We all love the internet and social media as it is a platform to share our lives connect and network with others and even look for jobs.
However, with it comes so many issues including online harassment and cyberbullying. What’s worse, women bear the brunt of this, thus limiting their use and interaction on the various platforms- an obvious violation of their rights and freedoms.
While we are making strides in creating safer spaces for women online such punishing perpetrators of revenge porn and sexual assault, the abusers, and cyber bullies find new ways to violate these spaces.
Most recently, and especially on Twitter, men have been ‘dressing up’ women they deem ‘undressed’ or ‘naked’. They would literally Photoshop or draw clothes onto women with short dresses, strapless tops, bikinis and even lingerie. They all say it’s just for laughs but in reality, it is policing women on the internet and beyond.
My Dress My Choice
For the longest time, women have been punished by being stripped and assaulted for ‘indecent’ dressing. The cases were enough to spark the #MyDressMyChoice protest in Nairobi to demand their freedom to wear what they want without fear of assault.
While the dressing up on the internet may seem different, it stems from the same thing that makes men assault women for how they dress: entitlement to women’s bodies.
In both, men take away the agency of the women in their expression in how they dress. Whether through stripping or dressing up, the men seem to send a message that the women are not palatable in their eyes. It is also an expression of their custody of women’s existence and reality, which fuels even more harassment as the photos go viral on different platforms.
Additionally, such action is an expression of bitterness and anger at the men’s inability to access or attain the women in question. So instead of the men dealing with this feeling that they may be rejected they turn around and shame the women for being herself.
Another harassment and shaming trend on Twitter is posting sports comments on women’s photos. Women who posted their own photos on the platform received notification of comments and upon checking, the comments had nothing to do with their content.
Instead, it would be a congress of men speaking about the latest football game or other sports news as a way to show her that they are deliberately ignoring her post.
What’s the point really, you’d ask?
It is more about making the woman feel powerless in her existence and setting up terms and conditions on how women should portray herself.
The same is the case when men (and sometimes other women) resort to abusing and insulting women that freely express themselves online. It does not matter that they are acquaintances or strangers, private person or public figure, the women are harassed for their actions or inaction.
Subtle and overt digital violence deny women the opportunity to use the internet to further their interest socially and in their careers. In worst cases, it has led to violence and even death.
It is with such a background that women must be able to fully express their rights and freedoms whether on the internet and offline.
Remember, a woman’s body belongs to herself and is not a battlefield where men display their egos or entitlement or where violence takes place.