The internet proved to be at its worst and showed its real face when a few women decided to tweet in support of the farmers’ protests in India.
On 2nd February, 2020, Tuesday night, Barbadian singer- actress Rihanna shared a CNN news article with her 100 million followers on Twitter, calling out the internet shutdown at the protest site.
“Why aren’t we talking about this? #FarmersProtest,” the 32-year-old singer wrote. Soon after, Swedish teen climate activist, the youngest person of the year named by Time magazine, Greta Thunberg had tweeted “We stand in solidarity with the #FarmersProtest in India”.
Rihanna’s tweet gained instant traction on Twitter, with lakhs of retweets and likes. Indo-Canadian YouTube star and late-night talk show host Lilly Singh thanked Rihanna for bringing the protests to global spotlight.
India reacted sharply to comments, saying a very small section of farmers in parts of the country have some reservations about the farm reforms and a proper understanding of the issue is needed before rushing to comment on the agitation. “The temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.
Accusing “vested interest groups” of trying to mobilise international support on protest against farm laws, the Centre issued a terse statement asking celebrities to ascertain facts before commenting. The opposition, mostly right wing, started slut-shaming, name-calling and glorifying abuse and started imposing rape threats. The internet hit an all-time low when they first tried to find links between Rihanna and Muslim and even raised questions of paid tweets.
The 18-year-old activist,Greta, was called a “kid”, a “racist colonial stooge” and was advised to keep her nose outside India’s internal matters. When Mia Khalifa spoke up, her past was used as a weapon to retort as netizens started slutshaming her and throwing abusive slurs. Claudia Webbe, a British politician who is a Member of Parliament for Leicester East received death threats, rape threats, and racist comments after she tweeted about the farmers’ protests.
The immediate impulse to tear women down by using sexist comments and threats displayed deep-seated misogyny in our society. The Indian twitter has become an extremely toxic space where if women speak up, they’re told to ‘sit down’ and displayed as ‘fools’. Today when women are creating their own place in society and dominating dissent spaces, the social media trolls are trying harder to control them by using violent threats.