I’m Hetty, and my story starts at McDonald’s. I was on my way to work in central London one morning and ran in to get some breakfast. There was a large group of guys in front of me, and some at the counter, some of who were bantering. No big drama. Quite jarring on an otherwise subdued Monday morning. I should have just let it go, but it hit a nerve so I took a photo of some of the men and posted to my Instagram account with a dig at their intelligence. Not nice and not clever and I didn’t really think it through. In the age of social media, the gap between having a thought and broadcasting it to thousands can be a few seconds.

Of course, what I did was wrong, particularly because the guys I captured in the photo weren’t the loud ones. Also they were wearing working clothes – it turned out they were scaffolders – and it looked like I was saying that people who do manual jobs are stupid. That’s not my view and it was me that was stupid for not seeing how it might look.

What happened next was surreal. Some people didn’t like what I’d said and made that clear to me, which was fair enough. But they also shared their disapproval on social media and before long there was a massive backlash which included threats of violence, sexist abuse and thousands of hostile posts on Twitter and other platforms. Here’s a few examples:

l really hope that one of these blokes is a blood relative with the same glint in his eye as the man that raped Hetty Douglas' mother 

#hettydouglas another failed rich kid. For an artist she's rotten to the core, just another vile excuse of a ‘human’

If we're judging on looks then #hettydouglas looks like the result of an incestuious relationship that has then been raised gender neutral.

There were SO many of these #hettydouglas people at uni from London live in 2m houses, bank of mum and dad & pretending to be poor #fuckthem

A consistent theme was that I was a posh upper class rich kid looking down on the workers like some kind of artsy Bullingdon Club snob. This irresistible narrative then attracted the attention of the tabloids with the Sun, the Mail and the Mirror piling in with headlines like 

‘THAT'S A BIT RICH!‘ Posh’ artist sparks furious backlash’ and

‘Furious backlash at 'little rich girl' artist who mocked workmen’

Journalists laid siege to my mum’s house and I’ve had to temporarily move out of my houseshare. I became an instant hate figure.

The attacks were based on a web of lies. I am not posh. I come from an ordinary family in Nottingham. I went to my local comprehensive with lads like the ones in McDonalds. I’ve always worked and never had hand-outs from my parents. Yes, I’m an artist, and yes I live in south London, but I’m a grounded person and was raised to work hard for what I've got. I acted irresponsibly. Although I photographed the men from behind, the papers managed to identify one of them who was justifiably upset with me. As was his mum. I’ve written to them to say sorry because I really am.

I’m told that I’ve got no future with my career because no one will touch me. I hope that’s not true because I don’t think any fair person knowing the truth would wish that on me. For everyone else this is a cautionary tale: don’t make brash judgments on others, and certainly don’t put them on instagram.

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