Friday, September 26, 2014

The Problem With Emma Watson's (Wonderful) UN Speech

I know it's been a while...let's try to ease into this next topic, yes?
And, just like that, I've probably lost some of you already.
I know, I know. That wasn't quite "easing in."
No? Still here?
Good, because this is important.

*This post is not simply about feminism, itself, or even about any of the arguments surrounding "what it means to be a feminist." The actual definition of feminism is quite simple (see above)…what seems to make the topic such a heated one, is that many do not agree on the various approaches used (to accomplish the end goal). I'm well aware that I may take some heat here, but I truly feel this is an issue that should be discussed (and encourage any comments you may have on the matter).

Watson's UN Speech (full text here)

Almost a week ago, Emma Watson delivered a (truly wonderful) speech on gender equality at the United Nations Headquarters in New York as the UN Global Goodwill Ambassador. Her goal was to encourage men/boys to be more active in seeking equality for women/girls globally, thus launching a UN campaign dubbed "HeForShe." In her speech, Watson acknowledged the impact gender equality has on both sexes, and stressed the importance of men's involvement in promoting women's rights.
Let it be known, I fully agree with Miss Watson.
So…what's my "problem" with her speech, you ask?
My problem here is not with the speech, itself, or even Miss Watson.
My problem is with the surprising  events that would unfold in the days after.

Only hours after this speech, which simply appealed to men to be advocates for gender equality, a disturbing web page titled "Emma You Are Next" surfaced online. Featuring a countdown and the logo of 4chan (the anonymous bulletin board that became ground zero for the hacked celebrity nude photo epidemic), the site seemed to be in retaliation of her own advocacy. 
In a bizarre turn of events, the "doomsday countdown" ran out Wednesday at midnight…and redirected users to an online campaign aimed at ridding the web of 4chan. "Join us as we shutdown 4chan and prevent more private pictures from being leaked," a message on the site read. "None of these women deserve this and together we can make a change."
In a flippant letter to President Obama, also posted on the site, they claimed to have been hired by a group of celebrity publicists to help stop the proliferation of illegal celebrity photo hacks. "The recent 4chan celebrity nude leaks in the past 2 months have been an invasion of privacy and is also clear indication that the internet NEEDS to be censored," the letter reads. While it initially may have seemed to be the work of some benevolent force, the party behind the site is a group of notorious internet pranksters operating under the guise of a nonexistent viral marketing firm called Rantic Marketing. 
That's right, Rantic Marketing doesn't exist
Something that can't be missed here is the fact that Rantic Marketing, itself, is simply a viral stunt. Much like the Emma Watson timer was meant to fool the internet, Rantic's website is also just another prank. But who are they, really? If you aren't familiar with them already, allow me to introduce you to  SocialVEVO (aliases include "Swenzy," "Yasha Swag," "Jacob Povolotski" and "Joey B," among others).
Brace yourselves, this is one heck of a ride down the rabbit hole.
Last December the DailyDot published an article (here) about SocialVEVO, the group responsible for a similar website stunt involving a character death on the popular show Family Guy. The article (definitely worth a read) goes on to show several examples of how the group manipulates social media trends to gain profits…though, how they profit (and what their profits are) remain unclear. 
So…how does a fake marketing firm consistently (and so easily) fool the internet?
Enter Fox Weekly.
Though most are familiar with Fox, don't feel bad if you've never of heard of this branch.
(Note the orange "weekly" banner at the top of each fake post.)

In order to gain even more exposure for the Emma Watson countdown, an article was published by the fake news site (since deleted, view cached page here). The site asked if 4chan hackers were about to reveal nude photos of the actress, despite the author knowing there were no such photographs…because they also created the countdown site, itself.
Essentially this has all turned out to be an incredibly elaborate stunt, which served to embarrass and expose global media for (presumably) being just as invasive and predatory as any 4chan hacker…and was, ironically, done by a group using similar tactics.

As the epochtimes would point out, multiple major news outlets reported on the website as if it were legitimate, including the Washington Post and BBC. Certainly this should raise questions regarding journalistic standards, media direction and vetting processes at a time where we're running from one breaking headline to the next. Especially considering that all it seems to take are a few spammy hackers to trick major media.

Sure, it can be effective to use media trends to gain publicity…but the trend they tried to exploit here is much more serious than the untimely death of a cartoon dog. As Amanda Taub of The Vox wrote, despite them being a hoax, sexual threats against women still have a "chilling effect" by "using terror as a weapon"…and that, whether it was perpetrated by 4chan users or Rantic, "the harm from those threats persists even if no photos are released."

Taub's words on the matter raise valid points:
- "The site threatening Watson was greeted with glee on 4chan and Reddit, where commenters explicitly stated their hope that the threats would force her to abandon her feminist campaigning."
- "The site reminded every woman that this is something that could be done to them by hackers, if the hackers so chose."
- "How often have we seen a woman's sexual history used not only to shame and discredit her, but as a justification for not protecting her from harm?"
The avclub nails it, too:
"This fake threat was then exposed by its supposed targets, who decried the mainstream media's "willingness to 'Listen and Believe' the feminist victimization narrative," thus exposing the reasons why that "narrative" exists in the first place. And in the end, the pretend debasement of Emma Watsonto raise awareness about debasement, or somethingended up being actually, really debasing, as Watson's speech was quickly swallowed up in this nesting doll of internet ugliness."

Though the threats against Emma Watson have proven to be a hoax, they reflect the incredibly troubling (and misogynistic) notion that it's okay to threaten or violate a woman's privacy as an intimidation tactic to shut her up. Also, they are NOT funny, and this is completely unacceptable.

And (much like Miss Watson did last week) I encourage men AND women, both, to be vocal about all gender quality issues - including this one.

Leave comments below, or send me your thoughts at

xxxx Alyssa Marie

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