Scholarly article on topic '"Bitch I Said Hi": The Bye Felipe Campaign and Discursive Activism in Mobile Dating Apps'

"Bitch I Said Hi": The Bye Felipe Campaign and Discursive Activism in Mobile Dating Apps Academic research paper on "Media and communications"

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Academic research paper on topic ""Bitch I Said Hi": The Bye Felipe Campaign and Discursive Activism in Mobile Dating Apps"

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"Bitch I Said Hi": The Bye Felipe Campaign and Discursive Activism in Mobile Dating Apps

Social Media + Society October-December 2016: 1-10 © The Author(s) 2016 Reprints and permissions: sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/2056305116672889 sms.sagepub.com

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Frances Shaw

Abstract

This article examines the Instagram page for Bye Felipe, a feminist campaign where people submit screenshots of examples of harassment and sexual entitlement from men on online dating sites such as OKCupid and apps such as Tinder. I frame the campaign as an example of feminist discursive activism. The site owners collect contributions and aggregate examples of particular discursive patterns in hook up apps, in order to make collective political claims, a strategy that Tomlinson calls "intensification." I address the existing literature on cyber-misogyny and online harassment, and also research on previous similar campaigns such as Fedoras of OKCupid to discuss shaming as a political practice. I then draw out the patterns and concepts invoked in interventions and resultant discussions on Bye Felipe, examining the themes of rejection, silence and who has the right to silence, rape culture, and gendered sexual entitlement. I identify the political claims being made through the rhetorical strategies described in the first part of the article. Drawing on the work of McCosker on trolling as provocation, I discuss the role of repetition and rehearsal in the practice of discursive politics. Finally, through a discursive analysis of responses to the posts on Instagram and Facebook over time, I explore the ongoing and difficult boundary work around what constitutes appropriate examples for the site, and the articulation of feminist claims and discourses.

Keywords

discursive activism, feminism, online activism, online dating, political rhetoric

Introduction

This article addresses the feminist campaign Bye Felipe, hosted on Instagram with an associated Facebook page. I argue that the site constitutes an example of feminist discursive activism through the highlighting of oppressive discourses in online dating. By analyzing discussions on several threads on the Instagram account, I describe the boundary practices that feminists engage in around safe spaces for feminist politics, arguing that this can be wearying work and can limit possibilities for the generation of new feminist claims. However, I then argue for the uses of risk and disagreement as well as safety in the practice of discursive politics. I introduce the idea of the rehearsal of disagreement as a discursive political act, building on McCosker's (2013) arguments about trolling as provocation.

Trolling and harassment are central themes of this article. Briefly, trolling can be defined as "the act of deliberately posting inflammatory or confusing messages on the Internet in order to provoke a vehement response from a group of users" (Cassandra, 2008, p. 5). On the other hand, harassment

is directly threatening behavior often targeted toward individuals. Although these concepts are linked, as in my previous article on trolling in feminist blogs (Shaw, 2013), I see trolling and harassment as different. I do not assume that trolling behavior is always intended to harass, although it may be in some way understood as a silencing practice—an action that aims to diminish the space for others in public debate— demarcated by degree and violence (Jane, 2012).

The title of Bye Felipe references the meme Bye Felicia (a quote from the comedy film Friday; Know Your Meme, 2015), which signals a dismissive farewell. The Instagram account Bye Felipe was set up by a woman named Alexandra Tweten (Barrow, 2014) as a space for women to share screenshots of abuse and to draw attention to the prevalence of

The University of Sydney, Australia Corresponding Author:

Frances Shaw, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia. Email: franceshaw@gmail.com

Creative Commons Non Commercial CC-BY-NC: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).

harassment in online dating. In a blog for Ms. Magazine, Alexandra listed three reasons for putting the page together:

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. (Tweten, 2014)

The Instagram account has received a lot of media attention, particularly in online-only media sites, being featured in articles on The New York Times, The Atlantic, E! Online (Mullins, 2014), Metro UK, Buzzfeed, Cosmopolitan and The Huffington Post, to name a few. As of February 2016, it had almost 400,000 followers. A New York Times article brings Bye Felipe together with other similar sites and the spotlighting practices of other women, including Ashley Brincefield, who posts screenshots of "creepy messages" and "naked selfies" to her own profile when men harassed her on Tinder, and Anna Gensler, who draws cartoons of men and the accompanying messages she receives on OKCupid (Krueger, 2015). The New York Times frames these spotlighting, shaming, and highlighting practices as a trend and a collective response to a shared problem among women.

