I created the Instagram account @byefelipe three weeks ago in order to compile harassing and hostile messages men send to women after being rejected or ignored. Since creating Bye Felipe, it has become apparent that a standard trajectory of discourse with men online is this: Man hits on woman, woman rejects or ignores him, man lashes out with insults or even threats.
When a woman on Facebook posted this screenshot, I saw it and laughed, because I, too, had recently received a hostile message from a man on OKCupid. Comparing the two, one comes to the conclusion that women can’t win if they are not interested in certain men. Under their logic, we are supposed to entertain any man who is interested in conversation or a date just because we exist on a dating site. Which is completely ridiculous. You can see their frustration and desperation in the messages, which is why it’s both funny and deeply sad at the same time.
My main reasons for creating the account were: A) Commiserating with other women (you can’t be a woman online and not get creepy messages from men); B) Letting men know what it’s like to be a woman online (it’s not all cupcakes and rainbows!); and C) To expose the problematic entitlement some men feel they need to exert over women in general.
Obviously, Bye Felipe has struck a nerve. After The Atlantic featured it in an article on Monday, it has gained 25,000 followers and is growing by the hour. I’ve gotten many thanks from both women and men for exposing these heinous messages. It’s now been featured in The Huffington Post, The Guardian, The New York Post, Cosmopolitan, Elle and The Daily Mail as well as on numerous blogs.
After seeing these disturbing messages grouped together, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that our society has a misogyny problem. The same forces that taught Elliot Roger that he was justified in murdering women for rejecting him, the cultural atmosphere that says it’s OK for hundreds of men to catcall any woman in a public space, the thing that drives men to brutally injure women who ignore them are all connected to the sense of toxic entitlement some men possess.
While Bye Felipe (a take on the meme “Bye Felicia”) uses humor to take away some of the power these insults may carry, I also like to point folks to the Tumblr “When Women Refuse,” which chronicles the serious problem of actual violence women experience at the hands of men who have been rejected.
I have been asked multiple times, “What’s the answer to this? What can these dating sites do to curb this problem?” And I struggle to answer, because this is just a symptom of a larger problem. Censoring these messages may help in the short term, but the messages featured on Bye Felipe are like an immortalized version of the catcalls and threats women receive on the the street every day, just walking around and existing. Until we change the cultural atmosphere, women will continue to receive these hurtful messages online and in real life.
Alexandra Tweten, a former Ms. intern, lives in Los Angeles and has been online dating as a feminist since 2010. She now works as an operations coordinator for Live Nation.