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    Meena KandasamyHOW DO I WRITE an article that does not sound like a celebrity too much crying paparazzi, an article where I want to discuss issues that are political but have arisen out of experiences in my personal life?  How do I write an article about the dangers that women writing on gender and caste have to be well-prepared for, without sounding like somebody who wants undue publicity about unpleasant things happening to her? How do I sound genuine and serious when I discuss something that might appear as trivia(l)?

    Where do I begin after all?

    Last week, a really crazed slime-ball decided to scrap me on orkut with the words: “Tell your lover to change his glasses.” My lover doesn’t wear glasses. In these circumstances, what exactly was this almost-stranger trying to say? For a long time, I didn’t have any clue. Treating that scrap at its scrap value, I deleted it and moved on. Then, subsequently, the cause of such a sarca(u)stic comment became apparent. Among the several photographs I had uploaded on my profile, there was also a snapshot of a statue of revolutionary Dr Ambedkar. And, in an inspired moment, I had captioned it: “the man i love the most.” I can’t see problems with that because I was merely putting to words some of my own feelings. My idol was now my lover, and viola, this scrap comes to me. How am I supposed to view this? Clearly, the scrapper wasn’t someone who had problems with my words alone. He had overstepped boundaries (which in themselves are hazy things). What was he trying to achieve with that comment apart from the obvious cheap thrill?

    I would have really ignored this except for two other events. One, my blog stats at WordPress.com reveal that I am either being stalked, or that someone is seriously trying to dig up every piece of scandal/gossip about me. But since there’s no visible injury to my person so far, you can safely hazard a guess about what’s happened to my persona. I have, as a matter of fact, become a gossip item in a popular Tamil weekly. Among other things, I find myself being linked with, shall we say, a certain die-hard Ambedkarite. Next, someone on Facebook takes a fancy to send anonymous messages to greet me morning and night.. And, out of curiosity, when I ask that quirky soul as to who he is, pat comes the reply, Dr Ambedkar.

    If one looks at this a little closely, there’s a clear pattern emerging. In the virtual world, as in my flesh and blood existence, I am obsessed with issues of caste and gender. I can understand that this scrap, these go-ogle look-ups, these anonymous messages are somehow intrinsically connected both to the fact that I am a woman, and that I happen to be involved with Dalit issues.

    I know for sure that such jabs cannot affect my belief in Ambedkar’s ideology. But, let us assume for a second that I was not writing about caste and gender, but rather about issues that are more visibly linked to women’s sexuality: abortion, aids, or queer rights. Imagine for instance that I blogged about the escalation of lesbian suicides in India. Will it be construed that I am writing solely out of personal experience? Will I be taken for the token lesbian on this blog space? Will people stop at that, or will such folks stalk me all the way home, and once there, tell my father, who never browses the Internet, that his daughter takes only lovehers? I know, deep down to my bones, that this is scary. Not because these regressive people or their actions.opinions matter, but because I believe that this could be affecting my self-expression. This menace can harm me and my writing in ways that I might not be able to delineate, or even worse, be aware of myself.

    Although one is aware that there are laws against defamation in place, how can these be put to use against anonymous trollers and orkut-scrap-posters and their like? Forget the case of independent writers, do we actually have any mechanism to punish ALL those who are abusive on the web because of the anonymity that it provides. We do come across one or two men getting arrested for posting derogatory comments about Sonia Gandhi on orkut. But are all the culprits getting punished. I have come across several occasions where Mayawati has been disparaged in casteist terms. I have personally used the “report abuse” sections of the site, but I am sure no action was taken. Some of the communities that I moderate on orkut, specially those which deal with the genocide of Tamil people in Sri Lanka, or the Dalits’ related communities, get so many filthy comments. Disabling the anonymous posts option is no solution, not only because creating fake accounts is easy, but also because people have no shame/fear about putting up casteist/racist opinions in the open.

