Late last week 21-year-old supermodel Gigi Hadid made headlines following a fashion show during Milan fashion week. But this time the wave of press wasn’t for slaying on the runway but for being assaulted by decidedly humorless “prankster” Vitalii Sediuk who proceeded to pick Hadid up and forcibly restrain her.
Like any sane woman being grabbed by a strange man on the street, Hadid’s reaction (once she was able to eventually free her arms) was to elbow the assailant in the face in an attempt to fight her way out of his grasp. Thank god for all those boxing classes.
What was most surprising about this ordeal, was that the media’s initial reaction to Hadid’s attack wasn’t to stand up for the woman, but to criticize her for standing up for herself.
The first article that reported on the incident began: “Not model behavior. Gigi aggressively lashes out and elbows fan in the face after he tries to pick her up. The supermodel angrily hit an unknown man before running to her car.” Say what?
A headline that not only frames Hadid as a silly woman who was overreacting but also dismisses the fact that what Sediuk did was straight up wrong. Needless to say it caused Hadid to take to Twitter to defend her actions and thankfully, the Internet, having none of that dismissive victim blaming, quickly came to Hadid’s defense.
What’s impressive about Hadid is that she not only stood up for her absolute right to defend herself as a woman being attacked on the street, but she also took the opportunity to talk about the incident and the issue at large to feminist patron saint, Lena Dunham in this morning’s Lenny Letter.
“The video [of the attack] is equal measures upsetting and empowering,” Dunham writes. “It is chilling to watch, in real time, the ownership a stranger seems to feel toward a body he considers public domain. But it's also stirring: in one swift movement, without the aid of her bodyguards, Gigi makes it clear that she will not be made to feel like anyone's property.”
Dunham is also quick to point out that this is not just an isolated case of a celebrity receiving unwanted attention but that feeling physical safety in a public space is a very real problem and fear for many Americans, citing a 2014 Gallup annual crime survey.
The survey shows that thirty-seven percent of American adults would feel unsafe walking alone near their home at night. Forty-five percent of women expressed this fear, compared to twenty-seven percent of men.
Interestingly, in the interview Hadid takes the time to talk about the importance of listening to your instincts: "My mom has taught me the power of my instincts since I was a kid. She'd always be like, ‘OK. Pay attention to the people who make you feel uncomfortable. I want you to tap into that and be aware of it.’ I continue to use that intuition with the fashion industry and the people who I have to be around. It usually guides me pretty well. I think it guided me in this situation, too."
Hadid’s comments show just how important it is that young women stand up for their right to feel safe from unwanted verbal and physical attention in a public space. It's also a good mental hygiene practice to listen to their instincts and have the courage to act on them.
There is no need to feel shamed for defending yourself from unwanted contact by saying no, whether that no comes in the form of words, or in the case of Hadid, an elbow.
What Do YOU Think?
Do you think the media unfairly criticized Hadid? What would you do if you were put in that situation? Do you ever feel like it's hard to stand up for yourself? Let us know in the comments.