On A Woman Choosing Not To Date A Geek

[TW for violently abusive language towards a woman]

full image description at foot of post

Free Clue: abusing women for daring to have their own opinions about whether a man is or isn't their type is Not Nice. Using blatantly misogynist slurs at any time is Not Nice. Rape threats are seriously Not Nice. Acting as if women are too stupid to grok this obvious discrepancy between your self-description and your actions is Not Smart.

For those who haven’t come across this story, it starts when a man and a woman in New York came across each other on the OKCupid dating website and went out twice, were each less than enthralled with the other, and moved on. So far, so ordinary.

What happened next though was that the woman (AB) wrote a trollumn for Gizmodo about how the man should have disclosed in his online dating profile that he had a seriously geeky hobby, so that she could have not even wasted her time (which she casts as good for him too – he wouldn’t have has his time wasted with her either). She decided to name the man (JF), presumably because he has played the game Magic: The Gathering professionally, and is in fact rather famous for it (more trollumn points). Criticism immediately ensues, the story is linked all over (trollumning successful from the point of page views), and then the comments section erupts with misogynist abuse against AB, much of if from self-identified “nice” men castigating her for not giving one of their own a fair go. The violence of that abuse is what inspired the image above. (I’m deliberately not linking or naming full names, but I’m sure that searching on gizmodo+magic+the+gathering will get you all the links you might want)

For all those criticising AB for naming JF when he’d done nothing worse than not appeal to her as a dating candidate, and in such a way that casts him as failing some obvious social obligation, I totally agree that this was a shitty act that deserves calling out. (I also want to note here that JF has refused to get any more negative than ‘it’s kind of uncool’ about her violation of his privacy: it’s not his reaction that is the problem here.)

For all those criticising AB for engaging in geek-bashing with her implications that any ‘reasonable’ human being would feel exactly like she does about any hardcore M:TG player, yep, I’m totally on your side so far. Her deal-breaker is not going to be everybody else’s deal-breaker, she should definitely know better than to write as if it could/should be, and there are indeed plenty of people for whom geeky gaming hobbies are not just not deal-breakers but would in fact be a strong positive. Check.

But: for the extremely vocal core criticising AB for daring to decide that JF’s strong interest in the game and her total lack of interest in the game indicated a fundamental incompatibility, that the very idea of her having any deal-breakers at all is “elitist”, that she should be ashamed of not being willing to date any “nice” guy at all ever no matter what his habits and interests might be: what the fuck is wrong with you? It’s the one thing she gets right in the whole crappy article.

If I was out on the dating scene now, and I discovered that my date’s favourite show was Two And A Half Men? He would be eating my dust, and I make no apologies whatsoever for prejudging that this indicates fundamental incompatibility between us. It’s not the only deal-breaker on my list, and I won’t apologise for any of the others either. It continually amazes me that men write over and over again about not wanting to date fatty boombahs or women who earn more than they do etc and that, although their standards might be criticised on various grounds, nobody ever bats an eye at the fundamental concept of them having certain standards for whom they date, yet women are continually asked to justify why they think they have any right to refuse to date any man who asks them out.

The biggest disconnect I see is the repeated “what’s it got to do with her if he likes [something she doesn’t like]?” trope, and this one really bugs me, because it displays an abiding contempt towards women self-determining the ordering of their own lives. Sure, most people can cope with a partner having some interests they do not share so long as those interests don’t interfere with other interests one finds more important. Sometimes partners with significantly schedule-competing interests can even agree to disagree on what they each find most important and make workable compromises about which interest takes priority when so that everybody’s reasonably content about the balance.

However, nobody should feel obliged to make such compromises unless they really want to, and one can’t force others to want to just because that is what would best suit you. But there’s a whole lot of prescriptivism going on in various comment threads about this that opines how AB and/or any other woman should just ignore what a man’s personal interests/hobbies might be no matter how much they might clash with her own personal interests/hobbies, because the unsaid assumption is that her interests simply don’t matter as much as his do.

Sod that.