Coverage is often gleeful, taking joy in the practice of shaming itself, and promoting the account on that basis. Sophie Brown (2015) for Metro describes it as a "good idea" and "brilliant" and suggests that "you're going to love [it]." Likewise, Moore (2014) for Cosmopolitan frames it as the "Best New Instagram Account for Your Gross Online Dating Messages" for women readers whose phones are "literally full of them." Nina Bahadur (2014) for The Huffington Post says that Bye Felipe "is the best new place to share the absurd messages every woman who has ever online dated has received." These articles pitch Bye Felipe as a "place to share" and as something for women to do with experiences that are framed as universal among single women who date online. Such coverage is joyful and amused, but the comments on the site also show a more complex response, which I will go through in my analysis. Beyond the official Bye Felipe social media accounts, "Bye Felipe" as a phrase and a hashtag has become a meme in its own right, used as shorthand for particular feminist claims. Similar to the "Binders Full of Women" meme documented in the work of Rentschler and Thrift (2015), the "Bye Felipe" meme "create[s] online spaces of consciousness raising and community building" alongside satirical laughter (p. 1).

Bye Felipe has been chosen from alongside similar contemporary sites such as Feminist Tinder, first, because of its relative popularity as well as the media attention it has received. Second and more importantly, I have selected this campaign because of the way that it highlights particular forms of communication on dating sites and is therefore a space for what Tomlinson (2010) calls "intensification."Inte nsification is a rhetorical practice where particular examples

of types of discourse are collected together to demonstrate a repeated discursive pattern. In many of the screenshots submitted and posted on the Instagram account, men have sent a woman a message, waited a certain variable length of time, and then followed up with abuse. In other common cases, the woman has replied to say that she is not interested, and the man then follows up with abuse ranging from derogatory comments (I thought you were ugly anyway) to violent threats (if I find you I will end you). Not all submissions are related to dating, but often have the theme of rejection: one post documented an email exchange of a conciliatory rejection letter for a job, and the angry and misogynistic reply that the woman then received, showing a broader societal issue of gendered misogyny and entitlement.

Throughout the article, "sexual entitlement" refers to (conscious or unconscious) beliefs shown in behavior and statements that the speaker feels they are entitled to sex, a position that has been argued to lead to a disregard of consent and to increase the likelihood of sexual harassment, assault, and rape. This concept is gendered because sexual entitlement is a consequence of gendered norms that expect men to be in control and get what they want, and women to be accommodating and submissive (see Cairns [1993, p. 210] for a fuller discussion of sexual entitlement in relationships). Entitlement more broadly can be understood as a concept related to expectations of power and control, and the expectation that a person will and should "get what they want."

In this article, I explore the debates and themes that are played out in the comments of Bye Felipe, from the unelabo-rated tagging of third-party accounts (a practice common in Instagram to draw attention or recommend particular accounts) to the challenging of the legitimacy of the site and its practices. I document the ways that this tension plays out repeatedly and in often unmanageable ways in the comments, and discuss Bye Felipe as a space where contemporary anxieties about safety and risk, publicity and privacy, and individual and collective shaming play out. I then speculate that these disagreements, repetitions, and rehearsals of particular debates can be understood as ambivalently productive, compelling, and even enjoyable.

Methods

In the research for this article, I combined long-term observation and note-taking with the close analysis of two main threads from the Instagram page for the illustration of themes and patterns observed. To analyze these two threads, I used qualitative codes derived from my initial observation memos. Although the account is cross-platform, the images are initially posted to Instagram and then shared elsewhere from there, and I have made the pragmatic decision to limit the analysis to this primary platform.

The two main threads were chosen because they constituted good examples of the two subtypes of screenshots commonly seen on the site: examples where a woman responded

with an explicit rejection and examples where a woman did not respond at all, and the way that men on dating sites reacted to each type of response. The profile description on the Bye Felipe Instagram account refers to "Calling out dudes who turn hostile when rejected or ignored' (author's emphasis), and these two genres are the site's main focus. There are other sub-genres of Bye Felipe posts, but these are the most common and the most contentious, and are the practices that Bye Felipe mainly calls attention to. Then, using the themes that emerged from these two main threads as a sensitizing filter or lens, I dip in and out of other Bye Felipe threads across time. It is mainly a qualitative, thematic analysis of comment threads, although I do also analyze some of the content on the site. I have chosen to quote users without attribution. Although comments are not easily searchable on Instagram, usernames are, so this is the most appropriate way to protect the identity of participants.

