I Don’t Feel Safe

Ok, I know most of you are rolling your eyes, and thinking “this chick is going on and on..” but before you sit and taunt my diatribe, (I call it that because to most of you, it may seem like one..) let me highlight why I don’t feel safe. Safety, for women especially has been a grave issue, given┬áthe increase in heinous crimes against women and more seriously sex crimes. It’s a pressing issue and it is (hopefully) beginning to increase awareness among the populace that something needs to be done. But, what happens when it stretches to the one place we like to think we can escape it from – the Internet? Are we simply going to brush it aside and call it the work of attention-seeking ‘keyboard warriors’, who don’t have anything better to do other than to insult anyone that disagrees with their line of thinking? Most of the time, we do, but on January 6th, the keyboard warriors and so called Internet trolls stooped to an all time low and decided to single out some women, all who are prominent in the Indian dance music industry.

Now, before I dive any further, I must clear up a few things. One, these trolls have been hounding many of the women for a while now, without the vociferous hate and have usually been told off, or have been ignored. They lose steam and go crawling back into their caves, waiting for another day to attack. Unfortunately, a few trolls and keyboard warriors decided to join forces and launch a series of vicious attacks on the ladies, and I had the misfortune of being in their line of fire.

There I was, minding my own business, doing my own thing when one such gentleman (I use the term quite loosely), decided to make a silly remark on a post I shared that highlighted an artist’s treatment at a particular festival in Goa. I responded back with a slightly humorous reply and even went on to wish this sorry soul a Happy New Year. There, wasn’t that nice of me? And I thought, well, that’s the end of that. But this young gent didn’t take too kindly to my seemingly harmless reply, and started saying I was ‘ass-kissing’ and how much was I paid to kiss ass? Now, I’d have replied back with a more vicious reply – and something far more eloquent, but with good sense, I decided against it and proceeded to block this fellow. Problem solved! (Or so I thought).

The attacks went on to an all time low when this fellow (or another of his sorry minions) decided to pick on me on Twitter. It started with “Your profile picture looks like you are paid to kiss a lot of ass. #MenoPause”. And the only reply I had to that was “Thanks :)”, hoping he’d just leave me alone. But no.. this fellow apparently doesn’t like smiley faces and simple replies, he went on to call us ‘cock-sucking clans’ and ‘ass-kissers’ and ‘jobless’ people who tweet ‘shit’ everyday. The scathing tweets continued. I kept quiet, and kept ReTweeting for people to see, so that they knew what was going on. Eventually, some of my friends, acquaintances, and people I barely knew started getting in on the action and began reporting this fine individual for his colourful language. The support was incredible. And eventually, the account was suspended. Hats off to everyone that played a part in suspending this fellow’s account! (I’m pretty sure he’ll be back, though.)

But – this is what I took away from the incident. I don’t know in what joy this person decided to single me out and launch such a horrifying barrage of insults, that resulted in his account being suspended. I don’t feel like writing anything that is opinionated anymore, or speak freely, because I don’t want another evening ruined by such drama. It isn’t that I can’t take care of myself, believe me, I can – but do I want to be subjected to this kind of hate? I didn’t sleep well at all, I was troubled and yes, I was mentally exhausted by all the drama that unfolded. You might be thinking “it’s just online, why are you so stressed, or making a big deal?” I’ll tell you why – there are countless people who come onto the Internet to have fun, and possibly unwind after a heavy day at work. People like me spend most of my time on the Internet because I write, and research so I’m always on Social Media. I don’t want to face hate in such a miserable fashion. I don’t want to feel that I cannot express myself freely or second guess what I’m writing. I don’t want to have such vicious abuses hurled at me for expressing an opinion. Sure, I can take the hate to an extent, and carry on, but not to this extent.

Many of you are reading this and thinking “it’s the Internet, deal with it.” but no. I won’t deal with it. Maybe you are stronger and more resilient and things like these bounce off your skin, but me? I’d like to point out that it isn’t about just me. I want to have a voice, to be heard not for myself but for the people who are scared of what outcome they may face for bringing to light the hate they are dealing with. I WAS scared, but I realized that it’s now or never. If I can contribute in making an example of just one or two individuals who pride on insulting women and have no respect for them, it can hopefully make a small difference. At the end of the day, not knowing how to speak to a woman is something that society the world over doesn’t accept, and these trolls are instrumental is causing pain and hurt to women. Some of them have even gone to the extent of saying that women don’t need the respect, they should fend for themselves. Do we honestly want to feel this vulnerable and unsafe? I know I don’t, and I’ve decided to take action against this so called ‘cyber-bullying’. It hasn’t been easy for me to buck up the courage to do this, but with the support of some of my friends, I know, I’m going to be okay.

Shilpa, Out.

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