Why is Facebook banning lesbians for using the word ‘dyke’?

Lesbians are getting banned from Facebook in droves for posts that include the word “dyke.”

On Friday, in the days leading up to the annual Pride marches that take place in many North American cities, reports that lesbians were being banned from Facebook began to surface.

Co-founder of MichFest, the famed annual women’s music festival that was held every August from 1976 to 2015, Lisa Vogel, noted the irony of Facebook’s rainbow “reaction,” paired with their apparent targeting of lesbians.

Over the weekend, more and more women reported being banned — either for posting the word “dyke” in some form, or for simply posting about the bans.


While it initially appeared as though a group of people may have been targeting lesbians via the reporting tool, searching Facebook for posts including the word “dyke” to report them en masse, women have been banned after posting on their non-public profiles as well. One woman, Deidre Pearson, explains that despite having only a few hundred friends, a private profile, and posting at 2 a.m., she was banned for complaining about the ban.


So, while the rash of bans over the weekend appeared to be targeted and connected to Pride, it’s not a new phenomenon. At Slate, Trish Bendix reported that Facebook removed a popular New York-based group called “Dyke Bar Takeover,” claiming the use of dyke in their name constituted “hate speech.” Even the term “lesbian” itself is not permitted on Facebook, as part of a username. Lisa A. Mallett and Liz Waterhouse report that posts arguing that lesbians are female have been removed by Facebook, as well.

The great irony in all of this is that Facebook refuses to take action against groups and individuals who post and share pornography or who engage in hate speech against feminists. I have personally reported dozens upon dozens of threats and hate speech directed at myself, other women, and posted on the Feminist Current Facebook page. The posts reported have included words like “cunt,” “whore,” and “bitch.” Many have paired the anti-feminist slur, “TERF,” with death threats. Not a single one of these incidents has ever qualified for any form of action, according to Facebook. Not once has Facebook removed the post in question or banned the user.

A small sample of posts that have not “gone against one of [Facebook’s] Community Standards”:

I am not alone in this. Many women report having experienced abuse or threats that Facebook has ignored, and having reported content including revenge porn, child exploitation, and other forms of sexual violence that did not go against the company’s “community standards.”

When asked about this lack of action on misogyny and male violence on their platform, Facebook will often claim dealing with the amount of flagged content is too challenging to get it right — employees must make decisions so quickly that errors are common. The company has also told users that reporting posts is the only way to deal with abusive content, that “every single report of abuse is read and acted upon by a human being,” and that Facebook does not scan for and remove content. Yet they managed to ban dozens of female users within a matter of days — most of whom are not public figures, do not necessarily have enormous followings, who clearly aren’t being reported through nefarious means, but are in fact being sought out by the company itself.

While indeed the task of dealing with abusive content on Facebook would be an incredible challenge, the company appears to have made a conscious choice not to flag misogynist words, and to target feminist speech instead.

If Facebook has the time and means to seek out and ban lesbians who have not even been reported by other users, surely the company can deal with the misogynists who attack, slur, threaten, and abuse women on the site.

Enough already.


Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist from Vancouver, BC. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including The Spectator, UnHerd, Quillette, the CBC, New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and is now exiled in Mexico with her very photogenic dog.