My interest, on a number of levels, is in response: first, how participants responded to one another in the initial examples, but more importantly for this article, what the response was in the comments (and to a lesser extent in broader public discourse) to the posting of these examples. My research questions were as follows: first, can Bye Felipe be understood as a form of discursive activism, and if so, what form does this activism take? Second, what is the response to this activism in the discursive community that surrounds Bye Felipe as a situated political document? Secondary questions emerged from the themes of the responses and the patterns of communication that were on display there. These were (a) to what extent is Bye Felipe a safe space for the development of discursive claims and (b) how are responses contended with, framed, and negotiated in the space?

It is important to note here that the analysis by necessity excludes moderated comments, so these are the discourses and responses that have "sedimented" on the site. In the case of one example, I collected the responses 1 hour after the image was posted as well as going back 1 month later to see what had changed. In that time period, one account had been deleted and that person's comments are no longer visible. Therefore, the comments as analyzed do not necessarily represent the way that the conversation unfolded. Other comments have clearly been removed where one participant's comments are visible and their interlocutor's comments are absent. It is reasonable to assume that because of the prevalence of misogynistic discourses in online spaces, and the fact that feminist writers and campaigns are particular targets for the expression of these discourses, there are also highly offensive comments posted on the site (Jane, 2014). These may then be deleted by the account owner or reported by other participants leading to the removal of either the account or the comments. This unavoidably affects the coherence of the discursive negotiation as described. However, I take the site as it is, as an incomplete document of speech acts affected afterwards (edited, moderated, and deleted) by other acts. This also leaves open the possibility for further research to

understand moderation practices by Tweten and any other moderators on the account, in the context of Instagram's own governance; however, this is not within the scope of this article.

It is also important to note that, although informed by broader observation, the analysis is limited to two examples and is far from exhaustive. I draw out major themes from the discussion on the site in order to develop some thinking about discursive activism online and to suggest a possible reading of these discursive acts, but this article is not intended to be read as an online ethnography or a thorough documentation of an online community.

Discursive Activism, Cyber-Harassment, and Safe Spaces: Situating the Analysis

It is my contention that activists in spaces such as Bye Felipe are engaged in acts of political creativity, negotiation, dialogue, and productive disagreement, and that these acts constitute discursive activism. But before going on to analyze Bye Felipe in these terms, I will define discursive activism and situate my analysis in the relevant literature on cyber-misogyny and online harassment, safe spaces, and shaming.

I argue that participants in feminist online networks and sites engage in discursive activism by negotiating counter-hegemonic discourses and generating feminist claims (see also Shaw, 2012a, p. 7). This concept of discursive activism builds on work by Katzenstein (1995), Maddison (2013), and Young (1997) on the importance of discursive politics in the feminist movement. Discursive activism or discursive politics is rhetorical action that intervenes in and creates new discourses by identifying and unpacking power relations in existing discourses. In Shaw (2012b), I argued that the creation of safe spaces is important for the development of discursive claims. Bloggers gather in like-minded groups for reasons of discursive politics, in order to generate political claims and respond to hostile discourses as a collective.

More specifically, the activism that Bye Felipe engages in primarily draws attention to and interrupts gendered online harassment. Online harassment is now a concern that is receiving an increasing amount of attention, covered (often sensationally) in the media often in terms of cyberbullying, while also becoming an area for policy campaigning and policing, framed as e-Safety or cybersafety. Some policy discourses around these issues can be patronizing and likewise sensational, and indeed can reinforce or perpetuate some of the gendered harms of harassment by encouraging victim-blaming and sexual shame (Albury & Crawford, 2012; Dobson & Ringrose, 2015, p. 2), but they reflect a shift in the seriousness with which online harassment is perceived. Understanding harassment simply as trolling no longer works, both in terms of public perception and in terms of its real impact on recipients (Megarry, 2014).

