Feminism In The Times Of Social Media: Why Do Internet Trolls Love To Hate Women?

The word danger means the possibility of harm at any time by means of words and action. Danger can be classified as known and unknown. The known forms of danger are the ones which we are aware of from the time we are fully conscious of the world. The unknown are the ones we are not aware of even when we have a full understanding of a situation. I have come to understand that the dangers we actually know to exist in the world are the most chaotic and life-disrupting ones. The unknown ones are less dangerous as most of the time, they require one to be reactionary and does not necessarily affect many lives.

After the onset of feminism and the rise of social media, women are consistently portrayed as a threat to the peaceful existence of the male species in recent years. Here, on this platform, I would like to take on the issue of the negative portrayal of women as villains as opposed to men, especially on social media.

First, I would like to narrate the experience which has driven me to write this particular piece.

I have been on Instagram for the past five years, and I have mostly posted photos of my garden flowers, fruits and vegetables. I have a huge garden at home where, as a family, we like to grow all kinds of plants. Now, I was aware of the fact that being a girl, even if you simply put up a photograph in the most decent dress, anything could happen to your profile. Having known that, I categorically never posted my picture.

All I wanted was to share the joy of gardening with the people I knew. But one day, my Instagram account got hacked, and all photographs were replaced by ones which I do not even want to discuss. The reason for the hack, which came to light later, was that I had refused a proposal put forth by a boy in my office. I did not take any legal action because being in the government sector, this could have resulted in a long term impact on the career of the concerned person. However, I deleted my account.

A few days later, I wanted to try Instagram again, so I simply created an account without adding even basic details, just to see if it was worth to be back again. After a point, a friend wrote a comment on Instagram which was badly trolled, and I happened to point out that criticising and writing negative things about a person did not harm the target as much as it hurt the writer. The troll reacted angrily and accused me of having a fake ID. Now that I understand, but the thing is, this person concluded my personality without even knowing me in the first place.

Moreover, the troll even went to the extent of writing that women tend to play the victim card, even when they dress vulgarly! I knew this was futile; there was no end in sight. I deleted my account again because I couldn’t stand the hatred and negativity directed towards me; as a person, I did my best never to hurt others myself. Moreover, this inevitably led to me finding out about online groups where men and women wrote all kinds of hateful, disgusting and senseless stuff about women in general, on various social media platforms. I regretted having anything to do with them. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.

Finding out about these men and women who vent against women on an everyday basis, shook me to the core. The first thing they did was to criticise or discredit feminism as something that has lost its purpose. Next, they would rant about women who supposedly filed fake cases of dowry or rape. Newspaper articles and statistics released by the government are believed to be supporting the claims made against these women. They would then move on to the men who have committed suicides, presumably because they were married. Here, they even go as far as to state that the male population of India is now going to fall far behind the female population. Then they would start discussing atrocities committed by women in marriage. The list goes on with an emphasis on how women are a danger to the male population of India, whether young or old.

After my relatively short-lived acquaintance with these groups, I would often wonder—even despite some women having grossly misused the laws, are we really a threat to men, especially considering how women are being abused on a daily basis? It is agonizing when somebody files a fake case against you and complete mental agony if you end up in jail for no reason. But if you see the profiles of these men, they all seem highly satisfied that they have won the cases, and want the world to see the real face of the woman. They claim that their careers are destroyed and reputation tarnished. I mean, really??

I know for a fact of an account given by a government official, of how even a rapist gets married and also manages to get a job, after serving jail time. People who are absolved of rape charges, especially in villages on account of lack of testimony, get sympathetic treatment so that they can rebuild their career. In the case of men being charged with apparently fake dowry demands, whatever they may write blaming the women, you cannot truly believe that a lawsuit can be filed solely by a woman. There must be a male involved, who claims to support the woman concerned. Can you deny the fact that even independent women usually take approval from parents or loved ones before going ahead with such a big step?

