What It Feels Like For A Girl


I’m glad Meena Kandasamy wrote this piece, and said as much — although I realise there are some difficulties in the manner in which she expressed it — because I do understand what she’s trying to get at at the bottom of it all.

The same issues — of privacy, persona, being a public target — have come up repeatedly in my conversations with other women writers. Some have stopped blogging, restricting their truly meaningful insights and anecdotes to mass emails and Facebook notes. Some turn off commenting on their blogs altogether (the fact that the vast majority of hateful comments come anonymously or under pseudonyms is extremely telling). I moved to WordPress last year because of the flood of  virtually entirely anonymous hateful comments, death threats and frightening gestures I received in the aftermath of having spoken out about the Malaysian apartheid. I became painfully aware that there are people who in the non-virtual world would have tea with me, and then proceed to log on anonymously and try to tear me to shreds.

No one sums up more eloquently what it feels like to be a woman writing under her real name , putting herself out there as she really is and not as some Internet construct of self-portrayal, than my dear friend Petra Gimbad; I post an excerpt from her private note here with permission

“”But we make this choice because having our say is more important than all the fear in the world that assholes out there can create in us. Until you have experienced the fear of being stalked (which has happened), sexually harassed (yep), raped, criticised for being attention-seeking or being attacked personally for your political ideas, you have no fucking clue how scary it is to be a woman and to put yourself out there.”

So I think it’s about gender? Yes. I do.

10 responses »

  1. I dont know…
    but i have seen many woman fraternity who express their mind totally out in this internet world..
    and they continue to do so…

    but yeah, there will be anon comments not with a spirit..but thats everywhere i guess..the ‘thing’ is to move on unfazed..!!

  2. Another blogger once got in touch with me on how to deal with an anonymous troll who was repeatedly leaving lewd commentary on her blog and following it up with salacious emails. What I found interesting was that she wanted to uncover the identity of this troll and then take some serious action against the person. While she was unsettled by the trolling, she was not going to take it lying down.

    And with some IP lookups and other careless footprints some of the more ignorant trolls leave behind, one can get a pretty good idea of the person involved. In this case, what helped us was the fact that the person was trolling from behind a corporate firewall :) So we shot off an email to the domain owner and reported abuse arising from a particular IP inside that domain. Companies typically don’t tolerate this sort of nonsense originating from their networks, and the trolling stopped after a couple of days. I hope he got fired :)

    I think it might be a useful thing for women (E-mace, anyone?) to be aware of a few simple things one can do to scare the hell out of some of the more ignorant trolls.

  3. Vinayak — Am not sure you understand, but I hope you will try to.

    Ashok — Yeah. One of the things I like about WordPress is that it gives you the IP adds of commentators. Comment moderation is useful, also, to an extent — at least in deterring trolls who only want a public spat. It’s the lurkers who creep me out — the ones who repeatedly come to the same pages, and the ones who do things like search for my name + theirs/someone else’s. I suspect that many people don’t realise just how much information site-stat providers can give a blogger about her audience, which is why they think they are protected.

  4. Creepy… Does all this bother you? It’s starting to get me thinking…I’m sorry to hear that youv’e been slandered a lot. I’ll be careful next time when I makle jokes with you.

  5. Saw you in yesterday;s newspaper (Singapore). Looking good. Hopeful you have an event here soon.

  6. Michael — Well yes, it can be creepy. And jokes are different from slander, so don’t worry.

    Siew — Thanks. I would have linked to the article but it isn’t available in its entirety for non-subscribers online.

  7. Hmm, I don’t quite get it, I can understand problems with flamers (anon or not) , but well that can either be ignored or simply blocked. Maybe my perspective is the problem, but I don’t quite get how it can affect you so much. I mean jeez , your space , you say whatever you want, you moderate the comments. What else could you ask for?

    P.S: Maybe I am a bit too ignorant, I don’t know ! :D
    P.P.S: Lurkers creep you out ? Mmm I might have been lurking around many a blogs time and again , re-reading some posts, checking for replies to my comments etc. I had no idea i was … erm.. being creepy ?

  8. Jass — It’s pretty simple. Are you a woman who blogs under her real name (and you should have left your url if you do!)? The problems would be much easier to understand if so. In theory, I used to think the whole my space, my business thing was enough. But as Petra said, until you’ve experienced it — and nearly all of the things she’s named have happened to me — it’s not so easy to see from the outside how difficult it is. As for lurkers, the rest of that sentence, about the weird Google searches, is what disturbs me. I’m not talking about horny surfers running searches for “chennai sex” and whatnot. And checking back on comments is fine, as long as comments are left in the first place (usually, they aren’t). I’m talking about the ones who run “sharanya manivannan + ___” (name of co-worker, friend, celebrity, etc) searches. There’s no way those are healthy interests.

  9. Hmm nope, not a woman, and not really a blogger [I don’t remember the last time I wrote a post].
    Just trying to understand the issue. :)

  10. Actually I just read meena’s piece (should have done that earlier) , she has written more on lines of social networks which I do sort of understand (can never completely understand how it feels, would probably have to be a woman to experience it).

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