Last Thursday, we released a video. The video was a feminist remix of the song “Urvashi, Urvashi”, an A.R Rahman composition. As a human rights feminist organisation, we have always highlighted the role that popular culture plays in reinforcing certain norms in the society. This time, around, we were just thinking about how “Urvashi Urvashi” is such a catchy fun song, but wouldn’t it be awesome-er if it had feminist lyrics? So we set out on an exciting journey of creating a feminist remix of the song! And oh what fun the whole experience was.
We released the video. All of us were super excited about the response the video would receive. We also knew that we would be subjected to trolls. Afterall, as feminists in the online space, we are well accustomed to the response we always receive. Maybe, we too have to a certain extent normalised the violence we face on an everyday basis, by always somewhere expecting it. But the response we received did definitely manage to shake this up.
The video went viral. Yay! We received some very encouraging responses. But, that got stomped upon. Stomped upon by all the hate that came our way. What the actors of the video, received was hate, abuse and violence. The three women who feature in the video were directly targeted across social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube. The perpetrators commented on the video on all these platforms, made memes, sent them personal messages, basically found every possible way to locate them and harass them.
Why were they subjected to violence? Because one of them dared to be fat and be on the screen dancing and calling out misogyny. Because one of them decided to express herself through belly dancing. You ask, why is the woman sexualising herself? Stop. She is not sexualising herself. It is your gaze doing that. It is you who is objectifying her. It is you and your thinking.
Screenshots were taken of the video and the faces of these women were circulated around, accompanied with abuse. How entitled do you have to feel to be able to do that and get away? What sense of impunity is this entitlement accompanied with?
We are not even going to spend time engaging about why and how some bodies are shamed. For being too fat, for being too thin, for being too tall, for being too short or simply for just being. Enough is enough! You spewing hate and abusing people is not your freedom of expression. It is nothing but a violation of somebody else’s freedom of expression. Your violence makes spaces unsafe for the person being subjected to the violence. The person’s voice is suppressed. You have no right to say these things. We repeat. This is not your freedom of expression. It is nothing but hate speech. And, we cannot let hate speech get away.
What was not said! Cancer, AIDS were used as to imply abuse. Women were compared to whales. We heard “fat, fat, fat”. There is nothing derogatory about fat. We, as an organisation don’t think that fat is an insult rather advocate for people to reclaim their bodies in a world where they are constantly shamed for it. However, we know exactly the space where you are coming from. You came at us in hordes, from a position of power and it was nothing but an organised attack. You basically let us know that we do not belong here. That, we will always be a marginalised and oppressed group. We were told that if we decide to be women who are vocal about their rights (read feminists), we will be shut down. The internet belongs to us as much as it does to you. And we will continue to reclaim our space that is rightfully ours.
These are just some of the abuses we received. Do they qualify as 'criticism'? Not in our books. However when we…
Enough is enough. We as an organisation condemn the violence the people involved in the making of the video have been subjected to. This is not acceptable and we will fight back. Having said this, amidst all the hatred, we found strength in our allies who came out and supported us and fought back for us. Thank you. We hope for these voices of solidarity to grow only louder and stronger as we resolve to be this voice ourselves.