By Maureen Shaw
I don’t know about you, but when I think of pornography I certainly don’t equate it with women’s healthcare or gay rights advocacy. But apparently some folks do.
Last week, I learned that my website, sherights.com — which focuses on women’s rights and issues, including health, violence against women, motherhood, politics and more — was being blocked by Au Bon Pain’s public wi-fi.
What’s more, it was classified as “pornography.”
sherights.com wasn’t a lone site targeted by filtering, however. Sites offering information on abortion like NARAL.org and gay rights advocacy, specifically GLAAD.org, were likewise blocked and flagged for “abortion” and “sexual orientation” content, respectively.
What’s a girl to do when she’s been maligned? Why, agitate, of course.
I took to social media, creating a storm of tweets directed at Au Bon Pain, questioning why they were blocking prochoice sites, among others. Prochoice supporters and women’s organizations began re-tweeting me and before long, the media became interested (see: DNAinfo, CBS, New York Magazine, Think Progress). To their credit, Au Bon Pain responded in a timely fashion with a statement and removed its problematic filters.
This is certainly a positive development. But, this experience raises a bigger issue: how many other public wi-fi networks are blocking this type of content, with or without establishments’ knowledge? It sends an unacceptable — and inaccurate — message that information on women’s reproductive healthcare and rights, and sexual orientation is somehow inappropriate. Every person has the right to access information without judgment or interference.
There’s also an important take-away from this experience: raise hell when you believe in righting a wrong. Girls and women are stereotyped for sitting on the sidelines and not asserting themselves when needed — whether in business, at home or in school settings — but I”m here to tell you this is not true! Use your voice. And always believe in your power to affect change — there’s nothing more beautiful.