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While Kangana’s ‘Bheekh’ Remark Is Problematic, Slut Shaming Her In Such Despicable Words Is Just Not Ok

Online violence against women is not uncommon in India. This kind of abuse is just an extension of the Gender Based Violence (GBV) directed at women. This kind of violence reinforces gender stereotypes, reduces women to sexual objects and targets their sexuality.

Recently Kangana Ranaut, the rather infamous Bollywood actress who is constantly the talk of social media circles, has once again come in focus on social media. And for a change, many activists and women are raising their voice against the nature of the criticism directed towards her, which body shamed, slut shamed her, and shamed her profession for which she has sometimes worn revealing clothes.

Ranaut kicked off a major controversy with her comments at an event organised by a news channel earlier this week, declaring that Independence achieved in 1947 was “bheekh” (alms) she added that “real freedom” was attained in 2014, when the Modi government came to power. The controversial statement within two days after she was awarded the Padma Shri by President Ram Nath Kovind.

As expected, the comments led to outrage from several quarters. Politicians across the spectrum, historians, academics, other who’s who of Bollywood tweeted or made statements in support or opposing her assertion. Many even demanded that she should return her award.

Some of the tweets like this one later deleted by one of the politicians from Uttar Pradesh were clearly “hitting below the belt” literally and shaming the woman in most despicable language under the garb of criticising her statement about Indian Independence.

Sadly, in this abuse of women all wings unite

It is no secret that any opinionated woman who chooses to express herself publicly is said to “paint a target on herself” here. This kind of victim blaming is rampant and so is the trolling from all ends. Ranaut herself has used undignified language for other fellow women actors and others in the past. Several of her supporters and those from the ruling party at the centre jump in to troll anyone speaking against the regime in the most brutal way.

But the equation is clear- Two wrongs can never make a right.

Whosoever is indulging in personally shaming any individual for a statement they make or their political affiliation is indeed not following civic online behaviour. Unfortunately, in spite of elaborate policies in writing, and measures taken against cybercrime of this sort, social media platforms don’t do enough on the ground to penalise the culprits here. Often this kind of trolling of women is also witnessed by ‘verified’ accounts on Twitter.

Women are the favourite targets of online trolls, and it is gender based violence

Online violence against women is not uncommon in India. This kind of abuse is just an extension of the Gender Based Violence (GBV) directed at women. This kind of violence reinforces gender stereotypes, reduces women to sexual objects and targets their sexuality. Such online violence often leads to women self-censoring their opinions or sometime covert silencing due to the fear of being targeted so harshly. The rights to equality and freedom of expression of women are hugely curtailed when they are made target of such personal abusive remarks just because they voiced an opinion.

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In 2017, Amnesty International conducted a study on online violence against women which concluded that over 70% of women surveyed had faced some sort of abuse online, and that had changed the way they used social media. One third of these women said they no longer post their opinions on some issues.

Shortly after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in India a study by Amnesty found that 1 out of 7 tweets that mentioned women politicians in India was ‘problematic’ or ‘abusive’ while 1 in every 5 of these tweets was sexist or misogynistic.

While it is okay to criticise an opinion or statement of any public figure, it is never right to shame a woman for her body, what she wears or what she does professionally. Abuse, hate speech and derogatory comments remain the commonest form of trolling and must be condemned and heavily penalised.

“We need feminism because degrading phrases like “walk of shame” are commonplace in our social vocabulary, yet these are only applied to women; whereas men in the same situation are praised by their peers and seen as nothing more than ” a guy who got lucky”, by the rest of society.” Miya Yamanouchi, Embrace Your Sexual Self: A Practical Guide for Women

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About the Author

Pooja Priyamvada

Pooja Priyamvada is an author, columnist, translator, online content & Social Media consultant, and poet. An awarded bi-lingual blogger she is a trained psychological/mental health first aider, mindfulness & grief facilitator, emotional wellness trainer, reflective read more...

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