Framing Change 20th December, 2018

5 Things We Figured From One Year Of Talking Online Harassment And Safe Spaces.

1. When we went to Hazaribagh and learned about how men respond to women online


At Hazaribagh, we organised a pretty fun panel of experts who talked about their life on the internet. From journalists to government workers, the online space is common for us all and also leads to some shared experiences.

One of the panellists, Puja Roy, supervisor at the ICDS, pointed out an interesting aspect of women posting online as opposed to men posting online: “Online, there are various kinds of people. When you put up something online, there is the danger of ‘unwanted guests’ show up in your comments. Why does this not happen to boys?”  

The experience of men and women online can be vastly different, not always for the better. Journalist Sanjay Mehta points this out: “We made a profile with a woman’s picture as an experiment… within a few hours it had hundreds of comments (from strangers). It shows the experience of most women online.”

At a time when 8 out of 10 Indians have experienced harassment online, it’s important we examine our relationship with the virtual space. Watch our panel at Hazaribagh here:

2. Understanding how parents react to children going online 


We’ve all heard parents say things like “beta, don’t spend too much time on the internet” or “don’t talk to anyone online!” and we get it. It comes from a place of concern. But often this concern turns into a lack of communication between parent and child and if children, especially girls, face harassment online, they end up not communicating with their parents. And in #StandWithMe, we understood that communication is key.

And what we learned was that most people agreed with us! Here are some of our fave comments:



Watch our films here:

Do Parents Know Best?

Be A Friend To Your Child

Choose Trust Instead

3. When we learned how fake news impacts women online


‘Fake news’: Ever since 2016, fake news has kind of been the buzzword of the year(s). But how does it make sense in the Indian context? We caught up with Pratik Sinha, one of the few people in India who understand how fake news works and discussed the gender angle of it. And we found out some interesting things!

Here are some of the highlights:


“One of the motives of fake news is… target individuals who are the voices of society. I will give you a quick example: Gurmehar Kaur. This happened about a year ago, right after we started Alt News, where we saw how her video went viral and [because] a portion of that video comprised slides, the slides were handpicked and they were circulated without context, to claim certain things which were not what she was claiming. She was attacked relentlessly…”


“Look at the way how female journalists are attacked. There are so many posts which claim that some or the other female journalist has three husbands. Most of the misinformation that circulates targets both sexes but, when it comes to women, there is a specific kind of targeting where the misinformation tries to paint them as immoral and wayward.”


We have observed that they use attractive pictures of actresses to gain a following, because typically a profile with an attractive profile picture of a woman will grab eyeballs, and that is why they usually use such photos…”

Read the interview here: Fake News And Sexism: An Interview With Pratik Sinha   

4. When we tried to understand what a ‘safe space’ is 


We talk about creating ‘safe’ or ‘safer’ spaces online, but what does that actually mean? We tried to break down the idea, especially if we consider the idea that if there can truly be a ‘safe’ space. Here’s a fun comic we used to explain it:


5. When we discussed how women being kept from going online for their ‘safety’ is a form of control


Women are often told to not go online ‘for their own safety’ or many young women are often stopped from using platforms like WhatsApp because of ideas like ‘oh she’s just going to talk to her boyfriend’ or ‘oh she’s going to run away’. Clearly a way to control a woman’s agency, sexuality or both.

And this fear and oppression translate into the woman herself as well. Here’s a message we received:

Whenever we discuss women’s freedom in online spaces, we cannot divorce it from the discussion of a woman’s agency, ease of access and the very idea that a woman speaking freely online is considered a threat to society. Enough of a threat for people to troll her. A study by Amnesty International found that women continue to be targets of abuse especially on platforms like Twitter, where a survey of 778 handles of woman politicians and journalists from the UK & US found that 7.1% of the tweets sent to them were abusive.  

But that doesn’t mean it’s all ho and hum. With the #MeToo movement and Raya Sarkar’s LOSHA taking off, there are clear signs that women are pushing back and using online platforms to speak up. Our journey through #StandWithMe has been to urge people to make the internet a space where everyone, including women, can be respected and treated respectfully – and we hope that might happen sooner than later!


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