Rising out of the Web

26Nov10

TBTT Digital Postcard

Today I learnt a new statistic. 95 percent of aggressive behaviour, harassment, abusive language and degrading images online spaces are aimed at women. This is a global phenomenon but one that can be and is overlooked. After all, when we think of violence, it is physical assault that comes to mind. What takes place in the worldwide web does not immediately seem as destructive as a blow on the head. Think again.

The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women defines VAW as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life”. The virtual world or reality as it is called can be quite real. Let’s not forget that the definition of virtual is ‘being such in power, force, or effect, though not actually or expressly such.’

An example of virtual violence that comes to my mind from Pakistan is of a campaign launched a few months ago on Facebook and other sites on the internet targeting a few female television news presenters. The intention was obviously to discredit the women as journalists by making insidious insinuations about their ‘characters.’ The campaign ran its misogynistic and racist life for a few months after which it fizzled. What endured was the performance of the women who were being attacked. They remain as successful and empowered.

I must confess that I too have faced similar harassment. All of this year, any time I was mentioned, interviewed or featured on a website, including my own blog, there was a barrage of abusive emails and comments that followed. It was a recurring message addressed to me and my hosts reminding me of my responsibilities as a Muslim woman. Another charming fellow chooses to maintain a site – kakitv.com –  that discusses the physical attributes of women who appear on television. I mention the website knowing it could bring it more traffic, but also hoping that someone can help shut it down.

Thankfully, there are people who are addressing this issue. The disturbing statistic I mentioned in my opening came to my attention through a campaign called “Take Back The Tech!”. According to their website, ‘Take Back The Tech! is a collaborative campaign that takes place during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence (25 November being the International Day of Violence Against Women – 10 December). It is a call to everyone – especially women and girls – to take control of technology to end violence against women.’

In Pakistan, this dynamic group led by Jehan Ara believe that while technology can be employed by abusers, it can also be used by victims and survivors to connect, to organise and to speak out. On her blog, ‘In the Line of Wire,’ Jehan tells you how you can use technology to create awareness, and participate in a type of activism that is available to everyone even when at home. She shows you how an act as small as sending an SMS, something that is part of our daily lives, can make a difference in ridding the world of violence against woman. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got my phone in my hand.

This piece was first published in the Express Tribune

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6 Responses to “Rising out of the Web”

  1. Great post Naveen. It is because people like you take on the responsibility of talking about this, writing about it and spreading the word, that we hope we will be able to bring down the level of VAW one brick at a time – and maybe even eradicating it because we make it know that it is totally unacceptable. Thank you Naveen for having the courage to always speak up.

  2. 2 Shafiqa

    very nice post. …..
    i also observd the same thing when i was watching dawn news clips n other vedio like popi’s program A taste of fusion, …..

    if anybody dont like the vedio or anything then just say its not or commenst what was wrong, bt what they get by using abusive language…

    well
    nice Naveen u posted on it also..

    Regards

  3. 3 sk

    I don’t think its fair to hold public figures to the same standards as private people. In the case of the former, criticism in whatever form it may be is the fall out of the chosen profession, while for the latter alone does it become exploitation or harassment.

    I mean in all honesty, doesn’t the fake blond import called Mathira realize what she is doing when on TV? And even if she isn’t why is everyone supposed to act like its totally normal when it clearly is not just to spare her feelings? She is perpetuating a character class that no parent would want their child to emulate and in a country already cleaved through the center by extreme polarization and an inexhaustible bout of wannabeism, she isn’t making a parents job any easier. On the other end of the spectrum, a thorough lady like Ms. Sidra Iqbal, fully realizes her impact on her audience and the massive responsibility that comes along with it and is, at least, so far, beyond reproach even by the most perverted (kakitv.com has no clips of her at all). You i believe tread the middle ground and although you don’t have smut on your mind you too would do well to respect the demographic you are claiming to represent and dress accordingly. This is not to say that you are public property and therefore must take all sorts of criticism no matter how invasive or how offensive in your stride, but just as you point out the responsibility of others, you must also recognize your own.

    My chagrin with the current crop of women on Tv goes far beyond the dress sense some of them seem to possess but since you specifically pointed out that site i’m keeping my argument focused on the issue that that particular site represents.

    No offense was intended,i hope none is taken. For what its worth, i am a fan of yours and would be proud to hear my daughter say she looks up to you as a role model. Which is an honor that a depressingly low number of celebrities can lay claim to.

  4. 4 seenalif

    @ sk
    I find it interesting that your response to a post about abuse and violence against women is to critique the behaviour/presentation of women with a public presence (in the case here, the media) according to your own moral standards, although you make sweeping generalisations about those standards – please remember, not everyone has the same definition of what constitutes good character. what, in your opinion, is the connection between the way women conduct themselves in the public eye, and violent or abusive behaviour towards them? how is it that a post about abusive comments has you talking about critique/criticism, as if it’s one and the same?

    “I don’t think its fair to hold public figures to the same standards as private people.”

    why? isn’t that a hypocritical double standard?

    “In the case of the former, criticism in whatever form it may be is the fall out of the chosen profession, while for the latter alone does it become exploitation or harassment.”

    for the latter alone? so if you are in the public sphere, you can’t face harassment or exploitation?

  5. Great post Naveen. It is because people like you take on the responsibility of talking about this, writing about it and spreading the word, that we hope we will be able to bring down the level of VAW one brick at a time – and maybe even eradicating it because we make it know that it is totally unacceptable. Thank you Naveen for having the courage to always speak up.


  1. 1 Tweets that mention My new post on #TakeBackTheTech: Rising out of the Web: -- Topsy.com

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