Part of this shift in understandings of harassment comes from the increasing visibility and scale of harassment. The relentless abuse and threats from dis/organized groups such as Gamergate and "tweetstorms" around a particular person can be overwhelming for the recipient of the targeted harassment, and are highly publicly visible in a way that is unprecedented. Another part of this shift in the understanding of online harassment comes from work from feminist social media and Internet studies researchers (e.g., Jane, 2014; Megarry, 2014; Ng, 2015), as well as social testimony and personal anecdote from people who have experienced it (see Jane [2014, pp. 561-564] for a review of some of these accounts). These accounts explore the real impact that online harassment can have on people's lives, and the gendered and raced aspects of harassment. In addition, alongside and often part of these two other shifts is the role of feminist and inter-sectional political discourse online, which has increasingly drawn attention to and problematized the distinction between trolls and others who would disrupt and harass participants in online spaces (see Megarry's (2014) discussion of the #men-callmethings campaign).

In spite of these public shifts in the way that online harassment is understood, much online discourse is often still ambivalent about the significance of aggression in particular online spaces. As Cross (2014) puts it in her study of harassment in gaming culture, the "culture becomes real when it is convenient, and unreal when it is not; real enough to hurt people in, unreal enough to justify doing so" (pp. 4-5). This ambivalence and trivializing discourse is one of the themes that I will draw out from the Bye Felipe data.

Bye Felipe should be understood in the context of other sites that draw attention to the sexual politics of online dating in similar ways. Feminist Tinder, Trans Men on Grindr, and the older Fedoras of OKCupid are just a few of these sites. Similar to Bye Felipe but predating it by several years, the Tumblr site Fedoras of OKCupid (henceforth FOOKC) was a curated collection of text and images from online dating platforms, which drew attention to misogynist and entitled viewpoints and practices in those spaces. The author of the FOOKC blog collected images of men in fedora hats from the dating site OKCupid alongside excerpts from their dating profile (Abraham, 2013, p. 87). Abraham (2013) in his article on the site identified a trend in feminist and other social justice groups online that "used shaming as an activist strategy" (p. 86). Abraham (2013, p. 86) points out following Braithwaite (via Probyn, 2005) that shame can be either "stigmatising" or "reintegrative," in the latter form "performing a kind of socialising function." According to Abraham (2013, p. 87), initially, FOOKC limited itself to criticizing the appearance of the fedora hat, but gradually began to orient itself alongside other sites such as Nice Guys of OKCupid "towards an activist and educational role" that critiqued a broader culture of misogyny and sexual entitlement among male geeks of the type to wear fedoras.

Similarly, Bye Felipe is a single-issue space for discursive political response. Through the juxtaposition of a variety of different online behaviors, it draws together common threads of sexual entitlement and harassment in women's experience. Like similar sites and hashtags like #mencallmethings (Megarry, 2014), Bye Felipe is a space for activist "heaping" and "conglomeration" of sexist practices and attitudes on dating sites (Tomlinson, 2010, p. 160). It cultivates a community and a space outside of those spaces for the development of different discourses. As with FOOKC and other feminist sites and networks, the building of a community and the creation of a space where these things can be discussed is part of the activism (Abraham, 2013; Megarry, 2014; Shaw, 2012a).

Analysis

The first main thread I will look at was posted in June 2015 and has 461 comments and 4,506 likes as of 25 August 2015. This is the rejection thread. In it, screenshots of a text message conversation appear to show a man ignoring a woman's sexual rejection, in order to send an unsolicited dick pic and unsolicited sexual comments and questions, as well as abusive threats. The screenshots were accompanied by the description: "Send an unsolicited dick pic and you will be shamed" followed by an eggplant emoji (@ByeFelipe, 2015c). The second thread was posted in April 2015 and is the ignore thread. It has 6,616 likes and 1,077 comments as of 5 September 2015. The screenshots show a one-sided conversation where "Anthony" has messaged greetings four times over several months, ending with "Bitch I said hi" (@ ByeFelipe, 2015b). This is one of the milder abusive responses made examples on the site. Apart from the significant proportion of comments simply drawing others' attention to the page with a username tag and occasionally a brief endorsement such as "you have to follow this page!" several themes emerged in the comments on these images.

Safety and Unsafety

Bye Felipe's featured screenshots often highlight a lack of safety. They frequently involve threats of violence, particularly sexual violence, and read in quick succession create a picture of a hostile environment for women. On the other hand, the account itself arguably provides a safe venue or space for women to share their stories when they are threatened in other (often closed and non-transparent) spaces.

