Social media is work for many of us, including me, professionally as a marketer and writer. I love social media and interacting on various platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and recently Instagram. That it is a part of my job, and passion makes it a worthwhile experience. Unfortunately, there is a dark side. Often, we women face the brunt of online abuse daily to the point where it is normalized.
I recently received a comment on one of my posts from a stranger who was following my Instagram account, asking me to come on DM. When I told him I don’t have time for chats, his reply was a brusque, “Aayiye toh sahi!” (Come, no, please) That was the snapping point for me. I blocked this man.
It’s the same story on all social platforms. I’ve received lewd poetry in my inbox, men coming under the garb of offering work opportunities and then nudging to check my favorite alcoholic drink, and invasive video calls on messenger the minute you add them.
I am extra cautious of whom I accept on my friend list. I have 1000+ pending requests on Facebook alone, and I’m sure 99% of them have nothing to do with writing, or remotely connected to what I do. I think sending unwanted friend requests and messages itself can be the first sign of male privilege and online harassment/abuse.
The abuse stems from insecurity and a sense of the loss of power. Online harassment reflects the sheer male entitlement in bringing down women- as if it’s their birthright to put women in their rightful place.
I am convinced that male abusers behave the way they do because they don’t like to see women have a voice, and least of, succeed. Otherwise, there’s no reason for abusing women online, even with no provocation. The abuse makes these men feel powerful and invincible when they get away with it.
There is a lot left to be desired when it comes to online safety for women. The men know too well that they can get away with abuse with no repercussions for the behavior. Our tolerance and silence become a sweet escape for online abusers. When left off the hook, such men become more emboldened with every flight and continue their vicious cycle of misogyny. Online harassment and abuse will not be the norm if more women come forward publicly and name their abusers.
We cannot be hiding away from the world out of fear of abuse by men. The fear and shame belong to the abuser, and not the victim. That’s why women should come out collectively and call out on and report abuse. Be vociferous in our demand for a more equitable and respectful space, even in the online space.
I’ve decided that the ones who cross the line will be named and shamed. I want men to be very careful about what they send me in my inbox or timeline. I will not tolerate disrespect and abuse. While this applies to all genders, it’s more so from our Indian men who have scant respect and harbor a sick outlook towards women.
It’s high time, as a society, we admit our failure in raising our boys right. We must stop putting men on top of pedestals at home, work, and everywhere else, which brings them a false sense of superiority and entitlement. Men must be held accountable for abuse. It is not okay to target and abuse women simply because they think they are the superior sex. It’s high time men learn the basic online etiquette before running amok naked virtually, like pigheaded desperados and abusers.
The world, be it offline or online, is not a man’s world alone. It’s as much a woman’s world as is a man’s, and we will not run and hide anywhere. We will stay, loiter, and conquer our rightful place under the sun. And there’s nothing that abusers can do about it, that will stop us, women from forging ahead.