted today on the site, Curtis got real about the Internet's problem with women:
...if the Internet was a dude, we'd all agree that dude has a serious problem with women.
We've actually been tightening up moderation style along these lines for awhile now, but as of today, the FArQ will be updated with new rules reminding you all that we don't want to be the He Man Woman Hater's Club. This represents enough of a departure from pretty much how every other large internet community operates that I figure an announcement is necessary.
There are lots of examples of highly misogynistic language in pop culture, and Fark has used those plenty over the years. From SNL's "Jane, you ignorant slut" to Blazing Saddles' multiple casual references to rape, there are a lot of instances where views are made extreme to parody them. On Fark, we have a tendency to use pop culture references as a type of referential shorthand with one another.
On SNL and in a comedy movie, though, the context is clear. On the Internet, it's impossible to know the difference between a person with hateful views and a person lampooning hateful views to make a point. The mods try to be reasonable, and context often matters. We will try and determine what you meant, but that's not always a pass. If your post can be taken one of two ways, and one of those ways can be interpreted as misogynistic, the mods may delete it — even if that wasn't your intent.
Things that aren't acceptable:
- Rape jokes
- Calling women as a group "whores" or "sluts" or similar demeaning terminology
- Jokes suggesting that a woman who suffered a crime was somehow asking for it
This is great, but it's still kind of sad that with all the site moderation Fark has done over the years, this is first time that making rape jokes and victim-blaming are being identified as offensive behavior. If you've ever wandered into some of the threads on Fark that discuss stories of rape, domestic abuse or any random reporting of women doing stuff, the comments can get a little...unnerving. (Honestly though, these days what website/aggregator can't you say that about?) The idea that Fark could become some kind of pioneer in the efforts to clean up online misogyny is mindbefuckingboggling.
"We're trying to make the Fark community a better place, and hopefully this will be a few steps in the right direction," Curtis said.
Over at NYMag's Daily Intel, Jessica Roy tackles some of the expected criticism of the decision:
It's a testament to the sad state of the internet that "don't be a misogynyst" can't go without saying. But it's also a refreshing departure from the misguided free speech arguments that sites like Reddit bend over backwards making to defend the handful of misogynist communities that are among its ranks — not to mention the free-floating slut-shaming that snakes its way into regular comment threads.
Unsurprisingly, users of other link-sharing sites are dubious — this has to be a PR scheme, a ploy for more ad revenue, another example of our descent into excessive political correctness! On Slashdot, one user is more concerned about misandry: "If they're going to tackle sexism they need to make sure they tackle all sexism, so no dick, cock, or misandric jokes either."
How about we all just agree to not be shitty to each other just because we're using a computer to interact? ::CRICKETS:: Sigh.
There's one point that needs to be stressed in all of this—if a site that's been around since 1999 can tell its pool of loyal users and commenters that enough is enough, there's less and less of an excuse for other outlets to not examine similar measures.
Image via Shutterstock.