By Archeeta Pujari:
Having written for online platforms like YKA for some time now, I can almost always be sure to come home to find my Facebook and twitter inbox’s flooded with messages, comments and opinions from strangers. I thought it would be interesting to share the main types of feedback that writers on this site get from readers. Most of the feedback tends to fall neatly within a few narrow categories. Do you recognise yourself in any of the groups below?
1) “Why are you portraying India negatively – what will foreigners think”:
This form of criticism almost always comes from NRIs – second and third generation Indians facing identity crises in their own countries, who have been taught by their elders to shun the evil vices of the West and to look to India as a utopia of sound values, acceptable behaviour and monumental culture. Despite never setting foot here, they come up with elaborate arguments on how chronic patriarchy, debilitating misogyny, extreme poverty, corruption and crime are all myths made up by detractors to give the great motherland a bad name. The truth is, these critical articles are not meant for foreigners they are for Indians. When you have a disease, do you wonder what the neighbours will think, or do you seek treatment yourself? Well our society has flaws, which need treatment. Only when we acknowledge our shortcomings can we improve.
2) Complete inability to understand irony/ sarcasm/ hyperbole/ any kind of creative expression:
Guess what, sometimes writers use creative techniques to emphasize a point. It adds to the appeal and overall message of the piece, and the article would probably be really boring if it was just written in straightforward prose, like a school essay. And no, not every single thing that I write about has necessarily happened to me in my lifetime. I don’t get around that much. Sometimes writers write from the perspective of others, compile many different points of view, or simply resort to fiction to convey a message.
3) You’re a whore and a slut and you do loads of unprotected sex and you will die of AIDS:
Hmm, okay, clearly you think my personal life is far more interesting than it actually is, but what does it have to do with my writing? This is by far the most common “feedback” that I receive, and sadly, it comes from both men and women. It can be attributed to that small, toxic section of society who believe that a woman has no right to express an opinion. They do not take the time to construct a reasoned argument, but instead throw the word “slut” and “whore” around, assuming it’s the most demeaning insult that can be delivered which would silence me. Well, it’s not. It’s just confusing, and sad.
4) Responses that defy all logic and reason:
“Hi – I read your article but I have a doubt. What if women get deeply engrossed in their freedom if they are staying unmarried after a particular age and how will they ever come out of it?”
Real question. Promise. Well Sir, although your concern for women and their susceptibility to the evils of ‘deeply engrossed freedom’ is very touching, I think you should be focussing more on changing your prehistoric mind-set. That would be my instinctive response, but I know that belittling and demeaning this man’s belief system is only going to make matters worse. These kinds of comments always serve as painful reminders that there is a vast majority of people out there who probably still think in a similar manner, and we have a massive uphill struggle ahead of us if we want to change for the better, as a society.
5) The extreme negative reaction:
Patriarchy should be banned. All men are lecherous rapists and misogynists. All feminists are lesbians and hate men, and want to oppress and torture and kill us. How dare you mention that some men still expect virgin brides? Are you condoning old-fashioned ideas? Everyone must succumb to my view of the world! Sounds familiar?
6) Actually, I’m a doctor and… :
Actually, I’m a doctor and unmarried women can’t use internal methods of menstrual sanitation like tampons. I’m a doctor and hymen breaking is actually the same as losing virginity and will cause young girls to lose their honour, please stop suggesting otherwise. I’m a doctor and homosexuality is a well-known mental disorder and should be cured etc. etc. etc. This particular feedback frankly horrifies me. I have always been against the idea of private medical colleges, which, in exchange for a fat wad of cash, promise to make medical practitioners out of those who do not have the grades, the intellect, the sheer grit to make it into the government medical colleges. The consequence of this is a generation of “doctors” who spout incorrect, even harmful wisdom that two minutes of googling will falsify.
7) The overwhelmingly positive:
The truth is that for every rude, negative, unconstructive feedback, there are 10 supportive, encouraging, productive ones. These are from people who have not only taken the time to read and share my work, but also to construct a reasoned counter-argument, request further clarification, or simply express agreement or disagreement. A single encouraging comment makes all of the abuse and bad grammar worth it, restores my faith in humanity, and urges me to pick up that pen and keep writing.
The bottom line is, I am grateful to all my readers, especially those who take the time to fill my Facebook inbox with comments, from the good, to the bad, to the hideously ugly. There would be no point in writing if not to encourage thought, creativity, debate and expression.