Women who go online are relatively more affluent and younger and in terms of online behaviour, email, search and social networking topped the preferences, and it has frequented by music downloading, searching educational content, looking for job, seeing videos and passions for news and information.
The top searched categories by women on Google, seems apparels and accessories and followed by food and drink, childcare, hairstyle, and skin protection according to a report by Times of India.
From chatting to blogging, from posting own ‘sexy’ pictures on Facebook to looking for prospective partners in dating sites, Internet have resurfaced to channelise the self of individuals that otherwise compacted in the tradition bound Indian society.
Young girls, whose social interactions are cut off after the end of the school and college days, now get together in chat rooms late night. Matrimonial sites such as shaadi.com, bharatmatrimony.com, simplymarry.com, matrimonialsindia.com, jeevansathi.com and dating sites such as indiandating.com, hi5.com, apundesi.com, datedosti.com, metrodate.com, indiamatch.com offer a mix between the fresh and the old, good and bad, letting young people to experiment their own friends, partners and meeting new people transcending cultural constrains and tradition bound social order.
With families, traditions, taboos and stigmas still curbing any socially dissociative expressions, the computer screen, the touch screens, smart phones, etc are becoming new ways of channelising the otherwise compressed and tormented self. No family, no rituals, no taboos haunt the nomads in chat forums.
It is very simple to open account in chat sites such as chat-rooms.co.in, indiachat.co.in, chatrooms.org.in, onlinechat.co.in, chat.oneindia.in, allindiachat.com, talkdesi.com and find and meet new people, foment newer relationship, talk what one feels to talk, and express to any extent.
Around forty per cent of the over 150 million and expanding Internet users in the country are women and close to 24 million of them access Internet, everyday, to check emails, see walls, interact on social networking sites, shop online and search recipes, pronounces a study by Google, as reported by Times of India.Approximately sixty million women in India are now online and use the Internet to manage their day-to-day life. Women, with easy access to Internet at homes, smart phones, cyber cafes and offices use it and the user choices are definitely a political choice considering the attributes of Indian social hierarchy and norms, rituals and conventions and the cultural politics.
Everyone use Internet differently, and usage reflects, of course, gendered, sexist, misogynistic, and many more. Critical information and norms allow people to form new relationships, show that the Internet is not just a tool, but that it is critical in advancing sexual citizenship and that it has different meaning to critical masses.
However, who goes, with what name, with whom they mingle and for what in matrimonial sites, dating site, chat sites etc., are quite confusing and confounding since anonymity, easy access, higher privacy, protective spaces, uninterrupted engagements mark Internet social space.
These anxieties have read against the backdrop of a particular cultural politics emerging since the New Economic Policy (NEP) in early 1990s. Call for Indianness and Indian culture and an anxiety about the influence of all that are Western have been at the centre of contemporary debates and struggles in politics and media.New and diverse forms of politics, media and culture have emerged ever since NEP. Protests in the 1990s against the opening of the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet and the hosting beauty contest in India have acquired wider political currency among sections of political tribes.
The censorship of film-song lyrics, movie posters, commercial and documentary films and music videos for their supposedly provocative, indecent, obscene content played a crucial content of new form of cultural politics.
The ban on bar dancers in cities, restricting holistic sex education in schools, dress-code on college women, prohibiting jeans or tight clothes for women, moral policing by right-wing forces, rounding up of young men and women in public places, especially on occasions such as Valentines Day, all that formed the basis of emerging cultural politics in the country.
Violence against women engaging in so-called ‘immoral activities’ such as buying cigarettes or going to pubs has become rampant and this moral thread and concerns with obscenity and sexuality have been the centre of censorship debates in the country as well as an assuming inhospitable women social space in the play of cultural politics.
For young women especially educated and other, internet presents a world of new and exciting opportunities. Women bloggers have a sustained and continuous relationship with the Internet and it proffers for them copious opportunities for eloquence, articulation as well as to challenge the taken for granted ideas about what is appropriate for women to speak; says a study by Bhattacharjya and Ganesh (2011).
The life of women and young people in particular are greatly affected and shaped these days given their increasing use of the Internet are taken in to account. In their everyday lives, particularly in terms of social networking sites, blogging, chatting, video and photo sharing, women have particularly influenced and affected.
