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 normalised.
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. I realized this was a stalker who was not on my friends list, but who’d constantly message me and I’d ignore him. When I told him I don’t have time for chats on the same post, his reply was a brusque, “Aayiye to sahi!”
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 favourite alcoholic drink, invasive video calls on messenger the minute you add them, and more.
I am extra cautious of whom I accept on my friend list. In fact, I think sending unwanted friend requests, direct messages or comments on your public posts itself can be the first sign of male privilege and online harassment/abuse.
Psychology behind 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 all, 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.
Why women must speak up
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 behaviour.
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 harbour a sick outlook towards women.
The way forward
As a society, we must admit our failure in raising our boys right- stop putting men on top of pedestals at home, work, and everywhere else, which brings them a false sense of superiority and entitlement. We must hold men accountable for abuse. It is not okay to target and abuse women 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.
Be it offline or online, it’s not a man’s world alone. It’s as much a woman’s world 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.