    The pressure to conform has to be compensated with the power to come to terms with (sometimes frivolous) criticism. But how am I to know if I am not being a good-girl feminist (writing only about social development and divisions)? How will I find out the extent to which my visibility/identity/non-anonymity on the Internet dictate my choice of words (or issues, for that matter)? If Facebook can actually ruin one’s love life, what exactly can the online world of blogs and social networking sites do to feminism(s)?

    (Special thanks to my dear friend Anuradha Pujar for her feedback to an early draft of this article. Without her this article wouldn’t have been this article.)

    24 Responses

    1. Thanks for writing this! I’ve been grappling with the same issues, as have been some other women writer friends of mine. I’m glad you’ve been able to write about it, because neither I nor they have been able to publicly. It’s big things — outright slander and stalking — and it’s littler things — like being sent messages on Facebook by people who definitely have my email address but who choose the medium that will give them access to my profile. Some of my blogstats scare me. There are people out there obsessed with the minutiae of my blogging life (and by extent, my offline life) Sometimes it feels like a choice between outright virtual hermitude and laying the self open, vulnerable, to dissection. It’s become a choice I am continuously having to make.

    2. “Forget the case of independent writers, do we actually have any mechanism to punish ALL those who are abusive on the web because of the anonymity that it provides. We do come across one or two men getting arrested for posting derogatory comments about Sonia Gandhi on orkut. But are all the culprits getting punished.”

      Let me get this straight. You’re actually happy that people are being punished for voicing an opinion? That free speech is being overruled for the sake of some ill-defined notion of ‘insulting’ or ‘derogatory’? You’re actually advocating stronger punishment mechanisms and therefore greater censorship? You have GOT to be kidding me.

      Let’s be clear about this – any and all attempts to limit and control social discourse in the name of making it polite inevitably result in the concentration of power over what gets discussed and therefore, in the suppression of minority voices. After all, who gets to decide what is derogatory and what is not? As someone who claims to be concerned about the welfare of two constituencies that have long been silenced by precisely the use of these kind of social norms around what is ‘proper’, you would think you would want to fight against that kind of censorship, not champion it.

      The solution is NOT the greater imposition of arbitrary controls that allows people to be punished for what they have to say, and that ultimately impoverish social dialog by a) eliminating dissent and b) submerging (rather than engaging) prejudice. The solution is for those who want to participate in that dialog to grow thicker skins – to recognize that there are a lot of idiots out there, that their opinions are either irrelevant or only serve to highlight the ugliness of their position, and that they can harm us only if we choose to let them.

      You say:

      “But, let us assume for a second that I was not writing about caste and gender, but rather about issues that are more visibly linked to women’s sexuality: abortion, aids, or queer rights. Imagine for instance that I blogged about the escalation of lesbian suicides in India. Will it be construed that I am writing solely out of personal experience? Will I be taken for the token lesbian on this blog space? Will people stop at that, or will such folks stalk me all the way home, and once there, tell my father, who never browses the Internet, that his daughter takes only lovehers?”

      So? Let’s assume that people actually go that far. What harm can that do? Let’s say you are lesbian. Why is that such a bad thing? Why would should this hurt / offend / shock your father in any way? And even if it does – why would he believe gossip from a random stranger more than the word of his own daughter?

      You go on to say: “I know, deep down to my bones, that this is scary. Not because these regressive people or their actions.opinions matter, but because I believe that this could be affecting my self-expression”. That’s just illogical. Either these people’s actions and opinions do not matter to you, in which case there’s no reason for them to affect your self-expression, or they do matter to you, in which case you need to get over it.

      Personally, the thing that limits my self-expression is not the random trolls / anonymous commenters out there – it’s the poor protection India affords to freedom of speech and the knowledge that some obscure law against making ‘derogatory’ comments means that I’m susceptible to punishment if I manage to offend some right-wing fundamentalist group or entrenched politico. Give me a world where everyone’s free to insult everyone else any day.

