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Aurat March, Feminism and The Trolls

Whilst we see the increase in the mobilization of feminist activism online, online spaces such as social media have become a breeding ground for trolling and harassment from those who wish to resist change. It is especially during the time of Aurat March, where those in support face the harshest cyberbullying, sometimes in form of unfortunate death and rape threats. It is during this time, that pictures of the participants are circulated with derogatory comments and name-calling. Perhaps, a mechanism to ridicule women so that they can keep “inline”. In the Pakistani context, many of these men must be aware that the virality of these pictures will result in consequences on the women by their families such as restriction on mobility. Further, in this current day and age, it is easy to find someone’s details, this accessibility to details would perhaps make it easy for people to threaten and blackmail those engaging in such protests and in certain cases even risk their lives. I witnessed how some of the comments follow “Bakwas post without any sense”, “Aurat k libas sy rape ka taluq hai’ Qafir movement” “Lanti k bachiyan’ is just some of the derogatory comments under a single post. It is important to notice how the trollers feel that their comments and trolling were justified as they believed they were saving Islam. Some of the comments under such posts, revolve around the rights of women in Islam, and that Aurat March and their content was going against the teachings of Islam and the rights bestowed upon women in Islam. However, it is not as if these users employ religious texts or evidence in what they are saying, they connote it as “Qafir” “Haram” “Un-Islamic” according to their own understanding of Islam. It is also important to note here, the demographic was not just men, many of the trollers who are writing indecent messages on the posts include women as well, who believe that the posts were against Islam or their values.

I also recently attended a webinar regarding social media activism in the online sphere where Jalila Haider, a widely recognized activist for the Hazara Women in Pakistan provided her insight on how social media can be used as a tool against protestors and activists in Pakistan, specifically highlighting the consistent harassment on the virality of pictures of women who attend such protests. The women who use social media as a means of their freedom of expression, are named and shamed ‘awfully.’ When certain pictures do get viral, Haider, although labels herself as a “Bad-Ass Woman” talked about the mental toll it had on her when her pictures when viral on social media, and men of her society ridiculed her by calling her a “Porn-star” for not wearing a dupatta. She further discusses, that due to this circulation of pictures on social media, many women who attend the protests feel discouraged to join it again. She further discusses how social media has made it easy for people to contact one another, and how many of the male politicians who meet with her in hopes of a revolution often end up texting her derogatory messages thinking that as she is a feminist activist she must be willing to meet them casually for dinner or consider them as sex-workers.

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