The #SelfieWithDaughter campaign has created a massive stir on Twitter, unfortunately it has little to do with the initiative itself. Thousands of trolls have taken to the micro-blogging site to abuse, threaten and demean women — two of them in particular, Kavita Krishnan and Shruti Seth — for having dissenting opinions to the Prime Minister’s social media campaign.
In actuality, there is nothing wrong with the #SelfieWithDaughter campaign,— it’s feel good, it’s easy-to-do and it sends the right message. It would be irrelevant to harp on about how it perpetuates the notion that women are only valuable when measured by their relationships — wife, mother, daughter, sister — rather than as human beings. That is indeed true when anti-rape campaigns go on and on about “our mothers and daughters” in an attempt to shame the perpetrators, as though single women are fair game. But this is different. This is a positive campaign that sends an important message to parents — who are responsible whether a girl child lives or dies.
However, just because this campaign has been given the stamp of approval from the PMO, it does not mean every one has to jump on the bandwagon. It also does not mean that people cannot question how effective this campaign will be or criticise the PM. However, that is exactly what has happened. With all the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Modi bhakts trolling social media sites, proposing a dissenting opinion or a critical argument against Modi is now next to impossible.
Actor Seth and women’s rights activist Krishnan learnt this the hard way. They criticised Modi and the campaign on Twitter and were subsequently bombarded with abuse.
This tweet by Krishnan, aimed at the SnoopGate controversy that had engulfed PM Modi just before the end of his election campaign, led to her “online lynching” not only by bhakts but also by actor Alok Nath — who tweeted “Jail the b***h”.
However, that was not the end of the abuse coming her way. ” In response, I got tweets from Modi supporters that threatened me with rape; threats to insert a sugarcane stalks [sic] into me and do to me what was done to Muslim women in the communal riots at Muzaffarnagar; I was called a prostitute, my parents were called dogs, it was suggested I should be raped by dogs, or that I be sexually abused by my father, and so on,” Krishnan wrote in the DailyO.
Another Modi Bhakt who thinks stalking is a sign of positive sexual attention. Creepy minds these Modi bhakts have https://t.co/L6W1JkUpxj— Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) June 29, 2015
Here’s another devotee of Indian PM who will protect daughters, sisters. I like street dogs, btw, and they like me https://t.co/wxxqtqhRh2— Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) June 29, 2015
Krishnan, who has been known to take on her adversaries with the might of a woman scorned, was not surprised by the onslaught of abuse. But she might have been taken aback when Nath stated, “This once she’s crossed the line and limit”.
What gives the likes of Nath the right to determine where the line or limit is for women? This is what makes this campaign so interesting. It is about respecting women, however, it seems to be that the women in question are only the well-behaved, respectful women, who toe the line and don’t rock the boat.
There are people who demand PM condemn these attacks and call the bhakts to heel. However, this falls closer along the lines of what Twitter should be doing. Over the years, the social media site has received a great deal of angst from consumers who feel the company should do more to control abusive users. Therefore, in April 2015 Twitter announced that it will release a new feature that can control such users. It will include a new message-filtering system as well as block abusive users. However, nothing has been released yet and the company has made no further mention of this since.
The irony of this campaign is that by abusing and threatening women on Twitter, the bhakts have undermined the campaign they are promoting, turning #SelfieWithDaughter to #SelfieWithWellBehavedDaughter. Threatening outspoken women on social media is commonplace. But doing it in the name of a campaign that wants people to respect women is bitterly ironic.