Women in India are becoming increasingly independent due to progress in society. Many changes can be traced back to British rule in India which, while deeply damaging in some respects, in other ways, women’s rights were improved. For example, measures were introduced to enforce the abolition of damaging practices related to women. One of these practices was Sati, which took place in Hindu cremations, and involved widowed women sacrificing themselves to their dead husband’s corpse (digital, 2015; desk 2011).
The British abolished other measures as well, including the implementation of the Hindu Widows’ Remarriage Act in 1856, and the Child Marriage Restraint Act. The Hindu Widows Remarriage Act was implemented to help improve the state of Indian widows at the time. Indian women during the 19th century were expected to isolate themselves from all forms of social interaction, and were not permitted to wear makeup, dress elaborately, nor attend certain religious festivals (Hemant Singh, 2019). These factors limited women’s equality and growth.
However, Indian women today are no longer silent observers, and instead demand freedom and stand strong for other women through raising awareness using social media. Many women in India are increasingly achieving this empowerment through social media, which plays a vital role in many people’s lives. Social media, and Instagram in particular, are ideal platforms for women to communicate, share ideas, and grow in their creative lives. Facebook has also been a beneficial application to showcase women’s work, and to build connections to a larger mass of people with similar interests, and on a global scale.
“Indian women today are no longer silent observers, and instead demand freedom and stand strong for other women through raising awareness using social media.”
Shivani Gupta from the Delhi Incident in 2019, discusses a group of young women in a restaurant being publically humiliated for the length of their dress by a middle-aged woman, who goes onto note that the young women’s dress is responsible for sexual violence (Tabloid Writers, 2019). Gupta uses social media as a tool to communicate young girl’s freedoms to dress how they please. Gupta furthermore uses her platform to demand apologies from these often middle-aged woman who humiliate young girls’ sense of dress. Consequently, there has been a rise in the hashtag ‘#ApologiesAunty’ to create awareness among society about these incidents, and to argue that the fashion freedoms of women should not be questioned (The Week, 2019).
“Social media, and Instagram in particular, are ideal platforms for women to communicate, share ideas, and grow in their creative lives”
Social media can also affect the mental health of some who become engrossed in self-image. Such examples, examined by Shabnoor Siddiqui and Tajinder Singh, suggest that social media images lower the self-confidence of women who engage with these often violent or negative ideas such as body shaming (Siddiqui 2016; Singh 2016). There are, however, examples of Indian women who empower younger women through online platforms: Neelam Gill, who was the first Asian model in 2014 to represent the luxury brand, Burberry, is one such woman. As a model of colour, Gill strongly believes that appearance is a key factor in her area of work, and feels if women have a darker skin tone, they are less likely to get work. She explains that during shoot preparations, makeup artists often fail to carry her darker shade of foundation, demonstrating that women of colour are not represented, or catered equally within the fashion industry. As Gill was growing up, she faced racial discrimination that caused insecurity, lower self-esteem, depression, and lead to suicidal attempts (Promotion, 2019). In an interview with Anita Bhagwandas, Gill mentioned the importance of creating awareness amongst many women of different generations, who face similar issues (Bhagwandas, 2018; Stylist, 2019).
Activist and actor Jameela Jamil considers the internet to be a platform for women which helps them grow. Jamil started the Instagram trend ‘I WEIGH’. The mission of ‘I WEIGH’ is to empower women all over the world against body shaming and self-hatred. This movement aims to celebrate their achievements, and motivates women toward greater activism, rather than focusing on how much they weigh (Smith, 2018). Jamil’s Instagram promotes individuality, self-expression and raising one’s self-esteem.
In summary, technology has progressed and empowered Indian women. We can see this in the recent #metoo movement in India, where many women who were subjected to sexual harassment, raised an alarm that led to the improvement of Indian women’s lives. Without the use of social media, this movement would not be possible (Jamil, 2018; Build, 2018; The Hollywood Reporters, 2019; Pundir, 2019; The Wire 2018). Lastly, it is evident that well-known Indian women such as Neelam Gill and Jameela Jamil use their platform to empower other women in different ways, be it racial diversity, or body positivity. Through this, Indian women are becoming more outspoken about their issues using the power of social media, and thus creating better situations for themselves, and others, within society.
“technology has progressed and empowered Indian women.”
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- Singh, T. and Siddiqui, S. (2016). ‘Social Media its Impact with Positive and Negative Aspects’. [online] Available here. [Accessed 10 Feb. 2020].
- Smith, K. (2018). Why Jameela Jamil’s ‘I Weigh’ Movement Is Inspirational AF. [online] Available here. [Accessed 12 Feb. 2020].
- Stylist. (2019). Neelam Gill speaks out about how being a victim of racist taunts affected her self-esteem. [online] Available here. [Accessed 20 Dec. 2019].
- TabloidXO. (2019). This Girl Taught A Good Lesson To This Auntie Who Shamed Her For Wearing 'Rape-Inviting' Clothes. [online] Available here. [Accessed 20 Dec. 2019].
- The Hollywood Reporters (2019). Charlamagne & Jameela Jamil Ch1: Anorexia, Cancer Scare & Becoming an Actress | Emerging Hollywood: Available here. [Accessed 30 Dec. 2020].
- The Week. (2019). 'You should get raped': Instagram takes down viral video. [online] Available here. [Accessed 20 Dec. 2019].
- The Wire. (2018). All You Need to Know: Three Weeks of #MeToo and Its Big Impacts. [online] Available here. [Accessed 2 Jan. 2020].