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17 year old climate activist Greta Thunberg has been trolled incessantly by men who want her to shut up. While she handles it like a boss, it is a sad reminder that when men have nothing else to criticize a woman about, they will infantilize her or talk about her looks, to hide their own insecurities.
If you are a woman who is successful, good at your job, or have ever been in a situation where you ‘won’ against a man, you know what happens next. A snide comment about the clothes you are wearing, or about your age; or if the man is brazen enough, a shameless insistence that you are wrong and that you are not intelligent enough/aware enough to know better.
It has happened to me personally plenty of times. Every time it happens, I rejoice, because it means that I have already won.
Anyone who has spent any time in the internet lately, cannot have missed reading or hearing about 17 year old climate activist, Greta Thunberg. Her recent speech to world leaders, demanding that governments and corporates take action on climate change, in which she thundered, “How dare you?” has received as much vitriol as it has received praise.
There are those who have posted pictures of her eating out of a plastic box and accused her of hypocrisy. Others have shared pictures of other activists and their work, in an attempt to discredit Greta’s efforts.
The worst of the lost however, are those scum, who think it is appropriate to call a young woman (technically still a child), “mentally ill”, a “cyborg”, “scary,” “weirdo” who needed a “spanking”.
They do this because her core message – that climate change is real and that we must do something about it urgently, cannot be debated or disproved logically. Climate change deniers are in a literal state of denial, because ecological events around the world are solid proof that something is indeed very wrong.
Many have pointed out that part of the reason why men are so triggered by Greta, is not just what she says, but how she says it. She refuses to bend to the male gaze and sexualize herself. She does not smile, she does not behave like an innocent child, she does not “perform” femininity.
Greta, on her part, knows exactly how these trolls must be handled. She recognized, quite correctly, that the trolling was as much about distracting from the issues, as much as it was a reflection of hurt male egos.
In a tweet thread, she wrote, “As you may have noticed, the haters are as active as ever – going after me, my looks, my clothes, my behaviour and my differences. They come up with every thinkable lie and conspiracy theory,” before adding, “It seems they will cross every possible line to avert the focus, since they are so desperate not to talk about the climate and ecological crisis. Being different is not an illness and the current, best available science is not opinions – it’s facts.”
Greta isn’t alone.
Throughout history, whenever women have challenged the status quo, men have retaliated by attacking their body – either literally, or metaphorically via rape threats/ death threats, or comments about their clothes/ age/ sexuality.
This is because patriarchy attaches worth to women only for their bodies. To a man, insulting a woman’s appearance or other physical attributes is the worst insult imaginable. Little do they realize how wrong that is.
Back in India, Zaira Wasim was also just 16 years old, when she was trolled and sent death threats for meeting with Mehbooba Mufti, an unpopular female politician, to the point that she had to make a public apology for a mistake she never made.
Many female politicians have been insulted by their male colleagues on the basis of their looks, including former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was called a “goongi gudiya” (dumb doll) and her granddaughter, Priyanka, a 47 year old woman, who was referred to as a “child.”
Captain of the Women’s Cricket Team, Mithali Raj was told that her “sweaty armpits looked odd,” to which she responded, “I’m where I’m because I sweated it out on d field! I see no reason 2 b ashamed f it, when I’m on d ground inaugerating a cricket academy.”
Not to mention the abuse directed at celebrities like Parvathy or Swara Bhasker who speak out against the powers that be on a regular basis.
The examples are many. The message they want us to hear is one. “You are a woman. Don’t be too smart, don’t be too loud, don’t think too much.”
The real message we hear is this, “We are scared of you. You make us feel ineffective and weak. We cannot challenge you on facts, so we will insult your looks instead.”
Image source: YouTube
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Vijayalakshmi Harish is a book blogger and writer. To paraphrase her librarian, she is a
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