With half-opened eyes, I unlocked my phone to take in my dose of morning memes from my Instagram feed. But guess what? I was instead greeted with the infamous, 'Hye deer, wil u b frands?' DM (direct message) from an anonymous guy. It's not something new and I am yet to meet a girl who doesn't have a story of unknown men sliding into their DMs. They start the conversation with a 'hi' and when they don't receive a reply, many start using unacceptable language and bombarding you with unsolicited nude pictures. Why do these men have this sense of entitlement? What makes them send 'Hi Dear' messages so brazenly?
I remember this one time in school, a classmate texted me on Instagram and since I knew him, I replied, but then despite me making it quite clear that I did not want to talk any further, he kept texting and that's when I blocked him. But the next day at school, I was the centre of all the jokes in class because this story had spread like wildfire. However, I did not unblock him, because that would have sent out a wrong message. Shame a girl and she'll unblock you or entertain unwanted advances from you. No, thanks.
Men, whether in reality or virtually have this sense that they can just invade into our lives. But they cannot.
However, most of the requests that land in my inbox are from random men with whom I have absolutely no connection. While I often end up laughing off these requests with my friends, some of them just make me feel awkward. I once got this DM request from someone saying, "I saw you in CP" and this made me quite uncomfortable. How can someone who saw me, if he really did, find my ID on social media? What kind of person goes on tracking unknown girls who catch his fancy at a marketplace?
There's this new trend on Instagram wherein people add you to group chats with unknown usernames and then do video calls for some mysterious reason. They send texts asking for "dirty talks" and nudes. Although many of us have enabled the available privacy settings, we still end up reading uncomfortable texts, who is to be blamed for this? And who even can tolerate unasked-for dick pics in their inbox? The problem thus lies outside of the DMs. In our homes where men still grow up feeling entitled to women's bodies, love and attention.
Men, whether in reality or virtually have this sense that they can just invade into our lives. But they cannot. I've had friends who have told me that guys have tried approaching them via other accounts after they are blocked by one. Why can such guys not take rejection? A person blocks you if they don't want to talk to you and you should respect that, this is basic decency that must be there in people. And this is a view many women I know have.
Simran Jolly, an undergraduate, says that the fact that these men who slide into DMs for fun and feel it's okay to intrude someone's privacy bothers her. " What's more, they expect girls to be as chill as they are but on the contrary when asked about their ideal wife they want just the opposite of it."
As women in India, we know that our physical environment is unsafe for us and we cannot dare to forget.
According to Saloni Chhabra, 'sliding into DMs' wouldn't be a weird thing if it was not for those overly-appreciative strangers (read creeps) who like all your posts in a row and leave a not-so-subtle comment asking you to check their texts (which obviously has nothing to do with basic grammar and punctuation rules). "However, people who do not fit into these criteria can always text me if they are willing to have a genuine conversation. Lastly, deer and dear are two separate words!" Chhabra remarks.
A student, Anshika Taneja, says, "I was just scrolling through my feed and a message request popped up, 'Hey, what's up, how are you doing?', and it sounded as if we had known each other. As if we had run into each other earlier. It was not for the first time though. I've often felt this way because of the subtlety guys have texted me with. Men sliding into DMs like adding cheese to your life whether you like it or not. I love cheese albeit, but only on my pizza!"
Sharvani Sinha, a student in her late teens, exasperatedly points out that as women in India, we know that our physical environment is unsafe for us and we cannot dare to forget. "Most of us find refuge in social media platforms which we feel are safe places to express ourselves freely. Women are always told to be cautious and look out for themselves. But despite cladding our social media accounts with privacy settings, we often receive unsolicited messages from strange men. Sure we can block them or report them. But this cycle just repeats ad nauseam. There's only so much we can handle. Apart from having a very negative impact on our mental health, this discourages many women from being active on social media."
It's just weird how girls cannot just be themselves even in a virtual space. Sliding into DMs might just be overlooked as a funny thing but it reflects the sense of entitlement deeply ingrained in the minds of men.
Feature Image Credit: Indian Express
Saavriti is an intern at SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author's own.