WXmen onLine? Covid and online dating

Text: “You have one new message in your Facebook Messenger.” 

Out of curiosity, I checked my mobile immediately. 

Text: Anonymous user: “Do you want to go out for dinner with me?” 

Me: “No. Anonymous user: “You are ugly anyway bitch. At least lose some weight.” 

Text: So  why assume I’m hungry or thirsty? and surely, if you weren’t such a fool, would know that a gym would be a better idea! 

Online misogyny is a global phenomenon, and a rising challenge for digital feminism. Every day we as women encounter online abuse in messages, tweets, and comments.  Despite the MeToo movement, a President or a street harasser can  just grab us by the p***y, whenever they want. In every walk of life, from a homemaker to acting as a head of a state, women have proved that they are capable of moving one step ahead of men. Yet, a constant reminder is there that we are still far from being equal to men. Women’s rights are proclaimed everywhere. Governments have devised sexual harassment laws. Women’s protection laws are formulated in most of the countries. #NotAllMen though tried to erase the bigoted image of men, has indirectly contributed a minute share in promoting feminism. 

There is no denial in the fact that women’s rights have persistently been improved. However, the question to ponder is: Are women as safe as the society thinks they are? Every year women’s day is celebrated with full zeal and zest. But, for what? If the law agencies in a country are still struggling to stop men from groping, staring, harassing, then there is still a lot more which we as a society have to do. 

Misogyny is deep down adherent to our roots. Still there is a belief that women are not good drivers or tech is not a woman’s field. And not to forget, commenting on a social media post is definitely not a women’s thing to do. Bullying, menacing and abusing women through online platforms are a new type of misogyny. If I talk about facts and figures (stereotyped as man’s job), then according to a survey report by a world leading newspaper, in the UK only, 6,500 twitter users have faced online misogynists abuse in the past year. Globally, it’s 200,000 tweets where the word Lifestyle 9 Kerb | March 2017 whore and slut had been used. 

Women celebrities are unambiguously a public property and abusing, shaming and threatening them is right of every meninist. From Ashley Judd, an actor from a first world country, to Mawra Hocane, an actor from a third world country, no one is shielded from these online misogynists. But online misogyny is not limited to celebrities only. They are not segregated on their nationality and ethnicity. For men they are just women. Take a moment and comment on a public post, social media warriors stating everything that can negate your belief will confront you. The precise to be mentioned is: “Nobody asked your opinion slut. Go back to your kitchen”, or, “Marital rape is not a crime you ugly face whore. Marriage means right to do everything”. Also try defending your stance, you will deal with more misogynists, get abused and threatened because, only men can talk with logic, women cannot. There may be certain situations where you will confront a man whose mother, daughter, wife has not experienced a certain thing, and so it’s definite that no woman in the world has experienced that. But if she had, it’s obvious that she is lying. In guise of freedom of speech, women will also encounter rape memes and jokes. However, many consider online misogyny a fictitious tale. According to them: “Online misogyny is really about protecting feminist’s, who spread misinformation from being called out or harassed.” Or on a lighter note: “I can’t take this whiny feminist crap. They should act like grownups”.

The story does not end here. In many parts of the world, women fear to upload their pictures on social media platforms because there is a chance of them being misused, “revenge porn” on top of them. But again, according to meninists, the fault lies with women. They are the ones who provoked men by revealing their body in the profile pictures. Hence, men are allowed to use personal pictures of them without consent. Therefore, if a woman is not satisfying the description of a good girl by society, she deserves to be harassed. Revenge porn is the most common online crime, where 95 percent of the victims are women. It first gained attention in 2011, by wide scale media when an internet entrepreneur Hunter Moore’s created a website. He invited users to upload nude pictures of their ex-partners alongside their personal information. It was not limited to that website only; many of the female celebrities faced revenge porn through their smartphones being hacked and images being fabricated. Many of them faced media backlash. Although they were the victims, they were blamed for their victimisation. 

The UN declaration 1993, states violence against women to be: “Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community”. Now is the time to consider online misogyny as a sexual violence too because of its detrimental effects, especially on mental health. To deal with patriarchy, governments as well as social media giants should ensure online safety of women. They should not only protect them but take steps to prevent the crime as well. Women should also be encouraged to report the crime even if it is committed by someone they know. 

For how long are they going to be afraid of online harassment by perverts, just like stepping out of the home alone at midnight? One hopes that gender protection laws will help to eradicate patriarchy from the society, but it is the mental acceptance of gender equality which is required from every man around the globe. Otherwise the rise of different kinds of misogyny will become inevitable. 

Kiran Jhaved is a lecturer in Media and Communication  and is based in the UK.


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