Tag Archives: sexism

Online dating is not happy, but it is fascinating – part one

Well here I am nearly 3 years later in a strikingly familiar place. A significant other leaves for their home country, on relatively good terms, and I’m single again. The “girlfriend shield” that enables me to be my normal “unlimited-friendly” high-energy self is gone and I’m readily annoyed at the prospect of bottling up my emotions to not scare people off. My friends group is of course dissipating and I’m not at the top of anyone’s list to hang out with anymore… and I can’t complain about that because historically I’m the one making the list. A popular Oatmeal post on the falsity of happiness as a dichotomous state compelled me to write again.

By Matthew Inman (2016)

By Matthew Inman (2016)

Anyway this post isn’t so much about my happiness, that’s been going up and down (which is good?) more than usual but I’ll be fine. Nope this one is about psuedo-social-science observations of ICT-mediated-communication-dysfunction!

Last time I tried online dating I quickly became frustrated with sending out dozens of messages and never receiving any responses or having anyone seek me out to initiate conversation. The one date that came out of it revealed a lot of what online chat can’t reveal so I quit it and found someone in real-life and it was great. This time around, after considerable insistence by friends and my sister that online dating has changed and can really work, I’m giving it a go.

AND OH MAN IS IT SUPER NEATO BUT STILL HOPELESSLY DYSFUNCTIONAL!

I’ve complained about this stuff in the past, but the difference is this time I’m going to use real live examples from my actual life. Yep, I’m still fearlessly (able-white-male-privilegely?) my open self. I figured if I’m going to do this I’m going to do this, so I jumped into several systems (in order, overlapping: OkCupid, Plenty of Fish, Bumble, Tinder), made consistent profiles and started interacting. I used my actual name as my username (JeffGinger) and wrote robust (but not too long?) descriptions that made it easy to identify me and get an idea of who I think I am. I already knew this was a mistake – honesty and lack of mysteriousness + emotive qualities (stoic dudes are the stock-light attraction go-to) – but this is who I am.

By the Numbers

To get a sense of my activity: I’ve been one these things for two weeks, sent probably 20 messages, gotten 5 responses and had 5 people initiate conversation with me. I’ve been looking for people ages 24 (had to bump it down to get results, originally 25) to 35 (also bumped it down, originally 38). I have yet to go out on a date, but that’s not my current metric of success.

BloNo is way hotter than CU

The first thing I noticed is just how small the dating pool is if you limit it to a town like CU (25 mile radius in my case). On OKCupid I’d get just a handful of options, mostly–yes I’m a horrible, shallow person for saying this–overweight and/or unattractive women. This is half of what had killed me the first time through. SO this time I set my radius to the maximum distance I’d be willing to drive regularly (an hour, includes several cities nearby) and BAM everything changed.

CU has a very transient population. My impression (speculation) is that most of the single people my age (32) here are grad students or international and it is very easy to meet people in face-to-face life (I’ve been doing this successfully for over a decade here). Online dating therefore becomes the resort for the desperate. It’s also freakily familiar. About one out of every 15 people local was someone I recognized (many current or former GSLIS) and might see occasionally. What do you do with that? You both know the other is there, right? Click on their profile and say hi? Avoid them religiously? I’ve found no good solution, but this time, like last time I ran into the issue, talking to one of them resulted in no response and even more awkwardness.

Anyway when I broadened the scope, and jumped into sites like Plenty of Fish everything grew exponentially. Bloomington-Normal has ISU, which specializes in education, and many moderate-size companies so there are lots of late-twenties + early-thirties women there. Other places, like Danville, Mattoon, Decatur or Indiana have many more women with some college or associates degrees and single moms or divorcees. Working at the Fab Lab has helped me to understand education level isn’t a great predictor of passion and emotional intelligence (very important to me) so the sheer diversity of this has been an outstanding discovery. I really don’t want to date other people with PhD’s – they’re usually not in my culture.

Bumble, by the way, which I think works great in Chicago with 100 times more people, has been a total failure. I haven’t been even matched to someone on it, much less had a conversation. I run out of profiles to review in just a few swipes. I really love the idealized feminist form of ladies lead, but I think the social norms are still too broken for it to work outside of big cities. Tinder, on the other hand – which I am not using to ‘hook up’ and has many more users in this area – has resulted in women initiating messages with me.

