But last week, Maree – who withheld her last name for privacy – spoke to ABC Radio about what really happened.
After the young man walked away, Maree had realized she was being filmed by a group of people. When she asked if they were filming, they said no. She asked them if they wanted the flowers, because she actually didn’t want them. She didn’t want to carry them on the tram home.
“He interrupted my quiet time, filmed and uploaded a video without my consent, turning it into something it wasn’t, and I feel like he is making quite a lot of money through it,” Maree told the ABC.
“It’s the patronizing assumption that women, especially older women, will be thrilled by some random stranger giving them flowers,” she said.
Again, Maree is meant to be flattered. A young man noticed her, while she was just minding her own business! Isn’t that what we’re all waiting for? She couldn’t possibly have been enjoying her own rich inner life, thinking and planning and feeling in the same way as everyone else in that food court.
There’s a common thread in these two stories – one in St Tropez, one in Melbourne – where unaware women were thrust onto the public platforms of two men they didn’t know.
This isn’t about flattery. This is about power.
It’s about stripping women of their subjectivity and treating them as objects that deserve to be reacted to rather than interact with.
In both these instances, the women were merely tools to fulfill a man’s purpose – to look like a good guy, a kind guy, the type of guy who goes out of his way to make a woman’s day, without having to speak to her, or ask her what she wants.
And the cost? The violation of their privacy.
A violation of their right to exist in a food court or a restaurant as a private citizen, who is just as anonymous as the person beside them. Their right to not be observed, and to not be the focus of unwanted public attention.
Of course, people in comment sections will be quick to remind you that in Australia, there is no law that prohibits filming in a public place without asking for permission. But the question here isn’t legal – it’s ethical. Why do we socially think it’s okay to record a person who hasn’t consented, especially when that recording is reaching an audience of millions?