A Tamil Nadu construction worker allegedly killed his wife because she apparently spent hours chatting with male friends on Facebook, reports The Hindustan Times. He was miffed that she refused to pay heed to his repeated warnings. This isn’t an isolated incident of Indian men policing the social media usage of their partners, which have led to tragic consequences for the latter. In January this year, a man from Bengaluru allegedly killed his live-in partner and their three month old child because the woman was active on social media and chatted with unknown men. According to Deccan Herald, the man had ironically connected with his partner on Facebook. After he was apprehended by the police, he told them that his partner was chatting with other men on Facebook and took no interest in domestic chores or taking care of the child. These two incidences hint at something which we may have seen in a much subtle form around us and yet ignored- men policing social media usage among women, especially out of insecurity or negligence to household chores.

SOME TAKEAWAYS:

  • A man allegedly murdered his wife because she apparently spent hours on Facebook chatting with other men.
  • This isn’t the first incident where social media policing of a woman took a violent turn.
  • Patriarchal men feel entitled to police all aspects of their wives’ lives, including social media.
  • These incidences of violence hint how while our problem has yet another facet, we are far from taking proper measures to curb it.

These two incidences hint at something which we may have seen in a much subtle form around us and yet ignored- men policing social media usage among women.

There was a similar incident in 2017 in Pune, where a man allegedly smothered his wife to death and then committed suicide. According to the police, in his suicide note the man mentioned that he was unhappy about his wife sharing details about family planning and other marital issues with her friends on social media, and this prompted him to take such an extreme step. All these three stories reek of male desire to hegemonies their partners, even on social media. What they share, who they interact with, how much they interact and even how they chose to spend their time, are factors where many husbands feel entitled to have a say.

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While these incidences led to tragedies, we only have to look around us to understand how gender dynamics deeply influence the social media usage in our society. It is not just wives, but daughter and sisters as well whose digital lives are policed by men in their family. A Pew Research Centre report released in 2018 says that only 11% women use social media in India, as compared to 28% men.

Patriarchy conditions men to be dominating, entitled and insecure. They see women as their asset which they must safeguard or put to use according to their wishes.

The main fear among patriarchs in our society is that the Internet “spoils” women. They may start chatting with other men, have affairs and even if they don’t they’ll end up neglecting their household duties. Patriarchy conditions men to be dominating, entitled and insecure. They see women as their asset which they must safeguard or put to use according to their wishes. So if the man of the house believes that his wife shouldn’t be chatting with other men, he feels entitled to curtail her rights, or ‘teach’ her a lesson. He feels he has every right to be angry if the wife ignores household chores and spends time on Instagram because household work and childcare is still seen as a woman’s primary duty. So, basically conservative men feel that women aren’t just slacking off their duty but also disrespecting their wishes, a big issue for their inflated egos.

All these crimes against women, spurning from social media policing raise yet another alarm that Indian men are struggling badly with issues like insecurity, toxic masculinity and lack of respect or understanding of women’s agency, courtesy patriarchal upbringing. In sublime forms these traits manifest as altercations, censoring of access to smartphones, internet, etc. But in some cases when anger and ego override any shred of humanity, they spur men into taking matters into their hands. The concoction of toxic masculinity, stereotypical beliefs and entitlement to policing women in all walks of life has always cost women dearly. Since social media is very new, the cost being paid seems more visible and new to us. But in reality, this is just another facet of an age-old problem, which we are yet to tackle successfully.

Picture Credit: VK Singh and Company

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.

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