Richa Singh |
Globalization affects different groups of women in different places in different ways. On the one hand it may create new opportunities for women to be forerunners in economic and social progress. With the advent of global communication networks and cross-cultural exchange there seems to be a change in the status of women albeit not to a very large extent. However, globalization has indeed promoted ideas and norms of equality for women that have brought about an awareness and acted as a catalyst in their struggle for equitable rights and opportunities. On the other hand it may exacerbate gender inequality in a patriarchal society, especially in the developing world. In the economic realm it may lead to further marginalization of women in the informal labour sector or impoverishment through loss of traditional sources of income.
‘We want equality in rights’, ‘Men cannot dominate us’, ‘don’t judge us by the size of our clothes, ‘I want freedom from custody’, ‘Moving out with guys doesn’t make me easy’ ‘we are not meant for the kitchen’ are a few catchphrases quite evident on the social media these days. These are not merely posts to gather likes and comments but are winds of change, change via the social media.
How does one imagine of a protest? People on the roads, big banners, candles in hand and people shouting the slogans loud. Followed by lathy charge, tear gas attack and a more violent protest. The social media mode of protest is quite different. Here, everybody has a right to say, anybody can comment, like or, share. There are no restrictions except of some reasonable ones. The mode is both polite as well as aggressive.
Even after celebrating 60+ years of Independence, again 60+ years of the Constitution, numerous enactments and several guidelines; India faces gender issues. Restrictions and discrimination on the basis of gender is quite evident. Males form the fairer gender and women are socially tagged to be inferior to them. Owing to this, India has witnessed phases of feminist movements, i.e., fight for the rights of women. Pre independence, the movement revolved around rights relating to marriage, social rights, political rights and gradually they transformed to rights relating to property, education, freedom and most importantly, freedom.
The movement is justified, because women still face atrocities, in the name of marriage, intelligible differentia, consent and custody. In this era, the strive for rights is not only limited to protests and march on roads but is larger than this, by the social media mode.
Why Social Media?
Social Media is the best way to connect, nationally as well as globally. In India, it has been a platform to discuss various issues of immense importance; it has acted as a podium for revolts and most importantly, a medium for communication. Since, January 2014 to July, 2014 around 16 million Indians have joined Facebook , and Google+ happens to be the second most popular social networking site with 35% of the total internet users logging in once in at least 30 days, followed by Twitter and LinkedIn. The age of 15 years to 24 years happens to form the majority in the count of Facebook users in India; and by 2015, India is predicted to be the country with the highest number of Facebook users. These figures evidently state the social media in India amounts to a State; a State which is more popular and more accessible. Evidenlty, the increased reliance of people on social media has made it the best source to popularize.
The Social Media METHODOLOGY:
The social media has taken a new loop. It is not only limited to love, friendship and relatives. It is meant to discuss serious issues, it is meant to learn and create history. Nowadays, it is flooded with pictures, posts, links and videos advocating equality for rights of women.
These days, pictures breaking the stereotype thinking associated with women are constantly being shared on social media. These pictures illustrate men and particularly women holding pluck cards with some revolutionary quote enumerated on them. These slogans touch various issues of color, dowry, equality, freedom, restrictions, jobs, security, safety, women participation and attire. Such pictures have been widely been shared on Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp, elucidating the support for the campaign for the support for the rights of women.
East India Comedy recently shared a video ‘I am not a women’ where Indian men apologized to women. Men in this video have described how beautiful women are and how pleasant it is to be a woman. Women are harassed by men everybody and everywhere; home, roads and at workplace. Men in the video show their respect towards womanhood and condemn ill practices by men on them. The video has been watched by around 5 lakh people and has been shared abundantly.
There have also been sets of social experiments to generate a public opinion where men have been asked whether they can marry a raped girl, a girl asking for condoms to random people, girls being teased by men and north eastern girls being tortured by folks. These experiments have made social media a social classroom, teaching folks what is moral and what is immoral, what is good and what is bad; furthermore, what society is and what it is ought to be. The videos very well state the miserable condition of women in the India society and the associated liability of men.
