COMMENT: Gigi Hadid’s reaction was justified, so why the debate?


As women, we’re advised to be on full alert at all times.

Don’t walk home alone, don’t take shortcuts, don’t accept drinks from strangers.

Like meerkats, we’re meant to be able to spot danger from 50 feet and do our utmost to avoid it.

Instead of providing men with handy pamphlets reminding them not to stalk, attack, rape or murder, women are regularly offered pamphlets on how to stay safe against the men who see us as a handy platform to exert power or express anger.

And for those of you who have given these leaflets even a cursory glance, you'll know we’re told how to raise the alarm and defend ourselves.

We are, in other words, told to do exactly what Gigi Hadid did earlier this week when she was lifted off her feet by a stranger and put in a position of supreme vulnerability.

And despite the 21-year-old reacting in a way which has undoubtedly been drummed into her from an early age, debate has been raised as to whether her response was justified.

Had the incident taken place to a nameless young woman on Dublin’s Middle Abbey St or Cork’s O’Connell St, would radio stations be debating the woman’s actions? No, they wouldn’t.

But because Gigi is in the public eye, makes a lucrative living out of her appearance and leads a life of considerable privilege, she was expected to giggle, bat her lashes and ask to be returned to her feet.

The subtext of today’s debate is as clear as day – Gigi has enough going for her, so what’s the big deal?

Couldn’t she have simply had a laugh with this random man and gotten on with her day? And sure, weren’t her security right there?

Oh, they were there alright, but they were about as much use as Beyoncé in an elevator.

While surrounded by people who were meant to protect her, the model was manhandled, momentarily disabled and ultimately forced to grapple with a strange man in order to ensure she didn’t come to any further harm.

And people are asking if she reacted accordingly? You can be damn sure she did.

And while we'd like to hope Gigi’s actions would have been applauded had they been carried out by a nameless, faceless woman, one can’t help but wonder whether her status as a female celebrity – as opposed to a male celebrity –  played a part in the media’s judgement of her reaction.

Had Jamie Dornan, Ryan Reynolds or Adam Levine been manhandled by a stranger and responded in kind, nobody would be asking if they had behaved accordingly.

Despite the media’s condemnation of rape culture and victim blaming, there is a distinct undertone in today’s narrative that suggests –  when it comes to the crunch – women are still expected to behave in a certain manner.

Nameless woman making her way home, faceless woman on an evening jog, international model leaving a fashion show, if a strange man grabs you you're entitled to lash out – end of debate.