In Focus

Women find their voice in Social Media

By Vedika Jain

Social media platforms are encouraging women from diverse backgrounds and socio-economic strata to have an audience and be heard. Even women who were denied any power traditionally or even the ‘privilege’ to exercise decision-making are now finding their footing, creating identities through social media.

A Mumbai-based media professional Sneha Nair accepts that despite being in ‘powerful’ positions, women often exercise restraint in dealing with male subordinates or counterparts.

“Female bosses also face sexual harassment and sexually-coloured remarks even at the hands of their subordinates.” The law is in place but often the organisation-level committees discourage complaints and dissuade further actions. “I am very happy that the #MeToo movement came as it has instilled some sort of fear of public shaming and has hopefully deterred such habitual perpetrators.”

The #MeToo movement came to India when Bollywood actress Tanushree Dutta accused some members of the film fraternity of sexual harassment. It triggered a wave where women from all walks of life took to social media to share their experiences of harassment at workplace. Many repeat offenders were identified publicly, and many victims even got the courage to approach the police.

The merits and demerits of the #MeToo movement are a topic of another debate as there were several instances when false allegations were also made. The fact remains that this movement encouraged millions of girls and women to be heard and come out of their guilt-ridden cocoons. And that’s the power of social media.

India has several laws that protect and uphold women rights and several policies and schemes that ensure affirmative action for the ‘weaker’ gender. However, societal perceptions and bias among law enforcing authorities often discourage delivery of justice.

Cyber-space has, in such cases, empowered women to speak up about the abuse they are suffering at the hands of their husbands, authorities, or even their own families - without being ostracised from the community or even any direct or indirect shaming from their families. Shaming and the imposed guilt of bringing a bad name to the family is often the biggest reason why many women do not complain about their abuse.

Many families stop young girls and women from approaching the authorities in case of child abuse, rape, domestic violence, etc. But social media has helped women to reach out to authorities and para-legal services even without the support of their families.