What is it to be polite?

If I walk up to someone in-person and say “Hi, how are you doing? My name is Jeff, pleased to meet you” they will almost certainly answer. Online-dating makes even these sorts of interactions optional but this is nothing new and I’m not bothered by it anymore. I’ve personally decided that anyone, regardless of how attractive they are to me, who messages me with a reasonable message deserves a response. But I have been failing a lot. Here’s one specific exchange:

Them: Your profile sounds really really interesting. I am a grad of [school] with my bachelors. I’m going to [school] this semester so I’m really busy, but I’d like to know are you interested in me maybe hanging out with your friends with volleyball?

Me: Well, I don’t know that I’d be interested romantically, but you’re certainly welcome to come join us on Wednesday evenings for volleyball. 6:30p at the sand courts, Stadium and Oak in Champaign.

Them: What turns you away? You are not the first to say that to me. I don’t think I want to play volleyball now.

Me: Sorry, I know my message probably seemed a little curt – I just don’t want to give off any false impressions or lead anyone on. I haven’t used an online dating system in years and have no sense for the etiquette. I guess the norm is people just ignore one another a lot, but you sent a reasonable message and I felt it would be rude to not answer. Truthfully I don’t think my evaluations should matter very much to you, I don’t think you should feel self-conscious because one random guy says he isn’t interested. It’s okay to forget me and move on. I do hope you can find someone!

As you can see, not great. Being up-front might be more honest but I really get why people just don’t answer. But I’ve also noticed that ghosting is an egregious norm, even when things are going well. One promising woman disappeared on me, we had been talking for a bit (on Facebook, she initiated) and then:

Her: Hi Jeff! I didn’t want to be a jerk, read you msg and not respond, but I just got home from work and not feeling very good. Apparently what I had for dinner tonight is not agreeing with me, so I’m going to try to head to bed. I do look forward to chatting with you tomorrow and glad I’m not creepy for finding you on fb. πŸ™‚ I hope you have a wonderful night. πŸ™‚

Me (next day): Hey, feeling any better?

Me (days later): Well… I’m guessing you lost interest (or maybe expected me to message more earlier?), but if not feel free to drop me a line here, I’d still be happy to talk. Either way, thanks for reaching out.

I mean we all know that food poisoning is the go-to lie for short-term evasion, but what the shit? The answer, later discovered by comparing her OkCupid description to the one on Tinder, is that she’s one inch taller than me and she won’t date shorter men. That’s okay – I’d rather be unattractive physically than have it be about my personality I suppose.

I was reminded a day later when talking to a friend/coworker that it’s not just online dating, it’s just online talking that has this problem. She and I had been vaguely talking about hanging out for a week or so, here’s the last text conversation:

Me: [name] if you’d like to go get a drink or get something to eat together tomorrow evening I’d be happy to join you. No worries if the offer is too weird or inappropriate, I totally understand.

Her: I’ve got ladies night tomorrow night πŸ™ I’m sorry

Me: S’okay. I think I’m free Saturday too, if it strikes you.

For the record – and I’m pretty sure she knows this – I was not asking her out with romantic intention, but we had never purposefully hung out one-on-one as friends before. Note how much I unnecessarily had to pad this damned thing. Giving the “I understand if it’s weird” or “if it strikes you” – she never answered and never will. I’ll see her in-person and never bring it up. Because here’s the thing: she doesn’t want to actually hang out, despite saying she does in the past week. Actions speak so much louder than words. If this person wanted to see me they would say something like “Hey, I’m busy tomorrow but what about __ day” or at least “Hey, I’m busy, but I appreciate the offer and let’s make sure to figure out another time.” When I was in GSLIS I referred to this as “speaking librarian” – my shitty job is to read between the lines to understand what she means through a polite refusal followed by lack of follow-up/response is that she is not interested and I need to bugger the fuck off. This is exactly what I get annoyed with – I shouldn’t have to be so worried about scaring other people or being friendly. It makes me sad that I’m so rarely worth their time.

