In today’s day and age, we are at an important juncture where social media has started playing the role of a one off starting point on discussing issues, which would otherwise get drowned in hullabaloo of every day life and yet continue to affect us amidst the hushed silence. Gender disparity for one continues to subtly transcend in to our professional and personal fronts, but rarely do we take up arms, challenge the stereotypes or even begin to question it for that matter. However, now that’s changing.
Genderlog is a Twitter handle and crowdsourced website, started by novelist Nilanjana S Roy and run by journalists Noopur Tiwari, Amrita Tripathi and columnist and fashion entrepreneur Natasha Badhwar, as an effort to accommodate diverse voices, broaden and encourage discussions on gender. The team tells Amrita Paul more about how the written word empowers to “stand up and call out an injustice, knowing they aren’t alone.”
1. How did the idea of starting Genderlog come about?
It grew out of the December 2012 protests in Delhi, as a way of trying to continue some of the discussions that had started on the streets and continued over the next few months, across the country. Many of the people Nilanajana met at that time had thought about gender issues or worked on them. What resonated with her was that there was such a multiplicity of voices and opinions: there weremany intersecting and overlapping views, not a single doctrinaire approach.
We archived some articles and profiles on the website, genderlog.com, but it was the Twitter feed that lasted. Nila thought there might be room for a Twitter handle that belonged to nobody and everybody, that had a different guest curator every week instead of any one owner. It’s very community-driven: people suggest curators, and those curating the feed do it on a voluntary basis — a week is a lot of time to spend on Twitter!
The idea is to let guest curators speak for themselves, and hope that over time, you have a very wide lens on gender debates.
2. What are the objectives behind it?
All that @genderlogindia aims to do is to widen the discussion on gender, and perhaps challenge people to think about their fixed, entrenched positions. We think it works because people are sharing their experiences with a fairly diverse community, and because most curators engage in conversation — it’s not about the 70-tweet lecturing monologue. Twitter’s filled with celebrity handles, spam handles, troll handles, feeds that try to sell you stuff. A feed that works more like community chat radio — unpoliced, unstructured, but usually thoughtful, with a clear focus on gender — might make a change.
3. What are the challenges of running a crowdsourced website? Does one have to be constantly monitoring the content which is coming through?
We identify people who we think will be able to keep the conversation going and then the real challenge is to get them to spend a whole week on the feed. We would like to have people from more diverse groups feel at home on Genderlog. We don’t want people to brand us in one way or the other or to assume all curators think alike. We wish to remain open to fiery debates, for people to test their ideas and grow. We ask followers to grill our curators if they think that’s required rather than expect us to censor curators.
That said we do have a loose set of guidelines. Most regulars know that the @genderlogindia family (includes all who curate, engage positively) cares about diversity, intersectionality, agency. And we assume it’s evident from our past tweets that we shun sexism, racism, casteism, islamophobia, homophobia and that we are against capital punishment. We are not affiliated to any group or political party. All of us contribute to Genderlog on voluntary basis in our free time.
4. The blog’s header reiterates a quote by Gloria Steinem, “We have to imagine the change before we move towards it” – what kind of change does Genderlog imagine and aspire to bring about?
In a small way: more equality on Twitter itself, since the handle gives priority to those who have thought about gender equality and feminism, also to members of the LGBT community, voices that are often drowned in the very male-dominated world of (Indian) Twitter. We are very keen on getting more Dalit feminists to curate.
In a larger way: the range of opinions we’ve seen on Genderlog make it very clear that issues around gender equality and gender violence affect everybody, not just a small minority. When you see how gender inequality constrains so many different people in so many parts of India and the world — and the countless, creative ways in which people tackle this in their own lives — perhaps you might be more willing to push for greater personal and political change.
5. Considering the amount of violence perpetuated against women and children every day, what kind of difference do you wish to make through the written word?
The only – and perhaps most valuable – difference you can make with the written word is to broaden someone’s horizons or challenge their mindsets, or empower them to stand up and call out an injustice, knowing they aren’t alone. In a very small way, creating and maintaining a safe space for conversations on gender rights and identity is a step in that direction.
6. Where do you see Genderlog in the next five years?
More followers, more conversations from more parts of the world, a crowdsourced zine, offline meetings, handles in more languages!
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