Asking "Don't you have mothers and sisters at home?" is a well-meaning version of this.

Verbal abuse Why are cuss words directed at men about the women in their life
Voices Gender Saturday, November 19, 2016 - 17:25

The Internet brings the best and worst out of people. It's a platform where ideas are discussed, debated, and exchanged and it serves as an equalizer to a great extent.

However, the Internet can also be an abusive space, considering the anonymity it offers - and when that happens, the abuse takes on the colour of real life prejudices and multiplies them. A sexist person in real life may not confidently express his/her view to people in a room but may find it easier to type it out. Uttering a casteist slur might be unthinkable in real life for a "sophisticated" person but it becomes acceptable to say it on a message-board or Facebook group.

Not having to face the person at whom the abuse is directed is a confidence enabler and a conscience husher. You face almost no repercussions from hurling abuse online.


The video above shows men reading out real comments that other men have made on women to their face. The discomfort on their faces is unlikely to have been so acute if they'd just been reading these statements on their computers.

While people find it easier to abuse online than in real life, the profanity directed at women is specifically centred around their lack of "morals", especially when they express a strong opinion, an alternate point of view, or a disagreement.

This happens often enough in real life but is all the more common on the Internet where the genders mingle without the constraints of a real world interaction.


The most common way to abuse a woman is to call her a "whore", "slut" or "bitch" - suggesting that her independent mind functions the way it does only because she has no control over her body.

Ironically, people who defend a female victim from such profanity from a man, choose to ask him if his mother or sister were whores for him to talk thus.

The most common way to abuse a man is to call him names like "son of a bitch", "b*stard", "m***********", "s***********" or insult the women in his family by asking if they're whores or sluts.

The man in question is supposed to feel insulted because the women in his family are "dishonorable". The abuse is directed at them rather than at him. His shame is supposed to come from his failure in preventing their immorality.

The urban internet user who unleashes a string of English cuss words (and to be sure, equivalents exist in most regional languages too) may believe he is far removed from khap panchayat notions about women and honour but all of these boil down to our refusal to see women as people first.

"Don't you have mothers and sisters at home?", a question a street sexual harasser or molester is asked often, is the well-meaning version of this. In both instances, we define women by the relationship that they have with men.

It isn't necessary for any woman to be treated "like a sister" if she must be unharmed, it's sufficient if she's treated as a person and not a piece of meat. It isn't necessary for any man to imagine his sister or mother undergoing a violation to know that this is wrong either.

Note: Views expressed are the personal opinions of the author.

Show us some love and support our journalism by becoming a TNM Member - Click here.