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“She must have asked for it” is a common statement made when women face abuse; worse when it happens online, isolating them by cutting off their online support too.
About 11 years ago when Orkut and Facebook had made an entry into my life, a fear too made a permanent place – of being stalked online, mostly by random men. Almost simultaneously I was also venturing into blogging and learning the tricks and one important lesson I learnt was – never feed the trolls, which I started applying to social media too, and yet the menace grew.
Orkut shut down, Facebook grew into a Frankenstein monster, and more social media made their presence felt almost like a necessity. Like all monsters growing new powers and acquiring new weapons all of these kept changing their formats and modes of interaction.
Thus was invented the OTHER inbox where all the messages from people not in your lists or directly connected to you landed.
Now let’s be honest, don’t we all check this place once in a while to fish for a genuine compliment or looking for maybe a long lost friend?
Whenever I did, it was new revelations, and a few broad ‘annoying’ types I found, obviously excluding the rare and few meaningful chats there too:
Religious Preachers– No hello or hi! Straight to the point, religious message, GIFs of gods and goddesses, ta ta!
Cryptic Coders– Types in some weird alphabetical code which only he can read and expects you to find that cool!
Sticky Notes– Sends good morning, good day, good evening, good night texts without fail, doesn’t care whether you respond or not.
Bollywood Prototypes– Floods the inbox with mushy love songs and love poems and believes No is Yes, Silence is Yes, basically everything is their fantasy.
Repeat Offenders– The nastiest perverts who will send you annoying pictures of their man hoods and send you suggestive questions about libido and sex chats. Ask for nudes with entitlement and think of themselves as no less than Adonis.
Ac per Section 354A of the IPC any one posting lewd comments on social media are liable to be punished with one-year imprisonment and fine. Posting/messaging content related to pornography against the will of a woman or requesting sexual favours are punishable by a fine along with three years of imprisonment under the same provision. There are several other provisions too in the IPC. However it has done little to discourage random men from jumping into women’s inboxes.
This is clearly a case of male entitlement and also gets nurtured by silence of women in which they often shroud this stemming from their feelings of shame and fear about such abuse, because there are plenty of those around us to who will push the blame on the victim woman and offer lame arguments like –“She must have asked for it.” “She writes provocatively.” “She uses the word SEX openly.”
Sometimes women also don’t speak up because now families and colleagues also connected on Social Media for some it would mean a ‘ban’ from using Social Media or ‘awkwardness’ at workplace.
Most social networks and media platforms are also almost ineffective at preventing abuse; it has become an ‘acceptable’ online experience for most women now, and they are told to just ignore and block. This creates a culture of silence where the men then continue the same modus operandi with other women being confident they wouldn’t be called out.
We all must then be accountable for all the communities we are a part of even if they are just online. We are proud about the magical connections happening online; similarly we must take the initiative to reduce this entitlement and silence around a covert and coercive abuse of women which doesn’t allow them to behave and interact freely, and thus limits their freedom of expression.
Image source: a still from the movie Veere di Wedding
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Pooja Priyamvada is a columnist, professional translator and an online content and Social Media consultant.
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