    3. This is a quick reply, detailed commenting later.

      Falstaff, for the whatever-th time, don’t twist an observation out of hand. I never said that being a lesbian is a bad thing, and I wonder how you ever construed that out of what I wrote. What I pointed out is that whatever you say on the net is taken to be something that is arising out of your personal experience. if i made a comment on a food-blog, my stalker might spread a story that I was a foodie (no harm in being a foodie, but the harm lies in the fact that it is a blatant lie). And nobody likes to be lied about. That’s just what I wanted to say.

      Sharanya, yes, the internet is dangerous territory. Now I repent the fact that I didn’t write about rabble-rousers and word-ploughers. That’s another factor that limits self-expression, because how the hell is somebody supposed to defend something which they never said, felt or implied.

    4. Meena: I never said you said being lesbian is a bad thing. I’m simply trying to understand why you see being lied about as being so harmful that it keeps you from expressing yourself, when the lie is not derogatory and is obviously and verifiably untrue.

      Would you really not write about food for fear that someone might go tell your father you were a foodie?

      I’m not sure if you’re implying that I’m limiting your self-expression by being a ‘word-plougher’. If you are, I’m sorry if you feel that way, though for the record I think the allegation is deeply unfair. I have never tried to twist anything you or anyone else on this blog (or elsewhere) has said. All I’ve ever done is draw logical inferences from what you’re saying. If you say you see the possibility of someone telling your father you’re a lesbian as harmful, it’s reasonable to conclude it’s because you consider being called a lesbian insulting – normal people are not so threatened by benign lies that they will limit what they say. I personally am repeatedly ‘accused’ of being homosexual on my blog, but I can’t say it’s ever bothered me.

      If you do think my attempts to respond to your posts are limiting your self-expression (note: if), you have two choices. You can either a) tell me that you’re not interested in my opinions and I will stop reading anything you write and commenting on it or b) you can learn to look past what you consider to be my ‘twisting’ of your observations (and perhaps consider that I wasn’t trying to twist what you were saying – you just didn’t say it clearly enough) and focus on responding to the other points I make. The choice is yours. And it’s a choice, I might add, that highlights the central problem with thinking of the Internet as ‘dangerous territory’ – the quicker you are to take offense at every imagined attack on your integrity, the more you end up confining yourself to easy platitudes exchanged with people who already agree with you.

    5. http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2007/03/31/sierra/index.html

      http://bloggingfeminism.blogspot.com/2007/05/blogging-and-vulnerability.html

      http://www.horsepigcow.com/2007/06/13/the-insidious-danger-of-danger/

      http://www.horsepigcow.com/2008/07/28/living-life-online-pitfalls-and-perks/

      would love to go into denial and feel safe on the web and say all that I want to say, exactly the way I want say it. Most of the time I do. But if women end up pulling down their blogs, even one, I want a mechanism to ensure that it does not become a virus, an easy route to destabilize the ‘not so thick skinned girls’ from saying what they want to say. I think the post is about misuse and stalking not fair debates…… thin line sure,

      I am a woman, in a place that is as safe as can be, it doesn’t stop me from looking over my shoulder, and tensing at an unfamiliar sound on a lonely path. And if I knew that path was prone to bad elements (specific to females), and if I cannot find alternatives to that route, I will take the necessary precautions to safe guard myself, make every effort to ensure other females are warned and Yes, I will ask for policing on that route. It does spoil my solitude, which I treasure, but I have ensured safety for myself and my kind.

      Same with the web, Dear Falstaff! :-).