In Jane's (2014) account of gendered vitriol, she describes a rhetoric of abuse that "prescribe coerced sex acts as allpurpose correctives; [ . . . ] pass scathing, appearance-related judgments and [. . .] rely on ad hominem invective" as well as expressing "lascivious contempt" (p. 560). Screenshots posted on Bye Felipe often fit this profile. However, rather than being public figures or speaking out in the public sphere (which prompts most of the examples set out by Jane, 2014),

the abuse is prompted by their presence on dating sites. Women are arguably being made into sexual objects while being simultaneously denigrated for having sexual agency and the ability to choose, reject, or not to respond. Henry and Powell (2015) discuss the way that technology-facilitated sexual violence causes "gendered harms explicitly or implicitly fixated on the objectification of the 'feminine body'" (p. 11). Drawing on Nussbaum (2010, in Henry & Powell, 2015, p. 11), they see this as motivated by ressentiment, a "reactive emotion inspired by the feeling of weakness" and leading to the desire to exert power over others. While this abuse may seem on the surface to be disembodied, the effects are both psychical and physical, and therefore embodied (Henry & Powell, 2015, p. 11).

Screenshots featured on the site range from petulant insults to explicit threat. But all of these screen-capped responses are in some way disproportionate, and beyond brief humorous captions, the main rhetorical work that Bye Felipe does is to collect these instances of disproportionate response together (Cueto, 2014). Tomlinson calls this rhetorical strategy "intensification." By drawing together examples, in this case of disproportionate response to women's silence, non-reply, and rejection, intensification redefines the meaning of uses of "language from contested social arenas," and by juxtaposing them "reopen the textual and conceptual 'black boxes' that allow authors to avoid responsibility for their rhetorical choices" (Tomlinson, 2010, p. 159, emphasis hers).

In the rejection thread, the harasser seemed to have no concern for sexual consent and in fact several times explicitly stated that he didn't care whether she was interested or not. Comments expressed shock and disgust and often a personal affective recoil against this display of sexual entitlement. Commenters, often women, talked about their personal, often visceral response to reading the threats. They talked about the fear and the disgust they felt, and their sense of a lack of safety engendered by the words used in the screen-capped conversation. The conversation was "disgusting," "gross," and made their skin crawl:

Assault at its core. "Not interested." "I don't care." Disgusting

This one is super extra rapey vibe

This is one of the grossest ones in a while. So rapey.

My skin was crawling reading this.

Others drew out the notion of rape and non-consent in the man's messages:

This is seriously scary, I really hope he treats women in real life

better than this, he's literally saying he's going to rape her . . .

This guy has the behavior of a fucking rapist.

He doesn't care that she's not interested. That's how rapists talk

Some talked about fear in their own lives, often with a sense of incomprehensibility, and related this specific example to a broader perceived problem:

Men scare me sometimes. I just don't understand why they behave this way

Honestly why don't they respect us when we're clearly not interested.

Some of the comments also related the screenshot to their own experience of online dating or of relationships with men. "This is every guy I seem to talk to," said one commenter. Another tagged a friend, saying "THIS REMINDS ME OF SOMEONE WE KNOW."

Not only does he appear to threaten rape, he is also violating consent through his words and by sending the unsolicited "dick pic." One commenter calls it "textraping," and another calls it "sexual assault," stating that the only reason it is legal is because it is online:

The Internet is the only place where it's legal to sexually assault others. If a guy did this to someone on the street, he'd be prosecuted. Our world is crazy.

She tells him no multiple times and he blatantly states that he doesn't care if she says no and continues on to send her a dick pic?

A full analysis of whether the harassment policies of particular dating sites are adequate to deal with the realities of their use for many women and others including trans men (see Trans Men on Grindr, 2015) is outside the scope of this article (see Marwick & Miller [2014] for a review of the legal landscape for those experiencing online harassment, and Matias et al. [2015] for a look at Twitter's harassment governance). However, it could be argued that Bye Felipe and similar sites respond to gaps in the abilities of the services to deal with these problems. For example, in the New York Times article, Brincefield refers to the fact that she first tried blocking and reporting particular users, but they would reappear under different profile names (Krueger, 2015), so she resorted to sharing images on her profile in order to deter people from engaging in harassment. These discussions also turn up repeatedly in the comments on Bye Felipe:

Sure, one may block these assaulters, however, as we all know, as well as reminded by commenters [. . .] it's easy to make an entire new account and continue the harassment. Now let's be honest with one another, [. . .] blocking these men is just a short-term fix to this phenomena.

