More than 20,000 people have signed a Change.org petition calling on Facebook to remove a page called the “Hotties of Melbourne University”, which has divided opinion in the student community.
Laura Brandthorn created the petition Monday arguing the page promoted a rape culture.
Brandthorn has since received a mountain of support, but also some criticism from people who believe it is harmless campus fun.
The page is a forum where photos of Melbourne University students are posted where people then comment. Most of the time the images aren’t sent in with the photo subject’s permission.
And the University of Melbourne isn’t the only university in Australia to have such a page, with Macquarie University, UTS and Curtin University all having similar pages started by students.
It is somewhat ironic that the row is over a page on Facebook, which was first created by Mark Zuckerberg as a platform for students at Stanford college to rate each other.
Admins of the Hotties of Melbourne University page say they remove pictures when requested. The students featured are overwhelmingly female, though some men are featured as “hotties” too.
A lot of the comments are jokes, but there are also photos that attract more distasteful comments such as “geez she’d get it” and “shoot me with tranquilliser right now before I go out to hunt!”
While Brandthorn and the 22,000 people who have signed the petition believe it condones disrespect and a rape culture, news.com.au spoke to some of the women featured on the page who say they have not been offended by it.
One woman who had her photo posted over a year ago isn’t happy about the petition, saying she found her appearance on it “a little flattering and mostly amusing” and hadn’t experienced anything negative until the petition brought it to light. Now she is being bombarded with friend requests and messages.
“Now that she (Blandthorn) has gone and drawn attention to the page, I am getting way more friend requests and comments to my image than before — and these are people from all across Australia,” Sydney Watson said.
She also said suggesting the page promoted rape was a slap in the face to real sexual assault victims.
“I think the main point of how I feel is just because somebody is offended does not mean they are right. And it also does not give them the right to shut down the things that offend them,” she told the news site.
Watson gave permission to Business Insider to use the photo of her featured on the Hotties of Melbourne University page.
The page hasn’t been regularly updated much in around a year, though the last post occurring on 13 March, and the most recent before that in August 2015.
Since the petition went live, the page has also grown from 14,000 likes to more than 16,000.