Kaitlyn Regehr and the rise of the victim celebrity
Move over Charlotte Proudman, there’s a new victim on the scene.
A few weeks ago, Kaitlyn Regehr, a 30-year-old woman, was making her way to Acton, west London, on the 207 bus when she was grabbed by a man. It could have gone horribly wrong, but thankfully a kind stranger intervened and stopped the attack.
End of story — or so you thought. Regehr took to Facebook to tell all her friends what had happened in an attempt to track down the local hero and buy him a pint. Her post was coloured with all sorts of self-indulgent and irrelevant information, calling the man who rescued her ‘tall, dark, and dapper’, and she even signed off as ‘the little blond [sic] chick in the hat’. Regehr also thanks the stranger for having ‘humanised assault’, which sounds rather strange, before encouraging others to share her post – framing it as her own ‘say something’ campaign.
To Regehr’s delight, the post went more viral than a verruca in a children’s swimming pool, gaining over 160,000 likes and 86,000 shares. Yesterday, newspapers were happy to report that she and her bus saviour had been for that pint.
Regehr has been hailed as some sort of feminist icon, revered nationwide for ‘reclaiming’ her assault. But there is something that really stinks about this whole campaign. What Regehr experienced was upsetting, sure – and it’s good that a member of the public felt bold enough to step in. But why did everyone need to know about it?
I fear that, in the case of Regehr, her post wasn’t so much about finding her hero, or gaining an emotional conclusion, but about vanity. Similar posts have served as leverage to gain seats on TV sofas or columns in newspapers. We’ve even seen how certain individuals have milked their own negative experiences to forge new careers for themselves. After all, Charlotte Proudman is now the Guardian’s resident moper on a range of issues.
Whether they’re being grabbed or cat-called, women should not have to put up with the bad behaviour of men. But these problems do not warrant a viral campaign, especially when women can resolve issues for themselves or go to the police if it is serious enough. Unfortunately, in an age when victimhood has become a fastpass to fame, people like Regehr cannot resist posting here, there and everywhere about a terrible experience they had. And no one can criticise them because their sob stories make them immune to scrutiny.
Contemporary feminism is partly to blame for this development; women are rewarded for spilling their souls and recounting tales of hardship, and gain mass followings from those who relate to their experiences. But this does not justify publicising victimhood. We should all beware the rise of the victim celebrity.
Charlotte Gill is a writer and blogger. Follow her on Twitter: @C_C_Gill