You are easy to identify

People may think it’s strange that I use my real name on these services. I get that women have this totally alternative world of worry about rape and safety so I’m not going to talk about being flattered by being stalked – but I am assuming people will find me on Facebook as a 3rd-party evaluation. We present our best “romantic” selves in online dating, Facebook is likely a more “real” representation, and that’s’ fine. I’ve been consistently finding that with just one or two pieces of information – a school, a job, an organization combined with a first name – I can find their Facebook profile. So far this has been good. It gives me “secret” information about who they are and what they’re into and, in one case verified they’re not a pornbot and in another helped me to understand they’re actually much more attractive than I realized. The anonymity is a lie, but it’s probably still good to have it there – if nothing else it’s a forced mysteriousness.

Single moms

On my profile I write “I’ve never dated someone with children, but I work with them all of the time and feel like I’d be open to it.”

My sister: NO NO NO. They’ll hate you like I hated our step mom! Think of how horrible I was to her! You don’t want to go through that!

Me: But most of them have kids that are like 3 to 5! They don’t even know how to hate yet!

Sister: Oh but they will! You will inspire it!

Gardening is sexy, transcendental Iowans and HOLY FUCK GIPHY

I have no idea how to garden, but thanks to my recent move to a house I have one. I started a conversation about gardening (felt like I was being about the maximum boring I could possibly be) that I didn’t expect to pan out but it was notable in her profile and I had no idea what else to go on and I feel like I can improv well. Oddly – it didn’t matter, she stayed with me and kept conversation going. I’m so awestruck when people on these sites actually give a fuck and work with you, when so few people do. I know, I know, all you hot women have a thousand suitors and it’s just too hard to care all of the time, but really I think the fastest way to make me fall for you is show a disdain for apathy. She, fetty lass, also cleverly used a pretty-but-not-too-flabbergasting-so photo of herself on her profile, I found out later that she was not only quite intelligent and well-adjusted but also quite breathtaking.

One of the best moments I’ve had yet was with a sort of hippie-idealist woman from Iowa. She’s too far away for us to reasonably date, but shot me a message asking if I was a former Mormon. Besides making me worry in an interesting way about how I make impressions on others it got us into some conversation. She was so focused on the right parts of living an emotionally and physically healthy life – it was resoundingly refreshing to read about and hear from her. We could both honestly declare attraction for one another, in-part I think because we’re both too far away to really make a real relationship out of it. I sincerely love earnest expression of emotions and self, it’s really rare. Besides this it roused an interesting possibility – she plays piano and if I could get a hold of a MIDI file from her it would be super cool to try to play with my BS soundsynth gear again to make something together. Accidental triggers of forgotten passions are also my favorite.

It occurred to me that maybe the reason I suck at this stuff is that my messages are too tame. I’ve been working on being “librarian-compatible” for so long that much of what I send is harmless-sounding and banal. It’s boring. I’ve already been doing most of the ‘right’ stuff without even thinking about it – messages related to their profile, compliments not about appearance, using their actual name, not making it too long, ending with a question, etc… but this article got me really thinking.

Make them feel something.

What a fucking cool challenge. Yes, yes I will use this as my new mantra. It’s probably going to get me into gobs of trouble and I couldn’t feel more excited about it πŸ™‚ The latest escapade: a girl who is so outstandingly stunningly beautiful that I couldn’t believe she’s not a pornbot (verified on Facebook she’s real) matched me on Tinder. This had to be a mistake – she has two degrees in different fields, works in yet another and looks like this and actually thinks I’m attractive?? She’s into sci-fi and geeky stuff?? WHAT IS GOING ON??? So I freak out sprinting in circles knowing this will probably never turn into anything and read her little description about being unsure what to do with her life but not wanting others to tell her what to do about 15 times and respond and… here you can just read it:

Me: Your profile reminds me of an Oatmeal comic I read today – about the failures of happiness as a descriptor… how we’re never really in the permanent state.

Me: I just joined Tinder a couple of days ago so I’m figuring it out too.

Me: Anyway having just gotten out of my twenties I feel like I’ve just become more Zen with the tumult, but maybe some of us just invite it more than others.

Me: What are some of the things you’ve been having trouble figuring out about life lately?

