A break-up made in heaven for Indian trolls. Cricketer Shoaib Malik remarries but it is his ex-wife, Sania Mirza, a public figure whose actions are dissected, and I am not speaking of her tennis.
Long ago, double standards met misogyny on social media and became a frothing, toxic cocktail. Troll-verse likes nothing better than a story gone wrong, especially if it involves a woman.
That Sania’s former marriage and divorce have been made a public spectacle is not surprising, there are no boundaries when even personal choices bafflingly come second to odes for nationalism. Does she deserve to be ‘back in the Indian fold,’ a frenzied debate on X rages over Sania’s status, unemployment and jobs can wait.
Private affair made public
In this mudslinging, there are drum rolls around how Sania went ‘against her country’ to marry a man from a neighbouring country. It would be funny if they didn’t believe in what they were typing, fastest fingers first.
Sania has represented India at every tournament she has played, winning medals under the banner of the Tricolor. That however does not fit into the script. When the definition of patriotism has itself changed and narrowed, it is as easy to dismiss her accomplishments as it was to mock champion wrestlers who alleged sexual abuse.
A successful, independent woman having a moment is like watering the glass of misogyny that overspills on social media. Comments magnified from a lens of hyper- nationalism dismiss her and her circumstances as something she deserves for marrying a man from across the border.
It is hard to remember when a male was at the receiving end of such intrusive behaviour or questioned for a private issue so publicly?
Marriages, sour, divorces happen and those branding this as a cultural misnomer are living under a rock. Blunder or not, that is for her to introspect, not for some strange men who feel anonymity online gives them power, to judge.
Privacy and a right to choose are non-disputable yet the Indian woman, the more successful she is, gets her choices questioned. Sania’s news is just another excuse for social media’s rampant sexism to rear its ugly head. Public faces or marginalised women, no one is spared being tarnished by the brush.
From politician Mahua Moitra to women journalists, it is a long not yet exhausted list of women who have found themselves threatened and trolled.
On occasion, those behind the abuse are so- called respectable professionals. Remember Rhea Chakravarty, her boyfriend actor Sushant Singh Rajput died by suicide and drugs were also linked to the tragedy. Rhea admitted that Rajput took Marijuana, but the abuse was all for her.
Shoaib Malik’s marriage has made news on shores of both India and Pakistan, but it is by and large comments from this side that have been vicious and laced with dollops of male entitlement.
Social media for women is that unsafe space that erupts whenever a lazy bully finds himself at a loose end or news, even fake, falls on his lap. Sometimes, it is not even that. Often, opinion from a woman on a social media platform gets into crosshairs when identity is gender-based.
Targeting Sania is in poor taste, but it is not wholly unexpected, strong women in the country still need to double down in comparison to their male counterparts when it comes to their opinion or success, more so on platforms like X where fake information and abuse spar with each other daily. Women are auctioned on apps, abused for their religion, and questioned by men whose only claim to fame is, they are men.
In this bubble, even the most sacred of boundaries, children, is crossed with impunity. Gloating men have questioned Sania’s son’s citizenship. Those who don’t spare children, as with Shahrukh Khan’s son Aryan, need to look within themselves. But introspection is not for the weak, there is no accountability for any actions, as we saw after the hounding of Aryan. Once again, a young boy, Sania’s son is like a deer caught in the headlights, but there is no remorse. Privacy is almost an academic question although last checked who a person marries was not an open house.
Online trolling is an extension of a society that has for long revelled in its muscular patriarchy, dismissing women and their opinion, including as influences of ‘western culture.’
Trolling women has become an industry in India where, compounded by ideological differences, voyeurism, gaslighting and rumours are all par for the course. Its classic trait is to be worried by success, of a strong woman. Hopefully they have met their match in Sania.