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Is Trolling Women on Social Media a New Cult?

Living in a country where freedom of speech is appreciated, it is disheartening to detect such a condemning outlook towards someone's thoughts and actions.

Representational Image, Pixabay

– by Naina Mishra

April 09, 2017: Social media is not only confined to building relationships these days but on the other side of the purview, it has unfolded into a platform to hoist a voice on issues which is of an individuals’ concern. However, a bizarre trend on social media insinuates that trolling women on the internet has become a leisure exercise for most of the misanthropists. Women are prone to the heightened rates of physical threats and harassment which is deemed as ‘common’ to their male peers in general.

Moreover, anonymity is also the reason which allows abuse to flourish in cyberspace. Out of the myriads of reason in the rear of amorality at virtual space, one of them could be apprehended as the tendency to spurn the opinions propagated by women on social media and retaliation by men owing to the bigoted behavior.

A study conducted by Pew Research center states that Women are predisposed to see online harassment as traumatic as compared to men. Nearly four-in-ten (38%) women who experienced it found it extremely or very upsetting compared with 17% of men.

Besides, the survey by Pew research also concluded that half of those harassed online do not know who is behind the online harassment. 38% said it was a stranger and 26% said they didn’t know the real identity of the person.

I, Naina Mishra (Reporter, Newsgram) spoke to Mr. Jitendra Mohan, President of Asia-Pacific Association of Psychology and Editor-in-Chief of Indian Journal of Psychology concerning the rampant problem in cyberspace.

“The Internet is a very uncertain system which has overtaken the other system of communication. Many people feel much empowered by disparaging the other person whereas it becomes a paralyzing situation for the person who receives it. I believe women are the basic foundation of our culture but such things are only preached and not implemented in our society. Some of the people who use the internet are poorer people and feel greater about themselves when they hurt someone on the internet. However, Greatness lies in respecting yourself, respecting others and communicating at a higher level,” said Jitendra Mohan on the violent behavior of men towards women on the internet.

Mr. Mohan further accentuated by saying, “How we react to our sisters and how we react to the girl who is a stranger to us is imbibed right in the beginning of the childhood. The sense of taking women as granted carries on for an indefinite period of time and manifested on the internet.”

The handicap of hostility plays a major role. When they do not get a chance to speak directly they find hidden means to display their anger, says Mr. Mohan.

Hurting women is a classic example of the low self-concept, bad child rearing and low values of culture. Trolling, hurting, sending bad messages happens in the wake of anonymity and no sense of fear of getting caught.

Opportunely we find women not accepting this medium of communication and they have started reacting to it, which is a right thing to do. Not accepting such hostile invasion on their individuality is very important.

“Trolling is condemnable and people who take up such activities should get their cognizance and abnormality checked. A man is great when he respects a woman and not by hurting women” remarked Mr. Jitendra Mohan, Professor Emeritus of Psychology.

He also presented a message for the women who find it difficult to sustain in virtual space.

“Trolling affects the victims’ life in many depressing ways. She does not have to succumb to the attacks. She needs to understand that she is being vilified by the wrong people. Her body, mind and her way of life cannot be attacked by anybody because it is defined by her. Do not let anyone intervene in your private affair. It is better not to confront to the hooligans. Bullies make you stronger. Reiterate – You can’t dictate me, you can’t define me and by no chance can you demolish me.”

Sight of Violent Trolling-

Excerpts from the victims by Pew research survey;

Kavita Krishnan, a well-known Delhi-based women’s activist was attacked sadistically during an online chat subjected to violence against women on ‘rediff.com’.

“One person, with the handle @RAPIST, started posting abusive comments. He then asked me where he could come to rape me using a condom” told Kavita to BBC News.

Sagarika Ghose, a popular journalist who anchors prime-time bulletins on CNN-IBN and writes for a leading newspaper was threatened regularly with the gang rape and stripping on Twitter.

“Targeting me for my journalism is fine. But when it is sexist and foul-mouthed abuse which insults my gender identity I get incredibly angry. In the beginning, I used to retaliate, but that would lead to more abuse” told Sagarika Ghose to BBC News.

Another incident of the kind was reported recently where the History Honors student of Miranda House College returned home from the concert in an upbeat state of mind, just to find semen stains on the pants she had been wearing. She then recalled a man standing behind her at the show and touching her, however she at first overlooked it thinking it to be accidental. After a while, she realized that the guy didn’t back off until then. The matter further soared and alarmed by an “odor”, she pushed him away.


A screenshot of the Victim profile from the facebook
A person has uploaded a trolled image posted by the girl on the timeline about a sensitive issue

Internet – such a brilliant conception. Wouldn’t it have been great if we were able to uphold the very essence of it in an optimistic sense? The first few years saw an unfettered world of internet exclusive of the hostility and crimes, however, such is not the status now. Trolling women on the internet has become a new cult and many of us tend to appreciate it and derive sadistic pleasures out of it. Little do we realize the consequences of lewd remarks passed on to someone’s face, body, profession or even for that matter – opinions of a woman which are unaccepted by the intolerant men. 

