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A letter to WordPress.com and Google Ads: Advertising Mail-Order Brides is a Violation of Women’s Rights

July 16, 2010

Dear WordPress.com and Google Ads,

It has come to my attention that GAB readers have alerted us to the advertisements for mail-order brides showing up on this site. I saw this when I traveled to Nigeria for work and was appalled. One reader in particular, who I will call “SW,” sent us this email:

As you have made it very clear, Gender Across Borders does not have control over those ads. In fact, WordPress.com, these are your ads. You are the people making money off of these sick advertisements.  While we understand that you need to make money, too, and we appreciate your free service, Gender Across Borders does have any sort of revenue to pay a fee to upgrade to the “No-Ads” feature of WordPress.com*.

If you don’t know why the ads are disturbing, well, let me tell you why: the mail-order bride industry is an unfortunate one for both men and women involved–but particularly for women. Women from underdeveloped countries become mail-order brides of men in more developed countries for wealth, stability, and financial support for their family at home.

You may be asking yourselves, WordPress.com and Google Ads, is becoming a mail-order bride a “choice”? Some, like those who argue that sex work is not a choice, believe so. If these women had more money and financial opportunity, perhaps they wouldn’t sell their lives.

To help you see why these advertisements are so disgusting, let’s make a comparison: looking at mail-order brides online reminds me of walking through the Red Light district in Bangkok, Thailand–women are similarly objectified. Men choose their women on youth and attractiveness; their choice of “sex positions” in the Red Light district can be compared to a mail-order brides’ hobbies. I know, I know…you may think it’s a stretch that I’m comparing sex work to mail-order brides. I want to be clear that they are not the same, but there are similar actions and (lack of) choices made in both sex work and mail-order brides.

Another similarity that happens frequently in sex work also happens in marriages of mail-order brides: domestic violence in particular. We all know (or rather, should know) that women are more vulnerable to domestic violence in sexual relationships. Put a mail-order bride in the mix, who comes over from another country not knowing the language or very little of the language and thrown into a new culture and voilà, she is even more susceptible to violence and assault from her husband. To give you examples: one mail-order bride came from Kyrgyzstan to the U.S. in 2001 named Anastasia King married Indie King of Seattle, Washington shortly afterwards. She was brutally choked with a necktie by her husband two years later. Other examples are here, here, and here.

So you see, WordPress.com and Google Ads, advertising for mail-order brides is no small joke. It is a serious threat against women’s rights. Now, we know that Google has already made threats against women’s rights in terms of abortion–but you too, WordPress.com?

Thankfully you two aren’t running the world: In 2006, President George W. Bush (did I just compare you to G-Dub? I think I did!) signed the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act [IMBRA] to prevent domestic violence against vulnerable women traveling to the U.S. as mail-order brides. The act makes background checks for all visa sponsers and limits serial visa applications.

Many people think that IMBRA assumes all American men to be abusers (like Fox News), but the law is there to protect the women. Is there any other way to protect the women? Well, with your stupid ads promoting a violent and sick industry, I’m not seeing any protections when it comes to the net. I know–you probably think “Well it’s not my job to protect women!” but you know what? It is your responsibility. As you both are entities who have lots of power (WordPress.com) and infinitieth amounts of power (Google) over what happens on the web, I suggest you take down these ads. Not only for the sake of Gender Across Borders and its readers, but for women’s rights, and for everyone’s rights. ‘Cause guess what? Women and men are equal.

Thanks for reading.

Your truly,

Emily H.

*Though do not worry, GAB readers: we will no longer have these Google ads that are not under control because in a few weeks we will be switching to WordPress.org, where we will host our own site.

5 Comments
  1. July 16, 2010 12:29 pm

    Hi Emily, my apologies for those ads. They are automatically selected by Google. I’ve disabled ads for your blog and will look into whether we can block these particular types of ads from appearing on our network.

    As you mention in your post, we offer the ability to make your site ad free for $30 a year (which is more affordable than hosting your own site).

    • July 16, 2010 12:34 pm

      We’re actually going to switch to WordPress.org within a month to start our own advertisements, where we’ll have full control. Thanks, though, for responding. I appreciate it.

  2. pandoradeloeste permalink
    July 18, 2010 8:00 pm

    I have a friend who works with Google’s AdWords program, and when I asked him about the process for reporting inappropriate ads, he told me to just send him the link to the offending ads, or a screenshot of it. So I sent it along. On Monday he’ll give it to the appropriate people to review it. (I realize this is a moot point because you’re moving to a different site, but I thought you’d like to know.)

    • July 18, 2010 10:29 pm

      Thanks for doing that and letting us know! Yeah, the ads are really annoying. And actually, after WordPress.com responded to this post (see comments above), I noticed more advertisements for mail-order brides.

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