#SelfiewithDaughter, an initiative started in a small Haryana village and first highlighted by The Indian Express, has become a rage on Twitter and not for the right reasons. Prime Minister Narendra Modi might have asked people to tweet #SelfiewithDaughter on his Mann Ki Baat address, but all that it has done is highlighted the kind of sexism that exists in the country.
Two women who’ve faced the brunt of this sexism are Kavita Krishnan, secretary for the All-India-Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) and known advocate for women’s rights, and actor Shruti Seth. So what did Krishnan and Seth say to provoke so much anger? They chose to critique, raised questions about a popular campaign that has the blessings of the PM himself.
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Seth tweeted out in a series, “A selfie is not a device to bring about change Mr. PM Try reform. Those defending the #selfie plan by the PM FYI change is needed in the illiterate parts where ‘no front facing camera phones exist’. Think. Seriously get over your selfie obsession Mr. PM. Be more than a photograph.” She has since then deleted the tweets.
Krishnan was more sharp in her criticism and even made a reference to the ‘SnoopGate’ incident. Her tweet even brought out the inherent sexism of ‘babuji’ Alok Nath’ who called her a ‘b****’ on Twitter and said she should be jailed. He later deleted the tweet, but not before screenshots had been taken and circulated. So what provoked our ‘sanskari’ Babuji? According to one of his other replies, he felt she had crossed a line.
That’s really it. Women cannot cross this invisible line even on social media. And this line seems to be re-drawn every time there’s a new issue in town. Of course, social media is about men crossing this line day in and day out without any consequences.
If you’re a woman on Twitter, expressing a dissenting opinion, is a good enough reason to invite abuse, rape threats, comments about how you look, how you’re just starving for attention, etc. often from men who don’t even have the guts to show their face or reveal their name on the platform. As a woman on social media, you dare not be provocative in your thoughts.
And it does not just apply to politics. Expressing an opinion on anything can invite such abuse: e-commerce, technology, idiotic YouTube videos about men’s rights. I say this because I’ve faced the same and now simply choose not to tweet unless I must.
In this particular case, the irony is hard to miss. #SelfiewithDaughters is apparently about respecting daughters, and realising that girls matter as well, that our abysmal gender ratio needs to be corrected.
But what #SelfiewithDaughter ignores is that this current gender ratio is a consequence of the inherent patriarchy in our system. A system where girls are second to boys; which tells girls that they don’t matter. While the campaign is a noble one, it does not do much in terms of promoting gender rights. Is it so wrong to ask what after #SelfiewithDaughter? What about equal education for girls, equal income for women? What about letting daughters have the freedom to choose who they wish to marry?
And that’s the thing: If women themselves cannot critique a campaign that claims to be for the good of their own gender, then what women’s rights are we talking about. You might not agree with Krishnan’s view or Seth’s view or might say that being cynical of such campaigns is not a good idea. That’s fine.
But what is not justified are the rape threats, comments on looks, calls for lynching. As Kavita Krishnan’s Facebook page shows, some users have made abusing on social media an art form. Ironically, all that they are doing is proving how the worst of our patriarchal system continues to thrive on the Internet and that no amount of #selfies will change that.