Following a recent content policy update, online forum Reddit is banning women’s groups or making them inaccessible to users. The policy was changed just before the subreddit communities were targeted, “giving moderators no time to re-align their content to fit the new standards,” 4W reports. The new rules state that "Communities and users that incite violence or that promote hate based on identity or vulnerability will be banned."
Users and community moderators affected by the policy change are saying that the new rules are a risk to free speech, and have been disproportionately affecting women’s groups on the site. The platform is targeting not only feminist forums, but also any group where women were discussing female health. Days after the r/GenderCritical sub, a forum that at the time had about 65,000 users, was banned, a PCOS sub was made private for talking about Polycystic Ovaries Syndrome, an issue that only affects females.
PCOS is a condition where a lack or infrequent ovulation (egg maturation and subsequent release) results in irregular or missing periods, besides cysts and higher levels of male hormones, called androgens.
Reddit removed the group moderators and replaced them with users who are trans activists or trans allies. On Saidit.net, the user denverkris revealed that, “They're denying that they removed/replaced any mods, but their pinned post indicates they "sought help from reddit admins" and "brought on new mods" to help "clean out the bad actors".
The new moderators made the group private to curb users’ access to it. Eventually, the group was banned too. The former moderators created a second group later, but it was also shut down. As to July 9, the group seemed to be back online under new management.
“r/pregnancy on @reddit has become inaccessible because of complaints by trans activists. WOMEN CANNOT EVEN TALK ABOUT PREGNANCY on Reddit. Seriously.”
Many users are taking to social media to denounce that trans activists are taking control of the site’s moderation to impose the new rules. For them, the message from Reddit is clear: women are being forbidden from talking about female issues. They support this claim by the responses they got from the new moderators, who are demanding women to call themselves “cis women”, “menstruators”, “womb havers”, or to simply not talk about any issues at all that affect female bodies, because doing that is “transphobia”, according to the complainants.
The same Twitter user, @KcarverXX, explains how the PCOS sub was targeted:
“Reddit update. After r/PCOS was taken over by site admins and GIVEN TO TRANS ACTIVISTS, women started the sub r/truePCOS, to talk about a FEMALE ONLY ILLNESS. It has now been shut down too. r/TruePCOS has now been banned on false grounds. It was created due to the inaccessibility & terrible moderation of r/PCOS. It is against the rules to evade bans, but it is not against the rules to create your own version of a subreddit (forum) w its own mods.”
Twitter user @gnarlyfem posted 09/07/20:
“Our private, invite only, women’s health subreddit was banned after three days. Nothing offensive was ever posted. @reddit admin banned it because women were secretly talking about their periods. #RedditHatesWomen”
Another group targeted was r/AskWomen:
“Reddit update 2: r/AskWomen, a subreddit with over 1.5 million members, has been taken over by TRAs. WOMEN ARE NOT ALLOWED TO REFER TO THEMSELVES as a sex class. Does anybody need any more evidence that #RedditHatesWomen? Note: Comments on the mod post are not allowed.”
On Twitter, @DykeSolidarity confirms the claims that all women’s groups formed for health issues related to the female body are under heavy scrutiny and censorship. She wrote that many subreddits for female medical issues are now inaccessible. She posted a screenshot of a woman who was challenging the platform’s new rules, who wrote how important the forum was for women who have nowhere else to talk about female health.
The screenshot reads: "I come here to vent, rant and rave about how pcos ruins my body as a woman. I (don’t want to come off rude) don’t want to type “us ovary havers are stuck with an ugly disease”. Nonetheless, according to women reporting the attacks, public groups are being made private, or inaccessible and unsearchable, or simply banned, while female moderators of women’s groups are replaced by male moderators who then act on making the groups disappear, leaving thousands of women without a platform to talk about issues that affect female bodies.
“Trans extremists are now attacking subreddits for female medical issues, making them inaccessible.”
"I come here to vent, rant and rave about how pcos ruins my body as a woman. I (don’t want to come off rude) don’t want to type “us ovary havers are stuck with an ugly disease”
4W previously reported on other banned feminist subreddits. Many other women’s groups, like r/Ask_Radical_Feminists, r/GC_WOC, r/PinkPillFeminism, and r/WomensHerstory have gone private to avoid being banned.
As of Friday morning, r/TrollGC, r/GenderCriticalGuys, r/detrans, and multiple other of the previously remaining “gender critical” subreddits have also been banned.
Feminists have been warning about “female erasure” and censorship on social media for some time now. Besides promoting the idea that males who identify as women should be in all women’s spaces, trans activism also demands complete capitulation to a language that women do not recognize. Ruth Barret edited a collection of feminist writing on the topic in 2016 called “Female Erasure: What You Need To Know About Gender Politics' War on Women, the Female Sex and Human Rights”. The book contains a myriad of examples of such erasure.
In 2019, Jessica Pin, a researcher who survived a botched vaginoplasty and now fights to include proper descriptions of female anatomy in OBGYN literature, had been also banned from nearly all online platforms, including Quora, Facebook and Twitter. She challenges medical apps and medical bodies who neglect the correct anatomy of the female genitalia but is constantly told her research “violates their policies”.
Also last year, the author of the Vagina Bible could not advertise her book on social media because the word vagina was considered “too graphic.” According to the BBC, “Twitter, Facebook and Instagram blocked adverts promoting a doctor's book about vaginal health, according to US publisher Kensington. Numerous social media posts using the words 'vaginal' or 'vagina', advertising Dr Jennifer Gunter's The Vagina Bible, were rejected.”
However, there seems to be an awakening of the feminist movement and women are fighting back against their silencing online. Many women are joining feminist` ranks to build their own alternatives to sites like Reddit and Twitter. In 2019, 4W Founder M. K. Fain and her partner created Spinster.xyz, a feminist alternative to Twitter run by and for women. Since the bans on feminist subreddits began, Spinster has gained nearly 5,000 new members.
The former mods of the now-banned subreddit r/GenderCritical are also in the process of building a new site, with the help of Spinster, and in collaboration with many other at-risk feminist communities. The new platform would be decentralized, and run on open source software so any group could create their own community without risk of Big Tech censorship.
Last week, the former r/GenderCritical mods issued a public statement on Spinster regarding the ban:
“We are happy to announce that, with some amazing new volunteers, we are busily working on a new site which will restore our opportunity to speak freely about issues that concern women, including male violence, prostitution, pornography – and the growing impacts of gender identity upon women’s hard-won rights. It will have the format we enjoyed before, but this time, we will own the website and the data. No one will be able to take it from us again. It will be bigger in scope than r/gendercritical. If you're looking for a new home for your community, it may be an option for you.”