Then an hour later still thinking about it I realized I’m an idiot and it sounds like I’m setting up to mansplain. FUCK. Desperate attempt to recover:

Me: (don’t worry I’m not asking intending to tell you what to do)

Me: (also I like the fun patterns on your clothes on Instagram. Did you make any of them?)

No response. I figure I’m fucked so what the hell, here we go. 6:30a I’m up on 1.5 hours of sleep, have to help run sessions at a conference in Peoria on the way out the door. I snap photos of some of the cool art on my walls with my “brilliant” idea:

Me: Okay. I think I’ve been doing this wrong. Please select your destination:

And here’s the part where I thought I’d be able to make a GIF out of the photos, but find out you can only use certain pre-selected compositions from Giphy:

Me: Well that’s embarrassing. It only lets you use premade GIFs. Not a virus or spam I swear – short URL http://gph.is/2bYfsuj

And I assumed my Tinder profile would be reported and deleted by the next day… but I at least found the whole episode to be really funny.

But then the unthinkable happened. SHE RESPONDED!!!!

This person who seems like she is far good to even exist acknowledges my existence?? I still have no idea if we’re actually successfully talking, but holy crap nothing has gotten me this excited or engaged in years.

THIS. THIS IS WHY I AM DOING THIS.

I will probably never get online dating to actually work for me but holy balls is it interesting as all hell. It’s also kickboxing my emotional state but I really do feel like I’m living, and that’s fucking cool.

T

I feel really compelled to mention that throughout all of this I’ve had a real friend – whom I’ve only been able to communicate with online or on the phone – who has given force-fed me hope. She wouldn’t want me to say her name but all of this complaining I’ve been doing about people sucking at caring and between-the-lines bullshit she’s listened and kept me grounded. I couldn’t be more flattered and honored to see that she cares about me so much that she’s willing to stand on soap boxes and write almost as much as I have here in this entry. Her honesty, resolve and loyalty is unrivaled and she inspires me to keep being so.

This. This is also why I do live this.

Thank you T.

From sexism in science to examining my own capacity for sexism

I’m glad the article focuses some on her positive impacts and solutions – those are what are most important to me πŸ™‚ It’s a little worrisome though because this Ofek thing seems to be an instance of outright straight-forward disrespect and ‘ism’ – wound up into one moment and reply. I think a lot of it is more structural, persistent and crafty than that. Like, for instance, a lot of industries rely on participants who are essentially workaholics to be competitive to get limited positions and grants. This doesn’t seem bad at face value, but might exclude people who have alternative values – say, those who see the importance of having a family, collaboration through friendship in the workplace or doing engagement to bring in diverse perspectives, etc… Essentially a woman who wants to have a family or a person from a different culture who wants to take care of their grandmother or whatever gets penalized and this sort of thing feels like structural ‘ism’ to me. When we make our talking points mostly about people in white hoods we lose sight of the redlining.

I guess on the flip side I have no idea how to deal with resocializing men. I’m especially bad at connecting to and influencing guys who are sexist. In the overt ways I’d disagree with, anyway. Dudes really into violence and running over animals in pickup trucks and guys who think verbal expression of emotions is for weak people.

I mean I guess my definition of sexism is debatable – a friend once took the position that my suggestion that all people should have the capacity to be more assertive and rely on individual agency underscored an emphasis on a greater masculine narrative – from the one end I can suggest that girls should reclaim territory: to be a person who is ‘assertive’ and ‘confrontational’ shouldn’t be the turf of just men, but both genders, but on the other end it excludes alternative structures of interaction, such as trying to encourage everyone (but particularly men) to be more ‘passive’ or ‘reconciliatory.’ In other words what I see as an idealized social form (compassionate, informed, positive assertion) might be considered masculine and to suggest women need to match it might be sexist because I’m asking them to conform to the masculine norm. But if most did then it wouldn’t be a masculine norm anymore. I think she was mostly just mad at me for not really truly recognizing the costs and barriers that exist for women to do this (again, my ability to believe agency matters more than structure is not just optimistic, it is enabled by my vast swaths of privilege), but on another level I guess she could be right – I may just be sexist. Even if I just use positive encouragement (promote girls who are assertive) as my mode I’d end up marginalizing those who differ. Hell paying more attention to more attractive women than less attractive women is downright sexist and for me that’s in large part driven by hormones and decades of social conditioning – I do it automatically without thinking (but can choose to override it and do my best to do this). I probably have more sexism in me than I care to admit and therefore more ability to connect to other sexist men than I might realize but some of this stuff is so ingrained and nuanced that I have to make it a big soap box project to do it – and nobody wants that.Β  It really seems so radical. Like sure, I can recognize that genders are social constructions and try to convince people that we should move beyond them. But ain’t nobody gon understand that ish. Or maybe I just suck at explaining and convincing. Or maybe that’s better done through time and life exposure and not words.

