Sall Grover is the founder and CEO of giggle, a female only social network.
This open letter is reposted here with her permission.
There is currently a massive misunderstanding in society. For some people, I think this misunderstanding is intentional. It serves a very clear purpose. For others, it is a pure and simple misunderstanding. I think the only way to move forward is communication, honesty and compassion. The misunderstanding regards female rights and the transgender community.
I want to give you a little bit of a history of what I do and why:
I am the founder and CEO of Giggle, a social networking & social media app for females.
Previously, I was a screenwriter in Hollywood for almost 10 years. I was signed to one of the biggest talent agencies in the world, I sold romcoms movies, I achieved the dream I set out to achieve and, in hindsight, it was relatively easy. But once I was actually “in” the industry, the dream turned into a nightmare. Sexual harassment and assault became a regular part of my work day. I lived in constant fear and violation.
I have spent many years wondering why it happened so much to me. I have a few theories.
- I was young. I started when I was 25/26.
- I was Australian, with my entire life tied to my working visa, always in a precarious situation. I was vocal and honest about this. I was vulnerable.
- I wrote screenplays about strong yet flawed, independent and sexually liberated women. In “general meetings” with producers, there was a lot of talk of women’s sexuality of which I was comfortable talking about. I think my confidence was misinterpreted as an invitation.
- I am female. Most screenplays – the vast majority – are written by men.
I had a major producer put his hand down my pants in a general meeting and say, “You look good in skinny jeans.”When I refused to write a script for him, I became the unprofessional one. I had two major (and famous) directors attempt to physically force themselves on me. When I told my managers about it (all men), I was told to ignore it.
”That’s just how this industry is! Lean in!”
Finally, I had a producer attempt to rape me. I got away only because he took one hand off me to get his genitalia out in the open. I had a very lucky moment to run, and I did.
I was in a hole of depression. I couldn’t write, because writing meant I’d be back in rooms and meetings with these men. My brain was frozen and I was going broke. I was petrified. One morning, I woke up in LA, stared at my ceiling and said to myself, “I can’t go on.” I decided that I would leave LA and go to New York. I would be away from the toxicity of Hollywood but in a city that still had “industry”. I wouldn’t have to give up my dream, which was important to me.
When I arrived in NYC (2017/8), I needed to look for a room to rent which was scary in itself as I had spent the previous 8 years living in my own apartment, very much being a “proper grown up”. I felt ashamed that my life was going backwards in my 30s. But that wasn’t the worst of it: I went on all of the appsand websites and suddenly, there were men sending messages like, “Do you need a boyfriend as well?” or “You can live here rent free if you walk around naked.” I fell apart. I needed there to be one area of life where sexual harassment wasn’t something I had to deal with but there wasn’t. It was everywhere.
Eventually, I returned to Australia for a vacation. I needed some family time. I ended up staying longer because the thought of returning to anything to do with Hollywood prompted a full emotional breakdown. I went into therapy.
My therapist was wonderful. There was a lot of work to do, and to be honest I still can’t sit down to write anything outside of an email (which this piece originally was) without having a minor panic attack. But her biggest task for me was to learn to connect with people again – especially women.
“You need a strong female support network in your life,” she said, in every session.
My mum and I talked a lot about this over many weeks and glasses of wine. My mum was struggling with what I had experienced, as a mother would, and wanted to do something to stop it happening to other women. Finally, one night, many glasses of rose´ to the wind, she said, “Let’s create an app for women!” We had absolutely no idea what that would entail (we thought it would be easy. HA!). We had no idea about anything to do with technology (I can explode a computer by looking at it, I swear). But we had a goal. We started working on Giggle right away. That was in September 2018. It has taken over 2 years of 24/7 work to get to where we are now.
Now, I’m abused for creating an app for women.
During the development of Giggle, I fought to ensure that trans women would be welcome on the platform. The other members of Giggle HQ did not agree with me but I argued my reasons, persuaded when I could and I overruled. I made sure we created a secondary onboarding for trans women, in the event they were afraid of being misgendered. I wanted trans women to feel welcome.
