You love them, you hate them, you hate to love them, and you mostly love to hate them – but you gotta admit, the internet wouldn’t be half as exciting without them. The social media is making discourse on pressing issues more and more balanced by showcasing every possible point of view on matters. But the downside is that internet trolls get the same access as qualified analysts – and hence, the same pedestal as opinion leaders. These trolls are often paid by various organisations and political wings to unleash vicious attacks on their competition, only to dishevel their thought processes and disrupt perfectly logical conversations. But the disturbing reality is that most trolls do all of the above, with zero affiliations, just for their sinister kicks.
Needless to say, age-old issues that aren’t even close to reaching consensus – like women’s rights, religion, ideological debates on governance – tend to attract extremist viewpoints, wherein a perfectly progressive stance is always countered with one that is painfully regressive. And if you have done your time as a seasoned voyeur on such strings, you would agree that women who are forthright attract hate speech that often reeks of misogyny and always houses personal attacks – often on a completely different (Read: condescending, sexual, derogatory) tangent than the issue being discussed.
Meet the nine most popular and outspoken female public figures who are the controversy’s children, constantly feeding the appetite of mindless internet trolls.
- Rana Ayyub, leading investigative journalist
I mostly turn to Rana Ayyub for the most acerbic takes on worldwide issues, which slap me out of my la-la-land. And if that doesn’t attract 140-character hate speeches, what will? Former senior editor of Tehelka, she’s a columnist now with NDTV and writes on current affairs that need harsh reality checks. It’s almost as if her tweets calling out narrow-mindedness of any sort, have ‘Haters gonna Hate’ as their subtext. Rana is especially critical of religious bigotry and Islamophobia, as she has often found her work to be judged through the prism of her religious identity. Her opinion piece on the Charlie Hebdo killings, where Muslims everywhere were thrusted upon the onus to apologise for the acts of a rogue few, went viral. Less than three months ago, she was very vocal about the troubles of being a Muslim dweller of this country, which was at the receiving end of rotten eggs and psychotic threats alike. But subsequently, approbation for showcasing courage came through from the most matured followers in her 62,000 lot.
2. Aditi Mittal, stand-up comedian
Stand-up comedian Aditi Mittal’s countenance couldn’t have been more explicit as troll bait, even if she tattooed ‘Aa bail, mujhe maar’, across her forehead. I mean, who does she think she is – waltzing into social media with her riotous potty humor, refreshingly un-sexist sex jokes, strong and perceptive views on feminism and women empowerment, calls for action for women to unite, and the nerve to call out self-entitled People Of The Internet every time they spout misogynistic filth? The nerve, right?
“No, I did not s*** any d*** to get into comedy,” she tells all her critics, when they often wonder out loud on her Twitter page how this person belonging to the weaker sex voice has such a resonant voice at all … and a mic too!
3. Shruti Seth, actress
While age-old stereotypes for women insist on keeping them trapped inside the ideal image of a docile, compliant and pleasing figurine, these notions only get harsher for women in show-biz, where they are expected to simply be the sum of their abilities to thrill your eyes and quench your Freudian desires. Shruti Seth would naturally invoke the ire of conservatives by committing the crime of being more than a pretty face and talking head. She’s a thinker, and goes a step ahead by also being a doer. She has championed causes and voiced her disapproval, and is particularly trolled by right winders and supporters of the incumbent government, when she expresses her skepticism over policies framed, or her distaste for the recent communal turmoil and how little is being done, in her opinion, to combat it. Many laud her for taking an active part in political and social discourse in spite of being an actress and the others criticise her for the same reason. While the former is slightly better, both phenomena point towards the undermining of a woman’s abilities; as all remarks repeatedly point out to her that what she does is not what is expected of her.
4. Kavita Krishnan, writer, activist, CPI (ML) supporter
For Kavita Krishnan has a hawk’s eye on socio-political issues. Her opinions on everything that irk her herald on Twitter, even as some bigots insist on biting into her freedom of speech. She is an academic who often shares her analysis of gender issues, political trends, communalist tendencies, and is a CPI (ML) champion. The above combination of world views is highly and spontaneously combustible material, and even when used sparingly, sets of a nuclear reaction of attacks. Most of these are completely irrelevant to the issue at hand – personal attacks on her unconventional looks, unwomanly (read: intransigent) stances, which all quickly escalates to accusations of seditious behavior. And one would think that trolls draw a line at hurling sexist slurs and calling women names, but it is safe to say that that was surpassed by miles on Kavita’s social media, as she frequently receives vivid rape and death threats when she participates on discussions surrounding women.
