During a social media scroll recently, I saw something disturbing. A woman, we’ll call her Grace posted a screen shot of a message she had received over Instagram:
‘Hey this might seem a bit odd, but I done your blood test the other day at hospital, and I thought you were good looking and seemed nice so here I am shooting my shot x’
Grace had captioned the picture: Hello HR is that you?
I’m not sure anything could have prepared her for what came next. 11.8 thousand retweets and comments and 76.2 thousand likes.
The main message from these comments? A viral condemnation of the man in question? Support for a girl who’d had (a quite frankly) creepy interaction where a ‘professional’ has taken her personal details after taking her blood and searched for her online?
Although there were some messages of support, the general gist of most of the comments (from both men and women) was that she should take this unsolicited interaction as a compliment and has no right to report him and potentially ruin his career. In fact such was the fury directed at her, that she could potentially end the career of a man who had at worst stalked her and at best broken the law by violating GDPR protocols, that she felt inclined to post a further tweet:
Disclaimer we’ve spoken he’s not getting fired, he knows what he done was wrong. The amount of abuse I’m getting I’d rather not report. If this was your sister or daughter or cousin in my position imagine how you’d feel if they got some of the messages I’ve received.
And, a tweet that she has now pinned to the top of her news feed:
I exposed a dm. So what, I deserve to be told to die, to kill myself that I should be raped? And I’m the scum ??
Anyway peace out ✌
Let’s let that sink in for a moment. She spoke out about unwanted male attention and an interaction she felt uncomfortable with, from that, she has been told to kill herself, that deserves to be raped and that she’s scum? The overwhelming support was for the man she outed, and yet other that his first name at the end of the end of the message, she’d revealed no other details about him.
Is it any wonder that incidents of stalking and sexual assault are under-reported? A man made a woman feel uncomfortable, when she shared it, she received condemnation over her actions whilst he was painted as a lovesick victim.
Overwhelmingly, she was told to take it as a compliment and that it wasn’t worth her potentially ending his career. Few messages of support pointed out he has broken GDPR rules and that he was in the wrong. Worryingly, more concern was given over the potential of him losing his job than the fact the experience had made her uncomfortable. That he may habitually pursue the women who see him in a professional capacity was overlooked by most.
Is a warped sense of romance at play here? Most of us have seen an old black and film where the hero and heroine argue heatedly shortly before (protesting) she is held in a tight embrace and kissed. That sort of incident didn’t stop with the introduction of colour. On Netflix, today, you can watch a ‘romance’ where a young woman is stalked, drugged and kidnapped by a rich, handsome gangster. He tells the newly conscious woman that he’s keeping her (against her will) for 365 days, by which time she’ll fall in love with him. Add in some forced kisses, outbursts of violence culminating in the larger, stronger man holding the smaller, younger woman by the throat and apparently, you’ve got yourself a romance.
Could this be why people were quick to defend the man in question. Because years of subtle indoctrination are telling generation after generation that ‘no’ will eventually be a ‘yes’ if you keep pursuing. If in doubt, try kidnapping. After all, nothing helps to change your love interest’s mind like Stockholm syndrome!
It’s unfortunate that Grace’s tweet didn’t start the conversation it should have. Instead she was shouted down and threatened with violence. How are we ever going to empower women, girls, and survivors of domestic abuse when we’re telling them that unwanted attention is romantic and should be taken as a compliment? That she should ignore any sense of unease and ‘give him a chance’?
Whatever happened to #MeToo and #BeKind?