Learning from Lewinsky: Confronting the culture of bullying and shaming, creating a culture of support
Posted by ramblinginthecity
If you haven’t read Reema Moudgill’s piece titled Monica Lewinsky Takes On The Cult Of Shame, you’ve missed out on an important conversation about the culture of shaming and the legitimization of the violation of privacy by our blind acceptance of digital behavior. In a flatter world created by technology, it’s obvious to me that we have not simply recreated the ogling men on the corner of the streets, the vicious auntys whose gossip can ruin reputations and the medieval lynchings of ‘witches’. In fact, we have amplified it. We have turned everyone into the voyeuristic creep, the bitchy aunt and the maligning man. Yes, it’s become normal, this online bullying and shaming, the blind consumption of content used to bully and shame in the name of gossip. And, let’s face it, you and I are party to it too.
Monica Lewinsky’s TED Talk is indeed admirable for bringing to the fore issues we will not talk about. Even as we cheer about the win for freedom of speech by the striking down of the 66A, we will not talk about how humiliation, shaming and acts of sexual offense on the Internet are causing deep psychological damage. In India, where talking about a whole bunch of things (especially stuff that matters) is not the done thing, young people are not getting enough guidance on how to deal with bullying and intimidation on the Internet. Cyber bullying is real and we need to wake up to it.
Lewinsky’s talk pushed me to think about how we can create opportunities and spaces for youth to discuss how they feel, what they observe, to bring issues to the table, to learn through shared experiences. If the online world can be abusive, it can host moderated support forums too. But my hunch is that the change needs to start at home, in schools, in the park, among friends. As my children grow and become more independent, I’m constantly under pressure to rethink they way I deal with them. My focus is shifting from managing and controlling their routines, to playing the part of a guide and adviser. How can I co-opt my kids to evolve and follow an ethical code for using the Internet, for instance? How can I set up a system in which they have someone reliable and mature to talk to, even if its not us the parents? How can I eliminate the sense of taboo around topics like sexual abuse, abuse of power, bullying and aggression that are deeply encoded in our psyche?