Not just this, daughters of sex workers have also come out to break the stereotype mindset attached to them. Those saying that they are not ashamed of their mother’s profession are way too revolutionary that one could have ever imagined for. They too have aspirations and that cannot be associated with prostitution.
Touch the pickle initiative by Whisper India also deserves a special mention in this regard. This initiative aims to break down the period taboos leveed on women since long. As a matter of fact, during periods women in India is not permitted to touch the picked, offer prayers to God, wear light coloured clothes, take part in pious activities, and in some cases, they are not allowed to step out of their homes. Whisper India is holding competitions on Facebook and Twitter to help women get out of these taboos and till now more than 10 million women have should their support for the campaign by sharing their pictures and videos for this. They have shared their experiences, steps taken by them to break the taboos, their photos with the sanitary pads and their videos during of period days. This initiative on social media has really initiated a healthy discussion on women health and it is not only women who are being benefitted, but men are also being made aware of the same.
One of the derogatory crimes committed against women is Acid Attack. LakhshmiSa who herself was a victim of acid attacks has come up with her other victims of acid attacks coming up all by themselves. The efforts of Stop Acid Attacks have helped victims to come out with confidence and stand up for themselves. Some of these victims like Rupa have been successful in raising funds to pursue their dreams. Victims of acid attacks, who had been hiding at home, have come up to share their stories. This movement has very well stated that the virtue of a woman doesn’t lie in her beautiful face, but she is much more than that. Throwing acid on her face cannot destroy her ambition and aspirations; she can still stand up and lead a life full of dignity.
Another heinous crime against women is rape. After the incident of 16th December, 2012 that happened in Delhi, an amendment took place in the Criminal Law and also in the Information Technology Act in India. The laws for crime against women are more stringent now and are still violated. A woman, who becomes a victim of these crimes, is subjected to ill-treatment by the society. A woman who is raped is forced to seclude; her virginity is rated over her virtue. Social media campaigns have spread messages against the same stating rape doesn’t end the life a woman, she still exists and her virginity doesn’t define her identity. Rape is wrong because it is a showoff of a patriarchal society; it is a threat to women safety and but not her own self.
The internet itself is not free from acts of crime against women. The web has perpetrated for gender crimes in several cases but only when it has been used in a wrongful manner. On the other side, the social media has acted as a pseudo media laden with awareness quotes and pictures helping women. Several pictures enumerating the provisions of IPC, Evidence Act, CrPC, Women Helpline numbers etc., are shared on the social media and they spread more easily than any other mode.
Do these stuffs shared on social media make an impact? The answer is, yes! They surely do. The success of the pictures, posts, status updates, videos, experiments aimed to nudge people to think in the right direction can be judged by the popularity and support they have gained from men. Moreover, it has helped women gain confidence to talk about things about which they used to whisper earlier.
Had there been no social media, the India society could have never witnessed women describing the acts of sexual abuse they had been through. In real life, women generally don’t even discuss about prank calls, derogatory comments, bad touch, and verbal molestation or, in some cases physical molestation and every other ridicule they suffer. Social media has aided women to open up to such an extent that they via social media are constantly sharing the acts of sexual violence they have been through, viz., abuse by relatives, teachers, friends and strangers. The breaking stereotype campaigns, the pluck card method, the Pages , Groups, the ‘strong’ woman figure have created a great impact factor , made female goddesses again.
The social media fear has again produced a great impact. Any pejorative act by men against women is shared via pictures, videos and posts. There is hardly anybody to judge a woman on social media; and there are so many in support. Inserting a hash tag in a post is another sign to protest, and such hash tags for the support of women rights are trending these days. The means end of feminism or, the fight for rights of women is not only the implementations of their rightful, right; but also the freedom for them to walk freely on roads with their heads high.
Richa Singh, Journalist & Assistant Professor, Political Science, G.L.A. College, Daltonganj Palamau Jharkhand