The Internet and online activism, their access of content, job search, experiences and relationships, how they negotiate its dangers and protect themselves, how the gendered politics of Internet access impact on their lives, in fact there are plenty of factors that negotiate women space.
Social media and social networking has become so appealing to fight down many social constraints, which confront the everyday lives of people. The day-to-day issues of ordinary women got wider expression from the specter of social media platforms, and it has turned up the hub lifestyle dissent and personal political choices.
The women using Internet has listed out some copious tendencies: weak-tie network, infotainment, communicative engagement and activism. Young women’s lives are somewhat colonised by life style technologies and applications. The Internet first came into their lives when they were in school and colleges enabling them to do their assignments and projects.
However, now it is part of life, voice, expression, flesh and blood. For many young women, terms like SNS, apps, FB, cool buddy, hacking, DP (display picture), chat, post, check, tweet, etc., are part of everyday vocabulary. Now, the Internet is more than being connected.
Women with access to broadband or cell phone exhibits greater level of mobility than those do not, confirms various study and reports. Yet, a perusal of Indian Internet is a testimony to the fact that there are mixed responses and seesaw reactions in respect of the play of sexuality and Internet.
There are both skeptics and pessimists around the gender and Internet debate. However, instead of the common discussions that the Internet constitutes a masculine or contrarily a feminine environment, the core idea reflected is that sexuality and the Internet are multidimensional concepts that articulated in complex and contradictory ways in Indian Internet.
Hitherto, it is almost difficult to predict a line that delineates the complex relation that exists between sex and Internet in India. To become digital skeptic; one has to refute the liberatory potential of Internet for sexual minority and to become a digital cynic; one has to disown many things that sexual activists have acquired via Internet over the years.
The literature on women and Internet has reflected a growing concern towards digital divide (Norris 2000), gender digital divide (Liff and Shepherd July 2004) digital diva (Gelber June 2011) digital inequality (DiMaggio and Hargittai 2001), gendering the digital divide (Kennedy, et.al, 2003) gendering the Internet (Zoonen 2002) and so on.
Some studies provide evidence that Internet is gendered, classed and raced (Kendal 1998). Few scholars view that identity plays deceptive roles in Internet social space and provides negative aspect of online life (Rheingold 1993).These sex dissidents typically produced newfound freedom in the discursive practices from their own sexual experiences and from the debates, they waged against different web of resistances against them. These various discourses concerning sex specific robust resistance against existing chastity and sexual attitudes, reinterpreting the importance and which means of sex still as gendered, sexual orientation, personality, etc. within the virtual world.
In addition, such reflections and reinterpretations of their own various sexual practices have provided web practitioners with a wealth of various sexual views and values that serve to counterpoint existing titillating culture.
The web may be a social, cultural, commercial, and academic and diversion of international communications system whose legitimate purpose is to learn and empower on-line users, whereas lowering the barriers to the creation and the distribution of expressions throughout the globe. As video, game technology, interactive media advances, sexual dissent are going to be on the innovating more room for differing views and practices.
One must not lose sight of the fact that these have from the very beginning transcended the scope of mainstream sexual norms of reproductive heterosexuality. In fact, practitioners of all kinds of so-called sexual deviations and perversions have found for the first time fertile ground for existence and self-empowerment in the cyber world.
The political significance of sexual application of the e-mail, on-line chat rooms, interactive webcams, or the most recent sense of touch technologies is that they have created a toy of decisions and channels through that our deepest desires, our darkest needs, and our universal ought to connect with others.
Quite often, we have perpetually negotiated and contended move on to the virtual house, transcending boundaries of gender, social structure, taboo, stigma, norms, age, morals, nation, wrong, physical kind, etc.
Several cyber sex groups became sex dissidents or sex liberationists because of their sexual practices that are normally under scanner by the taboos, norms, stigmas, social structures, patriarchy etc. Now Internet becomes the Pandora box for women sexuality and identity expression.
(About the Authors: Biju PR teaches Political Science at Government Brennen College, Thalassery, India and specializes in the convergence between social media and Political public. Gayathri O, teaches Political Science at Government College Madapally, Vadakara, India and specializes on women’s movement in Kerala).