Deepika calls out troll on Instagram: Deepika Padukone, one of the biggest names in Bollywood, earlier today confronted a troll who was sending her abusive messages on social media. Sharing a screenshot of the said chat, that displayed the name and a few regular account details of the perpetrator, she wrote on her Instagram story, "Wow! Your family & friends must be soo proud of you…" She soon deleted the story.
While reasons for deleting the story are best known to her, Padukone is not the first major star to stand up to online harassers that take the advantage of anonymity and fan authority to pelt expletives at celebrities. Sonam Kapoor has done it, and so have Taapsee Pannu and Richa Chadha. Trolling falls in the lap of every woman - famous or not - who dares to speak online (or just be online).
But is it different when an eminent figure shows audacity to give it back to trolls? For them, by virtue of their high-profile status, is it easier or difficult? With them calling abusers out, does it not spotlight the attention of online safety more than when regulars like you and me do?
Deepika Calls Out Troll: Does It Set A Precedent For Other Women?
Every woman with a social media account has had her fair share of dirty DMs and unprompted abuses. More, if she makes her opinions and accounts public. That we are party to only the abuses limited in our inbox paints a scary picture of what lies beyond in chats we are unaware of - where our pictures may be getting ripped apart, photoshopped, our identities spat on, and whatnot. Remember boys' locker room?
Despite that, women have managed to hold their own and retain themselves on social media, relying on having to either throw sass back at abusers or naming and shaming them as Padukone did. Many of us do it on the daily without applause or remuneration. So holding only women with fame up to example would be reverence misplaced. It's also the women without much power that deserve cheers for standing up to hate in their small, familiar milieus.
Deepika calls out troll: Will it urge Silicon Valley giants to up online safety?
That said, a celebrity calling out online trolls highlights the issue that plagues us all and thereby sets a strong foundation for urging tech giants to up their safety guidelines. Alia Bhatt's sister Shaheen had in July last year lashed out at rape threats issued against her and her sister saying, "I will use all legal recourse available to me to take action," a cause that had been echoed by her mother Soni Razdan.
Even Rhea Chakraborty, in the midst of her slut-shaming ordeal through all of last year when the Sushant Singh Rajput death case was at its peak, had had the nerve to name and shame an abuser sending her rape and death threats. Does this grit set a precedent for other women to follow suit?
Why Don't More Celebs Call Out Online Abuse?
Celebrities are given the benefit of doubt when they don't speak up on social issues that need speaking up on. The understanding is that it would be a high-risk move endangering fan following count and their public image. But aren't those factors disposable in the larger picture of ensuring safety and respectful living for all?
Male actors like Abhishek Bachchan and Uday Chopra are known for being trolled online, given their towering family lineages. But they are known better for their dignified takedowns of those offenders. When one user brought his young daughter Aaradhya into the trolling equation, here's what Bachchan once said:
@Mayankaryan084 don’t like my movies? That’s cool. Will work harder to make movies you like. Bringing my daughter into it is NOT cool.— Abhishek Bachchan (@juniorbachchan) June 16, 2015
As Deepika calls out troll, a look at why other stars do and don't
At the same time, given that stars live public lives and that mild to deranged trolling comes complementary with their profession, there is also an existential angle that begs the question: How many times must they call it out? Will it have any effect on future potential abusers? Vocal actors like Swara Bhasker do it routinely, but it doesn't shield them from other multi-pronged abuses coming their way.
The fight shouldn't stop, however. Inaction turns to action only when demands are iterated and reiterated. And the demand for equal online spaces safe from hate and gendered abuse isn't just valid but absolutely, urgently imperative.
Whether or not celebrities take the onus of leading the fight from the front end, the movement will never cease on our non-celebrity end, where women like you and me are raising a finger to those who dare silence us.
Views expressed are the author's own.