Sexism finds a new avatar in internet trolling


38104The term ‘sexism’ is dubious. Digital Sexism is even more dubious and dangerous. Why? Because in the thin layer of this atavistic passion lies the seeds of ‘internet trolling’ — the infamous personal attacks on social media.

In general, the term ‘sexism’ refers to actions based on a certain belief. The belief that boasts: members of one sex are less skilful, less intelligent and less able to do a task. It has fired enough controversy so far; but there has been no solution. As it has been defined, it may distress either gender. Unfortunately, however, it only affects women and girls. It grows stronger, more and more, in every sense, as time passes by. In the age of ‘Internet of Things’, it was primarily assumed that gender disparity would disappear slowly; but it didn’t happen. Actually, it has engineered in a reverse way.

Recently the journal ‘Computers in Human Behaviour’ has published an interesting study. It tells us: men are more likely to be ‘internet trolls’ than women. Behind a field of anonymity when one deliberately attacks another through social media, it’s called internet trolling.

As a batsman when Virat Kohli fails, his girlfriend, actor Anushka Sharma becomes a victim of internet trolling. It happens in everyday life. And believe it or not, men are more likely to be ‘internet trolls’ because they are ‘narcissus’. At least the recent study tells us this curious case of male mentality which takes too much interest in and admiration for his own abilities. Men are more likely to be internet trolls because they think they are superior to women.

Welcome to the world of sexism. Welcome to the dark sides of our patriarchal society where past meets present. In the notorious witch trials between the 15th and 18th centuries many women lost their lives. And they still do! Men still hunt for the ‘witches’; when they find one, the ‘internet trolls’ start.

You’re not stunned. You’d have been shocked if the opposite had happened. Isn’t it? Men are men. Be it biological or digital. But how come this concept of narcissism plays the fiddle? If men stop fiddling around women it looks fine; but, in reality it hardly happens. And digitally? Behind the disguise of anonymity it seems to be never ending.

In their study Nelli Ferenczia, Tara C. Marshallb and Kathrine Bejanyanb say that internet ‘trolling’ is a mirror-side of ‘attention-seeking’. Self-love that shut out everyone else has been morphed into a new avatar – internet trolling.
Researchers from Goldsmiths and Brunel universities have analysed survey results of 570 participants and they argue: social media can be used either anti-socially or pro-socially. Women tend to feel more connected to people and have more of a sense of belonging in any type of social media; so they are more likely to use this ubiquitous media pro-socially. On the other hand, the prospect of using social media in an anti-social way galvanizes men into further action of trolling. They simply love trolling because the motivation behind such uncivilised actions is nothing but narcissism.

The interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects — which we lovingly call ‘the internet of things’ — promised us something else. We thought the internet would break the gender barrier like never before, because it’s ‘sans frontier’. Not having any frontier would help internet achieve something that we had dreamed once but later discarded as utopia. Unfortunately, Internet has failed to deliver so far in the question of disparity.

It’s not the fault of the concept on which internet works and connects each other. In the poem ‘Bridge Builder’, Will Allen Dromgoole wrote about an old man who decided to build a bridge after he had crossed a ‘chasm vast and deep and wide.’ He was a man — but an unusual man; who had thought about his fellow travellers irrespective of their genders. A sense of empathy was there. Although digital age talks about equality, it hardly follows that principle of empathy, irrespective of gender or colour. It even breaks into its own world of work environment.

Consider the curious case of Erica Baker. The diversity advocate, talented and hard working software engineer, has not just been a victim of internet trolls but worse than that. It was not anonymous.; not behind any mask. It was open — the gender disparity, in the digital giant like Google. Erica is not just a woman but an African-American or black woman. She decided to quit because the disparity had been bigger and seemed to be intolerable. Before leaving the prestigious job she decided to assemble a spreadsheet where Googlers could enter their salary information and many co-workers responded with great enthusiasm. Her bosses didn’t like the idea.

Silicon Valley companies are not run by illiterates. Then why do they struggle to retain female engineers? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has found that 32 percent of women in science, technology, engineering, and math leave the field within a year. Ten percent more compared to the number of 22 percent of men co-workers. Women often say about such work environments that they feel ‘left out and alone’. Why? It’s because on her team often she is the only female. Apart from that she must constantly reaffirm her skills and knowledge. So the woman has the onus to prove not only that she is a good engineer but that she is a good ‘woman engineer’.

Earlier this year when programmer Susan J. Fowler published a blog post detailing the sexual harassment and discrimination she faced at Uber, it drew international attention. It’s the worst case of uncouth corporate culture where after getting her report the human resources department didn’t take any concrete step.

Here is the catch. People, who’re building the bridge of equality, don’t believe in equality. People, who’re crossing the bridge, don’t believe in it either. The idea of equality finally melts down. Internet trolls grow in number. Digital attacks on women raise their ugly heads. Sexism persists.

Digital or no-digital, men think they are superior. The ugly self-love stops thinking positively about women. If it did, the digital world could have, at least, been different.