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Hashtag activism – the opium of lazy feminism

If I imagine our society as a huge brain, I’d think of it as mostly dormant when it comes to the issues on women’s safety. This dozing brain usually wakes up with a jolt from time to time at the end of heinous crimes committed against the lesser half of the society, churns out short phases of outrages, a few marches maybe, and yes #hashtags, before comfortably going back to sleep and sweeping the memory of the crimes under a rug.

Right now the brain is awake and this time what kicked it out of its stupor is the Kundu-Barala high profile chasing/stalking case. As a woman I can imagine how scary it must have been for Varnika that night, and as she herself confessed she was lucky to get out of it unscathed. Also she is lucky to belong to an influential family that she could create enough noise to get swift action against the equally influential assailant. Vikas Barala is now in police custody under stalking and kidnapping charges and judicial process to follow. Case closed as far as we are concerned.

Now going back to our “brain”, oh yes it’s still buzzing but guess what did it synthesized from this case? – a hashtag women’s movement called #AintNoCinderella (ANC). Anyone and everyone worth her salt identifying herself as a “feminist” are splashing the social media with their bold “drinking and/or staying out past midnight” pictures. This is their forceful declaration of not being dainty, dependent Cinderellas against the provocative and primitive remark of yet another politician who thinks women ought to maintain curfew times for their safety and err… dignity.

Going by the media projections and glossy supplements of newspapers, ANC is one heck of a cool successful feminist victory (gone international with BBC, Telegraph, et al picking it) with celeb feminists like Barkha Dutt and baby vanity feminists of various kinds on Social Media, all joining the chorus, posing and posting.

But let me be the pin to the bloated balloon and say this out loud – Ain’t No Cinderella (ANC) isn’t a women’s movement, It’s a privileged section movement. I’ve nothing against the hashtag or its participants, but I’ve objections to this being touted as a women’s movement for ALL women.

Heck! forget women, this is not a movement at all. A movement after a crime against a woman yet again should be talking about safety and lack of it, but ANC is just a mocking exercise against the brainless comment of a hitherto unknown leader Ramveer Bhatti, suggesting women shouldn’t be out alone late at night!! *massive eye roll and facepalm moment*

Yes, that’s a senseless stupid statement, but why do we tend to focus on such statements instead of looking beyond? Why should we make it a priority to mock these people rather than demanding safety measures for all women? Yes, the broader issue is the mindset that is responsible for such statements, but the immediate issue is the plight of women, most of whom have no idea what a hashtag is.

Right after the Chandigarh case, a schoolgirl in Ballia (Uttar Pradesh) Ragini Dubey was stabbed to death in the middle of the day, riding her bicycle to school by her stalkers. She was no Cinderella either and I doubt she knew who Cinderella was!

She didn’t have the privilege of a car (more protection than a cycle any day) to run away, nor other perks of a better life. Now compare the noise this little girl’s death, who could have grown up to become a contributing member of the society (Ragini’s father wanted to make her a doctor) made viz-a-viz the Barala case.

My issue with fancy bubble movements like ANC is that more often than not grave problems around women’s safety like stalking in both these cases, gets restricted to patriarchal idiotic comments made by a few people and we immediately divert all our energies fighting them, while nothing really changes when it comes to women’s safety in general applying to the larger population.

Last year till now, I’ve been reading cases after cases where women were attacked/stabbed to death by jilted lovers/stalkers caught on cameras in broad daylight in safe places. Shredding down this myth that somehow sunlight protects women from assaulters, it would if we were talking about dealing with Vampires!

But instead of talking about this larger menace the focus gets narrowed down to “how dare someone questioned our rights to be out at night?”

How many of these cases and victims do you remember? How many follow ups has the media done to seek justice and in case it was met report it? Let me refresh your memory with a few accounts (apart from the Ballia incident) that a simple google search threw up –

  1. July 2017 – 21 years old woman stabbed to death in broad daylight outside her home in Delhi by her stalker and his two aides. The victim had earlier filed a complaint against the stalker, but guess what.. He ran away only to come back and stab her 7 times! She was an air-hostess in the making.
  2. April 2017 – A 50 year old woman was stabbed twice in her stomach inside her flat of a gated posh Andheri colony. Thankfully she survived!
  3. Dec 2016 – 23 year old Capgemini employee was stabbed to death in Pune while returning from work one evening. This victim too was known to be harassed and stalked by the assailant for a while before the attack.
  4. Oct 2016 – A 34 year old woman was stabbed to death on a crowded metro station in Gurugram by a jilted suitor stalking her for months. This happened on a Monday morning NOT night. The assailant slashed her throat, stabbed her multiple times on her neck, chest, stomach and hand ultimately killing her.
  5. Sept 2016 – A 28 year old woman was stabbed to death by her stalker of 6 years in Delhi. Cut, chased down and stabbed in the stomach, this woman was a mother of two. She had registered complaint against the stalker, who was arrested once then let out on bail and then twice matter resolved by family intervention.
  6. Sept 2016 – A 21 year old woman was stabbed to death in broad daylight on her way to work, she was a teacher. She was stabbed 22 times brutally with a scissor by her stalker of 18 months.
  7. June 2016 – 24 year old woman was hacked to death early morning while waiting for her train on Chennai railway station. The stalker of this Infosys employee who was allegedly one of her friends, was harassing her for sometime demanding her to marry him and eventually hacked her with a sickle.

How many of the above women and their causes of death did you remember? None of these women were defying anything, proving any point but just trying their best to make a good life for themselves despite looming stalkers and daily dangers.

Honestly, being part of that privileged section in real life outside the SM bling, I’ll not give two hoots about any stupid misogynistic comment made by any two bit politician or self proclaimed “samaj ka thekedaar” and carry on with my life going out at whatever time, doing whatever like all those women putting pics on ANC without explaining my life to anyone.

The fact is, this fad will fade. But personally I can’t get over the stalking leading to stabbing of little Ragini and the many before her, because once I wasn’t privileged (and safer in my car) and because once I was young n helpless and have been molested and chased down on roads and felt utterly disgusted, helpless, got into accidents trying to flee from stalkers.

So why are we so bothered about going up against faceless commentators who we don’t own anything in life by trending silly #hashtags but not collectively raising our voices to question the authorities about this lackadaisical law & order situation, and continue to shout and scream till they answer? Why not demand for stricter implementations of law and swift justice? Why not also holding society structures like the film industry etc for promoting this stalking culture blatantly in the name of romance? Why are we still taking the easy way out by skimming the surface and soothing our guilt by making such half-hearted efforts right before dozing off again till the next stabbing? Why?

Don’t get me wrong that I’m trying to impose that privileged women are safe and their harassment be overlooked or not taken seriously, they maybe just a bit safer overall. That’s why whatever the movement it has to be ALL inclusive one and not a factional, fashionable ephemeral whim of a few.

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