I am a Feminist (Blogger Gets Death Threats)

29 Mar

Like a lot of young women my age, I always felt a little embarrassed about identifying myself as a feminist.

The cultural image of the feminist is so strongly reminiscent of the 1960s with the long hair, the bra-less t-shirt, the rallies and the loud activism, not to mention this idea of the lesbian with unshaven armpits that it seems a bit ludicrous to try and find something in common with these women. It was all very well for the suffragette mother in Mary Poppins to go about singing, “Our daughters’ daughters will thank us” but its a very different thing to make it actually happen.

Somewhere in the back of mind, I found this reluctance on my part a little puzzling – both my parents were part of the 60s generation and while they weren’t anything near radicals or hippies, it has left an indelible impression on them. I used to joke (still do) that my father is the most strident feminist I know. Perhaps it was because both my parents came from families where strong, assertive women are the norm rather than the exception.

Still, it wasn’t until I moved to New York, walked into my first writing workshop and met Jane Lazarre (who became a sort of mother figure to me) that I really accepted that my standpoint arose out of ignorance than a truthful place. “Do you support equal rights for women no matter who they are?” she asked me. And of course, I did.

For the past several weeks I’ve come into contact with a bunch of people on Desicritics who believe Feminism lies at the root of all evil from terrorism to financial crises. I firmly believe theirs is not a rational argument and it arises from their personal tragedies for which they find feminism a convenient scapegoat.

But meeting these people has made me all the more aware of how far the right of women have to go. I live in a bubble wherein I am an equal of everybody I meet; never have I felt discriminated against because I’m financially secure, well-educated and have the full support of my family. How many people can say the same? How many women can say the same?

Today I came across these two instances:

Dee posted a link about the death threats that were made against a fellow blogger, Kathy Sierra, for no real reason other than the fact that she was a woman. As a woman who spends massive amounts of time on the internet, I would like to add my voice to hers: a threat of violence is not free speech. It is not harmless fun. It is not a form of expression. It is criminal. I do not say this because I am a woman; I have never asked for special consideration based on my gender. I say this as a human being. I do not know if I would have made the same choices as Sierra, but I do know that there is a very real line between acceptable and vile, and this sort of behavior crosses it.

Anamika further posted a link to the coverage gave the issue: it helps put the whole issue in focus. Quote:

Death threats! If you’ve never heard of Sierra, perhaps you assume that she writes about religion, the mob or the Satanic Verses. But actually, Sierra writes about cognition and computers. […] “It’s this culture of attacking women that has especially got to stop,” writes fellow blogger Robert Scoble, who, in response to the threats against Sierra, no longer allows anonymous posting on his blog. “I really don’t care if you attack me. I take those attacks in stride. But, whenever I post a video of a female technologist there invariably are snide remarks about body parts and other things that simply wouldn’t happen if the interviewee were a man.”

All of which just serves to remind me that the time has not yet come to box up feminism and put it away for our granddaughters to examine at a later date.

I’m a feminist. Why aren’t you?


Posted by on March 29, 2007 in Life, News, Personal


8 responses to “I am a Feminist (Blogger Gets Death Threats)

  1. Desigirl

    March 29, 2007 at 10:06 pm

    I learnt so many things from this post – among other things, how similar was our resp awakening to being feminists. All of which prompted me to blog abt the subj myself – read about it here.

  2. apu

    March 30, 2007 at 4:37 am

    Good writing. On my part, I’ve somehow never felt embarassed about being a feminist, though the amount of misunderstanding about the term surprises me.

  3. Amrita

    March 30, 2007 at 5:54 am

    Hey Apu, thanks 🙂

    Well, its ignorance really. I’m just glad I got an opportunity to sort things out in my head at a comparatively early age.

  4. Amrita

    March 30, 2007 at 6:42 am

    DG – great post on Desicritics!

  5. desigirl

    March 30, 2007 at 1:16 pm

    thanks babe – u da editor!

  6. Balaji Viswanathan

    April 4, 2007 at 3:33 am

    The internet has far too many jerks that a random sentence cannot be construed as a real death threat. I know it would be hard for anyone to hear those stuff, but for one who has been in thick of online forums for almost 9 years, I’ve seen a lot of similiar trash and most cases it is some lousy teenager who starts entering online forums before he has even started talking sentences! So, to generalize such trash as the world being against feminists is not right. And common, in mainstream society no body equals feminism with terrorism and regarding most of unauthenticated online forums are junk anyway.

    Though sometimes I get uncomfortable at the idea of feminism that is practiced by a few individuals as a vengeance against males, I dont think the overall idea is wrong, from a male perspective. If it means positive things – development, equality and a fresh approach to solving some of the crucial problems like woman illiteracy, infant foeticide and girls trafficking, it is good. But, if it means some ladies club sort of thing, where a bunch of jobless woman gather to bitch about how they suffer ills under a male chauvinistic society then there is something wrong.

    And again, feminism should approach the world looking forward instead of always looking backward to assign blame on the inequality on totally men alone. After all, every ill from dowry to infant foeticide dont proceed without a hand of a woman. So, if equality rather than dominance becomes a fundamental goal for mainstream feminism, I dont think why educated males should have problem with it.

  7. Amrita

    April 4, 2007 at 4:57 am

    balaji – upto a couple of months ago, I would have agreed with you wholeheartedly. I share your feelings about radical feminists and agree that in today’s world, a lot more determines the status of women in society than the attitudes of men alone. And as a veteran of the internet forum wars, I agree, its usually some dumb kid trying to prove his machismo who pulls a stunt like that.

    However, a couple of months ago, I met these people online who’ve completely lost their mind thanks to some personal tragedies they suffered due to the sweeping nature of certain anti-dowry Indian laws that make it easily mis-usable. Of course, they dont see themselves in that way and when I said that feminism has been blamed for anything and everything, I mean it. DG above will back me up. I used to think they were just ignorant and then I realized they liked their ignorance. So thats makes them plain stupid in my book. But stupid people with access to the internet can do all kinds of stuff and right now, their entire raison d’etre revolves around heckling women bloggers.

    Re: Kathy Sierra… those pics went beyond plain trolling or heckling in my opinion. It’s one of the drawbacks of putting too much information about yourself out there. I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody.

  8. Balaji Viswanathan

    April 4, 2007 at 8:02 pm

    I definitely agree to the problem with the current internet structure that poses far greater problems than many of us could comprehend. Even many boys are reluctant to put too many details into many online things as no one knows in whose hands these might end up, and with good search engines you could get patch up an entire history of a frequent online user.

    Recently, I was helping one of my collegues for seeking legal help in identifying a criminal who had slanderized his relative by creating a fake Orkut profile. And in researching about that, I found a lot of disturbing occurances that have confirmed my long term fears. In fact, I’ve adviced my cousins and other girls whom I knew not to put a lot of photos in any online forum unless it is well protected (Orkut is not one).

    I’ve written an article using the research and with my own opinions about how we make internet a more safer place where creative ideas are exchanged rather than a place for trash brainers to intimidate others into submission.

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