Of all the evils that WhatsApp represents, sexism is the one that I resent most often. Although I am not an active user, I am (unavoidably) a member of a lot of WhatsApp groups – Family groups, work groups, friends’ groups.. you get it. There is one thing that stands out as a common factor in all the groups, no matter what the group is or who the members are – the never-ending sexist jokes on women, marriage, and how men are victims of these two factors. I experience a lot of reactions to these jokes that range from ignoring them for the sake of keeping my peace to getting into arguments with people who forward these jokes.
Note how I emphasize on the action of forwarding these messages. It is typical of any social media user to think that forwarding/sharing/liking a message does not transfer any onus to them about the message. In my opinion, “Forwarded as received” is the most outrageous phrase that exhibits a total disregard for your friends, family, and other contacts. These memes or messages are created based on the responses they gather. The more they are forwarded, the more they are created. So there is an implicit responsibility in forwarding or liking these messages even if you don’t create them.
The ultimate defense when someone raises an issue, is always – It is just a joke, why are you being so sensitive?, be a sport, and the like. If the argument goes beyond a threshold, they turn it around on you and mention that perhaps you shouldn’t be on social media if you cannot take it lightly. They think they can escape with the lame I-just-forwarded-it excuse.
I am astounded by the fact that none of these people stop to think that they are actually showing their support or their preference for these messages by forwarding it. It is not about taking a joke. It is about taking a stand. As a set of generations who experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly of social media first-hand, is this the message we want to pass to our next generation? Let’s think for a minute – our kids read such information and consider this bias as normal. Our daughters will think that it is normal for them to be made out to be a joke. Our sons will think that it is not wrong to repeatedly make jokes at someone’s expense, even if the underlying message is not true. What hope is there for a better world if our kids see this as the reality? As a parent, wouldn’t you cringe inside if your son-in-law or someone in his family makes a joke out of your daughter? How can we expect younger generations to believe in the concept of marriage or take it seriously after we have repeatedly joked about it?
Do the men who forward such messages really have such women in their life ? Do the women who endorse these messages (apparently for fun) really behave this way and do they not wish the men in their lives were more attuned to their feelings? And then there are people who remain silent because the sender is either your boss, a close friend, or a family member. How can we aspire for equality when we groom our attitude with such daily doses of biased humor? How can we claim to be educated when our education isn’t helping us identify the stand we are taking? How can we claim to be sophisticated when it isn’t stopping us from endorsing a wrong message, however implicitly?
In the end, unlike most of us think, this doesn’t boil down to men vs. women. It boils down to people vs. prejudice. It boils down to taking responsibility for the information we share with our contacts who trusted us with their contact number and time. Do we have the guts to do that?
Until later 🙂