Showing up for women comes at a cost

Showing up for women comes at a cost

This is a true and personal story about how a change to Facebook’s advertising system ended up with me being cyberstalked. It’s a story about unease, discomfort, and the feeling that even as women, talking to women, our voices are getting muted for fear of reprisal.

I first sent this out as an email to my mailing list on 2 March and I have had so many supportive and kind and comforting emails from women (thank you so much!). But also many thanking me for helping draw attention to the ways we need to keep vigilant about keeping ourselves safe in these changing times.

So here's the story.

Archeus is a one-woman business. It’s just me in all my greying and widening post-menopausal glory. Over the past decade since launching Archeus in 2013, it has, I have become increasingly focused on supporting women in midlife. I try to do this in two key ways: through my products and through my coaching. I want to be here genuinely as a woman talking with women. I want to share in that collective yet individual experience of ageing, of menopause, of changing careers, relationships, of looking after parents and then grieving for them. I want to be part of the conversation about how we as women in midlife (and beyond) step up for the young women following us.

And here’s where things started to go a bit yuck.

For a decade now I have been running ads on Facebook. I don’t like it. I wish I didn’t have to do it, but it has been a way to reach women, perhaps even you. My budgets have been tiny, so maybe on a good day my ad might reach 1200 women, and it tickled along fine. When you set up a Facebook ad you can, for example, tell Facebook that you only want it to go to women (no men) from age 43+. Handy for a product like mine.

Anyway, as mentioned, I coach as well as make my products, and so to reflect this I called my business Facebook page: Archeus Natural Living – and my name. Not catchy I know, but I thought that it would reflect that I am a person as well as a 'product’. That it would enable me to be a woman talking with women. Sharing in being a woman in midlife.

And it worked fine. Until now.

Facebook, or Meta as it likes to call itself now, recently made changes to the way you set up ads. FB says that if you use this new ‘intelligent’ way of directing ads you will charged less and it will be more effective.

But it isn’t. It is something way more sinister.

The new system won’t let you set age ranges or gender. It says it knows just the sort of people who will want your ad. There was an option to use the old way, which I tried but seemed to get ‘punished’ in reach for that.

So two things have happened since this new system started. One is my orders for NatFem have dropped significantly. And the other thing is The Men.

Over the past month or so, as sales have perplexingly dropped, I have seen a huge uplift in ‘friend’ requests from strange men on my personal FB page. Over the past week it has increased to this happening a few times a day. I block them all of course, but I am left feeling incredibly uneasy.

Why would all these men, these strangers, suddenly be contacting me? Me, an average menopausal middle-aged woman.

Then I realized this coincided with the FB change. Before that I had been happily invisible, like so many of us are made to feel. And that was fine. But my Archeus business page also had my name on it – and herein lies the problem. And I can only assume that FB’s algorithm AI whatsit looks for people who are using search words, or viewing lots of things with words like ‘vagina’. And so, what has happened is my ads for menopausal+ women mentions menopause but also talks about, I talk about vaginal dryness. Bingo. AI puts my ad into the feeds of the creepo men looking for ‘vagina’ content. I’m pretty sure they probably not looking for something to help their menopausal partner’s bodily changes.

Suddenly I am talking to men about vagina stuff, men who are searching for well, porn, I guess. And then they are searching me out as a woman, not a business. So, I took my name off the Archeus page on Thursday and turned all my ads off on Friday.

And here’s what makes me so blimmin angry.

Not only did I feel stalked, I also started to feel very vulnerable speaking as a woman to women about crappy stuff we have to put up with like vaginal dryness. I am so angry now that I have been made to feel that I can't talk to women for fear of being cyberstalked and harassed.

I feel that FB is feeding me to the misogynistic wolves.

So I'm pausing Archeus ads on Facebook. The Archeus page is still there for now at least, but I'm not sure if I will go back to advertising on the platform. I am going to try and write to FB to say what has been happening. And I am going to try and figure out a workaround (I did have an idea on that while walking the dog just now). And I hope that maybe, just maybe if my products are working for you, you might tell a female friend or colleague about them so they might help her too, because for this moment in time I am ‘mute' while I regroup and get my big girl pants on, and figure out a better, safer way of showing up for midlife+ women.

You know what though? My biggest fear is that this online creepy guy stuff is actually going to put me out of business.

That’s my story. I thought you should know.


Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

Navigating Life Changes

For more writing, plus consultations, coaching and courses, visit my other website