by MF Miller
I have to admit that when I first discovered the Instagram account #byefelipe I wasn’t quite sure what to think.
You see, #byefelipe is made up entirely of screenshots. Each has been submitted by women who have snapped angry or hostile messages they’ve received from male strangers on social media or through online dating sites.
In every case, the guys started out looking to chat or date these women and were either ignored or turned down. The images here showcase a range of reactions from guys on dating websites that vary from defensive immaturity to outright hate and hostility. Some of the submissions are so extreme that they almost feel as though the scenarios you are scrolling through couldn’t possibly be real.
As I went through the submissions, I grew more and more disturbed by the reaction of these guys. Not only by what they are willing to say (“I hope you fucking die”?!!! Really ?!!!) but, and perhaps even more importantly, how quickly they go from zero to a hundred. They often started out being a “charming guy” looking for a date but end up an overblown, angry and entitled antagonist after they’ve been turned down.
Looking through the #byefelipe account, I am most concerned by the sense of entitlement. In each of the cases, the men are quick to use insults that attack women’s sexuality and body image . Over and over there are insinuations that since the woman is on a social platform, she should answer every message and give her time to whoever contacts her. When these guys don’t get the attention or response they want, they waste no time in degrading the women.
This is a clear example of men’s entitlement and online sexual harassment.
Is this a new territory for the women who dare put themselves out there in the dating world? Does the anonymity of the screen give such a sense of power that these guys are willing to say these awful things and not think they should ever have to answer for them?
Unfortunately, harassment of women doesn’t just happen online. I remembered how one night, when I was still in university, I had this very same experience.
I had been out with a mixed group of friends and had gotten into a semi-political/cultural conversation with a guy I had never met. This guy and I were on decidedly different spectrums of a pretty controversial issue. He and I went back and forth. He eventually took it to homophobic territory. And at some point our friends intervened and the conversation switched to something else. I figured it was over and I hoped in my head that this would be my first and last conversation with this guy.
I was wrong.
On my way home that night, I started receiving text after text from this guy. It took me a few moments to realize what was happening because I didn’t know the number. He had gotten it from someone in our group after he claimed he needed it so he could “apologize” to me.
First he called me a ‘bitch’. I’ve been called that before, usually by someone who doesn’t like what I’m saying, so that didn’t really faze me. When he realized he actually wasn’t getting to me with just name-calling, he went further. I started getting messages from him that criticized my body and what I was wearing that night. He went so far as to say how I was a slut who thought I was hotter than I actually was.
I was speechless.
My reward for not letting this bigot irritate me was a pretty crude review of my body and judgment about my perceived sexuality and image.
I stopped answering him. I sensed from his behaviour earlier that night that no matter what I said, I couldn’t change his worldview. I turned my phone off and tried to ignore it.
I don’t know why that guy thought he was allowed to treat me like that or what he aimed to accomplish with those messages. We weren’t on a date so there wasn’t any romantic rejection. I can only suspect that he was embarrassed by our public argument earlier that he felt he had to reassert himself.
I’m pretty sure my being an opinionated woman added to his anger. He had made remarks earlier about the “inherent subservience of women.” Maybe he felt like I was stepping out of my socially prescribed place and he was putting me back where I belonged?
I don’t think he would have messaged me if I was a man and I know that he wouldn’t have used my body and sexuality as a way to hurt me. He certainly felt entitled to subject me to nasty, hateful messages and I was taken a back out how quickly he went from anger to punitive malice.
I’m glad that #byefelipe exists even if it the reason for its creation is revolting and awful. It shows just how much we need to talk about what’s going on online and why some men believe that messaging a woman guarantees them some sort of attention. It doesn’t.
#byefelipe also a reminder that this behaviour isn’t just a casualty of life online.
It’s about the real hate and anger that many women experience from certain men on a regular basis.