Living in a country where freedom of speech is appreciated, it is disheartening to detect such a condemning outlook towards someone’s thoughts and actions.

– by Naina Mishra of Newsgram, Twitter: Nainamishr94



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Melinda Gates Speaks on ‘How Men can Benefit from Women Empowerment’

"Feminism is when a woman has her full voice, and her full decision-making authority wherever she is in her life, in her home, in her community and in her workplace. If she has her voice and can take any decision, then she is fully empowered. And if you believe that, then you are feminist, in my opinion"

melinda gates, the moment of life
FILE - Melinda Gates displays her new book, "The Moment of Lift," in Kirkland, Wash., April 18, 2019. VOA

VOA Africa Division’s Linord Moudou spoke to Melinda Gates about women’s empowerment, work in Africa, the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and how men can benefit from women’s empowerment. The interview also touched on the pay gap between men and women and the anti-vaccination movement.

Q: Melinda Gates, thank you so much for joining us on the Voice of America.

Melinda Gates: Thanks for having me.

Q: You just released a book, The Moment of Lift. First of all, you are well known as a accomplished businesswoman and a philanthropist. Why was it important for you to become an author and write this book?

Gates: Well, I have met so many women and families over 20 years of foundation travels to many, many, many countries, and the stories these women have shared with me about their lives have called me to action. And I wanted to write a book that would call others to action, because I believe that equality can’t wait. When we make women equal in society, it lifts up their family and society, and we need to make sure that we really get to equality for women all over the world.

Q: So when we talk about equality for women, how would you describe it? What are some of the basic steps?

Gates: To me, equality for women shows up when they have their full voice and their full decision-making authority in their home, in their community and in their workplace. If we can make sure women have that, you will have true equality in society for all women.

Q: So, why did you think of this title, The Moment of Lift? What is the moment?

Gates: Well, when I was a little girl my dad was an Apollo engineer, and he worked on that first mission that went up to space, and my sister and I would get to be in our jammies late at night, watching that that rocket take off. And I love that moment when the engines were ignited, and the Earth was shaking and rumbling, and that rocket would lift off against the forces of gravity that pushed it down, and head off to the moon. And I thought about women. I have thought about all the barriers that hold us down in various societies, and if we could remove those barriers, we would get this moment of lift for women and men all over the world.

Q: And let’s talk about some of those barriers. You’ve traveled around the world, working and empowering women and girls. What are some of the commonalities you were able to see, to witness?

Gates: Well, I see so many women that if we allow them, as a world, to have access to contraceptives, what we know from society after society around the world is once a woman has access to contraceptives, she can time and space the births of her children. She can continue her education, she can work in the workforce if she chooses, her kids are healthier, she’s healthier, the family’s wealthier and better educated. So that barrier — every society has to make the transition through contraceptives first. If women have access to contraceptives, and their kids and they have good health, the next barrier you have to remove is education. Because when women are educated, it changes absolutely everything in their family, and even the decisions they make and what they go do in the world.

Q: So you went to an all-girls Catholic high school. So did I, actually. And one of the things I can remember is contraceptives are not a part of discussion — not very often, at least. So what prompted you to really turn your interest into enabling women to have access to contraceptives, as well as family planning? Why is it such an important part of your work?

Gates: Yes, so I was meeting so many women around the world, and I would be there to talk about vaccinations for their children, which they were thrilled to talk about. They said, “You know, I walk 10 kilometers in the heat to get them. I know the difference.” But when I turn the questions and let them ask questions of me, they would say, “But what about my health? What about that contraceptive that, at this little clinic, I can get vaccines and I used to be able to get contraceptives and now I can’t?” And it was through these rallying calls for women saying, “Why isn’t the world allowing us to have these anymore?” that I came to learn and realize the difference they make in women’s lives. And 200 million women are asking us as a world for contraceptives. It’s a very inexpensive tool. We use it in the United States. More than 90% of women use it in the United States and in Europe, and yet if we don’t allow women to have that tool, [if] we don’t provide it, they can’t lift themselves out of poverty. And so I started to realize that was a really important piece of the work.

women empowerment, the moment of lift, melinda gates
Well, I see so many women that if we allow them, as a world, to have access to contraceptives, what we know from society after society around the world is once a woman has access to contraceptives, she can time and space the births of her children, says Gates. Pixabay

Q: And you say in the book, as you work to empower women, others have empowered you. How so?

