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Opening up in cyberspace

Reshma Sanyal, who works in an online learning company in Chennai, began blogging more than two years ago. “I started blogging because I was restless. I had a deeper need for acceptance and approval from random people I didn’t know existed. I think many bloggers operate from this deeper need of approval. When something happened in my life, or when I observed something, I always thought of putting these on my blog,” she says.

Reshma is not alone. When a co-passenger on a night train to Chennai tried to touch a woman journalist, she did not keep quiet. She registered a first information report (FIR) against him the next day ' and wrote in her blog about the harrowing process of registering the FIR. More than 120 people responded, expressing support for her. Some even wrote about the legal aspects of the case. Her blog still keeps getting mentioned all over the blogosphere, so much so that she had to disable comments, as her blog couldn’t handle the traffic.

Jasmeen Patheja began blogging for purely professional reasons, but it soon turned out to be a personal space. Says the 25-year-old fine arts graduate from Bangalore’s Shrishti School of Arts, Design and Technology: “It became a form of release. I was connecting with women who thought as out-of-the-box as I did.”

Welcome to a little noticed phenomenon ' the increasing number of women who blog. To be sure, blogging took off in a big way more than a year ago. But, as one recent global online survey discovered, more women blog worldwide than men. The survey by the US-based Perseus Development Corp. found 56 per cent of the bloggers it polled were women, versus 44 per cent men. Also, women are less likely to abandon a blog than men are. In short, women are opening up their lives in virtual space as never before.

Unfortunately, figures on the number of women who blog in India are simply not available. But anecdotal evidence suggests that women write about personal or social issues, unlike men who focus on work-related issues. For instance, there are more chances of a male IT engineer running a tech blog than his female counterpart doing so. Says Swaroop C.H., a software engineer who works at Yahoo! Bangalore, and runs a tech blog (http://swaroopch.info), “I don’t know of many tech blogs run by women. Neither do I know of women’s work blogs.”

Her story

A woman journalist recounts on her blog what she went through while registering an FIR against a co-passenger who tried to touch her on a night train:

“In instances like this, you get (or at least I did) a huge overwhelming feeling. For me it was an outrage. At his audacity, more than anything, and the fact that I could not call a tiny berth my own without someone impinging on that space. But when you want to respond with an equivalent gesture, such as filing an FIR or imprisoning the perpetrator, the system stalls you. In a devious way. It’s not hard to do, it’s just complex to do. Hours to wait… for sub-inspectors, and TCs to attest.

I had to spend some two hours just to make handwritten copies of the FIR. It’s so exhausting and annoying you want to walk away, wash yourself, get food and sleep. That’s how the system breaks you down. Through triplicate copies, not any direct refusal to do your bidding.”

It is the way women blog, what they blog about, and the significance of the medium to them that makes the difference. Dr Sunil M. J., a psychiatrist in Bangalore who frequents many blogs daily and is an avid blogger himself, says, “I have noticed that women tend to be more emotive and family-oriented in their blogs, even across races. They also tend to follow other women’s blogs regularly.” Agrees Asya, who operates an anonymous blog called In the Eye of the Sun (http://intheeyeofthesun.blogspot.com): “Women definitely blog differently from men. Like in all other things in life, the gender differences are quite clear.”

So why do women blog' The sheer democratic nature of blogging promises to do a lot for women, who earlier had to make do with the under-the-bed diary. Patheja believes that blogging is popular among women because it allows them to exert control beyond what they are given in real life. “Women blogs are full of writings that would be considered outrageous in routine life. Women are not scared to voice their opinions,” she says.

All the women approached for this article said they considered blogging an important virtual space in some way. It fulfilled an inner need, a need to ponder about larger-than-life questions as these from Sihikahi (http://sihikahi.blogspot. com): “Have you ever thought that it can be so easy to lose yourself in the daily routine' I mean, you weren’t born for this mad rush between home and office, were you' Larger question: what were you born for' Still larger question: were you at all born for anything' Unless you stop for a moment and take stock, you won’t even know that with each contraceptive pill you have taken for years, and will continue to take for some time (coz you just don’t have the space for your baby), with each deadline reached in office, with each little happy thing postponed for later, you have lost the joy forever.”

These are a woman’s questions, asked in a space that’s fast becoming feminine. But will she get her answers' We don’t know yet, and that is not the point. The point is that the rest of the world can go take a walk while she blogs.

A woman journalist recounts on her blog what she went through while registering an FIR against a co-passenger who tried to touch her on a night train:

“In instances like this, you get (or at least I did) a huge overwhelming feeling. For me it was an outrage. At his audacity, more than anything, and the fact that I could not call a tiny berth my own without someone impinging on that space. But when you want to respond with an equivalent gesture, such as filing an FIR or imprisoning the perpetrator, the system stalls you. In a devious way. It’s not hard to do, it’s just complex to do. Hours to wait' for sub-inspectors, and TCs to attest.

I had to spend some two hours just to make handwritten copies of the FIR. It’s so exhausting and annoying you want to walk away, wash yourself, get food and sleep. That’s how the system breaks you down. Through triplicate copies, not any direct refusal to do your bidding.”

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