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A woman's voice or image on a public space like social media makes many men uncomfortable. So when anything happens they ask, “Why did you put your pictures or spoke up on Twitter?”
A woman’s voice or image on a public space like social media makes many men uncomfortable. So when anything happens they ask, “Why did you put your pictures or spoke up on Twitter?”
On 1st January, as the world woke up to a brand new year, India woke up to the hastag #BulliDeals going viral on social media.
If you are still unaware of it, Bulli Bai was an app created on GitHub that auctioned Muslim women online. Around hundred such profiles of the victims were created with original photos stolen from Twitter and other social media. In those profiles original names and twitter handles of the women were shared. It’s interesting to note that only Muslim women who were vocal on social media were targeted, that included journalists, social workers, activists and other professionals.
FIR were filed and yesterday Mumbai Police arrested a Bangalore student 21 years old Vishal Jha and a 18 year old woman from Uttarakhand, Shweta Singh as the prime suspect. But there was more to it than what meets the eye.
Anything that happens to women in India the favorite reaction is “Why was she there?” Bulli Deals met with similar reactions; specially men flooded the targeted women with sermons on why were their images on social media in the first place? To blame only men will be entirely wrong as a few women joined the chorus too. Are we even surprised? Women can be as patriarchal and misogynist as men. And cruel to other women. Lest we forget one of the prime suspects of Bulli Deals is a woman.
But men had a field day questioning the women.
This is how patriarchy has always played to keep woman invisible and silent. A ‘good woman’ in Patriarchy is one who does not exist. A woman’s voice or image on social media which is a public space makes many men uncomfortable. So when anything happens they ask, “Why did you put your pictures or spoke up on Twitter?” And the icing on the cake is always, “For whom do you keep changing your DPs?”
The male gaze in patriarchy sexualizes and dehumanizes women. We as women can put pictures up just for ourselves and our identity, which is often forgotten. It is assumed that anything we do has to be for men. Even if we breathe. As they say that “women wear revealing clothes do it just to tantalize men” and that she “asked for it” when sexual violence happens.
The Bulls Deals BulliBai app created by Vishal Jha and Sweta Singh was created for the male gaze, to dehumanize, sexualize and silence them. A woman in my Twitter TL questions, “Would you have questioned, if men were auctioned?” The thing is, that too had been wrong. But if there were an app like that, for whose gaze it would had been? Female gaze? Female gaze in Patriarchy does not dehumanize, sexualize or silence men at large. That’s why an app of the Muslim women was created. I am sure if it were men they would have laughed. Women cannot effort to do it as their images on that auctioning app open them to violent Patriarchal male gaze.
So equating male and female gaze is false equivalence.
Men who benefit most from Patriarchy, who can scratch their balls in public tell women how these women’s images should not have been put. Men urinate in public. Go half naked on streets. That’s how man shows how the world belongs to them. Men are comfortable doing it, because no women will come staring at their genitals or bodies.
Ask any woman in public spaces – we know the male gaze follows us no matter where we go. We decide on the length of our skirts deciding on where we are going to be and with whom. That’s how we carry those male gazes every day from birth to death. The gazes we never asked for. The gazes that police our bodies and restrain our movements.
One argument that came in is – why don’t women then go naked in public? And then we are told that we too can do that what men do. It is not asked with a sense of equality between women and men. It is done to humiliate us. Because men know what the male gaze is, that hurts all women. The violent male gaze and the repercussions to it.
So when the Muslim women were questioned about their photos, it is a way to make them invisible even more. They are already a minority, and when you target the already marginalized, you erase them from the public space. That’s how it is done. It’s gaslighting them to be invisible as Muslim Women, and there are no two ways about it.
But credit must be given to those Muslim women who fought, spoke to the media, filed charges and got the suspects arrested. They stood tall when all was stacked against them and they still are. The trauma that they are going through cannot even be imagined, but the most courageous thing India saw as a new year dawned was these women not cowering down. They are still on Social Media taking the heat and with their real display pictures. These Muslim women are exemplary in teaching how you fight religious hate and Patriarchy without becoming like the ones who attacked you.
Image source: zibik on Pixabay
Proud Indian. Senior Writer at Women's Web. Columnist. Book Reviewer. Street Theatre - Aatish. Dreamer. Workaholic. read more...
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