We’ve been busy and not posting so much, but ’90s womanhood marches on! Here is an email we just got from a student at Boston University who’s concerned by the very ’90s-male-gaze-y website RateBU.com, a new, campus-specific “Hot or Not” that uses women’s Facebook pictures, often without their consent. The guy who made the site, John Doody, got the idea from the movie The Social Network, which is a little like getting the idea to do acid and wear bell bottoms from watching that 1991 Val Kilmer movie about The Doors. And yet, the site’s caught on, and a lot of people are mad about it, including Jennifer Kole. Here’s her email:
While I am not perhaps a true “90s woman”, I maintain that I have still been deeply influenced by the decade. Born in 1991, I too was made to understand that flannel never truly went out of style, the Indigo Girls defined a generation (thank you, Mom), visible bra straps are more than OK, jelly shoes were the epitome of style and – perhaps most importantly of all – chicks rule. Of course, the phrase “chicks rule” is the pre-adolescent concept that my eight-year-old self could understand and believe in. Little did I know that this trite statement was a simplification of an enormous feminist movement. Now a college student, I have recognized the fantastic women of the 90s.
Even with the advancements made for women, there is still a long way to go. The problems women still face are plentiful, yet have been neutralized into the culture. The assimilation of anti-feminist thought does not make the concepts less wrong, and I hope to help fix what I can. One such problem manifests itself in the heinous websitehttp://www.ratebu.com. This website allows users to anonymously sign in, upload pictures of Boston University students and consequently rate them based on attractiveness.
I wouldn’t normally have a problem with this website. It is not something I approve of, but there is nothing inherently wrong about the idea. The idea itself is unoriginal, as it was ripped off of the prototype for Facebook as seen in the recently released movie The Social Network. Gaining popularity since its release last week, the website provides an easy way to objectify women. This is a problem in itself, but not my key concern. The major problem of this website is that any female BU student may be added to the site without her knowledge. Even more upsetting is the fact that the female’s names are listed above their pictures. As if this were not enough, there is no system available for a woman to ask for the removal of herself from the website’s database.
Of course, the female population of Boston University has been up-in-arms against the site as soon as it was launched. One of the student publications has released an article identifying the site creator and questioned the legality of the website (click here for the article). After taking flak from the Quad publication and a very aggressive Facebook group, the creator has promised a male section will be added to his website.
At the moment, the creator is looking to expand the website to other schools. A group of female students have started looking into the legal repercussions of RateBU, and an amateur dissection of Facebook policy by one of my colleagues is interesting to consider (if you’re interested, click here).
-Jennifer Kole (a concerned Boston University Feminist)