The site uses humor to take some of the seriousness away from these messages, and creates a sense of safety in

numbers (Tweten, 2014). Previous work has shown the way that humor can be used to take away the impact of damaging discourse (Rentschler & Thrift, 2015; Shaw, 2012a). Beyond the "serious laughter" (Kennedy, 1999, p. 51) provoked by the screenshots themselves, Bye Felipe is also host to a number of visual discursive interpretations, where guest illustrators interpret previous screen-capped conversations on the site. These images take the insults and abuse to the extreme, forcing the interpretation further into the ridiculous (see @ ByeFelipe, 2015a).

Bye Felipe creates a particular discursive space for discussion about this particular set of cultural behaviors. It also rests on participation in another discursive community: the dating site or app. However, contributors are able to take that discourse out of context and thereby take what was previously hidden into view. Kennedy (1999) describes this political act as a kind of metaphorical exile, and within this, "speaking in exile is an ethical imperative to refuse invisibility, erasure, and silence" (p. 61). What she calls "the Cynic ethics of resistance" holds an imperative to "create spaces to speak" freely and openly and to critique through "serious laughter" (Kennedy, 1999, p. 50). What they share about others in this space is conventionally understood as private communication, but it could be understood as a privacy that protects abuse and expects silence (while paradoxically, within the space of dating sites, demanding response). When contributors on Bye Felipe draw attention to private abuse by sharing screenshots, this act is arguably doubly transgressive and controversial because of the fact that it not only breaks with conventions of public versus private but also breaks with gendered expectations of public versus private. In this way, I argue that participants break with "the ideal social behaviour of a virtuous woman" as "passive and patient" (Kennedy, 1999, p. 56). These expectations are reflected in comments that criticize women's responses, which I discuss below.

"Let the Real Shame Begin"

The New York Times article on Brincefield, Gensler, and Tweten (Krueger, 2015) mentioned in the introduction used the word "cybervigilantes," suggesting a kind of vigilante justice is taking place on these sites and with these practices. However, this is not how Tweten (2014) herself frames her site. First, she explains that she wants people to recognize that "society has a misogyny problem" while also using "humour to take away some of the power these insults may carry" (Tweten, 2014). Neither of these motivations are about targeting or exposing individuals.

One contentious aspect of comments on Bye Felipe is the repeatedly played out debate about whether Bye Felipe goes far enough in drawing attention to the presence of misogyny in online dating apps, or whether it goes too far. The debate is arguably between those who see the problem as societal,

and those who see the problem as individual. In the first case, it is enough to post examples in aggregate and discuss ways to change gendered behavior and expectations, and to laugh, whereas for others, it is necessary or desirable to directly shame the individual.

Some feel the site should go further, naming and shaming the individuals involved. Users suggest adding phone numbers so the individuals can be called and potentially harassed in return, and also advocate for adding names so that the people can be avoided by other women on dating sites (it should be noted here that Bye Felipe does show names or profile pictures in some cases if they've been provided by the submitter). In the case of the rejection thread, the submitter had not provided the person's name, and the "dick pic" image had been censored. Commenters responded,

why aren't their names and usernames on here??

I wish we could start adding names and phone numbers to this shame game!

Lol stop blurring names and censoring pics and let the real shame begin

Why can't we start adding the names and #? Why are we protecting these guys?

I wish you would post the real names!! Why not let them be seen in all their creepy glory?

You guys need to start posting names, pictures, numbers, etc to really shame these pigs. The best is when people contact their mothers.

You should share his number so he too can be harassed

The conversation on this post was particularly targeted because the Bye Felipe administrator had used the words "You will be shamed" on the caption to the image:

How has this person been shamed? No picture, no name, no user name, and you colored his dick pic into an unrecognizable eggplant. This ass will probably never see this. This account is great for a laugh at their expense and a bit of venting but let's be real—you're really not "shaming" the shameless by censoring hear [sic] images. Nothing is going to change.

