We all know how cruel the cyberworld can be and how much capacity it holds in affecting our ‘real’ life. But the online can be particularly harsh towards women through multiple means like cyberbullying, sexism, objectification, commercialization, misogyny, profanity towards women etc.
Social media plays the pivotal role in this actualization. It can act as a stressbuster at time but often it is a cesspool where the most of hatred and vilification of women takes place.
Women who speak out on social media, be it about politics, social issues, or even just personal opinions, are often met with a barrage of abusive and threatening messages.
The problem of misogyny on social media is not just limited to individuals; it has also become a widespread cultural problem, with significant implications for gender equality and women’s safety.
The hatred and violence which is perpetuated online takes an even uglier shape in the form of domestic violence, sexualization of minors, conspiracy theories against women, and scepticism over women’s capabilities.
MANIFESTATIONS OF MISOGYNY
One of the most alarming aspects of social media’s rampant misogyny is the normalization of violence against women. Online forums, chat rooms, and social media platforms have become a space where the most extreme forms of violence against women are celebrated and encouraged.
This normalization of violence creates an environment in which men feel empowered to attack women, verbally and physically, without any repercussions. This gives rise to the rape culture, where some men deem it their right to abuse women sexually and take what is ‘owed’ to them.
They feel that their unwanted, deplorable and sexual advances should be met with equal enthusiasm from women and if it doesn’t then it’s the prerogative of men to ‘claim’ their due ‘share’.
On the other hand if there is a woman is outspoken, sexually active, assertive and has a strong personality will be met with extreme resentment, and violence against her would be completely justified in the name of culture, religion or assertion of dominance of men over women.
Another aspect of the misogyny problem is the lack of accountability. Social media platforms have yet to find an effective way to deal with the issue of online abuse. Despite their policies against hate speech and harassment, many platforms fail to take adequate action against offenders.
This lack of accountability creates a sense of impunity for perpetrators, making it even more challenging to hold them responsible for their actions. The biggest factor in it is the anonymity that social media allows it users to have. It has its own upsides, yes, but this feature is heavily exploited.
Online trolls use this anonymity to attack women online in huge numbers. Heavy abuses, foul language, rape threats, death threats etc. are made against them with total impunity. This lack of accountability for these actions encourages them to go even further which results in violence being seeped into the actual world where women are killed, raped, molested, and extreme profanity used against them.
Troll Patrol India: Exposing Online Abuse Faced by Women lawmakers in India, a 76-page research produced by Amnesty International, examined more than 114,000 tweets directed to 95 women lawmakers during and after the 2019 general elections in India.
The study discovered that women face online abuse not only for their beliefs, but also for their gender, religion, caste, and marital status. The 95 lawmakers represented a wide range of political perspectives.
According to Amnesty’s research, 13.8% of the tweets in the study were either “problematic” or “abusive.” Tweets that contain unpleasant or hostile content, especially if repeated to an individual on several times, but do not necessarily meet the threshold of abuse, were defined as problematic content.
Another problematic aspect of the social media is the incel culture. ‘Incel’ is an abbreviation for ‘involuntary celibate.’ Incels are a group of men that meet online to commiserate over their failure to attract women. Incels, like many other internet forums, began as a place for lonely people to communicate but quickly degraded into violent misogyny.
Incels is part of a broader network of blogs, forums, and websites known as the manosphere, which is populated by heartbroken men who are victims of an increasingly unjust society. They believe that, as men, they are owed to ‘have a woman’ and their inability to attract women is women’s fault and not their own. They generally lament the ‘modernisation’ of women and despise the feminist movement. What they lack in their social skills and mannerisms, they make up for it in forming groups like Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW) where they collectively abuse, objectify, vilify and hate women.
The impact of this rampant misogyny on women’s real life cannot be overstated. The constant barrage of abuse and threats can cause significant psychological distress and trauma. Women who experience online abuse are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, and PTSD. The impact on their mental health can be long-lasting and have significant implications for their overall well-being.
This leads to the low confidence of women and the reluctance of women to share their personal details online. Many women who face such abuses engage in self-destructive behaviours like drug abuse. The confidence level and self-respect of a huge female population has taken a major hit due to the online abuses and violence they face.
Some women who face the abuse in an extreme manner commit suicide. The problem of rampant misogyny on social media is not just limited to women’s mental health. It also has broader societal implications. The normalization of violence against women and the lack of accountability for offenders create a culture in which gender-based violence is normalized.
This normalization can have a profound impact on women’s safety, perpetuating a cycle of violence and fear. It is a problem that requires a multi-faceted solution that includes social media platforms, law enforcement agencies, and society as a whole. We must work together to create a culture that values and respects women, both online and offline. Only then can we hope to eradicate this insidious form of misogyny and create a safer and more equitable world for all.