The amount of cruelty these hate groups know have no bounds. In Madhya Pradesh, there was news of a girl, who due to a lapse in her judgement, took a lift from a group of men and was gang-raped. She eventually committed suicide, but wrote a suicide note, blaming herself for her judgement lapse and requesting her brother not to take action against these men as she is solely responsible for her state. The brother still went to court, and the court decided to file the charges, but the men online still blamed the girl and absolved the rapists of all sins! This was pretty much the last straw for me. I stopped participating in these online groups after that. People who suffer such trauma do not go online and write about their victimisation. These hate groups claim to be victims, but all they do is ensure they create victims too.

The fear of law has not stopped grooms and their families from demanding dowry. Many men, employed in the departments of electricity, municipal corporation and many more continue to demand high rates of dowry from the bride’s family. The whole department knows, and no one does anything about it. These people say that laws are in favour of women, but are not ready to accept that societal norms protect them too. How is it possible that men roam around freely at nights, intoxicated? Nobody dares to say anything, and this is not just the story of the poor, but the middle and upper classes as well.

Whether a married woman is employed in a paid job or not, she is expected to perform most of the household chores. In the so-called Indian culture, it is a wife’s duty to look after the husband’s family. In India, the wife is encouraged to practically forget about her own family, even though the man can continue living with his own family. If you force someone to forget the relationships that have been forged since childhood, how can you expect that person to be loyal to the new family? This impacts women more than we know or care to admit.

No matter how much one likes live inside fairytales, one cannot change the fact that a woman’s in-laws are her husband’s parents, people who gave birth to her husband. Emotions cannot be forced, so there is bound to be a dispute between the in-laws and daughter-in-law in the family. The care of the husband’s family is outsourced to the wife as a life long commitment. But people need to understand; taking care of someone is both emotionally and physically challenging, for which not all women are not equally capable.

A job is said to be the biggest asset for a man. He can leave his family behind for a job. These days working hours are nearing 12 hours, and the day is not far now when companies will hold employees back in their offices for 24 hours. Over-time is another way to avoid families. The hate groups online proclaim that men work hard for families. So, ultimately, children are raised by money and not by people.

If you spend enough on bringing up a child, is your responsibility finished? Children have achieved academically and in other fields, even with the lack of money. All over the world, even the most incapable mother is left to raise a child on her own. The hate groups of women provide examples of cruelties done by mother on children. Now, what role is the father playing in these situations? And suppose if the wife passes away, either the man re-marries or his mother and other female relatives end up taking care of his children. Mother is the one-stop solution to all issues related to a child. The male hate groups, who do they think played a significant role in bringing them up in the first place? And oh, who gave birth to them?

Lastly, feminism is not the reason biased laws were made or why women behave violently or cruelly. Feminism is meant to offer freedom, and it is up to the woman to use or abuse it. I can also say for a fact, that women who are self-proclaimed feminists do not make their families suffer. If feminism allows women the liberty to dress up any way they want, how is that wrong? If the length of a girl’s skirt is provoking you, clearly it is your self-control that is weak. Maybe you should be questioning your morals and principles at this point, and not the girl’s.

There are countries where women wear much more revealing dresses. So what would an Indian man do if their paths were to cross these women? Would he start abusing these women too? Remember that most of the time, women do not ask for help, but men themselves offer to help. Somehow if you refuse the helping hand, you are arrogant, you have no manners. Seriously?

Feminism encourages women to rely on themselves. You are out for jobs; the home is now merely a resting place. So women living alone, whether married or unmarried or widowed, would naturally have to protect themselves on their own! How can they run errands without relying on themselves? If the husband is at the office, what is a wife supposed to do is a thief sneaks in? Wait for the husband to appear magically before the worst happens? These days even in day time thieves can attack. What is wrong with feminism that teaches women to fight equally, as men?

Let us not forget that India is a country where the likes of Rani Lakshmi Bai and many other brave female warriors have shown exemplary courage. Even in today’s India, women are not sent for combat because from the moment of conception; they are labelled weak. Why doesn’t the woman have equal right to defend her country or herself, as a man?

I might be over-reacting. But the fact is that most of the trolling, whether online or offline, is faced by women. Men might be trolled for professional reasons. Hurt on both sides will inevitably lead to suffering and violence. Men need to open their minds and women need to stop taking advantage of legal tools so that those who genuinely need those tools may use them as they see fit.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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Read more about the campaign here.

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The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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