The Breakthrough Voice 19th March, 2019

Stranger Things I Saw On The Internet: A Personal Essay.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I ran into the three-year-old daughter of our friend, who upon greeting my hubby (who currently is growing his hair out), grinned and said, “Hey, you put a headband, you no girl?”. We were both shocked and corrected her, giving examples like “Aunt prefers her hair short, uncle prefers it long, you love to wear bangles, you also love dressing up in pants. Because there is no girl or a boy thing, we do what we like!” We weren’t sure if the little one got it or was confused, but when I added, “Promise me you will never shy away from doing what you want,” she smiled and gave us a big “Yes!” Thank god!

Gender stereotypes aside, I couldn’t help but ponder about kids and their observations. Unlike the old days, kids and teenagers get most of their info either from the internet or their friends (who in turn get their info from the same resources). But how safe is the internet? We preach that children are our nation’s future, if so, are they imbibing the right messages?

Most kids use the internet to play games. Parents assume games like racing and baking are totally safe. But are they? Kids observe! They observe girls in pigtails with sweet voices acting as helpers in the baking games while boys on bikes and in helmets zoom their way through, to stand as champs in the racing games. Is the inner message around these games safe?

A day on social media doesn’t go by without coming across disparaging comments against women.

Social media helps children stay on top of things, but is it always ‘good’ info? Lately, I accidentally landed on a page dedicated to jokes and came across a photo sliced into four quadrants: the first top quadrant shows a middle school girl wiping her tears away for failing her class. The next quadrant shows the same middle school girl as a sophisticated happy young lady next to a man dressed in a suit, with a note below that reads Ends up being married off to a wealthy man.

The bottom quadrants are of a middle school boy failing his class and turning a young lad in rags wandering jobless with a note reading You have no choice. Let’s pause and take that in and ask ourselves what is the messaging around the so-called “joke”? Encouraging boys to study so that they don’t end up jobless? Telling girls, you don’t have to worry as your future prince got you covered? It gets worse if the message turns into a grudge in boys’ heads questioning “why just us? seems like girls got it so easy”, and so stems the aversion, looking down on girls and stamping a stigma around them.

It doesn’t end here. A day on social media doesn’t go by without coming across disparaging comments against women. Be it expectations around and disparaging their shape, size, dressing, behaviour, the way they talk, the way they walk – anything and everything that limits women to a certain boundary.

We have updated from a world that required sleeping beauty saved by her prince to movies like Frozen.

Are the headlines of internet news informative these days? For example, when movie stars got married last year, the news around female celebrities changing their last names was all over the internet. What is the need for this to make the headlines of news?

If anything, the patriarchal practices are being brought to the limelight and into the households of common people, planting a seed in their heads expecting their wives and daughters-in-law to follow the same. Leaving timid young married women with no choice rather abide by this practice or meddle with the peace of those rebellious women who do not succumb.

We have updated from a world that required sleeping beauty saved by her prince to movies like Frozen. But we are still stuck in an era where men can govern and execute abominable rules pertaining to the female body. We are a long way from getting to where we ought to be at – not just a world were women and men get treated equal, but a world where women can be whatever they choose to be. Internet being a widely used medium for awareness, it’s the responsibility of the owners of the message to the question – am I creating the right content that is right in messaging, instead of craving for likes and subscriptions?

Also Read: 5 Things We Figured From One Year Of Talking Online Harassment And Safe Spaces

Featured image used for representational purpose only. Image source: Nature

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