The above comment makes the link between shaming and change, suggesting that they consider Bye Felipe's political potential to lie in the individual public humiliation that results, and that then will function as a deterrent to change behavior. In response, the administrator explained that they "Would have posted his name or face but submitter didn't include it." On the converse, some commenters felt that the site went too far in shaming particular people:

Blocking obsessive guys is enough but going the extra length to "shame" them on top of it makes you no better than the guy #perspective #thinkaboutit

which provoked these responses:

so just ignoring the problem instead of trying to do something is your solution? And not only that but you blame the victim for "shaming him." Good luck with that backwards view. I'd much rather see people at least try then to sit back like and say "that's just how it is."

the intention of this page is not to "shame" men who behave this way, as you can see his name and personal information was not provided, it is here to bring light to a social issue . . .

When Bye Felipe uses the word shaming, it is referring to the practice of collecting examples together. This avoids for the most part singling out particular individuals for retribution or revenge, but shames a collective and violent use of language to police women's actions and choices (to respond or not respond). I would argue that this constitutes discursive or collective rather than interpersonal or individual shaming.

"She Should Have . . . ": Repetitive Debates and "Derailment"

Another of the common threads in the discussion reinforces the discursive problem (visible in the posted screenshots) of gendered expectations. These comments state that if women had behaved differently, it would have been different or there would have been no problem. In this section, I evaluate the idea of "derailment" as a problem in feminist blogs (see also Shaw, 2012a), and then, I draw on the concept of trolling as provocation (McCosker, 2013) to build an argument about the rehearsal of disagreement as a political act.

Often, the claims that women should have behaved differently read as trolling because they so directly illustrate the claims and social commentary being developed on Bye Felipe as a whole, and therefore go against the values of the discursive community that has built up around it. As such, these could be understood as attempts to aggressively challenge the site and provoke its participants. Following McCosker (2013), though, I consider other possible interpretations.

For an example of troll-like participation, one commenter claimed that a woman should have responded ("it's rude if she doesn't"), but agreed when someone suggested that then she'd be "leading him on." Either way, "what a bitch." Another said, ambiguously, "She needs to respond to him," and another, "How you gonna match someone and not talk to them. That's a bitch move." It is impossible to know which responses are sincerely felt by the commenter and which are designed to provoke because these are so similar in tenor and content. Another defended the man by saying, "Why would you swipe right if you didn't plan on saying anything at any point in time?" These comments can be read as provocations (McCosker, 2013) whether designed to rile others up or motivated by personal belief because commenters are likely aware that they go against the orthodoxy of the discursive

community. Some others along the theme of criticizing the way the woman responded include

Like maybe just stop replying?

She should have blocked him long ago . . . and don't respond to guys like that

Why even continue conversations with pervs like these? Just block them from the start.

why didn't she just simply ignore his messages, or even blocking him instead of saying "I'm blocking you . . .?" the dude is an idiot, but the girl has self esteem issues, why would anyone keep talking to someone like that . . .

If she would have stopped responding, he probably would have left her alone

I don't understand why she didn't just block him in the first place?

Serious question: why do girls engage with this stuffunless they sort of want it? Someone texts me and I don't want them to I ignore it.

People responded to these comments by articulating the claims (often repeatedly) around which the discursive community is organized:

nobody is obligated to say anything to anyone if they don't want to. Regardless of what she swiped, it doesn't mean she has to respond or justify his demand for a response.

amazing that your biggest issue is with her responding and not how vile he is. Wow.

have you seen what happens to women who don't respond?

You've already placed sole responsibility of his actions on the victim, and that's flat out bullshit. This is why these behaviors continue, because men like you give men like that an out for how they talk to women.

No, she doesn't respond because she isn't interested, and she also isn't obligated to respond to every guy that messages her. ESPECIALLY when if she *does* respond, he will take that as a sign she is interested.

Commenters often refer to the likelihood of trolls toward the beginning of many threads. Shortly after the image was posted in the ignore thread, one commenter predicted that

the blame shifting on the woman because she was "rude" not to reply will begin in 3, 2, 1 . . .

While in the rejection thread, another commenter said,

I can't wait till the fuckboys show up and try to justify his words while vilifying hers

This shows participants' acknowledgement that these conversations play out repeatedly and in monotonous ways. A commenter suggested that "There should be a special Instagram account showcasing screenshots of the idiot comments sticking up for the Felipes." Bye Felipe sees recurring participation by people who want to undermine the discursive legitimacy of the feminist claims being made in the space. These conversations play out repeatedly in different posts, and commenters pre-empted them as above. However, I would argue that in some sense, these repeated conversations are part of the political impact of Bye Felipe and therefore have an affective pull for participants. As McCosker (2013) argues, "what has come to be called trolling should be taken as a starting point rather than a vague end point for understanding the place of provocation in its multiple [ . . . ] forms" (p. 202). Understood in this way, provocation can provide opportunities for the articulation of political claims.

