The recent attack on Gigi Hadid by so-called celebrity "prankster" Vitali Sediuk has gone viral, causing mass discussion about the model's reaction and if she was right to defend herself against her attacker in the way she did. The bottom line of this story is that she of course had the right to defend herself because she felt that she was in danger, and everybody that is trying to criticize her for that is simply buying into the sexist and misogynistic societal view.
A few weeks ago, Gigi Hadid was assaulted after walking the runway at a Milan Fashion Week show. She was exiting the building with her sister Bella, and they were both surrounded by fans and paparazzi. As they made their way to the car, Gigi was all of the sudden actually lifted up and groped by a “fan." Gigi’s natural reaction was to fight back, so she elbowed the attacker and got out of his grip while yelling at him. She then asked a man, probably a bodyguard, to find the attacker.
The attacker was identified as Vitalii Sediuk, a celebrity “prankster” who has a history of attempting to sexually assault other celebrities in public venues.
After the attack, the media went crazy. The initial response was that Gigi’s reaction was rash and aggressive. One headline read “Not Model Behaviour." This lack of support for Gigi and her safety is shocking. Once the incident gained attention, many people began to defend Gigi, saying that her actions were completely justified.
Not model behavior?
Perhaps the most infuriating part of this story is the media’s reaction, placing the blame on Gigi. Looking at the video, it is clear that Gigi was legitimately afraid. Some man grabbed her from behind and literally picked her up off of the ground. How was she supposed to know that he wasn’t going to hurt her? She felt that she was in danger. Instead of acting like a damsel in distress and waiting for her security team to save her, she saved herself by fighting off her attacker.
Gigi doesn’t only defend herself to creepy men, though, she has also been defending herself to the media. In response to the article, she says, “If my behavior isn’t model behavior, then what is? What would you have told your daughter to do in that situation?” And Gigi is completely right! Her response is exactly what we should be teaching children. Go with your instincts and get yourself out of scary and potentially dangerous situations.
When did assaulting become pranking?
While the media belittles Gigi, they are implicitly applauding Vitalii Sediuk. That is so backward. Sediuk is gaining attention in the celebrity world for his “pranks,” which are really more inappropriate assaults than anything else.
Just a few weeks earlier, Seduik attempted to kiss Kim Kardashian’s bottom while she was walking from her car during Milan Fashion Week. He also grabbed her legs during Paris Fashion Week in 2014. Adding to his list of assaults, he also tried to crawl underneath America Ferrera’s dress on a red carpet, and he shoved his face in Bradley Cooper’s crotch at a recent premiere which got him banned from red carpets in Los Angeles.
Now I ask you: Are these pranks or assaults? I think of pranks as putting salt in somebody’s water or putting a fake bug in the bathroom. Not invading somebody’s personal space and touching them in ways that they are not comfortable with on a public stage.
Seduik doesn’t see his pranks as wrong, though. He says that his “intention iis never to offend someone. So I would never cross the line by punching someone.” Apparently, punching someone is over the top, but sticking your face in their crotch is just an everyday occurrence for Seduik. He also admits that he does these “pranks” for attention. He wants to get as much attention as possible so that he has a platform to get his opinions out.
The Bottom Line
The takeaway from this story is that Seduik is not a prankster, he’s an assailant. Gigi was not overstepping her rights, she was justly defending herself and should be applauded.
Instead of asking whether or not Gigi was in the right, as a society, we should be coming together to support her. The fact of the matter is that Gigi was assaulted. Not only does she have to deal with that backlash, she has to do it all in the public spotlight with people questioning her actions. It wouldn’t be surprising if she now feels anxious while walking in a crowd of fans. Gigi may have to do some work to become comfortable in public again and find a way to fight off the anxiety that comes after being attacked as she was. We should be supporting her through this time instead of criticizing her.
Gigi Hadid was assaulted and fought back in a way that I think most of us would like to see our daughters fight back. She stood up for herself when she felt that she was in danger and did what she had to do to protect herself from an overstepping stranger. Let’s applaud that and defend that until it becomes the norm. Until it’s so common for women to stand up for themselves without fear that a woman defending herself doesn’t make national headlines.
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Holly Whitman is a feminist writer and political journalist, originally from London but now based in Washington DC. Her work has been featured on Feministing, Fortune, Babble, Yahoo Finance and more. You can find her on Twitter at @hollykwhitman or at her blog, Only Slightly Biased.