• Sophia Hotung

Things men have said to me since I started my business

Updated: May 9

Since launching my illustration business, the influx of support has encouraged me, the influx of praise has touched me, and the influx of men I barely (or don’t) know has bemused me.

Before I started branding myself online, I barely used social media. A few times a month, I’d get a creepy message on LinkedIn or Facebook from a stranger asking “to be friends and see where it takes us, my angel,” but that was it. Fairly common to most womenfolk of the interwebs, an easily blockable scammer at worst.

However, my foray into professional Instagram has led to a whole new species of male attention: that of the generous gentleman benefactor. They’re more real. I can’t be rude, because I’m vaguely connected to them through a gregarious auntie or alma mater. I can’t be rude, because they think they’re genuinely nice and normal. I can’t be rude, because I’ll look like an ungrateful, egoistical, up-herself, prissy bitch. (Warning: I’m not going to censor the language. If I have to read it, I’m taking you all down with me.)

Some of my favourite messages have been transcribed or paraphrased in the gif above, but I wanted to share a few choice exchanges in full. Together, we can pick them apart like it’s an A-level English class where we analyse the work of an overconfident man who thinks he’s God’s gift to civilisation.

The Angel Investor

I find it funny that people offer to manage my business more than people offer to teach me art. I’ve been a corporate drone for three years but an artist for three months. Doesn’t seem to stop the lads though.

This blast from my elementary school past packed his opener with presumption and patronisation. What’s wrong with my follower count? What if I’m making too much revenue to know what to do with? Anyways, he won a few points for giving my gag a “haha nice.” That being said, “haha nice” is a friendlier way of saying, “now shut up I was talking.”

I got turned off when our would-be manager dropped the investor lie. I was so tempted to ask who the investors were and do a little, “You can tell me. Maybe I know them!”

After losing me at “talking to potential investors,” I shut down the exchange pretty quickly. “But wait!” you might be hollering, “how do you know he wouldn’t have been a great manager? What if he did have investors he was talking to?”

Here’s the thing, I don’t know. I really don’t know. I may have kissed my meal ticket goodbye forever, but I find it unsettling that only men offer to manage me. Only men seek to profit off my labour. Only men slide into my DMs unasked, with assumptions and a saviour complex.

Women, alternatively, offer tangible advice or mentorship. It’s meaningful, targeted, and solicited most of the time. It doesn’t make presumptions and it feels neither boastful nor transactional.

So, if you’re an Angel Investor type reading this, rolling his eyes, and thinking “ugh what do I have to watch now with these g-darn feminists,” my simple advice is three-fold:

  1. Ask yourself if you’d message the same thing to a guy, if no — don’t message

  2. If yes, then send one message offering a specific opportunity (e.g. “I have an investor that you may like to connect with”)

  3. If they don’t respond, stop messaging

The Tech Consultant

I’m really into Q-Anon and cryptocurrency. Not in the way that I believe in Q-Anon and cryptocurrency, but I’m just fascinated by the cult-like nature of their followings and the intricate lifestyles and cultures both have spawned.

When NFTs (non-fungible tokens, they’re basically art you buy with crypto) became trendy, I started creating a collection specifically to sell through the blockchain. I set up the requisite accounts to mint, auction, and host the art, but, along the way, was troubled by the hypocrisy of being an environmentally conscious artist trading art on the blockchain, which eats up stupid amounts of energy. In the end, I shelved the NFT idea for when a more environmentally sustainable way of minting and selling NFTs comes about.

Boy oh boy that hasn’t stopped the tech bros from creeping out of the woodwork. I’ve learned not to engage anymore in crypto convos because more often than not, when I try to talk about crypto with guys, I soon learn that they just want to show off how smart they are, not actually talk about crypto.

Before I learned to nip NFT conversations in the bud, I had this fanciful exchange with the world’s next Elon Musk. It was a rollercoaster starting out as a sales pitch, becoming an environmental science lecture, then morphing into an invitation to coffee.

It’s sometimes difficult to work out if “going for coffee” has networky or lascivious intentions. You can tell when you get there, but how awful is it to put in effort and put on pants only to get put out when it turns out to be some lecherous ordeal?

In an ideal world, people would be intentional and explicit with coffee invitations. “Hey, can I pick your brain about NFTs over coffee? I’m interested in minting some,” or, “Hi, this is hard to explain over email, shall we go for coffee?” Especially after quarantining for so long, most people need a damn good reason why something can’t just be a text, email, or call.

So, Tech Consultant types, here’s my three-fold advice on this one:

  1. Ask yourself if coffee needs to be dragged into your sorry excuse to reconnect. Could you just text, email, or call? If yes, do that

  2. If no, be specific about what you want to talk about and how long it’ll take. Then make sure it doesn’t take any longer than the duration you gave

  3. Don’t keep chasing if your invitation is spurned or deflected

The Art Critic

Last one – my favourite due to its colourful language and some saucy selfies on my part!

Our Art Critic kicked off with some high-calibre, unsolicited advice based on the assumption that I wanted more Instagram likes. (I mean, I do want likes, but he shouldn’t know that!)

I guess my hilarious wit and rambunctious tomfoolery irked him, because the conversation swiftly devolved into him calling me “bitch,” “not even hot,” and “fraud,” to which I called him “champ,” which of course was inflammatory enough to merit the “UGLY CUNT” message — in all caps, no less! As evidenced through my use of visual aides, I’m a master of deescalation.

I don’t really have much advice for you Art Critic types. I’m not saying you’re beyond hope, but where to begin? I guess it’s just important to throw a few reminders out there:

  1. Consistent messaging is key. For instance, don’t tell a crone that self-portraits will garner a stronger following, then pivot and call her “UGLY CUNT.” Try to structure your thesis statement, provide points to substantiate your claims, and stay on message

  2. If you’re “jus tryna help” and someone is seemingly ungrateful, move along. If you get angry and egg them on, you’re at risk of receiving heinous selfies

  3. Don’t use the GPS metadata from my selfies, track me down, and murder me. I didn’t think of that until after I sent those selfies and now I am a tiny bit concerned, tbh

This became a little bit like an after-school special, but nevertheless, there we go. We did it! We fixed toxic corporate masculinity forever and ever. You’re welcome. I hope you’ll come away from this blog post a changed man or liberated not-man.

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