Gates: I think by other women sharing the stories of their lives. I would often be coming back from various countries in Africa — Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Senegal — and as I was flying home I kept thinking of all these barriers I would see holding women down in Africa. And I would think, “If women could only have this barrier removed or that.” But it was then their stories that helped me turn the question back on the U.S. and say, “How far are we really in the United States?” OK, we’ve made some distance, but less than 25% of people in Congress are women. Less than 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. If a woman wants to start a business in the United States, less than 2% of venture capital funding goes to women-led businesses. So they helped me see what needs to get done around the world, not just in their own countries and where we can help and intervene, but really in our own country, too, in the United States.

Q: So you talked about stories of women in the book. You also bring some of your stories in the book, and you are known to be a private woman. Why was it so important for you to share your own stories? You talk about abuse and other stories — why did you do that?

Gates: Yes. So in this book, even though I’m incredibly private, I decided to be pretty vulnerable, quite vulnerable. That was not an easy decision, but I do. I share stories of my own personal journey because they are the stories, also, of millions of other women. So this story that I do tell of abuse that I experienced — it silenced me. I lost my self-confidence. And we know millions of women around the world are in relationships where they’re being abused. Women tell me about it when I go in villages. I hear about sexual harassment in the workplace in many places in the United States. It’s a spectrum, but any type of harassment holds a woman back. It pushes her back into her corner and she doesn’t get her voice or she doesn’t feel confident to take a decision. So I choose to share a story like that, and my own climb to equality, to let everyone know it is possible.

Q: I would like to read something from the book. You write, “The first time I was asked if I was a feminist, I didn’t know what to say because I didn’t think of myself as a feminist. Twenty-two years later, I am an ardent feminist.” Feminism is a word that is celebrated by some and makes others cringe, even some women. So, what is feminism to you? How are you a feminist?

Gates: Feminism is when a woman has her full voice, and her full decision-making authority wherever she is in her life, in her home, in her community and in her workplace. If she has her voice and can take any decision, then she is fully empowered. And if you believe that, then you are feminist, in my opinion.

Q: Great. Now, the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has impacted the world. And particularly, you have worked on the continent of Africa. More than $15 billion has been invested in projects related to Africa. Would you tell us about the impact that you were able to see that has really transformed people’s lives?

Gates: Yes, so the foundation has been in existence now for over 20 years. I think the most important thing for everybody to know is we work in partnership. There is nothing the foundation has ever done without being in full partnership with others, and particularly with governments and citizens on the ground in various countries. And philanthropy is just — all it can be is this catalytic wedge. We can try things; we can experiment where you wouldn’t want a government to do that with taxpayer money. But if we can prove things out and measure it, then we can ask government to scale it up. And so I think one of the foundation’s biggest successes has been in vaccinations. Why is childhood death down, cut in half since 1990? Two enormous reasons: vaccinations and malarial bed nets. And we’re part of two large-scale partnerships to try — that we have done, worked on — to scale up vaccines, in many countries in Africa and all over the world, and to make sure that malaria bed nets through the Global Fund are distributed.

melinda gates, women empowerment, the moment of lift
Yes, so I was meeting so many women around the world, and I would be there to talk about vaccinations for their children, which they were thrilled to talk about, says Gates. Wikimedia

Q: So speaking of vaccinations, vaccines have helped the world get rid certain diseases, like smallpox. Today we see a resurgence of measles. And one of the reasons is because some parents in the United States refused to vaccinate their children. How does it make you feel?

Gates: When I hear that there are cases of measles in the United States, I’m incredibly frustrated. And I’m saddened to think that a global health issue that we have solved in the United States has come back because parents have believed misinformation. And, you know, no child should have measles in this country. No person who is in an immune-compromised situation in the United States should be affected by someone else because a parent has chosen not to get the measles vaccine. These are lifesaving tools. Women tell me all over Africa they walk 10 miles in the heat to get vaccines because it saves their children’s lives. So I’m saddened to see this in the United States and I hope it makes people realize how lucky we are to have vaccines in our country.

Q: Now, working on the African countries, on the African continent, as well as other countries in the world, there are some changes that cannot occur without abandoning certain cultural practices and beliefs. So how do you get people to embrace new ideas in such circumstances?

Gates: Well, everywhere we work, for instance, on the continent of Africa, you know, each country is different and then there are many, many cultures inside of each country. So what you can do, the way to work, is to go — or what we’ve chosen to do — is to work with partners who’ve been on the ground often 30 or 40 years, living with villagers, and people from the community are part of those partners. And what you do is you come in and see where the community’s at, what they’re trying to learn, what their requests and needs are, and then you start to bring in some education — educating around the things they care about and some education about tools we have here in the United States, like contraceptives. And when you’re in a trusting relationship where the villagers start to believe and understand some of the education you’ve brought in, they will start to ask for those tools. And so we do all of our work in that cultural context, [that] hopefully appropriate way.

Q: So to go back to the family planning — why is it so important? What is the message behind family planning?

Gates: Family planning is the greatest anti-poverty tool we have in the world. When a woman can time and space the births of her children, her family is healthier — her entire family — the kids are better educated, and the family is wealth