What Does It Take To Be Political In 2021? Six Women Weigh In
The young creative minds share inputs on how they address political issues on their social media platforms
The country’s youth is powering through the lurking incertitude and rising to the occasion. As a nationwide healthcare crisis, a global pandemic and digital hostility collide, we wonder what it takes to be political in such times. Especially, as a woman who makes her opinion heard on digital platforms that are open to scrutiny of one and all. Subject to both, a loyal following and trolls, six women speak up.
1. Dr. Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju, Content Creator
As an active voice fighting for transgender rights, Dr. Trinetra feels that being a trans woman herself, most of her existence has been political. She says, “When your rights and identity are open to public discussion, scrutiny and ridicule, your ‘personal’ is overtly political. It is easier for me to have political opinions in 2021 as the pandemic has finally jolted people to speak out of their insulated privileges.” People from different minorities have always spoken up and suffered consequences. Women and nonbinary people face greater backlash than men (typically cis-het, upper caste and/or upper class) for taking political stances, she believes. “Our society is wired to disadvantage certain groups—even social media algorithms favour power structure. Misogynistic, queer-phobic, casteist content is rarely moderated, while breasts are outright objectionable. I mostly ignore the bullying unless I see an opportunity to create content out of it.” she says.
2. Scherezade Shroff, Content Creator
Hardly politically vocal in the past, Scherezade admits that the last couple of years pushed her to address issues. Contrary to popular opinion, she feels that social media backlashes are not necessarily gender-biased as anybody can get called out for having an opinion. Recalling her trysts with trolls she shares, “I received tons of messages for speaking against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA), ordering me to return to Iran. Some even questioned my rights to stay in India, belittling my Parsi origin. I try not to fight with such bullies though, as I am tolerant and respectful towards differences of opinions.”
3. Arpita Mehta, Fashion Designer
Arpita remarks that while the digital world continues to successfully stage a revolution in the fashion industry, the backlash faced on social media channels is inevitable. “I feel women are more expressive on social media for taking political or social stands and are therefore subjected to more backlashes. In case someone crosses the line, the first step is not to pick a fight but to educate,” she opines. Talking about what keeps her going, Arpita says, “I take breaks from social media and limit the information I take in. Music and gardening keep me sane.”
4. Rasna Bhasin, Content Creator
We simply cannot enjoy the luxury of being apolitical anymore as it has come to haunt us in reciprocation, Rasna staunchly believes. “It boils down to ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ and I have spoken for it—be it Sikh, Muslim or political rights in general. There are times my family gets worried, considering how things have unfolded for people speaking up recently. But I don’t let the fear get the better of me,” she says. While she is not subjected to much hate on social media, she agrees that women do get abused on virtual platforms. “One has to be thick-skinned and continue moving forward. Though it’s emotionally draining to constantly live in fear, praying and showing up for people keeps me going,” she says matter-of-factly.
5. Kamakshi Khanna, Singer-Songwriter
“Instead of glorifying the spirit of helping each other, we must remember why we are in this position and have dialogues that hold our elected representatives accountable,” Kamakshi believes. She is vocal about her political stands but feels that it’s unfair to give someone hell for not doing so. “Expecting content creators to provide political news should not be the norm; instead follow journalists such as Faye DSouza and Rana Ayyub, who are bringing the truth to power,” she suggests. Kamakshi highlights the irony of social media—not having an opinion is considered complacency, yet trolls would ask her to stick to being a musician when she did speak out. “I block or report them right away and don’t leave any room for hate,” she shares.
6. Mounica Tata, Illustrator
Unlike Kamakshi, Mounica feels people with agency and a platform must utilise it to their fullest. “I understand that many of us don’t share our political opinions openly fearing repercussions. But there’s zero thresholds for apathy towards politics,” she feels strongly. She points out that while sharing data on the current situation isn’t ‘spreading negativity’, sharing things that help you stay afloat during these times isn’t ‘toxic positivity’ as well. She emphasises on being sensitive, aware and kind. Mounica stays connected with family and friends, and cuddles with her dogs to restore her sanity.
Find ELLE’s June 2021 issue on stands or download your digital copy here.