Comedian Marcia Belsky faces down Facebook
Facebook Enemy No. 1, Marcia Belsky
Comedian and Tulsa native Marcia Belsky has been making recent headlines everywhere from The Guardian to The Daily Dot about her battles with Facebook over their seemingly prejudicial community standards. Belsky’s and others’ posts have led to the banning of women and people of color for hate speech against white men, while a large volume of hate speech directed at those groups is ignored. Belsky spoke to me about the ongoing saga, which began when a photo of her as a six-year-old with a word bubble saying “Kill all men” was reported and she was subsequently banned from the site. As time went on, she was banned for longer periods, culminating in a 30-day ban for commenting “men are scum” on a post.
Claire Edwards: Can you pinpoint a moment when you started to notice a pattern here, or to suspect something more sinister than just human error?
Marcia Belsky: It’s interesting, because you just don’t know. [Facebook has] no transparency and there’s no way to appeal the ban short of a massive social media campaign or having access to the press.
When you’re banned, you can still log in to your account, and your account isn’t marked in any way to indicate that you’ve been banned. You just can’t reply to messages, can’t post, can’t reply to posts, and you can’t like anything. You’re like a Facebook ghost, because they still want you to consume their platform.
Edwards: So it’s like you’ve been robbed of your agency on the site?
Belsky: Exactly. And this has been a chronic pattern for women who’ve been responding to the news. Their emotional reaction against something men said is immediately removed or censored as hate speech, whereas these guys—hate speech is just a part of their language—are literally free to harass them.
Edwards: What do you think about men using freedom of speech to excuse hate speech they employ against protected groups, then clutching their pearls when women or people of color use the same sort of language towards them?
Belsky: As Rae Sanni [the co-host of Belsky’s podcast Misandry with Marcia and Rae] put it, they are weaponizing literalism. For so long, they said “racism isn’t real, sexism isn’t real, none of this is real, how dare you censor freedom of speech.” Once they realized they were losing that battle, they went the other way. These guys want all the language of victimhood while not acknowledging that any of these systems of oppression are in place. They act like white men are oppressed, and it’s a complete ignorance of any history.
Edwards: Explain why it’s more injurious/dangerous to use hate speech against women, people of color, and other protected groups than when similar speech is employed against white, heterosexual, cisgender men?
Belsky: Social media has given a massive voice to people who didn’t have one before, such as women, gay communities, people of color. You have Black Lives Matter, which took off on social media. You have the #MeToo social media campaign. Both have had real, tangible consequences. It’s absolutely imperative for women, people of color, and marginalized communities to have access to social media platforms and to be able to talk about the systems that are oppressing them, and to equate that to white men having their feelings hurt, to me, is just a flawed way of thinking. It looks at things ahistorically and without context, and that’s not how society works. That’s not how social media should work.
There are protected groups that were made because of white supremacy and misogyny, and Facebook decided they were going to take this protected group’s idea and apply it to white men, and what happens is a de facto silencing of people of color and women.
Edwards: Do you think this is, in any way, a reaction to the recent outing by women of several men in entertainment and politics as abusers who wield their power to harass and assault women?
Belsky: It’s hard to ignore the coincidence. I can’t prove correlation, but after you have this huge movement of women speaking openly about their experiences with men online, I think when men start to feel their privilege is slipping away even a little bit, they’re like “don’t YOU start to act entitled.”
There will, of course, be a backlash. They’ll be keeping women out of the workplace—it’s that Mike Pence bullshit—where there are no more closed-door meetings with women. They’ll just use that as an excuse to keep women out. Because their sexual desires are our fault. That’s how they wanted to set up the game the whole time.
Edwards: Have the bans changed how you post to social media at all?
Belsky: I used to post “kill all men.” I didn’t even think about people being sensitive to it. I don’t feel like my comedy is even joking hate speech. My comedy is about showing an over-the-top version of what the other side thinks feminists are. It’s also cathartic for women, because there’s some truth in the anger that the other side projects as “feminazism.” And not everybody’s going to understand that, but a lot of people do. I should be able to voice my frustration at being fucking scared 10 times a day if I walk by dudes or if a dude gets too close to me.
It’s all depressing. But it’s okay, because there will be a matriarchy soon!