      And all that other stuff about the author being minority etc etc…..can be safely thrashed. Web stalking, and abuse is a phenomenon that cuts across gender, religion, region, race….. we can choose to address it or look the other way,
      some of us will let it be dealt at a personal level, some of us don’t want it to iterate to all other women, especially young girls. AND basically some of us just don’t have the patience to deal with bad behavior :-)

    6. Meena, this is a confusing article. Am I supposed to infer from this article that WE are fragile dolls susceptible to internet trolls and cheerless messages left on orkut, facebook etc? That WE check blog stats to feed an unhelpful paranoia? This article doesn’t address cyber abuse in an intelligible manner, if that is what we are talking here. And this:

      “If Facebook can actually ruin one’s love life, what exactly can the online world of blogs and social networking sites do to feminism(s)?”

      The link carries me to a post that sounds like a jejune Cosmopolitan column. Did I miss a joke here?

      “Not because these regressive people or their actions.opinions matter, but because I believe that this could be affecting my self-expression. This menace can harm me and my writing in ways that I might not be able to delineate, or even worse, be aware of myself.”

      If their ‘actions.opinions’ do not matter to you, how are they going to affect your self-expression? The other sentence perplexes me.

      The seventh paragraph is extremely problematic. Falstaff has already teased it apart, so I won’t go into it further.

      Another problem I have with this article is its opaque language. There is no clarity. I have no idea what I am supposed to understand from this piece.

    7. Hi Meena – I am sure it must feel terrible having this feeling of being stalked. And I have no doubt that a lot of it is because you write about caste as well as gender issues – people simply don’t want to be told unpleasant things, for the most part. I hope it is going to be a temporary thing, and doesn’t trouble you for too long.

      However, I didn’t get some parts of the piece – as another commentor has mentioned, the language is somewhat vague, especially the last paragraph. Are you exploring the need for stronger mechanisms to prevent stalking and harassment, or are you talking about how you yourself (and by inference, others in such positions) can better cope with it?

    8. Here’s some additional thought on the last (I guess seventh) paragraph, that a lot of people have found problematic.

      I think I have to plead guilty of being too close to the topic I am writing about, and too scared to actually articulate what I feel. Sometimes, the stalking has numbed me to such an extent that I quite don’t know what I feel. :(

      Now, back to topic, which is the seventh paragraph:

      I wanted to point out that women who write about uncomfortable/ taboo topics are doing so in spite of the social pressure that expects them to write on nicer, finer things. Next, those who dare to enter this territory might have to face personal criticism which can arrest/curtail their self-expression the next time around. Imagine for instance that a women victim of domestic violence wants to tell all. First, she is doing a “different” thing, and not a run-of-the-mill blog post. Second, in a scenario where she gets abusive comments (“you got what you deserved”, “why are you ruining your spouse’s name”, “is this what you are supposed to use the internet for”, “you might have done something which provoked your spouse to do it” and so on). Now, what will be the effect of such comments on her? I was thinking about it from the perspective of vulnerable women. In case she’s not writing under a pseudonym (like me), and she’s made a name for herself in some arena, is she taking a big risk? Or to phrase it differently, will a woman anticipate these whole sequence of events, and therefore decide not to write about the very things that traumatize and trouble her? Will she stick to safe things like the weather or traffic, or quibble about pollution just because to write about gender-oriented issues might vitiate the atmosphere and make her prone to sexist comments?

      When I talk abt the effect of blogs and social-networking websites on feminism(s), I imply not only the negative aspects. The presence of a colla-blog like UV has given me a great deal of courage to write about issues related to gender that I may not otherwise have addressed in my own blog. On the other hand, I once had to pull down a whole blog (http://meenu.blogspot.com) in mid 2003 because my frank views on relationships was reported (with many interpolations) to my parents who did not take to it kindly. For a long time, I thought that it was safer to shut up. Now, I think I know better.

