Hildur Lilliendahl Viggósdóttir, a well-known Icelandic women’s rights campaigner, has been banned by Facebook over a technicality, while outing sexism online. She tells The Telegraph’s Wonder Women about her popular digital album, ‘Men Who Hate Women’ and those persistent death threats.
There is a picture shared on Facebook of a woman undressed to her underwear, gagged with an apple like a suckling pig roasted on a spit, her body bound with rope and suspended from a long metal pole carried in procession by a gang of men.
Beneath it reads a caption: “Feminist found in town this morning—captured and put on the grill.”
This is nothing new to Hildur Lilliendahl Viggósdóttir, an Icelandic feminist who has captured the attention of a nation ever since she set up a Facebook album back in February, ‘ Men Who Hate Women’, which features content like this on a daily basis.
In the popular album she points out the perpetrators of the everyday casual sexism directed at women in general, and feminists in particular, that she has found on public forums across the web.
Interestingly a British website, The Everday Sexism Project, has recently been set up to document similar sexist comments on a daily basis. The idea has caught on across Twitter– with many people now regularly contributing to the collection using the hashtag: #everydaysexism.
Some have applauded Hildur’s bravery; others have been less supportive. Last month, in a comment to an article on Icelandic newspaper DV’s website subsequently published on his publicly-visible Facebook wall, one man declared: “If I ‘accidentally’ ran over Hildur, she is probably the only person on earth that I would back up over, and leave the car on top of her with the hand brake on!!!” He concluded with the provocation, “Put this in your ‘men who hate Hildur’ folder, Hildur Lilliendahl.”
“I have been reported several times on the grounds of screenshots posted in the album,” Hildur says. “I moved the album to a Tumblr page after Facebook blocked me so that I could keep it open.”
It is against Facebook’s terms of service to post images of other people’s Facebook pages without written permission. “At Facebook we deplore bullying,” said a spokesperson. “We made this rule because screengrabs are one way that bullies can try to bypass privacy and sharing settings.”
Hildur hardly comes across as an archetypal “bully”. A 31-year old mother of two working in public administration at Reykjavík City Hall, she has written about feminism in blogs and newspapers for some years.
“I started the album after hearing ridiculously misogynistic things in the media, even from public figures and politicians,” she explains. “I had the feeling that people didn’t realise how harsh is the response that feminists receive for speaking up. I wanted to shed a light on how vile it is.”
The ultimate goal, she says, has to be social justice for all. “But for now I’m settling for making people aware of the abusive behaviour that happens everywhere. Little by little I hope it encourages more people to take a stand and challenge it.”
This is not the first time she has faced such personal intimidation. “It’s quite common,” she admits matter-of-factly. The same day this threat was made, she received a phone call at home. “The number didn’t show and the caller didn’t introduce himself. My husband answered, and the caller said: ‘If you don’t tell that c**t b***h you’re living with to stop what she’s doing, then I’m gonna come and trash your car’.”
When the album first drew attention, she received one disturbingly graphic email, whose author wrote: “I want to see you dead. I want to see you burn alive.”
But Hildur remains undaunted. “I do get these comments, but whether or not it affects me shouldn’t be the issue. Nobody should have to deal with this.”
In the past she has had to contact the police, but she hasn’t pressed charges following these threats. “I guess they just didn’t manage to disturb me enough this time around,” she says. “When they start making me feel uneasy or unsafe I don’t hesitate to contact the police, press charges and ask for help."
She doesn’t understand why some regard her as “too radical” in her approach. “What I’m doing is not radical—I’m just re-posting the internet on the internet. Every comment on the album has already been made publicly. I’m not taking it from a friend’s news feed or a private conversation.”
This is not the first time Facebook has been accused of censorship of feminist content: one page dedicated to “radical self-love and body empowerment” was suspended after posting a photograph of tribal women in Senegal with their breasts visible.
“I don’t think Facebook is being consciously sexist,” says Hildur. “For a page to be shut down, it has to be reported, and I don’t think they follow up and research these reports properly.”
She explains that she reported a page recently with photographs that verged on being pornographic. “I got an automatic reply saying they had reviewed the page and found nothing wrong with it. They seem to have a standard that if there are no bare breasts or genitals then it’s okay.”
The hiatus has however done Hildur the world of good. “It was really frustrating to be blocked at first. Then I realised that I needed a break to focus on other things for a while. Two weeks into a four-week ban and I feel fantastic.”