By Pooja/Lost in Pretty Europe
Media personalities and celebrities often make use of social media to promote their work, maintain their profiles and connect to the people. The opinions general people post from behind their computer screens on social media can often be very reflective of the society. Once I accidentally landed on social media page of a popular Nepali actress and went through her photos and posts. The comments on those photos were appalling. It was a real eye-opener for me to see the mind of many Nepali men (and in some cases, women fans) who posted such outrageously vulgar comments.
The Nepali film industry has evolved a lot since the first movie Aama was released in 1964 . With the advancement of time and globalization, the plots have changed, the topics have changed, the actors have changed, and the filming equipment has gotten better. Many young Nepalese follow Bollywood and Hollywood movies passionately. Korean movies have also been gaining popularity in the last few years. Nepali movies, which once had been limited to audiences in cities are getting increasingly popular among a wider Nepali population. While topics such as nudity, aanga pradarshan (body showing), vulgarity are easily digested by the audience in foreign movies, they remain a hot topic when it comes to Nepali movies.
Women celebrities in Nepal do not have it easy. After noticing obscene comments under any news involving women on internet, I started looking it up more closely. I was mortified at the comments that the photos and news the women celebrities in Nepal received. Comments on social media are often very indecent, graphic and degrading. The photos, in most cases, are simple. But the tank top the actress/model is wearing will degrade her, the shorts will make her too ‘westernized’, the modest swimsuit photo near the pool will make her morally obscene and deserving to be raped. Nepali women celebrities are continuously made to defend their cultural integrity in open media interviews. I have noticed that any articles related to women in the news receives many remarks, questioning the woman’s character, morality and lifestyle choices.
Recently, an online news portal posted about a Nepali actress being pregnant. When I went to the comment section on Facebook, there were men expressing lewd remarks about the pregnancy. Some had even questioned her choice of marrying a foreign man and put her in a very negative light because of that decision alone. There were fingers pointed on social media to the victim, also an actress, who was recently raped and murdered in Pokhara, questioning her character. A famous media personality, who was bombarded with similar nasty comments at her announcement of being pregnant, even took to Facebook to post a status expressing her discontentment with the way Nepali people act on internet. There are numerous such examples on the internet which can really show how women in Nepal are viewed by the general population. A person can be anonymous and speak their mind on the internet. If the very few Nepali people with internet access and some English skills hold such ideas about women, I cringe at the thought of what the rest think.
It is not only the Nepali women celebrities who experience such levels of disrespect expressed by the comments and opinions on the internet. Whenever there is any news article concerning a woman, usually ones accompanied with a photo, she is often judged harshly. Only a docile women who subscribes to traditional roles and does not question gender inequality, injustice and superstitions are appreciated in Nepali society. Such views are abundantly expressed on the world wide web.
Nepal’s rigid patriarchal structure means that most men and women grow up believing that men are superior to women. This discrimination can be observed in every walk of life in Nepal. Sometimes subtly, but mostly out rightly. Many men grow up believing that every woman owes them favors, whether it be sexual or emotional. Women are taught from early age on how to be a good girl and later a good daughter-in-law. These include rules on curfew, befriending or dating boys, clothing choices, importance of obedience, etc. Women in Nepal generally have very little control over their lives. The few who defy that and are in the modelling/acting industry are immediately equated to “loose” women, for wearing Western clothes, for acting on-screen with strange men and alike. The comments we see on social media are a result of such repressive views about women which remain strong in Nepali society. This is slowly changing. Recently the Nepali film industry has seen the arrival of educated, passionate, creative and open-minded actors and directors who have come to the industry by choice, but there remains a lot of barriers to overcome.
While the immediate addressing of such problems on social media can be done with better website administration and making of movies with central and strong female roles, the problems run deeper than that. Changing mindsets can take generations, but change can start from home, on an individual level. While education and self reliance of both men and women are strong tools for equality. It is a long term goal and doesn’t only include individual efforts, but also of the state in making these resources available equally to all citizens. However, what we can do at individual level, is to broaden our minds by ways such as reading and traveling. We shouldn’t be so resistant to change as it’s the only constant thing. We should be able to evaluate the age old traditions that we so hold on dearly to. No developed or civilized country today has poor gender development rankings. Only equal opportunities to all citizens of the country will make the sexual prejudices gradually disappear and the society prosper. Parents especially play a substantial role in bringing up their children, and should raise their children in an equal environment. Little girls should be equally encouraged as little boys to pursue their hobbies, explore their surroundings and follow life by their choice when they become adults. Only after a lot of hard work and an open mind can closing of the big gender gap in Nepal be possible.
**We realize online harassment also happens to normal women. Has this happened to you? What have you noticed? Please share.
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