Taking down the troll trouble
Looking past Deepika Venkatachalam’s work to help Covid-positive patients in the city, social media trolls make derogatory comments and leave no chance to abuse her
By Kannalmozhi Kabilan
CHENNAI: In an ideal world, a young woman trying to put together a community kitchen for the benefit of Covid-positive people in need would be able to do so with ample support from like-minded volunteers. At the very least, do the work in relative obscurity and amid generic indifference the way most good work happens. This, however, is a world that’s far from ideal and so the young woman gets trolled for her teeth. At this point, it doesn’t even come as much of a surprise.
After all, we’ve had a female politician bullied for being dark-skinned and ‘ugly’, a journalist threatened with death and rape for labelling a hero’s movie as bad, a caste- Hindu woman abused online because the court acquitting her parents in the murder of her late Dalit husband is reason enough. If you’re a woman, you know what to expect. So did Deepika Venkatachalam, a speech therapist, right when she decided to make her Instagram account ‘public’.
But, being prepared for the onslaught doesn’t make it any less bitter. This time around, it came at the expense of arranging food for sick people. “I had so many DMs to respond to and then, there were people texting me, saying they’ll get me a dentist’s appointment. It went to the point where I got two-three calls from dental clinics asking if I had booked an appointment. I was fielding calls and in between, I had to deal with these too,” she recounts. All this after she put out a video asking people to volunteer for the community kitchen. One week down the line, the abuse has spilled over into the forms she has been distributing for the #CookforCovid initiative.
Where people are expected to fill in details of how many people are in need of food, address, period of subscription and such, she has received forms with filthy, derogatory comments. They even know enough to throw the name of her boyfriend in the mix, she reveals. As much as it would make it easy for everyone to think it’s only men who undertake these trolling missions, women (at least what passes for a woman in the virtual world) too find it in themselves to add to the endeavour. Unless the trolling and abuse takes a graphic and sexual turn. And there’s no point in engaging with them, finds Deepika.
Ignoring them is a better way to go than drawing more attention to the trolls who thrive on such dialogue, she suggests. The al ternat ive is to strengthen the solidarity system, she offers. For, as much as there will always be trolls and harassers, there will be those who support the cause. “I did a couple of campaigns earlier. One with Sameera Reddy called #itsokaygirl, where people got together to fight against unrealistic beauty standards. The other was #breakDstereotrypes where the idea was to normalise dark underarms, body hair and such. A lot of nasty comments came my way.
But, there were so many positive comments from girls. This made up 90 per cent of it. So, whenever something like this happens, you focus on the 90 per cent and move on,” she says. With her #CookforCovid initiative too, she has taken solace in the same wisdom and it seems to have paid off. What began as an effort to supply meals to just the people in her neighbourhood soon expanded to the rest of the city with more volunteers stepping in to cook. People in the districts of Madurai, Coimbatore, Tirupur, and Puducherry have also taken up the cause. Soon, she might get this going in Bengaluru too. And so it goes.
Not in form!
The abuse has spilled over into the forms she has been distributing for the #CookforCovid initiative. Where people are expected to fill in details of how many people are in need of food, address, period
of subscription and such, she has received forms with filthy, derogatory comments.
Courtesy : TNIE