Trolls Misusing My Photo With Tharoor – Take Your Sexism Elsewhere

Trolls Misusing My Photo With Tharoor – Take Your Sexism Elsewhere

My Report

I’m RJ Purkhaa from 98.3 Radio Mirchi and just last week, I landed an interview with a celebrated parliamentarian. I was really excited and couldn’t wait to put out the video of the interview online; not once did I think that just doing my job would make me a target of online harassment.

At the recently concluded Jaipur Literature Festival, I managed to interview Dr Shashi Tharoor. The premise of the interview was simple. Since Dr Tharoor is known for his impressive English vocabulary, I decided to put his Hindi to test.

The result was a fun, informal interview and more than his Hindi skills, I was seriously impressed with how professional, kind and generous Dr Tharoor was.

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My excitement was short-lived. It all started once I shared the video and some pictures from the interview on social media.

I first became aware of what was going on after another RJ shared with me a screenshot of a tweet, saying people were trolling Dr Shashi Tharoor with my pictures.

When I looked it up, they were everywhere, captioned with lewd sexist comments like “his new arm candy”, “this time a red head”, “his latest victim”, “naya shikaar (new find)” and others I can’t really mention here for the sake of propriety.

One tweet even posted a picture of us next to Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath and Bollywood actor Jacqueline Fernandes, saying, “why should Tharoor have all the fun”.

The photograph was turned into a meme. 
The photograph was turned into a meme. 
(Photo Courtesy: Purkhaa Tak/Altered by The Quint)

At first I wasn’t even worried. But then as the photographs found their way online, the trolling grew and reached other platforms. As friends and colleagues shared the tweets and screenshots from Facebook and WhatsApp, it quickly became disturbing, to put it mildly.

Besides the fact that random, anonymous and often politically motivated users had started sharing my pictures with sexist comments dressed as crass humour all over social media, that too without my consent, what rattled me the most was being trolled and harassed for simply doing my job.

The attack was two-fold. I was reduced to my appearance, to an object: a replaceable, expendable entity; because to trolls, it doesn’t matter who is sharing the space with Dr Tharoor as long as it is a woman.

Not once did they stop to consider that we are actual people; that their tweets and Facebook updates will end up as screenshots in WhatsApp chats of our neighbours, colleagues, friends and relatives. That this slander might eventually reach our families, perhaps as a remark over dinner.

Debates about women’s empowerment, Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, and #MeToo become futile in a digital space that uses women as weapons to settle political scores.

Sometimes it is our name, other times it is our appearance which is used to target those who differ ideologically.

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Women Who are Trolled Online, You are Not Alone

I’m fortunate that people around me stood by me, but I can only imagine how most women could well be discouraged by the people around them to back off, delete the interview or maybe be feel pressured into withdrawing from work. All this, because some anonymous cowards thought it would be fun to share women’s pictures with disgusting comments.

The memes were laced with sexist comments.
The memes were laced with sexist comments.
(Photo Courtesy: Purkhaa Tak)

Dr Tharoor’s pictures with women are shared online often. I’ve felt bad about him being trolled as a ‘womaniser’ merely for posing with a woman but after this experience, I realised how badly it affects the women in these pictures.

I write this in solidarity with all those anonymous women who ended up being reduced to insensitive memes. It is baffling and sickening that this is the only way the trolls would associate any woman with Dr. Tharoor, or with anyone about whom they have a coloured or a prejudiced perception.

And to the trolls – you know who you are – I say this on behalf of all the women that get objectified and bullied in their professional line of duty just because your sexist, misogynist and repressed brains can’t see beyond appearances.

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If you think your juvenile trolling would deter me and millions of other women like me from going out and accomplishing what we deserve, you have another thing coming.

Because we’re not going to succumb to your bullying. We’re professionals and we are women, not an ‘arm candy’ or ‘shikaar’.

I won’t waste my energy by responding to your posts nor will I give you the satisfaction you seek. My voice will continue to speak out against your hatred.

Give it a break. Get a life.

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(All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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