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Screenshotting Your Texts Has Never Been More Important

Women harassed online now have a platform on Instagram.
PHOTO: istockphoto

It started out like any normal online meetcute: Guy sees girl. Guy messages girl. Girl doesn't respond. Guy calls her an asshole. Girl shares the screenshot in a private Facebook group, where another woman relates to it because, just days before, a man flipped out on her when she said she wasn't interested. 

And so, in October 2014, Alexandra Tweten started Bye Felipe (inspired by the Bye Felicia meme), an Instagram account intent on "calling out dudes who turn hostile when rejected or ignored." She started curating submissions from other women as well, hoping to create a small community like the Facebook group she was in.

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"I just made this connection: If you don't respond, guys will yell at you. And if you do respond, and tell them no, they'll yell at you," says Tweten.

She was convinced that it was a passing phase—that people would eventually stop caring about it. "I knew that it was a common experience, but I guess I just didn't realize how many women were going through that," Tweten says. "I never expected it to get this large, or for people even pay attention to it, or even get the joke because it started as a joke."

Now, almost four years later, against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement, the Instagram account is still going strong with more than 438,000 followers, and she's published a Bye Felipe book.

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Like the Instagram account, Bye Felipe is chock-full of horrible and unfortunately real texts and DMs that were sent to women, but Tweten goes beyond posting them as standalone images. She talks about her own experiences with a range of bad men—from run-of-the-mill douchebags to overt predators, while also addressing safety precautions such as using a burner number when "switching over to text" with a Tinder match. She notes that so many of the examples in her book don't just happen on dating apps—a lot are Twitter DMs or texts from people the women knew, an indication that men don't need anonymity to behave aggressively.

"There's definitely a range and a spectrum of abuse," Tweten says. "I think that anytime a man is making a woman uncomfortable, or suddenly attacking her, or trying to make her feel bad about herself, we need to recognize that and call it out."

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By letting people share their experiences and commiserate in the comments, Tweten has shown women that their feelings are valid. And the feedback has been gratifying. “I get messages from people in my DMs a lot, saying, 'Thank you for giving me strength to say no to this guy, or to stand up for myself when a guy is treated me badly,'" she recalls. "I've gotten emails from people saying, 'Watching other women talk back to men gave me the inspiration to break up with my boyfriend who’s emotionally abusive.'"

Tweten, who gets about 20 submissions a day, says some are too dark and depressing to post. That, plus the fact that pretty much every woman has gotten a Bye Felipe-worthy message from a man at some point, raises important questions: how are there this many openly misogynistic men out there? How is the experience of receiving these messages so universal and so frequent, when most IRL men aren't screaming about their dicks or calling random women bitches to their face?

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"It happens with such frequency that what are the odds we don't know someone who has done this?" she says. But in an era where the good-guy image is being publicly challenged like never before, she's seen a notable shift in how people view these exchanges. It's become harder to laugh off that guy demanding a blow job or calling you ugly because you wouldn't respond to his 17 "hey ;)'s."

"When I started Bye Felipe, this phenomenon of guys turning hostile was sort of just like a daily thing that women experienced, and they just went on with their day and ignored it because it's something that we expect as women," Tweten says. "And I think now more women are fighting back and saying, 'No, I don't want to put up with this.'"

Sharing screenshots, especially now, is more than just a way to go viral—in some cases, it can serve as crucial evidence of the way someone acted and be the key to ensuring that person actually faces consequences for his actions (such as in an internal investigation at work). Texts don't even have to refer specifically to an assault or abusive behavior—they can be helpful just by showing an alternate side to a person's squeaky-clean persona. And as someone who sifts through aggressive submissions all day, Tweten encourages women to scrounge up proof when they can.

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But she notes that sometimes even this documentation isn't enough. "I often get people saying in the comments 'Oh, this is fake, this is made up,'" Tweten says. "So a lot of the times, even when we do have credible evidence, we still aren't believed."

Yes, the people who already believe #MeToo is a witch hunt may dismiss these screenshots, just as they might do verbal testimonies, FBI interviews, polygraph tests, and televised hearings. But Tweten says that doesn't negate the progress that's happened in just a few years.

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"I think I see a lot more people just bringing it up on their own personal social media," Tweten says. "You don't even need a huge following to call things out and talk about them.” Or to confidently say: Bye, Felipe.

Follow Julia on Twitter.


This article originally appeared on Minor edits have been made by the editors.