Stories 2012

Submitted by Ghausia Rashid Salam as part of the 16 days x 16 stories Take Back the Tech! campaign

I’m not unused to being trolled by men regarding my views on religion or on feminism. While the former I’m relatively quiet about, the latter, I refuse to stop talking about, because it’s something that forms my identity. I never really drew the ire of the misogynists because I’m just someone with a blog. Any woman who is a feminist, and who has worked for women’s rights, will find herself regularly abused by these men. Whether you’re someone like Sharmeen-Obaid Chinoy, or Marvi Sirmed, or Sana Saleem, you will be labeled a whore, an agent of America, a kafir, etc. simply because you say that women should be free and independent, women have the right to educate themselves, to have careers, to decide if they want to marry or not, that women should be financially independent, and all the other “Western” concepts that threaten to destroy the oh-so-flawless moral fabric of our society. And since I don’t hobnob with the Twitterati, I’m not precisely “famous” on the internet and thus, manage to hunker down in my little corner of the blogosphere, with only the occasional troll to deal with.

This doesn’t mean I don’t have any unpleasant encounters, and one of the vilest experiences I’ve had is quite recent. A few days ago, some chap named Salman F messaged me on Facebook. I do not at all know who this person is, but my guess is, he was probably commenting on a friend’s post, saying something homophobic or misogynist, and I must have mocked his comments for their small-minded bigotry, at which point he decided to mock me for condemning Shia killings but criticizing religion. I politely asked him not to message me. He responded eloquently with,

why dont u get urself fucked by the way,,,that might relieve ur frustration

coz It was u who first attacked

I had no idea too about who you are but now I know what a crippled person you are

dont ever come my way,,,o/w u ll be lost

and never intrude into my territories

This is how these guys operate. I find it absolutely repulsive that men like this person think so little of a woman, that they believe giving vague threats on the internet is going to frighten them into staying at home. They do not at all believe that women would actually laugh at this and treat it as trivial, empty threats from some pathetic sod living in his parents’ basement. And it made me angry. I thought, how dare this person try to intimidate me? How dare he assume I’m the sort of woman who would get intimidated with his empty threats and that too, written in such pathetic English? So I thought to myself, fine. Let’s see what he’s got. This was my response.

Here I am, intruding upon your "territory". Whatcha gonna do about it? Come on, show me what these threats of yours really mean. Go on. You want me to be scared of you? Put your money where your mouth is.

Of course, he claimed he had never made any threat, and after some verbal sparring, he finally showed his true colours by issuing a rape threat. I’ve never gotten one of those, and I was a bit shaken, yes, despite knowing it was nothing to worry about. But it didn’t stop there.

The next night, the guy sent in one of his trolls to harass me. I woke up to my phone constantly beeping with notifications as the troll proceeded to write obscene comments all over my Facebook, on my cover photos, public posts, profile picture, whatever he could find. The moron actually got temporarily banned from Facebook but showed up again the next day with more obscenities. Luckily, I was able to block him this time, but I’m sure Salman will send another troll my way soon because “har ghar se idiot niklega.”

I do not understand how these men can so easily, so casually, threaten to rape a woman. How can they possibly think it’s no big deal if a woman’s body is violated against her will? Even if they do not understand the psychological trauma of rape victims, surely they must be aware of how terrible rape is! The guy initially attacked me for criticizing religion, this religion he’s so quick to defend, does it really say it is okay to rape a woman? Because all I hear is that Islam gave women independence and equal rights, so where are these equal rights when these men are tossing out obscenities and rape threats because the woman “deserves it”?

I normally take screenshots and publicly name and shame such people, but I was unable to this time, because I needed to block my family from viewing this. My father would certainly be distressed and not understand how such threats are mostly a trivial matter, nor would he understand that I absolutely will not be silenced if the rape threat comes from someone who knows where I live. That was when I remembered Take Back The Tech, and decided to blog about my experience. I don’t believe doing so will put a stop to such misogynistic violence, but at least there will be some awareness about how anti-female our society truly is.

Too many people believe that honour killings, rape, female child abuse, forced marriages, forced conversions are a product of the “lower classes” who are jahil and uneducated. That simply is not true, it’s an oversimplification of the problem and it’s too much denial. Some education is required to know how to operate the internet or have a Facebook account, and no one from the lower classes could afford a computer or laptop. The men who issue rape threats to women online, who stalk women online, who harass women online, who spread around the cellphone numbers of women, who will hack Facebook accounts and share pictures of women on disgusting Facebook groups, these men are not poor, illiterate, uneducated men, they exist even in our universities, and it is not lack of education or money which has made them so vile and reprehensible, it is the patriarchal nature of our society which treats men like gods and women like their adoring concubines, so that if they encounter a woman who speaks her own mind, and who dismisses this male domination and speaks for gender equality, they will see her as a threat, an abnormality, that must be put a stop  to by  any means necessary.

The problem is very real. Misogyny is very real. Violence against women, cyber violence against women, cyber harassment, is very real. Until we acknowledge this, it will continue on in this form, and no solution will be found as long as keep denying its existence.