“Every time I express an opinion that misogynists don’t like, their first line of attack is always sexual violence”
If you use the Internet — which you do — the probability that you’ve experienced some sort of cybercrime in your lifetime are fairly high, and the likelihood of becoming a victim of cyberspace violence increases if you’re a woman. Sadly, but not surprisingly, women and girls are far more likely than men to face sexual assault and gender based violence (GBV) online, e.g. obscene or threatening messages (rape threats), hate comments under female posts/blogs (limiting self-expression to maintain toxic male superiority), utilizing technology to manipulate and disseminate photographs without permission (revenge porn), stalking, gender based slurs, cyber flashing (unsolicited d**k pictures), using deep fake technologies to produce and/or disseminate obscene or intimate images etc.
Cyberspace violence is being used as a (damaging) tool to uphold male dominance and superiority as both a class, as well as means to support norms that are dominated by men. Deviants are adopting social media sites because they’ve learned that these platforms provide for anonymity, which encourages name-calling, trolling, and profanity. These sites (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn etc.) clearly and painfully display misogyny at its ‘finest’, including sexist online behaviors such as, “gender trolling”. These trolls usually exhibit disruptive, egocentric conduct manifesting from sadistic tendencies and enjoy humiliating and shaming women online, neither realizing the long-term effects or repercussions of their misogynistic attitudes on the victims’ mental/psychological health nor comprehending the extent to which these behaviors are forcing strong-headed and vocal women to give up on one the most basic human rights, i.e. freedom of speech, resulting in many women either leaving cyberspace or living in constant fear of expression (self – censorship), even in this era of technology!
Moreover, despite living in the twenty-first century, Pakistani men struggle to accept a difference of opinion from the opposite gender and conveniently resort to sl*t shaming as an answer. Many women tend to suffer from post-traumatic anxiety symptoms resulting from the expression of misogynistic beliefs online.
Considering the increasing trend/culture of naming and shaming online harassers/abusers in Pakistan, women are setting examples of strength and bravery by exposing men online, however, the other side of this context can’t be ignored. In our society, the women who do courageously expose men online usually belong to the Instagram influencers/celebrity culture, who can perhaps afford to risk exposing men, owing to the fame, contacts, and resources they possess. However, can the same be expected of vulnerable young girls and women online with no such privileges? And to what extent does Pakistan’s cybercrime law ensure safety for women against all acts of online GBV, regardless of which class they belong to? The answers to these questions lies in the tough realities of our society that we must reflect on, and find solutions for, in order to move forward in creating a safer cyber world where women are empowered & freedom of expression (regardless of gender) is never penalized in either misogynist contexts or societal patriarchal frameworks.