In the most predictable twist ever, the meninist tampon guy now says the whole thing was a hoax
But he still can’t say the word ‘vagina’ so you decide
“I wanted to tell you the truth, about my tweets and that” is the first thing Ryan Williams says on the phone. He got back in touch today out of the blue offering “the whole story”.
“It was a hoax.”
The meninist views, the fake girlfriend (and fake break-up), the complete stupidity about women’s bodies, it was all made-up.
It’s a predictable twist, Ryan says he was helped by journalists who paid him to “go viral” with views he held, views he suggested to them. “I breached my contract with them and I lost the money, I lost two grand”.
But he’s not bothered about the money, despite mentioning it three times. He says now things have got massive, that his exposure is peak, that he wants to tell everyone it was all made up and capitalise on the spotlight. It’s in many ways, a good easy out clause, an excuse to say ‘well I was only kidding’.
“I wanted to raise awareness for feminism and about the tampon tax”, Ryan told me.
“I wanted to take away some of the taboo and get people talking about it because people haven’t been talking about it in a good few months.”
But for all of the awareness and knowledge he claims to have had all along, he’s not very convincing. It sounds like he’s reading a pre-approved script – and at one point he pauses and there’s a long silence where he consults a “list” of things he had to tell me on the call.
The last time we spoke he balked when I suggested that women bled from the vagina, which was, he claims now, all part of his act. “I read an article on women free bleeding outside parliament. I knew how to go viral, I have friends who have followers who can retweet my stuff.”
I ask then, can Ryan explain what actually happens during menstruation. “Um, well women go through the menstrual cycle. Menstrual blood flows through the small opening.”
“The small opening? What’s that called?
“[Long pause] What, sorry?”
“What’s it called?”
“I’m not aware what that’s called.”
“So you’re not aware what a vagina is, but you’re saying that this was a hoax.”
Ryan is silent for a long time. Then he says, “what do you mean what it’s called? The v-a-g-i-n-a, yeah? I prefer to use medical terms, I’m not trying to be graphic.”
It’s, as ever, bizarre talking to Ryan. He doesn’t want to offend anyone, so he won’t say the word “vagina” – he knows “for a fact” that some people are offended by it. He says he “wants to keep it PG”, that there are people out there who get offended by a man saying it.
At one point he pulls up an article by Teen Vogue – a magazine with “millions of readers” – with pride. There are, like the last time we spoke, long pauses after he’s asked a question where he either repeats himself, asks me to repeat the question, or simply says “what”.
He’s not worried either, about the people who have followed him to support his meninist views, who are now going to be left feeling pretty stupid. “It’s mostly women who followed me”. Women like the close-friend he convinced to pose as his girlfriend for the act. When I ask why she did it he says: “Well, er, she knows how social media works so, um. She feels as strongly about it since, er, reading that article about um, the things women are going through. She totally agrees so um, yeah.”
Ryan isn’t going to apologise, either, to anyone who was offended by his trolling-all-along schtick. He still thinks women who protest the tampon tax are “degrading” themselves, and he thinks it was all necessary in getting his point across (and making him momentarily famous).
“Nobody would have listened to a 19 -year-old student if I hadn’t said something outrageous”, he says. “People, you know big people, journalists, spokespeople, feminists and whatnot, even those aren’t being listened to because they’re not – erm – this is a better angle to get attention rather than free bleeding and degrading yourself outside parliament and in the street.”
“So do you think the things you said about women are less degrading than having to free bleed?” I ask, and the long pauses return. I have to say “hello?” before Ryan comes back with his same well-coached responses about “social media”, “going viral” and “raising awareness”. When things get confusing he tries to cut the call, saying he’s “really busy”, but when I make the point that then the article on his hoax couldn’t run, he changes his mind and returns to chatting.
He still hasn’t been able to go back to college, but he says he’s not bothered about that. Now, Ryan says, he’s realised his photography course isn’t for him. He’s more interested in his TV work – obviously he has a documentary lined up (it’s not about feminism or the tampon tax, it’s about him and how he went viral).
Although all the components are there, and there’s no denying he is to a degree media savvy, the release of slightly more flattering – less toothy – photos, the partnerships with news agencies, they’re not stupid moves. But Ryan’s still unconvincing as the voice of nuanced internet comedy.
Where before he spoke in meninist buzzwords, now he speaks in millennial ones – “social media”, “going viral”, “platforms”, “TV offers” and “awareness”. He doesn’t feel exploited by any of this – and I suppose he shouldn’t, for Ryan, all the negative press was worth it. The sad part is though, he’s not even that well known. He goes on about Twitter a lot for someone with under 5,000 followers, and he genuinely believes his notoriety has longevity. Now he wants to go forward “raising more awareness” – he just can’t explain what that means in detail. He just doesn’t know.
Ryan’s Twitter mentions have died down for now and he says the death threats have stopped, so any extra coverage now, “wouldn’t be meaningful”. The revelation that it was all a hoax then, will keep things ticking over.