You might have seen or heard of #freebleeding by now.
You know, Free Bleeding, where women refrain from using sanitary products when they’ve got their period because (a) bleeding is a beautiful, natural part of life that should be celebrated, not hidden, and (b) tampons are an “oppressive force of the patriarchy”.
Tampons are oppressive force of the patriarchy? Does that sound completely fucked up to you?
That’s because it is fucked up.
Operation Free Bleeding is 4chan community /b/’s latest shitty prank designed to “hit feminists right where it hurts most”. Why? Because for some twisted individuals, watching a feminist war break out on the internet is spectator sport.
But as The Daily Dot points out, the prank is going “terribly”, though “that’s to be expected when a group of teenage boys, with no understanding of the movement they’re criticizing, launch a couple silly hashtag trends.”
The Operation Free Bleeding game involved manufacturing fake hype on social media by circulating images and posts in support of the ‘movement’.
If you aren’t #freebleeding you aren’t free living. Stop letting men decide what functions are acceptable for you. Why are you ashamed?
— Sweet Cooze (@CozyCooze) February 6, 2014
…And then kicking back to watch as the shitfight exploded.
The thing is, it’s conceivable that a ‘movement’ like #freebleeding could come from a genuine place. But although pads and tampons are manmade products, they’re also incredibly useful: for example, they stop blood getting everywhere and staining your clothes every four weeks. Instead of being bedridden or wrapped up in nappies, we can go to work, or to the beach, or to the new gelato place up the street. Oppression? Sounds more like liberation, actually.
It might be easier to take the joke and move on had 4chan not already instigated numerous other anti-feminist hoaxes.
Perhaps you’ve wondered what brought on the bikini bridge barrage in your newsfeeds last year? If you thought it was simply because the mercury had risen and suntanned young women were out snapping selfies in their cossies, you’d be wrong.
Operation Bikini Bridge was also the brainchild of 4chan community /b/ – a hoax designed to simultaneously antagonise feminist communities and discredit the news media after it reported on trends and ‘unhealthy diet crazes’ that were actually cooked up by a bunch of bored teenage boys, teehee. /b/ did not begin the bikini bridge movement, they merely set out to send it into frenzy.
The plot worked in two phases. Phase one involved spamming social media and online communities (often with fake Facebook and Twitter profiles) with fitspo-style images that endorsed said bikini bridge. People and fake people everywhere decried #bikinibridge as the new #thighgap of 2014.
Phase two set about creating a fake #bikinibridge backlash, before the pot-stirrers reclined to watch on as the controversy exploded. As the original 4chan /b/ post surmised, “This should cause large enough of a stir to snowball into a fairly big subject.” How lovely.
Of course every blogger, Tweeter, news organisation and their dogs jumped in to comment on the action. “Look how nutso these girls are!”
One shudders to think how many women were harmed by the whole ordeal. Yes, the internet is swarming with fitspo pics and pro-eating disorder communities, but to go such extreme lengths to inflame it all? That’s messed up.
Sure, if you stretch the 4chan pranks out far enough, there’s a great lesson for the media in all of this: always check your facts thoroughly. It’s journalism 101.
But it’s kind of ironic that 4chan thinks pitting women against women is funny.
Because at the end of the day, after all the fuss has subsided, we’ll realise that as targets of a bunch of shitty pranks, we’re actually all in this together.
As you were, ladies.
UPDATE: As one commenter points out below, the main images above were shot by photographer Emma Arvida Bystrom as part of a photographic series for VICE titled There Will Be Blood – the aim of the collection was to highlight the shame women often feel around menstruation. 4chan actually used one of Bystrom’s images as part of its #freebleeding hype manufacturing.