Social Media is a fantastic resource, Facebook Groups are a blessing to Open Water Swimmers as we can share, organise and develop communities - all especially important during a pandemic. 

However as my little swimmy business has grown I have started to get a number of unwanted messages, approaches and unpleasant spam. 

Christina, who is admin in the Dales Dippers Facebook Group shared her experiences recently in the group, which led to lots of discussion and increase awareness of this issue. Christina has seen an increase in approaches and unwanted direct messages especially through Instagram. 

I also read recently, in a women's only Facebook group, about a young lady wanting to share her wild camping photos, but feeling that she was unable to do it in an open community due to previous experiences that included multiple friend requests from strangers and inappropriate comments. 

These approaches and unwanted messages come from men, or male accounts, they can be sexual, inappropriate and anger me and others.  

We can use privacy settings, lock down accounts, report to admin, but often approaches are outside of groups or sometimes seen as "harmless fun" and not reported. 

Social Media is a tool for raising awareness, fundraising and developing business. Should women really have to lock down our accounts? 

Here are some of the responses to Christina's Facebook Post in the Dales Dippers: 

"I have had similar and rarely post swimmy photos now".

"This is why I have my dog as my profile picture, because I get lots of friend requests from men I dont know". 

"I think if you are female, warm and walking they will have a go. I get several every week".

"I now check every photo I post twice for anything too sexy! No on should be subject to uninvited sexual undertones, flirting or innuendo via social media or in real life". 

"Your nips must be rock hard at those temps etc! Pleaugh. I think it says more about them than me". 

"I had a few, men just saying I was beautiful and pretty. I didnt engage". 

Worryingly some people suggested that it was a shame that they had not received comments or approaches. Assuming they were complementary. These were light-hearted and luckily these people have never encountered this as a problem. 

However I think we need to increase awareness of this issue. Sexist, sexual, flirty, comments about people are not acceptable. Unwanted DM's should not be a thing. We should take care to comment about a swimming costume, the setting or view, what the water looks like and how fabulous it looks. 

Christina says: "Receiving direct messages from men you don't know is, on the face of it, a nuisance or something to ignore. Some people might view it as harmless, complimentary or just a bit of fun. But I think differently. I think it is an indication of a society-wide core belief that women are objects for men to gaze upon, to flirt with, sexualise, comment on. This core belief is the foundation for a whole range of other behaviours - catcalling, groping, sexual assault and rape. It doesn't matter where on the spectrum it is, its all wrong and potentially harmful. Women hide, make themselves small, feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. All in an attempt to limit their exposure to these behaviours. But I think it's time for us to call it out more. Its not my job to hide. Its all our jobs to stop the behaviours being accepted". 

I think we need an ongoing narrative about this issues within the Swimming Community. To build and raise awareness and confidence to call out this behaviour. 

If you would like to share your experiences please get in touch. I will continue to document and develop this blog to reflect the experiences of the women I share the water with. 

This Video is a fantastic resource to share. #IsThisOk