Online Trolling and Silencing Women: An Issue of Cyber Harassment
“It’s not about what you say that prompts it — it’s the fact that you are saying it.” -Mary Beard
The dark, deep world of the internet is nothing less than a swamp infested with crocodiles. The only difference is that the crocodiles of the internet are the online trolls, the ones who are forever ready to pounce on an opinionated woman.
Online media today allows for an extremely fast flow of information. It also facilitates an active participation by the public in terms of sharing ideas and counter-viewpoints. But it is these posting of opinions, specifically by women, that makes them a target of trolling. Misogynistic comments coupled with abuses are hurled under the guise of free speech. Rape threats, death threats, more often than not, impact the future online activities by women.
Whether these women are renowned journalists or just a regular Jane Doe with a radical opinion or someone who posted a picture not considered ‘normal’, no one is safe from the trolls who hide behind the veil of anonymity. Recent example maybe the trolling faced by Lisa Haydon for posting a picture of her breastfeeding her child in order to remove the taboo around the same. One such comments of slut-shaming went as follows-
Shaming women in order to silence them has been an age-old practice. Their private lives, sexual preferences, professional achievements; all are considered to be public property, one which can be laid bare anytime they dare to lend a voice of reason to ongoing issues.
It is not that men do not have a share of online harassment. But when it comes to women, the harassment is usually accompanied by vivid descriptions of sexual violence that ‘needs’ to be committed against them.
In India, the one band of trolls that stands out is the sanskaari trolls, who, for the lack of any other entertainment in their lives have taken it upon themselves to protect Indian ‘sabhyaata’. Targeting women who are leading professionals in their fields, women who wear short clothes, women who dare to question jingoism (Gurmehar Kaur) or women in general; these trolls probably do not realize that they are committing the crime of cyber bullying.
Cyber bullying, like traditional bullying, involves an imbalance of power, aggression, and a negative action that is often repeated — Violence Prevention Works. An online platform which deals with the myriad issues of bullying, including cyber bullying, Violence Prevention Works is geared towards creating a safe environment for children as well as people who are active online.
The issue of online trolling reached such heights that the Maneka Gandhi, Women and Child Development Minister, had asked women to register their complaints using #IAmTrolledHelp. Moreover, women who have been harassed have the option of approaching the cyber-crime cell. Section 66A of the Information Technology Act lists offensive messages sent through communication services as punishable.
Preventing women from claiming their own space is not a show of power, rather it is the product of a system which believes that women always need to be taught their place. Online trolling is a by-product of such ideologies.
If you have been facing some sort of cyber bullying or want to learn more about how to tackle it, then visit our website.