The Black and Blue Eye Project-Against Cyber Bullying

Aparna Gopan
Posted March 8, 2020 from India
News report on "The Black and Blue Eye Project"

"I would fuck her so hard that she's be in a wheelchair" .

This is one of the comments that was posted against Julia Hardy, a writer who works in video games , just because of the fact that she happens to be a woman in a male-dominated industry. This is a primary example of gender based cyber trolling. 

Let's call a spade a spade. Gendered Cyber trolling is more than just trolling. It's abuse. 

The number of people who systematically attack women and gender minorities on the basis of their gender is far too many to report.

Everytime a woman or a gender minority posts something that fires up into a debate, you can see how the comments tend to get sexist and threatening after a while. The focus of debate will shift from the post to the number of ways in which men would like to humiliate or threaten the person in question. The commentators will also get into detailed character assassination of the woman and sometimes graphically describe how they would like to harass the woman with gruesome details.

While US and Australia were topping the list of countries with the moat number of cases against cyber bullying, India has been a front-runner in this since 2018 when it topped the list.

I am a survivor of gendered cyber bullying, where my bullies used or rather targeted my gender in multiple cases. Most women I know have been cyber-bullied as well. But , there is no outrage against this growing mentality that it is okay to cyber bully a gender minority into submission. Since, cyber bullying doesnt leave visible scars like in the case of physical abuse, people seem to foster an indifferent and often tolerable attitude towards this crime. As a society, we are constantly failing new generations of children through this indifferent attitude which tolerates and encourages cyber-bullying.

This thought is what led me to act against this. I have been conducting sessions against gendered cyber bullying in colleges and schools of Kerala. Once while I was researching new case studies on the topic I happened to read the story of Angelina Green, a 14 year old who committed suicide due to cyberbullying in Indiana. Her story, especially the gruesome detail that she decided to end her life by choosing to hang herself from a tree next to her school bus stop so that her bullies could see her lifeless body stayed with me. This story tormented me to no end and I wanted to do more for the cause.

That's when I started "The Black and Blue Eye Project". It is a campaign series against cyber bullying which aims at working with internet giants and policy makers in detecting cyber crime on one hand and in preventing cyber crime on the other hand through empathy workshops against cyber-bullying in public spaces. The name as well as the aim of the campaign is to get people to see the hidden bruises and consequences of cyber-bullying. As a first step to that, we organised an exhibition against cyber bullying which showed screenshots of the most horrendous comments showcasing genderered cyber bullying along with paintings of women , children and gender minorities with black and blue eyes. This drove home the point that every rape threat and insensitive comment left a lasting scar on the survivor. We also covered 5 cases of teenage suicide from cyber bullying and got the visitors to pledge action against this crime. The camapign was received with huge praise from parents and educators and it was covered in detailed news reports on major TV News Channels as well as on various print and online media.

Parents and school going children were our main target group. We gave them measures to prevent their children from becoming a bully by installing apps like Rethink which would act like a Google keypad and send out a prompt when it detects insensitive words/phrases being typed out.

Our next step is to Target more cities . 10 educational institutions per city coupled with a free exhibhition for the public in an effort to maximise our reach and impact. We are also working on the development of an app which records the number of verified reports against social media accounts , to help create safe spaces and deterrent measures against this epidemic on a large global scale.

We dealt with a fair amount of criticism for taking action against this crime, where people think it's an infringement of the abuser's right to free speech. But those who argue fail to recognise that these public threats and comments contribute to the tolerance of gendered violence and encourage the spread of a toxic mentality which contributes to the numerous instances of acid attacks, harrasment and rapes that we rally against.

So, this Women's Day, as we talk about the numerous ways in which we can improve technology for women empowerment , let's also talk about empowering technology to create safer spaces for women , both online and otherwise.

This story was submitted in response to #SheTransformsTech.

Comments 17

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Jill Langhus
Mar 09
Mar 09

Hi Aparna,

I applaud you for your courage, tenacity and roll out of this important and much-needed campaign. Do you have a website and/or social media page(s) for me to like/follow? I totally, 100%, agree with you! The era of violence and normalization of violence and abuse in all forms needs to end! Thanks for sharing.

If you're thinking about extending your campaign, or starting another one, you may want to consider applying for the World Pulse Featured Changemaker program on this link: https://www.worldpulse.com/raise-your-voice/become-a-featured-changemaker

Aparna Gopan
Mar 09
Mar 09

Dear Jill,
Thank You for the warm words and thoughts. You can follow our work at www.elefantintheroom.org and our social media handle is @elefantishere.

Jill Langhus
Mar 09
Mar 09

Hi Aparna,

You're very welcome:-) Thanks for sharing your website and social handles. I've liked your FB page and am following you on Twitter now:-) Please keep us posted on your progress.

Aparna Gopan
Mar 09
Mar 09

Very grateful for your support. It will be a pleasure to keep you posted. Hope we can collaborate on something soon, if at all.

Jill Langhus
Mar 09
Mar 09

You're very welcome, dear:-) Great! Looking forward to it!

Yes, that sounds great.

XX

JANEKALU
Mar 09
Mar 09

Dear Aparna
Thanks for sharing

Aparna Gopan
Mar 09
Mar 09

The pleasure is all mine..thank you for taking the time to read :)

Shirin Dalaki
Mar 09
Mar 09

Aparna,
Thank you for your post. I applaud you to contribute to a cause that is so dear to your heart. It saddened my heart every time I read the stories about bullying, there is absolutely no space for it.
I am grateful for World Pulse as a platform and for you expressing yourself freely to give this awareness a voice . We must encourage one another that there is no space for bullying and attacking others. Those who commit such act, we must understand that their action comes from the place of fear within themselves due to their own vulnerabilities and bullying... in my opinion is their way of acting out their own fear, negative emotions. We as human beings must know clearly that we have value and express that daily in our conversations so that the space for bullying becomes eliminated and eventually fades away. Each one of us are responsible to create our own boundaries and learn to speak up and express the truth that comes from our heart. Together we can build a better planet, you and me and the rest of us. We are not separate, we are the same and from the same Source, we just need to break down the stereotype and in my heart I feel we can do it. Thank you and keep up the good work.

Shirin

Aparna Gopan
Mar 09
Mar 09

Dear Shirin,
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the same . I think that the abuser is also a victim of the toxic mentality that it's okay to cyber bully a person, especially a woman or a gender minority. Our fight is against this tumor-like mindset . And I hope more people break their silence and tolerance of cyber bullying and act against this crime .

Anita Shrestha
Mar 10
Mar 10

Thank you for sharing

Aparna Gopan
Mar 11
Mar 11

:)

yvoneakoth
Mar 14
Mar 14

Dear Aparna,

I like your passion and your Black and Blue Eyed Project. It is a great initiative that I look forward to learning more about it.

Aparna Gopan
Mar 16
Mar 16

It warms our heart to hear this :)

maeann
Mar 14
Mar 14

Aparna, thank you for sharing. I support you with what you said and I quote: let's talk about empowering technology to create safer spaces for women, both online.

Aparna Gopan
Mar 16
Mar 16

Thank you for quoting my words. That line remains my favorite part of the article as well !

Paulina Nayra
Mar 14
Mar 14

Dear Aparna,
That's a very commendable initiative. That's a way to counteract bullies who use social media to abuse women and girls and to provide help to the victims of bullying by using technology. And you transform tech.
Huggss.
Paulina

Aparna Gopan
Mar 16
Mar 16

Thank You , Paulina :) , for the show of solidarity and for your trust .