    9. “I wanted to point out that women who write about uncomfortable/ taboo topics are doing so in spite of the social pressure that expects them to write on nicer, finer things. Next, those who dare to enter this territory might have to face personal criticism which can arrest/curtail their self-expression the next time around. Imagine for instance that a women victim of domestic violence wants to tell all. First, she is doing a “different” thing, and not a run-of-the-mill blog post. Second, in a scenario where she gets abusive comments (”you got what you deserved”, “why are you ruining your spouse’s name”, “is this what you are supposed to use the internet for”, “you might have done something which provoked your spouse to do it” and so on). Now, what will be the effect of such comments on her? I was thinking about it from the perspective of vulnerable women. In case she’s not writing under a pseudonym (like me), and she’s made a name for herself in some arena, is she taking a big risk? Or to phrase it differently, will a woman anticipate these whole sequence of events, and therefore decide not to write about the very things that traumatize and trouble her?”

      Yes, if she’s dumb enough to focus obsessively on the negative comments she gets and not notice all the sympathy and support she is afforded, because obviously random sniping from anonymous strangers is SO MUCH more important than reasoned responses from intelligent people (or are you seriously suggesting she’s not going to get any such responses?). Yes, if her family is small-minded and unsupportive and she’s weak enough to care what they think of her even though they care more about what strangers say than their own daughter. Yes, if she’s insecure enough to believe that cheap abuse from trolls is going to affect the ‘name’ she’s made for herself, and / or cares about the opinion of people who would base their view of her on such slander. And yes, if she’s masochistic enough to prefer domestic violence to name calling by random trolls.

      The world will always include people who are too miserable and cowardly to challenge existing prejudices and will prefer to limit themselves to platitudes and engage only with people who think exactly like them. And it will also always include people who recognize that fighting prejudice means having to take some abuse, and happen to think the cost is worth it. It is always safer and easier to keep shut. Not choosing what’s safe and easy is what being part of a movement (feminist or otherwise) is about.

    10. Cyber stalking is a serious issue. If it has gone to such an extent that it has numbed you, I would sincerely like to know how we can get together and fight it. I know that cyber laws in India lag far behind and there is no real implementation. But if you are willing to fight against your stalker(s), I am behind you and I am sure many other people will be too. Maybe, we can start by getting a good cyber lawyer. Have you tried contacting concerned authorities in Chennai? I know this last question might sound stupid to many cynics, but trust me, I have used the Indian legal system before and it can actually work. I am all for having virtual discussions etc but to make things work, legal redress is necessary.

      Now, what will be the effect of such comments on her?
      > Maybe UV should invite Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan to write a post on how she deals with filthy comments and the effect it has had on her. The way she deals with colourful comments on her blog might serve as an inspiration for all vulnerable women on the net.

      [...] is she taking a big risk? Or to phrase it differently, will a woman anticipate these whole sequence of events, and therefore decide not to write about the very things that traumatize and trouble her?
      > Regardless of gender, a person of some intelligence and maturity knows that candid opinions do not earn them candies. The fortitude to deal with difference of opinions and animosity either comes through a natural talent for combat or plain old experience. The passion and dedication to write about unorthodox issues usually trump the fear. If our female ancestors got bogged down by sexist/personal criticism (things were worse in their time) and shrunk away, we wouldn’t be where we are right now. Keeping that in mind, we need to emulate them for the sake of our sanity and future generation. Not run away because some loonies are flaming us.

      Will she stick to safe things like the weather or traffic, or quibble about pollution just because to write about gender-oriented issues might vitiate the atmosphere and make her prone to sexist comments?
      > This is a personal call. Sexist comments will not stop me from opening my big mouth. And I have no patience for women or men who get hurt too easily.

      Meena, you are a writer to me first. A woman later. You might disagree with me and I am absolutely fine with it. Yes, your writings are very much informed by your feminity. But on UV I expect well-argued cultural/social critiques. I have to say this article and your comments lack depth and a thoughtful engagement with your choice of subject.

    11. As long as we keep believing in stuff like an invisible person in the skies, who will grant wishes and provide us with virgins after we die and go there (provided we are virgins when we die too) and act on the basis of such beliefs, every society will remain paternal.

