Jessica Gunning as Martha Scott in Baby Reindeer
(Netflix)

Can We Please Stop With the ‘If the Baby Reindeer Stalker Was a Man …’ Takes?

Since the identity of the real-life Martha from Baby Reindeer was outed, an insidious bad-faith argument has taken over the conversation.

There are many important and complex discussions to be had about the stalker at the center of Baby Reindeer. Instead, some are pushing a false narrative by suggesting that the stalker would’ve been held more accountable for her actions had she been a man.

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Baby Reindeer has taken Netflix by storm as viewers can’t stop talking about the difficult but profound series from Richard Gadd, which draws from his real-life experiences to candidly explore the impacts of abuse and trauma. In the show, Gadd portrays a fictionalized version of himself and recounts how he dealt with a stalker for years. To protect her identity, Gadd changed the stalker’s name to Martha in the show and refused to publicly identify her, emphasizing that she was also a victim of trauma and had been failed by authorities who refused to help her despite her mental health struggles.

However, internet sleuths quickly zeroed in on the real-life Martha, who came forward to confirm her identity due to harassment. It wasn’t long before Piers Morgan conducted an unethical interview in which he exploited her for clout. Meanwhile, rumors suggest that the real-life Martha may be holding a meet-and-greet soon. The whole situation is disturbing and has led to much backlash directed at those either exploiting the woman or trying to give her a platform, even though her identity was never supposed to be public. However, it has also led to many unhelpful and flawed claims that the stalker would be treated more harshly if she were a man.

What would really happen if Martha were a man

Jessica Gunning as Martha Scott in Baby Reindeer
(Netflix)

Following the Morgan interview and meet-and-greet rumors, countless Redditors and X users began posting about what would happen if Martha was a man and Gadd was a woman. Some users declared that if Baby Reindeer‘s stalker was male, there was no way he’d be invited to do interviews or meet-and-greets. Others took the notion even further, claiming that no one would be offering the stalker any sympathy—i.e., condemning Morgan’s exploitation of a vulnerable individual or acknowledging that the stalker is a victim, too. Even in the show, Gadd’s character, Donny, claims that police would be quicker to take action if he were a woman and his stalker was a man.

The claims are bizarre because, well, why don’t we just imagine for a minute what would happen if Martha were a man? For one, this whole situation likely never would’ve started in the first place because the internet would not have been so deadset on outing the stalker if it were a male. Has no one noticed how the internet was far more invested in trying to find the identity of the female stalker than of the man who allegedly sexually assaulted Gadd? In fact, Richard Osman claimed that “everyone” in the film industry already knows the identity of Gadd’s abuser but is choosing to protect him.

Even in the show, Donny talks of how he hated pursuing legal action against Martha when he perceived her crimes as less horrific than Darrien’s (Tom Goodman-Hill). He acknowledges how, with Martha, there was a sense that she, too, was a victim and that her trauma contributed to her actions, but with Darrien, he was seemingly just an abuser. There was speculation about both Martha and Darrien’s identities, but the fact that Martha was outed and Darrien was not is a testimony to the disproportionate attention and outrage over her actions. It can’t be argued that her offenses were worse than the real-life Darrien’s, so the only other explanation for the disproportionate outrage is her gender.

Meanwhile, if the male stalker somehow happened to be outed, he’d probably be invited to do even more interviews and meet-and-greets than the real-life Martha. After all, there is a nauseating pattern of individuals supporting and praising alleged or proven male abusers and predators. We recently learned that numerous celebrities wrote letters of support for rapist Danny Masterson and child sex offender Brian Peck. Additionally, after Jonathan Majors was found guilty of domestic abuse, he was offered an interview on Good Morning America and invited to walk the red carpet at the NAACP Image Awards. Following Amber Heard’s abuse allegations against Johnny Depp, his unhinged stans have practically hailed him as a god and tried to destroy the lives of anyone who dared to question him.

In contrast, Heard was only found guilty of supposed “defamation” and not abuse, yet she received at least 100 times more vitriol than that directed at men who have been convicted of far more heinous crimes than hers. And what happened with Heard is not an isolated incident. Studies have found that, even in prison, women inmates convicted of minor offenses are sentenced more harshly than male inmates convicted of committing more severe crimes. A lot of times, though, women don’t even have to commit a perceived or proven offense to be treated worse. Oftentimes, a woman simply telling her story, being successful, or just existing is enough to spark waves of hatred far more severe than those directed at men who have actually done terrible things.

Why the Baby Reindeer “if she was a man” statements are harmful

Claiming that things would be worse for Baby Reindeer‘s stalker if she were a man is not only completely ridiculous, it also paints a harmful false narrative. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, these hypotheses completely gloss over multiple issues that need awareness. Male stalkers benefit from a lack of accountability while attracting nauseating support, and even romanticization, of their crimes.

Even more disturbingly, these suggestions ignore bias against women. Not only do these bad-faith arguments suggest that there is some inherent leniency in society’s treatment of women that needs to be undone, but many are also inexplicably claiming that women are believed and protected more than men. Too many people appear so confident in the belief that if Martha were a man and Gadd was a woman, the response would be different, and that everyone, both society and the police, would take immediate action against the male stalker—an idea presented by Baby Reindeer itself.

In reality, police rarely act against male stalkers. While both male and female victims of stalking are frequently failed by the justice system, it is even more egregious when women victims aren’t taken seriously. When a man stalks a woman, it’s usually a precursor to murder. Yet women are regularly denied restraining orders despite having overwhelming evidence of men stalking, harassing, and making threats against them. There are far too many news stories about women—and, sometimes, women and their children—becoming victims of violence or murder after a judge denied their request for a protective order against their male stalker.

Let’s stop trying to pretend that the police would’ve jumped into action if Gadd were a woman or that the stalker would’ve been similarly outed and condemned if they were a man. Many women go through life scared to tell their stories, constantly fearful of making one wrong move and having all of society turn on them with disproportionate hatred. They fear not being believed, or that society and authorities will side with their abuser, which can have deadly consequences. Instead of talking about what would happen “if Martha was a man,” we should talk about why she was outed in the first place, and why there’s so much outrage over merely acknowledging that she’s a victim while still condemning her actions.


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Author
Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.