It has been a year since I muted my family WhatsApp group. It happened on the day when an elder person of my family shared a wife-bashing joke and insinuated several laughing emojis from others in the family. The joke which talked about how women are ‘torturing’ men by asking them to do the homework was not funny at all.
You know very well why so let’s not go into that. But why do such jokes still get likes, laughing emojis and engagement in family groups? Why do family Whatsapp groups continue to reinforce patriarchy? Just why can’t our elders and patriarchs of the family be more thoughtful before bashing a feminist woman or sharing sexist jokes?
Social media has given us the boon of freedom. But as it is said that every good thing has a bad thing following right back, social media’s freedom too has its own bane. The uninhibited freedom on social media, especially the messaging apps where only families or friends are involved, somehow ends up dishing the rights, voice and agency of others. For example in my case the freedom of an uncle to share a wife-bashing joke insulated women who expect their husbands to contribute to household chores.
Although it is said that digitalisation has empowered women in many ways, it has also is disempowered them in other ways. If a woman feels free to share her feminist opinions on Twitter, her freedom is inhibited in the family WhatsApp groups because they are bound by familial obligations and pressure.
WhatsApp groups are just like drawing rooms. Men sit with glasses of drinks in a room that is reverberating with their laughs and complaints about each other’s wives. While women sit in the corner, smiling and choking up with guilt and repressed voice.
Even if I wanted to speak up and question the elder who shared the wife-bashing joke, I couldn’t muster the courage to walk on the tight role of familial politics. The uncle who belonged to my mother’s side has been the biggest support for my family in critical situations. Now if I dared to question the uncle, I would have ended up disturbing the familial harmony and inviting disrespect and difficulties for me and my family.
The problem is with our idea of familial harmony. We understand familial harmony in terms of blind obedience and agreement with elders in our family.
But ignorance towards the deeds of the younger ones, especially boys. Because of this, we do not include the idea of questioning, discussing and changing the norms in our family circles. And this has the worst consequences. Elders keep expressing their sexist opinions and demanding obedience. Younger boys and girls internalise sexism and grow up converting their ideas into worst realities. An example of this cycle is the Bois locker room that made headlines last year. If elders and women in the family would reprimand boys and warn them against implementing sexism in reality, bois locker room or any other case of harassment would not be a frequent occurrence. Read an opinion about it here.
The digital world has tremendous ability to evolve society and its women. Let’s not make it a disadvantage for us. We are really trying hard to dismiss patriarchy in the real world. It will serve us no good if patriarchy snoozes in the real world and thrives through the digital world.
Views expressed are the author’s own.