Dudes. DUDES. If you're concerned that you may be overstepping boundaries by doing something creepy — like, say, texting a reporter you don't know to tell her she's distractingly hot — ask yourself whether you'd attach your name to the deed. Not willing to stand by your Nice Guy compliments, however well-intentioned they may be? Step away from your phone.
My friend Rosie Gray, a young Buzzfeed political reporter, used to publicly list her cell number so potential sources could send her tips. She took it offline last night after a stranger texted her because he felt "compelled" to tell her that he found her "stunningly beautiful, engaging, and intelligent" after seeing her on TV — and then freaked out when she wanted to know who he was.
After Rosie tweeted about the unsolicited texts, he got nervous:
Rosie told me that she finally called him; he was upset and "worried someone would trace this back to my number" (poor guy!). He wouldn't tell her his name. "I'm just a lawyer, not a big deal," he said.
Because some readers will interpret the moral of this story to be "OMG SO I'M NOT EVEN ALLOWED TO COMPLIMENT A WOMAN ANYMORE FEMINAZIS HAVE DESTROYED SOCIETY," let's go over this again: yes, you have the right to compliment strangers. But don't expect said stranger to be grateful for your unsolicited thumbs up, especially if you're so shady about it that you don't want to be "outed."
Rosie said listing her number "was probably not a good idea but I didn't think anything bad would happen," which reminds me of the time I took down my requisite staff writer headshot at my first newspaper job because I kept receiving emails from men who wanted me to know they would fuck me. Wouldn't it be fun if we lived in a world where women could feel comfortable putting themselves out there on the internet without getting unasked-for male approval?