Last week I saw two different writer friends in India sharing an article on social media and it made me want to click over to see what I was missing. Then I read it and walked away feeling personally disparaged. The author was coming off of a writing hiatus and essentially blaming ME (well, not me exactly but ‘foreign writers living in India’ during the time of the Delhi gang rape who wrote about it, which I was and DID) as one of the key culprits for her move away from the writing scene.
Of course, she has every right to feel or think whatever she wants, and any reason that stops a storyteller from writing is always sad and unfortunate in my eyes. The problem I have is that she had lumped all of us together. Essentially saying that I used the tragic fate of that young student ‘like a whore’ to cash in on blog traffic. I felt hurt (which is my issue, not hers for sure), so a few hours later I decided to reach out to her and share my thoughts, suggesting she could say ‘some foreign writers’ instead of the current generalisation to make it more truthful. After a couple of back and forth messages she ended it with a witty ‘Oh well, you’ll get over it mate’ (she’s a white expat running a travel business in India and travel writing, so I have to say the ‘mate’ thing did make me smile).
Are We Simply Opportunists?
I guess as one of the foreign writers who wrote about the Delhi gang rape it was quite shocking to read these generalised assumptions of me. I spent over a week researching for that article. I read dozens of reports and accounts of truths that I still can’t ‘unsee’ even today that have stayed with me. I even conducted a survey during that week I was researching so I had real data of my own to write from. I cared, that’s why I wrote about it.
Honestly, given the protest marches and the intense light shining for the first time on women’s safety issues in India on such a massive scale, it seems like a positive thing to have had ANYONE bringing additional visibility to the issue. Every journalist, writer, blogger or social media influencer has a different audience, in different countries, so spreading the word helped every girl and woman in India, and their struggle and goals for better treatment and better legislation to punish rapists.
But Was She Right?
She called us ‘social media whores’ and, while I wouldn’t use that as a job title on LinkedIn I suppose the premise of it does hold true for millions upon millions of us around the globe. It’s exciting to see follower numbers grow, to see a post go viral or to be given an opportunity or generate new business because of a kick-ass social media presence. To be successful one does need a continual stream of ‘on brand’ content. So who decides what’s ‘on brand’ then and what’s opportunistic?
More over, should some topics be left only to journalists or – if it’s a subject like the horrifying gang rape of an Indian girl – only to Indians to share their voice because they appear less opportunistic? I can see where a white fashion blogger suddenly blogging a human interest piece could ring as ‘opportunist’ but where is that line? What if the blogger was like me, had a daughter almost the same age as that poor girl, and simply wanted to raise her voice and use her influence to shine more light on the topic? Would she be considered opportunistic?
I don’t know about my fellow bloggers (or dare I say it, social media whores!) but I’m not a very disciplined one. I don’t keep a content calendar or stick to one subject. Basically I just meander along in life and wait for something to get my goat or inspire me, and then I grab my laptop and write. Sometimes it’s when something generating media attention has caught my eye and I have a strong opinion, am enraged or it made me LOL. In those cases, am I an opportunist or simply someone with an opinion who has a platform for sharing it?
What do you think? She has definitely brought up an interesting topic. I’m just having a tough time agreeing in this case because I don’t want to label myself as opportunistic, knowing how I felt back then and why I wrote that piece.
>> Fun Update: I sent this to the writer who inspired it to ask for her OK to add a link to that original article and she replied with, “… If you want to whinge to the world go ahead but don’t use me as your excuse.” Now, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer but that sounds a wee bit hypocritical given that her complaints to the world about me inspired this post 🙂
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