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As you all know, I spend my free time ‘farming’. Not the real kind but the virtual, at Farmville. I don’t know what about the game Farmville appeals to me so much. May be its the planting of crops and trees, harvesting, rearing of animals, selling farm produce, being part of a co-operative with fellow farmers from all around the globe – from Alaska to Mongolia, no less – and generally having fun with fellow farmers.

One day I was online when a new member joined our group, or co-operative as it is called. I noticed a young man, who was a relatively new member in our co-op, strike up a conversation with the brand new entrant. The chat board in Farmville co-operatives is visible to all members, there is absolutely no going ‘private’. So, from the conversation that ensued, I gathered that the new member was a nine year old girl. After asking a few questions about herself, this young man moved on to request her for her Facebook or Instagram id where they could continue their chat. I had been noticing this man doing the same with other members. But then, they being all adults, I had paid no attention. This though was different.

A little concerned, I stepped in to talk to the girl. Was she playing on her own or under supervision, I asked her, and also did either of her parents know she was talking to strangers on the net while playing? The girl replied that her mom knew she was playing Farmville and added, ‘so I suppose she knows (that she was talking to strangers)’. Even as this chat was happening the young man turned on me in anger. Mind you, I had not directed a single word to him. He wanted to know ‘what the hell was my problem’.

I forbore to reply. I could have told him I was not addressing him, just looking out for a child on the net. But from the aggressive way he turned on me, I knew it would be a wasted effort. So why bother. Besides, I didn’t owe him any explanation. My aim was to make sure the girl was okay. I then insisted that the child ask her mom if it was okay to talk to strangers. But she, taking encouragement from the young man who had by then dashed off a few more angry messages calling me an interfering busybody and whatnot, sent a message that said she had virtually slapped me.

An admin who was present, then stepped in. What’s happening, she wanted to know. I had no access to talk to the admin privately (none of us have, we always talk to each other on the public chat board) to share my concern, so asked her if there was some way I could connect to her outside the chat board. This is where the incensed young man turned into the typical entitled male (He was from India). When you are guilty, blame the nearest woman. This is the standard we follow here, whether the men are strangers or are our family members. He went all out to paint me as a bossy woman, ALWAYS interfering in their game and not allowing others to play in peace.

I could have died laughing if I did not feel so taken aback at the accusations coming from someone who was a practical stranger to me. We had not had ANY contact AT ALL other than selling/buying stuff we put up in the market for sale, and which involves no conversation between players. Most conversations I’ve had with fellow farmers covered the weather, Covid-19 and wishing each other good morning or good evening as the case may be, how good or bad a day we had had et al. Of course, ‘Which part of the world are you from?’ figured too in the list. People were free to answer, or not as they wished.

The admin was not having any bullsh*t from the man. First she sent the girl off. You must be thirteen to join the game. This only angered the man further to call me more names, ‘domineering’ being one of them. I had still not said anything to him. The admin, who has known me quite long, promptly booted him out. Wtf! Learn some respect for others, she said before doing so. I don’t know about other groups on Farmville, but we have a really wonderful community and luckily, the odd ones leave or are thus thrown out.

This incident made me think.

The man was trying to put me off balance by calling me bossy/domineering. You see, these are supposedly unwomanly traits and is used to shame us, make us feel worthless. Most women immediately go on the defensive when they hear themselves called as bossy. They go to great lengths to prove they are nothing of the sort. Try to stand your ground, be assertive, speak with firmness, raise your voice even slightly to get your point across, or even write a strongly worded blog post condemning male attitudes, you automatically become a domineering, bossy woman to others, to be ridiculed, made fun of as the angry middle-aged woman (Yes, I AM pointing fingers at some of the male bloggers I have known in the past. I know you come by to read me! Not that I am leaving out the women who sanctimoniously say, ‘I don’t talk like you!’ only because I refuse to be manipulated or ordered about.)

Anyway, little did the man who accused me know that he was not going to scare me with these time worn tactics that society uses to cow down women – maybe once upon a time it would have worked, not any more – because you see I don’t mind being called bossy for doing the right thing.

© Shail Mohan 2021