One commenter tags a friend and recommends the site (as previously mentioned, this is the most common comment type on the site, and is a feature of viral accounts on Instagram) but also mentions that "there's a bunch of assholes in the comments defending those douche bags." That friend then joins the conversation, quickly attempting to engage the defenders by asking "how is not responding to lead someone on? Also— women aren't obliged to do—anything—in relation to men." This shows that although these conversations are monotonous and repetitive, they are also in some sense attractive to participants. Therefore, rather than understanding the recommender as "warning" her friend about the "assholes in the comments," she is actually enticing her friend to join the fight.

Tagging someone who had been responding to a negative commenter, a woman commiserated, "So mind-numbing trying to explain shit like this," to which the reply was "I know huh, you'll never win." These exchanges signal the affective futility of response to these arguments, but we can also see here the building of political alliance and the articulation of political claims beyond simply posting images and beyond the tagging of friends for the purposes of "serious laughter" about online harassment.

While some express frustration, there is an ambiguity in many of these expressions. As in the previous example above, some of them seem to express a perverse pleasure. Conflict to some extent allows from the "formation and expression of relational identities" (Hartley, 2012 in McCosker, 2013, p. 204). Participants build alliances and collective identity through common opponents (Maddison, 2004, p. 250). For example, "Cant [sic] wait to see the Felipe sympathizers try to defend this guy, and find fault with her reaction. This should be good." "Can't wait" and "this should be good" could be read as sarcasm, but they also could be read as anticipation. On the corollary, one critic wrote,

So stupid. Just ignore the texts from the idiotic men and 90% of these posts would never happen. Cue angry feminist rants at me.;) It is rather unintelligent to keep responding . . .

It is not clear here whether he is referring to himself responding to Bye Felipe posts or to the woman in the screenshot responding to the man who harassed her. Either way, this comment signals his own anticipation and perhaps enjoyment, on some level, of provoking feminist rants. McCosker (2013, p. 206) makes clear both the link between passions and politics, and feeling and provocation. As in McCosker (2013), "[c]omments and exchanges such as these are often both vitriolic and generative of a plurality of acts of citizenship," and in this way, "acts of provocation" may "play a legitimate and productive, if uncomfortable, role" (p. 214). This is politics based on feeling, and arguably trolling makes emotions visible in the political. This allows for the "rehearsal" or playing out of a political theater. This is discursively and rhetorically repetitive, but it enables politics, identity, and political claims to adhere to the space and builds a discursive repertoire around the Bye Felipe meme.

Conclusion

In this article, I have drawn out the themes of gendered expectations, ethical arguments about shaming (collective or individual), and the articulation of feminist claims in response to provocation. Boundary work—both in terms of the repeated articulation of claims, norm-setting in feminist spaces, and moderation practices—is a significant and wearying part of the work that is done by feminist activists online, and this work can be experienced as defeating for individual participants. Conflict is unproductive when mainstream discourses are repetitively re-introduced in a space (Shaw, 2012a), and when it is based around abuse and harassment (Jane, 2014). However, conflict or provocation can also be productive of a discursive politics in which a political community is able to define itself in opposition to others. Disagreements in this space play out in predictable ways, and often on Bye Felipe's terms, which facilitates the articulation of political claims that might otherwise have gone unsaid. Participants express ambivalence that may sometimes signal pleasure in reading and responding to critical others, in the context of a moderated space that provides some protection against further harassment and abuse.

Bye Felipe is a highly visible campaign and, as a meme, has become a simple shorthand to raise a number of discursive political points. Bye Felipe is not in itself a fix for online harassment and threats of violence against women on dating sites. However, it does serve to articulate the threats that women face in these spaces, and to frame these as a broader societal problem with real and damaging effects on people's lives and expectations from relationships.

Declaration of Conflicting Interests

The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Funding

The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

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Author Biography

Frances Shaw (PhD, UNSW) is an Honorary Associate at the University of Sydney and a Postdoctoral Researcher in Applied Ethics at the Black Dog Institute, University of New South Wales. Her research interests include feminist digital activism, harassment and cyberbullying, the ethics and politics of digital healthcare, and online supportive networks.