How Many Malayalam YouTube Channels Justify Crimes Against Women
From bragging about how they ‘marry off’ their daughter who just finished grade 12, to glorifying rape and justifying dowry deaths, Malayalam YouTube is a cesspool of misogyny.
A year after Vismaya, a 22-year-old from Kollam, was found dead at the home of her husband Kiran Kumar, Kollam Supplementary Sessions Court Judge Sujith KN sentenced Kiran for pushing Vismaya to commit suicide. The crime shocked the country after it was revealed that Vismaya had been pressured into committing suicide due to the dowry-related abuse and violence she faced in her marital home. The case revealed the myriad ways in which social pressures as well as systemic failures have failed women facing domestic violence. This story, which was first published on OCTOBER 14, 2021, delves into the matter.
Several crimes against women have been reported in Kerala in recent times, many of them causing widespread public outrage. However, there continues to be a counter narrative that not only takes a lenient angle on the accused but even justifies the crime, especially on YouTube channels. In June, when Vismaya, 22, an undergraduate Ayurvedic medicine student, died of domestic abuse and dowry-related harassment, a family vlog called Uppum Mulakum Lite took the position that “women should learn to do the housework properly before they do”. re married,” blaming it on Vismaya and her family.
The family has four children, three of whom are daughters. When several conversations about marriage and domestic violence took place in the state, the family chose to release a video indicating that their 19-year-old daughter, who had just finished grade 12, would soon be married. The father announced that they were waiting for her to reach the minimum legal age to marry. The channel, which has 91,400 subscribers, also aired several episodes about how a girl should be trained to behave in her in-laws’ house after marriage. And this they chose to do by showcasing the “lifestyle changes” they had imposed on their daughter who was about to get married.
“Women should not be allowed to stay (single) for very long. We will make Ponnu (the 19 year old) a Janu (Janu is a common name used in Malayalam movies for characters who are servants). Because that after marriage, no one should say that his mother did not teach him all this (housework), “the mother proudly states in the video announcing her daughter’s wedding. The mother herself married at the age of 15. “From now on, Ponnu will do all the housework. Ponnu has changed a lot after her engagement. She gets up early and starts working in the kitchen,” the two parents explain.
They also warn their 16-year-old daughter that she will also be married in three years. Following widespread criticism, the 19-year-old and the family claimed it was the former’s choice not to pursue further education and instead marry. While they have every right to do so, the misogynistic and patriarchal language and innuendo made in their videos (which each have over a lakh views) are nothing short of victim blaming.
Gayathri Babu, a popular YouTuber who tackles misogyny and other socio-political issues on her channel Get Roast with Gaya3, says, “They don’t realize how much toxicity they are spreading through these videos which have thousands of views.”
Speaking to TNM, Gayathri points out that many of these videos are made just to get views, without worrying about the consequences.
“They select topics and thumbnails with the clear intention of getting views. Behindwoods’ recent interview with former thief Maniyanpilla is an example of this,” Gayathri said.
The video shows Maniyanpilla talking about his days as a thief. As part of the conversation, he reveals that he once raped a woman at knifepoint when he broke into her home. Far from being horrified, the interviewer romances her and even asks if Maniyanpilla tried to “meet” the woman after that. The thumbnail and title of the video also talked about the rape, making it sound like an “erotic” encounter. It was only changed after several viewers objected.
“There are also those who think they are helping people with their regressive opinions and misinformation. They pass it on thinking they are doing something good. But that only reinforces misogynistic and patriarchal ideas. Then there are those who fear that such ideas can be completely extinguished, so they do whatever they can to uphold regressive values. They are against feminism, LGBTQIA rights and equality,” she adds.
Although several stalking crimes have been reported in the state, with many young women being stabbed to death or set on fire for saying no to a man or ending a relationship, such incidents are glorified as ‘love’. . Ashkar techy, a channel with 1.07 million subscribers, had quite a few videos about ‘theppu’ (a problematic word that implies someone left a relationship because they were done using the other person ) before some were removed due to criticism from viewers.
In the past four years, at least 12 women have been killed by stalkers in the state, but such crimes continue to be reported as stories of “leftover lovers”, blaming the women. In one of Ashkar’s videos, he talks about a girl who promised to marry him and then broke up with him. His words are full of anger and he claims that she “cheated” him into deciding to leave. He also recounts how he got “revenge” on her.
“After a few months, I will buy a dog or a cat, I will give them its name. Only then will people know its name,” the vlogger says in his video.
While Ashkar may not advocate violence or murder, such sentiments that women are “cheaters” are already popular and vindicate men who refuse to understand consent.
Criticizing Ashkar, Jaiby Joseph, a popular YouTuber, says, “It’s also harassment, when her followers celebrate these kinds of videos, they never think about the problem it’s causing the girl. If she’s been bullied forced marriage, so this video is another torture for her as well.”
Earlier in July, the BBC reported that Ashkar was allegedly part of propaganda from a mysterious marketing agency aimed at spreading misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. The report said Ashkar posted an anti-vaccination video as part of a campaign by a marketing agency called Fazze, then deleted it when exposed. Such examples show how influential these YouTubers and vloggers are and how easily they spread problematic and toxic content.
Needless to say, women are meant to take the blame even when it is the man who is wrong in a relationship. The YouTube channel Mindwaves Unni produces videos with titles such as “How to make your husband addicted to you”, “How to attract your husband physically”, “Men want these things from women but never ask for them”, “How to serve men” and soon.
“In the first years of life, you will take care of yourself. Later, you will no longer take care of your beauty and the shape of your body. Do not neglect yourself, only then will your husband love you. When you and your husband realizes that your beauty is gone, he will go in search of other relationships. If you don’t preserve your beauty, he will go in search of people who attract him,” Unni says, as a piece of advice to ‘wives desperate’.
In another video, he explains how a woman should behave with her husband after an extramarital affair. “When the husband comes back, the wife should recreate the romantic life she had on her honeymoon…Don’t talk about previous issues. He might get tired and leave with someone else,” he says .
Many of these chains also routinely engage in moral policing, dictating how women should dress and shaming them when they step toe the line. The Mubis Paradise channel offers videos with titles like “Ee Ammacheede videos aarum kaanaruthu” (meaning no one should watch this old woman’s videos). The content is abusive, with the anchor making offensive comments about women wearing short dresses or bikinis. “What’s wrong with this ammachi? As she gets older, the length of her dress becomes shorter. Why can’t she maintain some discipline as she gets older? YouTube has become a porn site. These women wear clothes just for their namesake. YouTube I should ban them. I’m afraid what will happen if my son sees this on YouTube,” she fumes.
While there is a need to speak out against the toxic content of these videos, especially when they justify crimes and add to the social conditioning that leads to such crimes, Gayathri stresses that viewers also need to change. “The fuel for such problematic content is the audience. All these videos are getting thousands of views, so change should be on both sides,” she says.