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Rejection Hotline Automatically Texts Men Who Don’t Back Down

Published on November 2, 2017

Are you tired of giving out your number to creeps just to get them out of your face? Well, do we have the answer for you! – The Mary Sue

On October 5, a report from The New York Times pushed the powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein into a spotlight he’d managed to dodge for decades, describing a long history of sexual harassment and assault directed at numerous women over the years.

A few days later Weinstein was fired as co-chair of The Weinstein Company, the award-winning production studio he helped kick off. He ultimately resigned from the company’s board.

At this point dozens of women have alleged sexual misconduct by Weinstein, and authorities in New York, Los Angeles, and London are investigating. The list just seems to keep growing.

This is all very bad. It’s maddening to think that this sort of abuse happens all the time, everywhere, and those who face it often don’t report the abuse for fear of reprisal.

In this dispiriting context, we were a tiny bit encouraged when we spotted an article in Elite Daily titled “Text Message Rejection Hotline Makes Us Both Happy & Really Sad That We Need It.” The hotline in question is called The Mary Sue Rejection Hotline, and it was created by The Mary Sue, a website that covers everything geek and pop culture from a feminist, inclusivist point of view. Here’s the hotline number: (646) 926-6614.

According to Newsweek, the idea for TMS Rejection Hotline came up during a Slack conversation among several TMS staffers regarding the Weinstein scandal. By providing a fake number to offer men who just can’t take “no” for an answer, TMS hopes to help women in awkward and often risky situations convince said men to back off. (And who knows, maybe some collateral education will take place in the process, too.)

We called the hotline to make sure it works. It does. Here’s what we heard:

Oh hello there. If you’re hearing this message, you’ve made a woman feel unsafe and/or disrespected. Please learn to take no for an answer and respect women’s emotional and physical autonomy. K THANKS.

There’s also a slightly modified scheduled text that’s supposed to go out after a one-hour delay:

Screenshot of an iPhone screen showing the rejection text message created by The Mary Sue

We tested the text message functionality, too. It worked, but it took considerably longer than an hour to arrive. (This could be the result of system overload due to a high volume of incoming traffic.)

The Mary Sue Rejection Hotline isn’t the first of its kind—there have been several such fake numbers going back to the early aughts, like New York’s original The Rejection Line and Jeff Goldblatt’s The Rejection Hotline. There’s also the Feminist Phone Intervention (Wayback snapshot here), which delivered helpful quotes from feminist author and prof bell hooks.

As with FPI, The Mary Sue Rejection Hotline aims specifically at men creeping on women, as opposed to people in general creeping on other people in general. Yes, abuse travels in various directions, but the evidence is pretty clear that women are much more often on the receiving end than men. (Don’t get us started. We have sisters.)

The problem of sexual harassment and abuse is pandemic and reaches back farther than recorded history. It might seem easy to dismiss a resource like The Mary Sue Rejection Hotline as too small and ineffective to do much in the way of helping, but every little bit really does help when you’re facing a world full of Weinsteinian creeps.

K THANKKS for reading.

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