      A paternal society will always treat women as a commodity of trade. I’m glad im an atheist, i don’t listen to this crap that is all around me and i only wish all women were atheists too. Unfortunately many still think its acceptable to be quarantined for 2 days, every 28 days. So as long as such behavior (read as barbaric sexism) is tolerated and appreciated, women have no hope.

      I only wish we can call things by its name and we judge things based on evidence rather than “faith”. Once we start doing this, things shall fall into place, hopefully.

      Nice blog btw, im glad women are speaking out.

    12. Dilip, agree with you. Feminism cannot exist in isolation. Given the notions of patriarchy it constantly grapples with — of which religion is the biggest offender — atheism should be a natural progression for feminists.

    13. Falstaff, what are you are saying is that women should not self-censor themselves for fear of abuse and maligning. While I agree with you, it is also true that it’s not just a question of developing a thick skin or fighting back. For women in many professions, such abuse may not only ‘affect the name’ – it could even lead to trouble at your job, and not everyone may be able to change jobs or fight.

      Again, while we can question parents who care more about what others say, the reality in the Indian scenario is that often parents think completely differently and do indeed care about society – this doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t love us.

      The thing is, from Meena’s article, I am not clear as to what sort of trouble this is – if it is someone trolling etc, then yes, it can be handled, but where things threaten to get into one’s personal safety, or go towards defamation that can affect personal life and career, I think, as swar says, legal redress is a better option.

    14. COnfusing article .. I am not sure what the author wants to convey .. I wil wait till she gets a better topic

    15. apu: I mostly agree. But nothing in Meena’s article (or in her subsequent comments) suggests anything approaching a criminal act. Calling someone a lesbian, or writing about them in a magazine, or leaving comments like “you must have done something to deserve it” – none of these are actions that should require or obtain legal redress. And given how poor protection for free speech is anyway, I’m not going to support any further state censorship (in support of self-expression, no less!) unless we clearly spell out the conditions under which it would apply. The term cyber-stalking gets used far too loosely in this discussion for my comfort. For everything that Meena has actually talked about, I think the only solution is for people to toughen up.

      On such abuse leading to trouble on the job – a) I find that a little hard to believe – what kind of employer makes judgments based on random Internet gossip? b) Even if that’s true, however, I would argue that legal redress needed is against the employer – terminating someone because of Internet gossip that has no bearing (presumably) on their ability to do their job is unacceptable.

      Finally, the point about parents is not that their caring about society means that they don’t love us. The point is that caring more about what your parents think than about the ideas and principles you claim to champion is a fundamentally childish response. People should have more courage in their convictions. Obviously you’re welcome to limit your own self-expression because you’re afraid of what your parents may think, but if you’re going to do that then I, for one, am going to find it hard to take the claim that you value self-expression seriously.

    16. [...] leave a comment » Recently, I read a post addressing cyberstalking on blogs and social networks, a huge issue that was hidden under a lot personal trivia. Nevertheless, an attempt to talk about unpleasant things by the author, see here. [...]

    17. Well, the stalkings were of a criminal nature (and it spilled over from the cyber world to the flesh-and-blood one), but I am not relaxed enough to share the particulars.

      Did I take legal action? Not this time around, because my previous experience of approaching the police was not all that worth the effort.

    18. Meena: Let me get this straight. Your real issue was stalkings of ‘a criminal nature’, and the fact that the police are unresponsive to complaints about these illegal acts, so you put up a post about comments from anonymous trolls??

      *shakes head in frustrated disgust*

    19. well, it started as anonymous trolls and obsessive emails.. and then, the online world slipped into the offline one.

    20. I followed this discussion for a while and it seems to have petered off at this point where it was turning into something else equally important- that is of how we put the institutions we have created to actual use.

