#GirlTalk is SheThePeople’s advice column. Have a question? Send it to us email@example.com – It can be anonymous if you’d like it that way. Women from different walks of life share advice and their personal experience to help you overcome your own inhibitions.
Dear Girl Talk
When I raised an issue about the need for us to normalise period conversations on Twitter, I was massively trolled. Like as if periods are an alien concept. However we are trolled so often on having a voice, being outspoken, having a view, sharing an opinion. It's like every time I log on to the internet, I have a heart full of fear. There is so much abusive bullying. What's the way out? How can I not get affected?
Dear Feminist Tweeter,
Feminism was never meant to be an easy battle. It is predominantly a movement against over a hundred centuries of patriarchy, gender injustice, stereotypes, labels, and mindsets. To extricate that level of inherent conditioning and prejudices would take a lot of sweat and toil. We, as feminists, are standing up against an entire systemic culture of our oppression. There are bound to be hurdles. And in this new digitised age, these hurdles often come in the form of trolls. I've faced them, you've faced them, a million other women have faced them.
Doesn't it feel a little better already, knowing that you're not alone in this?
If you identify yourself as a feminist and wear this badge around proudly in public, chances are, you have been called a “feminazi” at least once in your life. You will find this word lurking below in the comments of any vocal woman’s tweet or post where she has called out patriarchy or advocates feminism. It’s a word meant to attack, abuse, devalue, and silence women. But should we allow anyone to bully us into silence?
Are Trolls Even Worthy Of Your Attention?
The first thing to understand about trolls is that they are essentially only virtual identities attacking you. And oftentimes, they're nameless, faceless people behind bot accounts too fearful of revealing their own selves. So really, ask yourself: Should you at all be paying heed to a troll who lacks spine and strength to so much as reveal his/her true identity online? Should you be silenced because of a troll anonymously abusing you? Why grant them that much importance?
I know it can be a dampener to be abused by someone only because you hold a viewpoint contrary to theirs. It may even lead you to second-guess your own stance on issues - in this case, feminism. But remember that a belief in any ideology should not come about by the coercion of another person. These are decisions you consciously make for yourself, through books, literature, arts, debates, activism.
A troll's opinions are fuelled by hate, agenda, and breach of privacy. They aren't a measure of authenticity with which to draw opinions from.
Cutting Off A Troll's Oxygen Supply
Trolls are insecure. They thrive because they feed off the attention accorded to them. Whether it comes in the form of annoyance, irritation, debate, replies, likes, disagreement, it doesn't matter to them. All press is good press, after all, even press that's bad. But ask yourself, what is one thing that will especially bug someone seeking attention? Being ignored, right?
The best way to tackle trolls is by cutting off their oxygen supply, ie. stop giving them your attention. All trolls do is judge you on the basis of just one facet of your personality. Do you think such a person has any authority to make comments on you or your life or your ideology? Not at all.
When you voice feminism online, and a troll tries to detract from your statements, the best answer to him/her would be silence. It will tell them their words hold no value in your life, as they shouldn't.
Ignore Them, Mute Them, Expose Them: Your Choice
Safety guidelines of social media platforms aren't foolproof, but you can use them to create some barriers around your profiles if you feel trolls are taking a toll on your mental health, or are cluttering up your timeline too much. Sites like Twitter and Instagram have facilities where you can mute certain words (abuses, slurs, anything else that triggers you), which won't appear on your feed anymore.
One thing you must have noticed about trolls on social media is that they swoop in like vultures but hang around honking like geese. They can often be found copy-pasting the same messages over and over on accounts, like yours, that may be promoting feminism or other social causes. It's why they're called 'troll armies.' You can report them for spam, or if the going gets too tough, you can even expose them publicly.
A troll may seem like a severe headache, but it shouldn't be one. So the next time you find one targeting you online, ask yourself some questions: Do I know for sure there is a real person behind this account? Do I want to waste my time arguing with someone whose identity is restricted to spreading hate? Is s/he worthy of my attention? Should I spend time defending myself to someone or instead focus on taking feminism forward?
And if you know the answers already, hey, half your battle is won.
Views expressed are the author's own.