A press release dated October 23, 2013 tells the story of a controversial author attempting to raise awareness of the widespread practice of “virginity testing” having her Facebook account disabled permanently, possibly because of a "graphic" photograph of a "virginity examination" involving several young girls in Africa. D.M. Murdock, a self-described "human rights activist," says it seems that the social networking site took exception to her posting of the image to illustrate an article about the practice of so-called virginity tests in Canada. Here is Murdock's story.
On Friday, October 18, 2013, I discovered that my Facebook account was "permanently disabled" after I uploaded a photograph of African girls enduring exploitative virginity testing. As a lifelong student of anthropology, I hope that the Facebook closure, although unwelcome, will help draw much-needed attention to a humiliating and sexist tradition that plagues millions of women and girls worldwide.
Ritual Virginity Examination
The photojournalist image of an anthropological event showed a row of young African girls lying on the ground in public, wearing minimal clothing, while adults engage in invasive examination of their genitalia.
The fact is that this practice has occurred for centuries in many countries, often justified by religion and committed to determine whether or not a female is a "virgin," frequently for the purpose of marriage, impregnation and/or slavery. After these mass examinations, the girls may be marked on the forehead with clay to indicate their "purity" and/or receive "certificates of virginity."
This sexist, degrading and humiliating practice puts millions of females globally at risk. Recall that this intrusive and demeaning procedure surfaced in Egypt during the Morsi presidency, described as "manual rape" that in significant part led to protests eventually overthrowing the government.
In my effort to increase awareness, I posted on Facebook an article from the Canadian National Post, uploading the controversial image along with it in order to garner attention. Facebook's reaction, after I have spent several years on the site, accumulating over 10,000 friends, fans and followers on her profile and several pages, was completely unnecessary. As a scholar of anthropology for decades, and having been raised on National Geographic magazine, I considered the image to be a record of an anthropological behavior.
My FB profile was always controversial, as I strive to expose man's inhumanity to man and other creatures, so that suffering globally will be reduced. That fact means that at times there is rancor, but what would a social network be without that? Since I've had the account for several years with few problems, even if there were previous complaints about subject matter, the timing of this action points to the image in question.
Beheading videos but not anthropological rituals?
I also note the interesting timing of Facebook's recent announcement that it will allow graphic decapitation videos, claiming that "raising awareness" of this violence will "help reduce it." If such is the case, then allowing graphic photojournalism of an anthropological event, such as virginity testing of little girls in Africa, should have the same effect. Indeed, it was always my intent to raise awareness to this issue in order to help reduce it.
Petition for Reinstatement
My FB banning stands, despite the thousands of petition signatures and emails to Facebook's admins and despite this interestingly timed news about the beheading videos. Their now clearly arbitrary censorship is illogical and offensive, frankly.
Facebook now has the testimony of hundreds of users that my FB page was highly valuable for the same social activism that it purports to be promoting with this new policy. The message now is that graphic VIOLENCE is okay, but graphic images of human bodies are not okay.
New Yorker Nipplegate
I'm reminded also of the New Yorker banning, dubbed "Nipplegate," in which cartoon nipples were deemed offensive. The powerful New Yorker account was reinstated - why not mine? Cartoon nipples and anthropological virginity testing are over-the-top offenses, but posting what amounts to "snuff films" is not? What if the beheading victims are nude?
I harbor no ill feelings towards Facebook, as I find the site to be very inspirational, allowing me for years to share my work and to bring attention to a large number of important issues, including atrocity worldwide. I appreciate the venue and would like to have it back.
I do not expect Facebook to reinstate my account, although I would like for it to do so. I also would like the world's media to be focused on the abuse of females globally, including "invasive, humiliating and degrading virginity examinations designed to reduce females to mere chattel and baby-making machines.
For more information about this controversy, see my blog:
Please sign and share the petition to Facebook to have my account reinstated here:
As of the writing of this press release, the petition had over 2,500 signatures from people around the world, with numerous supportive comments.
Press release: Facebook Controversy Draws Attention to 'Virginity Testing'