      Meena: I hope by this point these stalkings in the offline world have ceased or if they havent, you have approached the police and goaded them into action. Most often, institutions are slow to respond and it is only with some steely action, not just for our personal cause but also for what it means in a larger sense, that we must push them to do their duty, isnt it?

      as for writing about something personal yet political, if unsavoury responses were to affect us, and I m sure most of us could not be oblivious to their negativity… some are overwhelming after all…perhaps then we must look at why we write at all.

      do we write for our arguments to be well received, to be argued out in polite terms… or do we accept that ours is not the only truth and that what we are writing is to put forward what we believe is just and have it out in public domain.

    21. [...] 2008 by Anindita Sengupta I JUST GOT BACK from a break to discover the flurry of comments around Meena’s post. Lots of accusations about it not being well thought out / clear [...]

    22. This is very interesting. Nice post. I once faced the same issue.
      There was a very nice song by Meredith Brooks that came out a while ago. It starts with “I am a bitch I am a lover”.
      This song goes on to describe the different shades of a woman that the singer feels within herself.

      I had posted this song on my blog and had mentioned “SO true.. I feel the same way and I can relate so well to this song”

      I was slap-dashed by a male chauvinist who responded back with crap saying that “throwing attitude is cool but burning-bra is so un-cool. You call yourself a bitch which is shows the abject values in an Indian woman”

      All this was just because the first line of the song was “I am a bitch”. So, for this gentleman I turned into a bitch.

      I think sometimes people are just too shallow and go by the words without really understanding the context behind those words.

    23. I am probably not the right person to comment here, as this is a feminist blog.
      But the post by Meena and other comments have a common root – trustworthiness .
      You can go through my post on socail networking http://sujayghosh.wordpress.com/2008/10/23/six-degrees-of-seperation-science-of-a-connected-age/

      Some things have not been still addressed to the community.

    24. I recently had an unexpected pregnancy, considered my abortion options (slim down here in Trivandrum), and miscarried at 8 weeks. I wrote a blog entry about this whole experience, detailing my experiences in the hospitals and the debates between me and my husband on whether or not to have an abortion.

      Falstaff: if you don’t think that this blog post could affect my future employment, you live in a different world than I do. Anti-abortion feeling can get in the way of a good impression and, in a tight job market, everything matters. I don’t have a visa to work in India, but when I return to the US I fully expect some (not all) prospective employers to Google me. I wrote and posted that story with the full knowledge that it could cost me in the real world.

      Toughen up? Yeah – because fighting sexism doesn’t take enough energy in my life as it is. I chose to post this story because I have a large network of supportive friends and family. But knowing how I debated, all the while I wrote it, the wisdom of posting it…I know that speaking out is a brave thing to do, but I also believe that not speaking out isn’t a cowardly thing. Sometimes, it’s merely picking one’s battles, directing one’s energy to the most useful and powerful ends.

      For me, I’ve worked on freeing women’s sexuality, encouraging women to take ownership and learn about themselves. I decided that my short pregnancy was, in many ways, a sexual issue and that it fit in my feminist focus.

      Does that mean I won’t write about other feminist issues? No. Does it mean that I won’t write about other issues that could result in stalking, job loss, and personal danger. Maybe. It really depends on how much energy I have for the effort. Because some days, it’s all I can do to do the regular chores, without putting myself out there on the front lines of a contentious issue.

      Self-censorship is most dangerous when it’s unconscious. Consciously done, I call it picking my battles and I consider it the task of every human being in this world of endless battles. This is my answer to the questions raised at the end of this article.

      As rants go, I think that you (Meena) expressed your feelings well.

      Like others, I’m not sure how to read your comments about defamation. I think there’s a classist/casteist problem you’re explaining, where powerful people get to stop people who lie about them while people like you and me get no attention from the authorities who are supposed to protect us all. If not, if you are encouraging stiffer legal penalties for insulting (not just lying) speech, I hope that you will keep in mind that censorship is a knife wielded by the powerful. I believe that it will always hurt more than it will help. But that’s a whole other conversation…

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