In early 2020, in our initial testing phase when Giggle had not been on the App Store and Google Play for long and was only known to a handful of select women, it was discovered by the “Trans Rights Activist” corners of Twitter and Reddit. I did not know there were such places. Suddenly, we had 1000s of downloads. We were inundated. Trans women who did make it onto the app created “KILL TERF” profiles (among many other threats). There was an orchestrated – albeit failed – attempt to get Giggle removed from the App Store and Google Play. There was some media attention, all of which called me a TERF and Giggle, Transphobic. Not one journalist asked for a comment or facts. I didn’t understand what was happening. To be honest, I’d never heard of the word “TERF” before.
So I did some research. I found the places where “radical feminists” were talking. I found places where self declared “Trans Rights Activists” were talking. Both groups told me to educate myself. So I did. It took about 3 minutes for me to see what was happening.
I found African women raising awareness of Female Genital Mutilation being called TERFs because they used the word “female” in their activism. I saw lesbians being called transphobic because they won’t date trans women – a complete violation of the consent women have spent more than a millennia acquiring. I saw institutions renaming women as “vagina owners” (etc) and discounting women completely. I saw media playing along with it all. I saw thousands of women getting increasingly frustrated as they were being ignored when they were yelling “fire!” in a crowded theatre that is, in fact, on fire. It became very clear that is was NOT a rights issue for people with genuine gender dysphoria. The feminists were telling the truth.
Giggle HQ had a meeting and we changed our policy: Giggle is and will always be for females.
This does not mean that I hate trans people. I do not. I don’t even hate the ones who send the rape and death threats. These are people who need real, proper help as they exhibit an anger that is not healthy. I don’t know a single woman – feminist or otherwise – who hates transgender people. Trans women and trans men both need protection from the demographic of people who do the actual harm – men. They also have specific needs that need to be catered for. I frequently advocate for trans women and trans men only spaces – I am called a TERF for doing this. Trans women and trans men who are in their 50s and 60s – many of whom prefer to be called transsexuals – are being called TERFs and transphobic because they acknowledge biological realities. They need protection too. They’re not helped by this “activism.” They, also, need to be heard. They side with women and are also ignored.
Incidentally, there are actually many social networking apps that exists specifically for the LGBTQ+ community, with an emphasis on T. One, the most popular, is called Taimi. It doesnot get any of the hate that Giggle receives. Women respectfully leave it alone.
Giggle is used in 88 countries around the world. We have users in countries where female rights are virtually non existent. All of these women, plus women in the USA, Australia, UK and Europe, use Giggle to connect in a safe, private and female environment. Giggle is 100% inclusive of all females. We have users in their 60s and 70s. Grandmothers. We have users in their 20s. New mothers. Women who are not mothers. Domestic violence survivors. Lesbian women. Women who want friends for exercise together. Women looking for roommates. Women need support. Women of all different races, regions, religions. Women of every different political affiliation. The only thing our users have in common is… they are female. To me, that is the story that should get attention. But it does not.
Recently, I was told by a member of the Australian media that I would only get media coverage if I “stopped being a TERF”. However, 99.9% of the rape threats, death threats and general online abuse I now receive is from self-described Trans Rights Activists. Self identified trans women and the men who support them. Why do I need to ignore this behaviour to be heard?
I cannot lie to the media and tell a specific narrative in order to get attention. I won’t do it. I won’t do it to myself or to other women, all of who benefit from women standing up for female rights. The women before us fought for and earned the right for us to have our own opinions and own voice. It is sad that in 2021 there are threats made to women that we must conform to a particular narrative in order to be heard. It is a major regression.
Fortunately, I feel like I can handle a lot of the abuse I get because I have had pretty intense abuse training in my previous career and I have the tools to cope with it. However, I’m still a human being like everyone else. Receiving both death and rape threats can often be very scary. The rape threats are a reminder of just how present that threat always is for a woman.
I believe that women deserve to have a refuge away from such threats and treatment.
It’s the reasons why I created one.