Etsy silent despite petition with 37k signatures + widespread condemnation
This week Anna Cordell - head of an online petition calling on Etsy's Board of Directors to stop selling incest + child abuse themed merch - sent an email to the corporate heads. After weeks of silence and unsuccessful attempts to reach the directors via social media and phone, Anna wrote the following letter urging them to take action and to respond to the petition.
Etsy, Inc, Board of Directors
117 Adams Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
February 14, 2021
Dear Josh Silverman (Chief Executive Officer), Fred Wilson (Chair), Gary Briggs (Director), M. Michele Burns (Director), Edith Cooper (Director), Jonathan D. Klein (Director), Melissa Reiff (Director), Margaret "Peggy" Smyth (Director),
On January 22 this year I launched an online petition calling on you, as Etsy’s Board of Directors, to stop selling incest and child abuse-themed merchandise. The Change.org petition (found here) is now approaching 35,000* signatures - all individuals who, like me, want to see products which normalise, trivialise and eroticise child abuse urgently removed from your site.
Up until late last year, I myself had a portion of my business on Etsy. I was proud to sell my handcrafted items on a platform I believed shared my value for humanity and community. But then I found out that your company was selling child sex abuse dolls and replica body parts, as well as a range of merchandise with slogans promoting the sexual abuse of girls by their fathers. I saw these products listed right next to Father’s Day gifts and baby clothes. I could not reconcile Etsy’s claim to be ‘keeping commerce human’ with your sale of these abhorrent products.
Under ‘Values’ you state: ‘We are a mindful, transparent and humane business. We believe that business interests and social and environmental responsibility are interwoven and aligned and that the power of business should be used to strengthen communities and empower people.’ How do factory-produced sex dolls and child sexual abuse material fit with Etsy’s stated values?
And so I left Etsy. Other sellers have told me they’ve done the same. Like me, they refused to prop up a business which sells such things and contributes to real-life harm to girls. Last week, Australian Federal MP Brian Mitchell condemned your company in our parliament in a speech on a national scheme to redress victims of child sexual abuse. He expressed support for my petition and told the House of Representatives that Etsy must stop selling products which eroticise child abuse. I was grateful to Mr Mitchell for bringing your unethical behaviour before our elected representatives.
Prominent child protection experts have also condemned Etsy’s incest and child abuse-themed products and called on your company to stop selling this merchandise immediately (I’ve shared details in a petition update on Change.org which you can read here).
Many adult survivors of child sexual abuse have sent me messages saying how horrified they were to see these products being sold on Etsy. I was particularly moved by this one from a woman in Utah:
My trauma isn't something that should be sexualized. No one should make money from child sexual exploitation.
I am struggling to understand why, despite the petition, media coverage and widespread condemnation, you continue to remain silent. And while I’ve noticed a number of listings have been quietly removed (by yourselves or the sellers, I don’t know) I’ve seen others take their place. A week ago I found a replica girl’s foot with a built-in vagina for penetration. It is still on your platform.
I really thought you would care more about your brand than allowing this content. I also thought - clearly mistaken - that you would act quickly to minimise harm to your name and protect what had been a wonderful and much loved brand.
Again I urge you to demonstrate Corporate Social Responsibility by condemning these harmful products, fully auditing your platform to remove all incest and child abuse-themed merchandise and updating your policies and systems to prevent such items from being listed with you again.
Your demonstrated commitment to addressing this issue would be a win - not just for me and the petition, but for women, children and sexual abuse survivors around the world. I look forward to hearing from you.
*The petition has passed 37,000 signatures at the time of publishing