If America does have a new national pastime, it may very well be mining one’s own inbox for unwarranted and/or wildly inappropriate missives from too-familiar strangers and gleefully exposing same to the derision of anyone with internet access. Call it creep shaming. The practice is nothing new. Somewhere in the world, buried under layers of rock, there is likely some literal and figurative neanderthal’s cave painting of his dick dedicated to an unwilling Wilma who, refusing to suffer that image alone, later showed it to her friends for a good, hearty chuckle.
Now, however, with the advent of instant fraternization platforms like Tinder and OKCupid coupled with the dizzying openness of life online, creep shaming has become a sub, sub, sub genre of reality-based entertainment — a more brutal, barely recognizable descendent of The Dating Game and Love Connection. Bye Felipe, an Instagram feed launched by fed-up OKCupid customer Alexandra Tweten, is, perhaps, only the latest release valve for women who have been the unfortunate recipients of bumbling, uninvited, aggressive, and typically disgusting online advances from men.
It’s called Bye Felipe because…nevermind. The etymology is whatever. What really matters is that this modest — last I checked there were just over 50 posts — lightly-curated collection of brief exchanges with idiotic men has become immensely popular in the few weeks since its creation. The feed now has nearly 200,000 followers. It has been the subject of articles from The Huffington Post to The Atlantic, and has been featured on Good Morning America.
The frequency and ferocity with which presumably insecure and otherwise damaged dudes lash out following rejection can be darkly amusing when not disturbing. But the buzz around Bye Felipe has little to do with pure entertainment value. The viciousness showcased by the feed is rightly viewed as indicative of prevailing and startling attitudes of entitlement that many men still harbor when it comes to women. Bye Felipe is a manifestation of the frustration women feel at being constantly subjected to the thoughtless advances of men who prioritize their own wants and impulses above all else. Its creepy contents dovetail precisely with the now-famous — though hotly contested — video depicting street harassment as relentless, inescapable, and something of a societal cancer.
But, while Bye Felipe could be viewed as a running PSA, Instagram is neither Wikipedia nor CNN. At its most impactful, the app is a clearinghouse for dashed-off, albeit occasionally impressive art. At its worst, it’s a drainage pit for disposable vanity, a dumping ground for selfies and non-specific motivational claptrap. The aforementioned Atlantic article correctly places Bye Felipe in the context of Tumblr feeds Dudes of Tinder and Straight White Boys Texting, which serves to underscore the growing popularity of creep shaming. But those sites feel like gag-heavy light reading. And, as with most things that gush unmitigated from the digital tap, it’s easy to become personally inured to their significance. In other words, the more one becomes accustomed to laughing off increasingly absurd displays of douchebaggery (wait, is that sexist?) the less likely we are to see ourselves reflected in the stream. It doesn’t help that posts to Bye Felipe are still, essentially anonymous. “That ain’t me!” goes the refrain.
At the risk of sounding like Andre 3000 near the end of “Hey Ya,” fellas, make no mistake. It could be you. You may consider yourself supremely well-adjusted when it comes to interactions with women. You may bear no fondness for backtalk punctuated by the words bitch or cunt. But when that Tinder profile you pretend you’ve been waiting for all your life finally pops up and a right-swipe gives way to an awkward back-and-forth followed by a curt “no thank you,” there’s no telling what inky black vein of self-loathing it may stir up in you. Maybe retaliation is your default response to feeling jilted. Or maybe you’re just one of those people who likes to have the last word.
At that moment, let Bye Felipe and other feeds of its ilk be a warning to you: Brother, whether you’re profoundly butthurt, flippantly misogynistic, or mired in the depths somewhere between, your hard feelings are your problem. Whether in silence or in therapy, wrestle with them privately. Nowadays, a global stage exists for those who would happily and justifiably put your weak, overly dramatic shit on maximum blast. Even if genuine human decency does not enter into it, that fact alone should make you think twice about hitting send. If not, well… it’s showtime.