When Laura Vance* watched episodes in Independent Women’s Forum short documentary series, “Cruel & Unusual Punishment: The Male Takeover of Female Prisons,” she recalled feeling horrified.

She listened to the difficult, emotional stories of women in the California prison system, many of them survivors of sexual assault and abuse, who were forced to share their small living space with men identifying as women. Many of these men were manipulators, convicted rapists, and murderers.

It was a blatant violation of women’s rights and a living nightmare. Vance said she knew that someone had to speak up on their behalf, so she began sharing their stories on social media to raise awareness.  

One of the platforms Vance posted on was Nextdoor, an app for neighborhoods where you can get local tips, buy and sell items, and more.. In the past, Vance said she had seen other people post news articles and pictures including left-of-center political ideology and iconography—progressive Pride flags, for example—and subsequently complained to Nextdoor administrators about the political nature of such posts. 

Ultimately, Nextdoor allowed these posts to remain on its platform. So, Vance said she reasonably figured sharing a video from “Cruel & Unusual Punishment,” with a caption about women’s rights, would be fair game. It was not. 

“Biological males do not belong in female spaces,” Vance wrote. Before she knew it, a Nextdoor moderator called her a bigot for posting the story. 

“I don’t even think she looked at the article,” Vance told Independent Women’s Forum. “She just based her comment on my original statement that biological men don’t belong in women’s spaces.”

When Vance filed a complaint about the moderator, she said it went unanswered. Nextdoor then suspended Vance for three weeks. 

“Your account has been temporarily suspended by a member of Nextdoor’s staff for breaking a community guideline: Do not discriminate,” stated the notification. “Our guidelines prohibit posts and replies that discriminate against, attack, insult, shame, bully, or belittle others.”

In a response to a Nextdoor customer support representative, Vance pushed back: 

“Women have the right to safe spaces, and there is nothing discriminatory, shaming, insulting or belittling about this reality … There is nothing inflammatory about stating that women deserve their own personal and public boundaries. The true bullies are anyone who selfishly tramples on women by violating those boundaries.”

Vance received a generic support email back from Nextdoor with no name attached, that simply read: “Thanks for your understanding.”

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