Saturday, April 13, 2024

How Instagram has redefined Botswana’s public decency laws

In the past, Botswana was conservative and the rules were simple: if you wanted a confidence boost, you dressed to the nines, went to a busy public area and hoped to turn heads and maybe attract a few wolf whistles. 

The Instagram has however turned this reality on its head and redefined Botswana’s “public decency laws.” What was once scorned as indecent exposure is now glorified as hip. These days, any woman looking for a confidence boost simply undresses, shoot a few selfies post them on Instagram and watch as the likes keep piling up.

Kgomotso Jongman of Jo’Speaks however says, “I think what one person sees as explicit someone else might not feel the same way. Attention of any kind is better than none for some people. It’s a reassurance that they are being paid attention too. A need is met when a person has an audience. The need to be seen. The reaction can be negative or positive as long as it happens. Many individuals simply want the attention from the sex of their choice while also receiving praise from acquaintances. But really at the end of the day different people do things for different reasons. It’s really similar in a way to issues of depression or suicide, where often times if someone says they are depressed or want to kill themselves we tend to think they just want attention when in actual fact they are serious. “

The social network is replete with ‘sexy” pictures which are attracting a lot of followers- and that is the idea. Often timesthe intention behind such pictures is to get as much attention as possible. The easiest and time-tested way for women to gain attention on social media is through a highly sexualized aesthetic – provocative pictures which is associated with mainstream, pornographic imagery. The more sexualized the photo, the more likes it garners on Instagram. Women who post highly sexualized photos tend to get more friends/followers on social media.

While concern about sexualization of women is not new, social media has amplified age-old pressures for women/girls to conform to certain sexualized narratives, as well as opened up new and uncharted ways to do so.  A lot of women/girls compete among themselves to get “likes” online, often by portraying themselves in sexualized ways. 

Self-sexualization is the natural progression of a society that prizes a girl’s sexuality above personal attributes and accomplishments.

The internet and social media provide a platform for women to seek out images of what they want to look like, an outlet through which they can compare themselves with their peers and celebrities.

Exposure, sometimes even brief exposure is associated with and can lead to sexist stereotypes about women, sexual objectification and demeaning beliefs. A girl clad in sexy skimpy clothing may be seen as dumb and immoral. Yet most girls will choose a “sexy” to depict their “ideal self.” 

Dr Poloko Ntshwarang, senior lecturer at the Department of Social Work says “people post those kind of pictures for various reasons. Some to prove their artistic abilities, some to gain attention from followers it all really depends on the person. They like that when they post a picture and it gets a lot of likes they have a major self-esteem boost and begin to like themselves more. So as much as these provocative pictures are for other people’s attention, they are for us too because we too in a way compare ourselves to them. A lot of the times women just post these pictures to express themselves and don’t see or feel it being wrong that they are scantily clad in the pictures.”


Read this week's paper