It’s a hard time to be on the Internet. Reams of sexist jokes, ‘Men’s Rights Activists’, and trolls waiting for a fight; all vying for attention. But there are some who are taking the online platform to use it to fight patriarchy, and it’s working — including girls in namma Chennai! With a series of viral campaigns active now, social media space is being used for feminist activism — and how.
‘The Spoilt Modern Indian Woman’, is a pan-Indian venture that has several Chennai participants. It is an unapologetically feminist page, which has used memes to battle gender roles. They structure their memes so they would start off sounding like a sexist comment, but then have a surprise ending or revelation. The page, run by Sonam Mittal and an admin who likes to go by the pseudonym Bruce Vain, went viral once this campaign was out.
Bruce tells us, “We were toying with this idea for a while. Later, we asked women to send in their pictures, this made the campaign really personable and identifiable. We’ve had confrontations with misogynists and ‘MRAs’ and we realised this was never-ending. The only way we could challenge the stereotypes attached to women is by using what is used to build them — humour. You are conditioned to hear/see a certain line in a certain context. When you see and hear the opposite, it breaks that conditioning.
Bruce adds, “It was great to see women come forward and voice their opinions for this.” Smritha Venkatraman, manager at a lifestyle website in Chennai, tells us why she participated in this campaign — “I loved the idea and as is obvious, the concept of feminism isn’t really present in Chennai. So I decided to take part in this initiative. However, engaging in discussions with misogynists is really boring, so the use of humour as part of something bigger, seemed like a much better idea.”
There are many such online campaigns including ‘Thupatta Rap’, an event that invited women to rap about the injustice of having dress codes in temples. The entries included gems such as, ‘If I wear pants, I’m against your culture. But you, you will worship every naked sculpture?’ by Kirthi Jayakumar, an author. She explains, “I found the rap to be a great and unique way to denounce these draconian policies. I think online campaigns do work but they’re not enough. We need to take this offline too.”
‘Why Loiter’, a campaign that encourages women to wander and post photos ‘loitering’, created the event. A project manager at a marketing firm, Roshini John participated in Why Loiter. “I’ve always enjoyed going out and doing things by myself. When I saw the campaign I realised that something as basic as the joy of wandering has become a safety issue for women. So I contributed it,” she concludes.attled sexist jokes with feminist and more inclusive ones.”