Social Media Boycott Is A New Weapon Against ‘Inconvenient’ Women Who Speak Up
It all started with a WhatsApp comment. Sujhatha was an introvert who preferred to stay away from social media groups. But after marriage, a new set of ‘virtual’ expectations and obligations clouded her responses.
Speaking her mind, expressing herself or any disagreement over an in-law’s post was a strict no-no.
Despite her reservations and personal boundaries, joining family groups on social media was considered part of her marital duties.
And she received praise, until she begged for those loves and affections, ignored the snide remarks, and said nothing about people violating her private boundaries.
But it all ended one day when she responded, and not in the kindest way. A certain in-law made a nasty comment about her newborn.
“Just smile and text ‘it’s okay’. Things will simmer,” her husband advised.
Her in-laws, although initially critical of the disparaging remark, insisted that she forgive the person. At one point, Sujhatha even considered letting bygones be bygones. After months of ignoring the person, she took her call. A supposed apology call.
To her surprise, the individual said sorry as casually as if they had accidentally dropped an egg on the ground, even implying that she didn’t care if her correction didn’t seem sincere.
Sujhatha made a decision that day—she would not forgive this person.
However, the person continued to send saccharine texts, filled with heart and smiley emojis, to the child she named. But Sujhatha couldn’t help feeling how exaggerated and hollow her gestures were—like thin chocolate domes over a fancy dessert.
Gifts followed, from the same family, who thought that a verbal slap could be compensated with toys and trinkets.
Sujhatha’s in-laws changed the subject whenever she tried to discuss her feelings about this forced attempt at friendship. They would not go against their relationships.
Until she couldn’t take it anymore
One fine day, she couldn’t contain her anger and posted about how meaningless sweet words and gifts were, if a person giving them had no regrets about their actions.
The next thing she knew, a member of the perpetrator’s family was cursing her on Facebook, a forum where everyone she was related to by marriage was present.
Fingers were pointed. Accusations were hurled—mostly in Sujhatha’s direction.
“What did he say wrong?” Her mother-in-law retorted. “You wrote a wordy post, and he called you a name. What is the difference? You should not have brought family matters to a public forum.”
When Sujhatha argued that he had insulted her, her mother-in-law said that the person in question was like a “son” to her.
Sujhatha asked if she had any interest in her family. Then her husband’s mother made it clear, “no one is that important to us.”
Things continued to sour from that point. A ruckus broke out during a social gathering, where Sujhatha’s in-laws hurled false accusations at her and her parents.
After all this, Sujhatha was still expected to forgive and forget. But she could show no mercy.
Today she is boycotted by almost everyone who once crowned her the ‘darling daughter-in-law’. The story may not sound new. Since ancient times, married women have been expected to swallow any injustice or unfair treatment meted out to them. Family harmony is a burdensome burden, maintenance of which is considered their sole duty. But the only fresh tinge to this story is the virtual angle.
People who earlier congratulated Sujhatha on every achievement now kept mum. Her posts were ignored. The discrimination became clear when they piled up her Facebook page with birthday wishes for her husband—thanks to her post informing them about the same. And on hers they remained indifferent, sullen and silent, as if their inboxes had been bombarded with a funeral notice. Not everyone wore crude. A small, neutral part of fate wished her. But most of the people who boycotted her were directly related to her in-laws.
The frequent WhatsApp inquiries about her health and well-being stopped completely. It was as if she was invisible to them. Someone who buried them by unfollowing.
Practically put her in a corner
Social media boycotts are a powerful weapon for today’s generation. Vendetta gets a trendy lift with vitriolic tweets, angry posts and, of course, non-stop trolling. People are sometimes forced to take a break from these cyber platforms, having been robbed of validation and dignity.
But for many women, the same comes in the form of silence and segregation. In our grandmother’s age, we often heard stories about ‘ek ghar’. A Bengali term describing an outcast woman, isolated and confined to a corner of a house. She was forbidden to attend family events, or even to communicate with the other members of the family.
Today, outright excommunication may not be the case for married women who dare to speak their mind. But a social media boycott is a reality. It is a way of neglecting her existence. A way for society to tell her she’s thriving because they let her. An indirect cut-off, to warn her that if she transgressed the rules of practiced civility, she would be punished.
If women, no matter how educated they are, think of speaking out against anyone who bothers them; then they too will be pushed into an indescribable virtual corner where everyone will pretend they don’t see her.
The convenient part of such a dissociation is how easily people can mess it up if you ask them about it. They claim that they are too busy or unaware of your attempt to reach out to them on social media.
No matter how much we tell ourselves it doesn’t matter who likes our posts or tweets, the detachment feels real and can also lead to mental problems and depression.
What solves such a problem? To delete our social media handles and be done with it? Yes, we can do it. But how does it help? It’s just a way of evading reality; however virtual.
Perhaps the trick is to use social media, but not get too comfortable or carried away by the relationships we forge there. As women, we need to remind ourselves that we had a life before we uploaded our first profile picture on a social platform. Also that we knew how to be happy without relationships that are so vain and fragile.
One way to do this is to reconnect with people who have always been there for us; whether they made it to our friends list or not. Another way is to indulge yourself in more meaningful things, things that help us heal.
It could be something as simple as cooking your favorite dish on a weekend or driving around your camp every morning.
It’s high time we learn to seek inner peace and self-love, instead of craving validation from people we’ve only known through 140-character bios.
Image source: a picture from the series Khalish