When comedian Whitney Cummings faced demands for money over a revealing picture, she simply tweeted the picture herself, taunting her would-be blackmailers. "Here it all is, you foolish dorks!" she wrote. It's a powerful lesson in emotional intelligence and in how to stand up to online bullies.
The internet in general, and Twitter in particular, is not always a friendly place for high-profile women. Celebrities like Ashley Judd, Robin Williams's daughter Zelda, and even teenage Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown have all faced a barrage of hateful attacks on Twitter. The latest victim of social media bullying is comedian and actress Whitney Cummings, creator of the sitcom 2 Broke Girls. Cummings shares the stage with a sex robot modeled after her in a new Netflix special Can I Touch It?
According to Cummings's tweets, back in April, she accidentally posted a picture of herself to Instagram "that showed nipple." How do you accidentally post a photo of your own naked breast? From the image, it looks like she was attempting to take a picture of herself in the shower from the shoulders up, but captured a bit more of herself than she intended. It would also seem she didn't look at the picture before posting it, at least not very hard. However it happened, she says in her tweets that she removed the image from Instagram as soon as she saw the nipple. "The people who took screen grabs are trying to get money from me, some said they have offers to sell them, some are asking for money to not post the photo," she tweeted.
No dice. "They all must think I'm way more famous than I am, but they also must think I'm way more easily intimidated than I am," she continued. "If anyone is gonna make money or likes off my nipple, it's gonna be me. So here it all is, you foolish dorks." And with that, she tweeted the photo in question.
You can have my nipple, but not my time.
"When a woman in the public eye is extorted, we have to spend time, money and energy dealing with it, hiring lawyers and security experts, and living with a pit in our stomach about when and how we will be humiliated," she concluded. "Y'all can have my nipple, but not my time or money anymore."
Did the blackmailers contact her via Twitter? She doesn't specify, but the fact that she responded on Twitter makes me think maybe they did. She also refused to name names or provide social-media handles for the blackmailers, even when asked to by some of her Twitter followers. The reason, she explained, is that "some of them might be dumb kids. I wouldn't want the stupid ideas I had when I was a teenager to follow me around forever or else every time someone Googled me, they'd see me shoplifting a NO FEAR T-shirt."
That was a very thoughtful way to deal with her would-be extortionists, and more consideration than many people might have given them. To me, her reaction strikes a perfect balance--she's not vindictive, she's not intimidated, and she doesn't waste time engaging with the bullies, she simply defuses their threats and moves on. It's an approach we can all learn from when faced with trolls, threats, or any of the endless rounds of conflict that roil social media on any given day.
Cummings deserves our thanks for providing a useful lesson for all of us who operate online. Inc.com is a family-friendly website so I haven't posted her tweets here. You can find them in her Twitter stream, but be warned. Fellow stand-up comedian Bert Kreischer responded to Cummings' tweets by posting an embarrassing photo of his own, purportedly one of his testicles after a water slide accident. He also tagged it with the trending hashtag #IStandWithWhitney; many people, faced with that photo, tweeted that they wish they hadn't looked. As always on Twitter, click at your own risk.