Ah well, speaking of soap boxes that are about to crumple beneath my ego…

Women and Wikipedia, a rant.

A friend emailed me a link to an interesting visualization on Wikipedia and authorship (http://flowingdata.com/2012/09/11/wikipedia-is-dominated-by-male-editors/) that demonstrates the sheer contributions gaps. I of course freaked out about it:

This has been an issue for a while now :/ I’ve been running into more and more people that are starting their own community wikis because of the higher level restrictions imposed on authors for source citation. It’s sort of a funny backlash, coming from teachers and academics (old farts mostly I think) who think Wikipedia is rubbish, which has in turn created this kind of hostile environment for new editors and people exploring the system, as well as those who think about knowledge differently. “No I don’t have a citation for the meaning of this statue, I have a story about it” isn’t legitimate in some systems of logic. Probably an example of institutionalized sexism built into our construction of knowledge – you don’t get to say “I think it’s this, maybe?” you have to be gruff and shout “it’s fucking this damnit” and then intimidate anyone else who opposes you. Rampant in the dialectic world that surrounds me here, be it humanities or engineering or whatever, sadly.

Or at least that’s my impression of the social dynamic underlying it. The technical aptitude thing is a little different, I think, in that our systems of education suck at teaching people to hack and build with computer systems. Wikipedia’s input method isn’t all that friendly but it’s very simple for anyone who has been taught to program. Generally women are swayed away from learning to create with information interfaces in the same way they’re discouraged from doing math. This is starting to change, though, as many women have adopted and driven social media development and programs in informatics are growing and increasingly diverse while computer science becomes even more white/Asian male dominated. Lately my answer hasn’t been “Oh let’s get more women in CS” it has instead been “Fuck CS and abstract math, let’s get more people of all kinds into interdisciplanary studies that relate computers to real people and real practice.”

A long-winded trip of a response to your frustration. I’m sorry it sucked to try to modify Wikipedia. I’m not sure what the answer might be for you personally, other than maybe making it a project with the hubby or a more tech-experienced female friend, but I know as an instructor I can do something like modifying Wikipedia as an assignment and using the peer-learning/social-support classroom environment to make it more possible. We have at least a couple of professors in LIS that do this (and remember, GSLIS = 85% women, most of them ultra-timid introverts, so this is a big deal).

You landed on a very good question, though -> which professions contribute more to Wikipedia? My money would be on those with more educated people and ones that fit more into that masculine dialectic dynamic I related above. Also people with free time and a computer available. Maybe what we need is a really good cell phone app for Wikipedia.

That’s colored bright pink.

Kidding.

πŸ™‚

And in engineering-videogamer world

In my world the word diversity often (usually) refers to a mixed social identity composition of a group, typically encapsulated by socio-analytic categories like race, ethnicity, gender, class, ability, sexuality, age and more. Watch what this video (for a game that I enjoy and play with friends!) implies diversity is:

And, to some extent, they’re right – the game has all kinds of heroes – aliens, monkeys, scarecrows, overweight alcoholics and more. Unfortunately LOL is not diverse and quite cliche in that:

  • Sexist cliches – Every female character is either a little girl (child) or a fighting fuck toy trope (with impossible proportions – the male characters have comparably more diverse body types). Of the non-human monsters (no, Yordles don’t count) there is only one with a female voice, as compared to dozens with male voices. And just in case you were thinking about suggesting the male characters have unrealistic bodies too, you might consider that this too is part of structural oppression.
  • Colorblind racism – Nearly all of the characters have either white skin (Caucasian) or fictional skin (bright red, blue, etc…). You can spot a couple of champions who are probably of implied Asian decent and perhaps some purchasable alternative hero looks (you have to pay money to be black Ryze or Latina Karma?) that may include others. Fantasy and Sci-Fi worlds without racial diversity are certainly cliche and default whiteness is a form of racism (think of Band-Aids or crayons of peach color being labeled ‘flesh-colored’).

