“Online violence: Just because it’s virtual
doesn’t make it any less real”
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, two private photos of teenagers shot by a boyfriend are shared without their permission on Facebook. A young woman is covertly photographed and harassed online in Bosnia and Herzegovina by a stalker who says they share a “forbidden relationship.” And in Pakistan, the address of an outspoken human rights activist has been included in the blog article imploring readers to kill her, and a couple of weeks later, the activist and her husband are killed in a drive-by shooting.
These are only a few highlights of the many styles of sexual abuse experienced by women all around the world. Women are subject to anonymous threats of rape, internet assault, cyber stalking, extortion, and more on a daily basis. “Online violence against women is an overt expression of the gender discrimination and inequality that exists offline. Online, it becomes amplified,” says Jac sm Kee of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), a Global Fund for Women grantee partner, which provided the above examples of online violence and harassment.
“The most important way to shift this is to enable women and girls to engage with the Internet at all levels – from use, creation, and development to the imagination of what it should and can be.” APC released findings that examined over 1,000 cases of technology based violence from seven countries, and found that women aged 18 to 30 are most likely to experience online violence, and that less than half of the cases reported to authorities have been investigated.
In a world where we work online and offline comfortably every day, sometimes in both spaces at the same time , it is important for us to discuss the abuse faced by women in both domains. Online abuse is actual violence,’ says the Mumbai-based non-profit Point of View’s Bishakha Datta. Since it restricts our right to equal and complete participation, our freedom of speech and our right to protection and privacy, we need to resolve online abuse. It doesn’t make it any less real simply because it’s in the virtual world.
A powerful and relevant voice on such a critical topic is Ashley Judd. This talk is an inspiration to women and their allies, especially when sharing their encounters with online outlets where people, generally anonymously, have access to you. She’s coming up with some brilliant strategies too, but I’m not going to ruin them here for you.
Ashley Judd is a successful actor who has appeared in more than 30 films and many hit TV shows in Hollywood, but she did not talk about her career or her journey. What she spoke about instead was how online misogyny is a global gender-right tragedy and about the need for it to end. “She started her talk by shining light on a few feedback that came her way, other than calling and slut-shaming names, she said things like,” I want Ashley Judd to die a miserable death, she’s the utter worst, “or” Ashley Judd, you’re the reason women shouldn’t vote, “or” Twisted is such a poor movie, I don’t even want to watch it.
She said she tried everything from avoiding the comments to taking the higher motives, but after the comments were read, they seeped in and had a devastating influence and gradually started to expect that things said about her were not actual, internalising sexism in the process of being a feminist self-confessed process. She also explained that, instead of “it is a structure in which we all share, including me,” Patriarchy for her is not boys and men. She then spoke about the extent of online misogyny as a global epidemic and how it effects our mental health.
Our mental well-being is also greatly impaired because the danger of aggression is neurologically viewed as violence, because our cortisone rockets up and the limbic system is biochemically charged when people lose efficiency or their control at work. Recognizing that it is a valid and dangerous manifestation of gender related abuse is the first step toward combating online harassment against women.
“The fact that online violence is actual violence is recognised by particular women who witness online harassment, but so often their colleagues, colleagues, or families don’t,” Datta says. “It’s laughed at occasionally. If they speak about harassment, some communities prohibit girls and women from accessing the internet, but they do not inform their communities. In the interest of defending them, isn’t this equivalent to locking up girls at home for their own ‘protection’ or limiting their mobility? This isn’t working offline, and it’s not going to work online. Other Suggested forms in which this issue can be curbed:
- We must start with the literacy of digital media, and clearly it must have a gendered lens
- Sexism must stop in the workplaces and colleges.
- Our lawmakers need to write and pass clever legislation that represents the technologies of today and our idea of free and hate-speech.
Online sexism, as discussed in the talk, is essentially a human interaction problem, and human contact can only curb it as it is the core of healing. In order to add significantly to the crisis, we must also continue to relate and listen to those who want to share the hardship they have faced and thereby heal those we can. Trauma is spread when trauma is not converted, and by having a listening ear, if we can stop this hate cycle, then we must. Since it is our duty to discourage some form of violence by those considered vulnerable, equality can only be extended as we curb harassment.
The first step towards reducing online bullying is by understanding that even though we are hidden behind a keyboard, there are ways in which, you can be caught. If it just takes one second for you to destroy somebody’s image, it will take the same amount of time to destroy your image. It is important that the we adhere to some discipline and responsibility in our personal lives.
One of the main reasons for increase in online bullying is that there is no fear of being caught. But we fail to discuss the other important reason behind increased online bullying. That is lack of self esteem and self respect. A lot of times, people just troll others and bully others on the internet, because it gives them a kind of cheap satisfaction. Because in real life they are unable to achieve anything or even fight for themselves, these trolls decide to bully someone online. It is important that we break this false sense of achievement of some people.
Internet is like a Double edge sword.
When the knief is given to a Doctor, he saves lives,
When a Knief is given to a Housewives, she chops vegetables to feed the family
When the Knief is given to a Criminal, he will end up taking a life.
Similar is the story of the Internet, there are some, who will use it to help others, there are some, who will always use it to destroy others.
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