5. Sagarika Ghose
Sagarika Ghose is a leading journalist who has been in the news more than being the one reporting it – most recently for ending her decades-long stint with CNN IBN as a news anchor, to Hindustan Times, a leading daily. She insisted she’s just a journalist changing jobs – but her 574k trolls, sorry – followers, saw that as a cold-blooded betrayal. But she keeps on going. Go over to her profile and you’ll see her embroiled in yet another debate, and one right after that. And once again, twitter miscreants who are forever walking the tight-rope between trolling and sexual harassment, decided to crown their ugly heads. She also received elaborate rape and death threats on Twitter, with the perpetrator divulging that he knew where her daughter went to school. It almost drove her to refrain from posting her views on social media, until she realized the trolls would win if she does so, and bounced back. She made a fine comeback, for sure. Only recently, she expressed her views on the Ghulam Ali row, obviously condemning the shameful turn of events – knowing very well she’s going to set off the tongues again.
6. Meena Kandasamy, poet, fiction writer, and activist
“My Kali kills. My Draupadi strips. My Sita climbs on a stranger’s lap. All my women militate. They brave bombs, belittle kings, take on the sun, take after me ….” Laying out all her cards in this uncontroversial and beautiful manner, the poet, fiction writer, translator, and activist thought up this Twitter monologue for her bio. It was for the first time that I saw someone starting off on so lucid a note; so vehemently marking their territory. And it was also for the first time that I saw trolls not even sparing an opinionated woman’s bio. “My 6 aged Aiysha LOVES BEING RAPED By 60+Aged Prophet My VIRGIN MARY Gives Birth…” reads the bizarrely worded Tweet that came as a backlash.
And this is just the beginning. If you think you have it in you to see a woman’s sanctity get corroded without it making you sick to the bone, go peruse her tweets and the replies they invoke. You will see that counterblasts with hate-filled content are lurking at every corner. On one hand, rape and death threats are something that she doesn’t allow to mess with her sanity, however, on the other hand she makes it a point to report to the cyber police.
You will find her expressing her amusement over a cannibalism threat when you go over to her profile now.
7. Barkha Dutt, leading Journalist
Two million followers, probably neatly divided into two reveringly love-struck, and raucously critical camps of supporters and haters. She’s that gutsy NDTV journalist who covered the war at Kargil, and also the one who almost lost it all by getting involved in the Radia Tapes controversy. Her opinions and tidbits on national issues – which she often extends on Twitter after her prime-time show We The People – evoke loud applause and equally loud swears. She is not one to back down – in fact, fully aware that she is under constant scrutiny, every so often, she gives a shout-out to the troublemakers by posting delectably cheeky tweets with the sole purpose of awakening the trolls in the dungeons. If you’re good at reading between the lines, you’d see a ‘Challenge accepted’ lurking there.
8. Madhu Kishwar, academic and writer
This journalist and founder of Manushi, an almost exhaustive resource in women’s rights, speaks her mind, and more often than not – she speaks our mind, but we’re too scared slash uptight to admit that. But Indian Twitter would be a boring little brotherly love fest, had it not been for Madhu to disrupt and play the devil’s advocate for most issues. She’s a proud feminist, and that itself sets the radar off for most trolls – thanks to the widespread misconceptions about the term. But her Twitter feed bears that identity through and through, as she tirelessly tweets, re-tweets and replies only to spark off never-ending strings of heated debates.
And under the scrutiny of 178,000 followers, safe to say the above isn’t uncommon.
9. Seema Goswami, journalist and author
Her bio itself says trolls would be blocked, but there were too many to keep track of, at a point. She’s an author and columnist and a Twitteratti in equal parts. I call it one of her professions because she’s an obsessive compulsive and impulsive Tweeter. Tweets about everything right from the neighbor’s dog, to calling out sickularism. She’s regular, almost too regular, and gets caught in the heat of the moment all too often, which mostly contributes to her troll count. But if you’re looking for a place to find refreshing opinions on everything that walks the earth on twos or fours, head on over to her profile.
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- Hate speech
- Internet troll
- Aditi Mittal
- Barkha Dutt
- Kavita Krishnan
- Madhu Kishwar
- Meena Kandasamy
- mindless internet trolls
- Rana Ayyub
- rape and death threats
- Sagarika Ghose
- Seema Goswami
- Shruti Seth
- Women in stand-up comedy
- women's righst Activist