Is the Internet a safe space for women and their bodies?

The latest backlash on Alizeh Shah proves how online platforms are marginalizing women

Mahnoor Jalal

Mahnoor Jalal

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Is there ever going to come a day when Pakistani women can breathe without a man jumping up to blatantly criticize her? It seems like every time a woman expresses her choice to wear what she wants or go wherever she wants, a string of men come down like vultures to coerce and threaten her into silence. The Internet has now evolved to become a platform where through social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, women are consistently under danger for facing targeted harassment, threats and abuses from men for even wearing something as slightly revealing as a tank top. Here are the ways how women are finding it much more harder than men to cultivate safe spaces online:

Constant policing

Can men ever understand that women are not objects to be gazed upon and moulded according to their desires? This weekend we saw Alizeh Shah coming under the scrutiny of misogynists on the internet, as she was one of the guests on a YouTube show to unpack their new product, and all that men could seem to notice what that despite being completely covered, her shirt showed a bit of cleavage!

Unsolicited comments

Abusive threats and sexual harassment is not something new for Pakistani women, but a daily occurrence on social media platforms as any woman speaks her mind on issues like the growing rape and death rates among women and children, or even wear’s something that she feels liberated in, and men dominate her comments to silence her. Words like “awaragard“, “besharam” and “jahil” are only targeted towards women to remind them that public spaces are barred for them, and even online spaces are slowly marginalizing to the extent that women seek solace on the internet as well. A look at the kind of comments that surfaced up on Alizeh Shah’s pictures proves this to be true.

Surveillance of female bodies

The moment the video of Alizeh Shah innocently talking about phones was published on the Internet, it didn’t take three seconds for shady websites and troll accounts to screen shot her picture and allow men to send her death threats and abuses over a tiny bit of cleavage showing. Like if we’re talking about moral policing, why is it solely women who must bear the brunt of covering up so securely so that no man can see them? Why aren’t we questioning the two men sitting on opposite sides of her and one of them is wearing a half sleeves shirt, while Feroze Khan isn’t as much bothered with covering himself like Alizeh must!

Manipulation of photos

A lot of pages have resorted to targeting women, especially celebrities, by spreading fake news about them like manipulating photos. The complete video is in the link for people to watch and observe that Alizeh Shah’s shirt did not display her cleavage at all, but troll accounts like the one above edited the picture and resulted in the backlash. Using misinformation to create fake posts or pictures has been a common tactic to target women online, and leaves them vulnerable not only against harassment on the internet, but also within public spaces.

Therefore, to these men we would like to remind them that by the end of the day, no woman is going to allow your disgusting gaze to control what she wears or where she goes. Honour does not lie in a woman’s body, and neither do her actions reflect on the respect of this country. Any woman who does receive an unwarranted request from a man to cover her shoulders, should simply just block him and go back to doing whatever makes her feel happy.