I’d also add that far too many of their characters seem to have some serious anger management issues, but that would make a little more sense in the context of battle.

Back to Gender and Videogames

Figured it’s about time to score another feminist gamer post. I’ve often appreciated MovieBob’s strong statements on body types in gaming, and so when another video blogger on the Escapist had one I thought I’d throw in.

Jimquisition is an admittedly awkward guy, especially compared to Yahtzee or Bob, but really this particular site is all about the nerdery, so I happily give him props for things like his complaints against absurd DRM. His latest, however, left me in a bit of a tangle:

I mean, he’s right, we should have more female characters represented in games like this. But what I’m sure he knows is that there’s a cultural dimension beyond production costs and hit boxes. I’d like to believe I’m a pretty level-headed feminist, but if you showed me a video of a woman getting punched in the face and then a man getting smacked in the very same manner – all context suspended – I’d probably feel worse about the woman. I know that’s a potentially sexist reaction, but I think it probably ports to games – our fantasies get busted up if we see women getting shot, cut and blown up in games. I already think it’s quite unfortunate we’re so immune to fantasy violence, I’m not sure that I want us to be immune to fantasy violence against women. And, likely, Jimquisition would agree, given his stance against rape in fantasy games and his identification of women as simultaneously sexualized and brutalized in games.

I also worry that the addition of female body types risks what Professor Lisa Nakamura posited as identity tourism. Given that many (read: most) women are turned off by the gore and sheer aggression present in many FPS games I think we’d be looking at a lot more guys playing female models. This might not be a problem, necessarily, but if these guys start to fulfill sexist stereotypes in the women they play (see Lori Kendall’s statement in Hanging Out in the Virtual Pub… or just take a look at the play guides for Janna in League of Legends, the biggest online game these days) then we risk worsening the situation.

So what’s my opinion? Well, I think we should have more female body types in games, but please, could we work on toning back the violence? These spoiled 14 year old boys immersed in Call of Duty end up as engineering students forced to take my classes and have no idea how to have empathy for other human beings. It’s hard work repairing them – they don’t really like listening to a “pussy” like me when they’re too busy “raping” their math exams. I’m not saying the violence in videogames is directly linked to sexism, I just find the hyper-competitive survival-of-the-fittest ultra-aggressive types feast on that ish.

Or, at least, often that’s my perception. Happy Monday all!

Compare

I’d like to make a comparison. Lego’s new Friends series, the robot workshop:

And “engineer” Barbie:

  • Which is “more sexist”?
  • What skills and perspectives does each of these toys encourage? Go with a venn diagram.
  • If we replaced the pink and purple with orange and green how would you feel about each?
  • Why do kids like some toys instead of others?

Body types in video games revisited

Most feminists who have played or seen videogames have noticed the frequent lack of diversity in available character body types. Typically characters in games take on super-human forms, for men this means huge muscles and for women this means big boobs and impossibly thin waists. Instead of ragging on about this I thought I’d point out Blizzard’s Diablo 3 has some unusual elements of body diversity:

Here we have a female barbarian, who is quite muscular and without ‘perfect’ hair and…

also here is witch doctor class who is a little overweight, hunched over and is also a person of color. The male monk (not pictured) might also be similar to someone of middle eastern ethnic decent.

Now this is not to say we can’t find some of the typical body forms within their array of characters (the super tall & thin Demon Hunter female, for instance), but I think it’s a small step forward.

I should also point out that the witch doctor stereotype is potentially problematic. I’d argue it furthers the ‘othering’ of non-whiteness, continuing with the racist tradition of relegating people of color toΒ  “primitive” archetypes and associations. It’s no coincidence that the female wizard isn’t black or male barbarian isn’t Asian.

So more work ahead of us, but evidence of progress, in my opinion.