Related post at Geek Feminism: Geeks as bullied and bullies

Related post at Feministe:  Dealbreakers

Image Description: a violent pyroclastic explosion from an erupting volcano, with superimposed text.
one phrase is embiggened and centred in the heart of the eruption.
various other sentiments surround the exploding mountain
Shallow whore!
Frigid cow!
She’d have dated him if he looked more like Brad Pitt
She needs a good raping!
I bet she didnt think he was rich enough
She should be grateful for the attention
and finally
Why would her having *no* interest in his major hobby be relevant to wanting to date him? Thats *his* thing.
Whats it got to do with her?

Categories: ethics & philosophy, media, relationships, Sociology

Tags: , , , , , ,

28 replies

  1. So the one thing that takes up most of his time shouldn’t be a deal breaker for her? What she is just supposed to sit around and wait for him? But of course, I’m being silly, what else would she do.
    I think JF is behaving exactly as I would hope a genuine nice person would, and he obviously didn’t enjoy the crap he has copped. The article was a shitty thing to do, but men write shitty things all the time and sometimes they get applauded for it, so nice double standards Nice Guys (TM). Maybe it’s your double standards that women don’t like?

  2. There’s a few extra schadenfreude points to be had at AB’s expense because JF is actually an ex-pro M:TG player, who no longer spends all his time playing, he just happened to be playing a tournament that weekend for the first time in quite a while, so she seriously misjudged his current level of dedication to the game in her series of questions to him about it.
    Still doesn’t justify the huge heapings of How-Dare-She for just believing that deal-breakers matter, though.

  3. Thanks for this piece, tigtog. I first encountered this kerfuffle over at Tiger Beatdown and the pushback from some folks around the issue of incompatibility – along the lines of “that’s not the *right* reason to stop seeing someone! Let me tell you how you should feel about things” – is quite interesting.
    As a (fairly) newly single person hoping to get back to dating in a little while, I think I really needed the reminder that a) having preferences is OK, and b) I’m not wrong for wanting to be both attracted to and compatible with someone I date. Even though I am but a lady.

  4. I can remember a Dinner 4 Eight dating thing a while back where a man complained to the organiser that the women engaged in free wheeling conversation without drawing the men in, on the assumption that possession of a penis makes you interesting

  5. Terrible, terrible article. Not yours, the Gizmodo piece. I’d say it even borders on cyberbullying, especially with lines like this.

    I later found out that Jon infiltrated his way into OKCupid dates with at least two other people I sort of know, including one of my co-workers. Mothers, warn your daughters!

    Infiltrated? I find the language she uses to imply that he is some sort of predator just because she doesn’t like his hobby.
    As for preferences, everyone has them and is free to have whatever preferences they like. But personally I find preferences better as a general guidelines than blanket rules. There have been times when you read a description of someone and think you have nothing in common only to find that IRL your personalities mesh even if on paper you don’t have many things in common. That’s not always the case, but I think personal connections and chemistry is much more complicated than a checklist and people may be limiting themselves if they always judge people via some list rather than if they actually enjoy the persons company. But everyone’s different.

  6. IMO, the “blame” for this whole mess lies firmly with the editorial staff at Gizmodo, and always has done. They had the choice to say “no, this isn’t something we want associated with our magazine”, and they chose not to do so. So what I take away from the whole thing is “Should I wind up with time to add an online magazine onto my reading list, Gizmodo won’t be it”.

  7. @tigtog
    Ah fair enough. I’ve not played Magic. Not that there is anything wrong with that…
    I think Gawker media as a whole like to trot out these linkbait articles that outrage people. Last year one of their sites ran a grubby piece written by some guy about his date with tea party senate candidate Christine O’Donnell. I dont care for Christine O’Donnell but it was a grubby piece and it worked as linkbait. This article is the same sort of rubbish.

  8. I think for me the biggest objection I have is to her assertion that JF was under some obligation, or in breach of some social more, to not disclose his interest in M:TG – and with it the assumption that M:TG is just obviously such a polarising hobby that anyone would realise it’s going to be a deal-breaker for some people.
    I think that only works if you have an inherently anti-geek-hobby bias, in which case writing for Gizmodo is an odd choice of job. Whereas I don’t think anyone would seriously try to argue that all people are, to use your example, obliged to disclose an interest in Two And A Half Men on a dating profile – it’s just not tainted with the same “your geek hobbies are obvious turn-offs” brush because it’s mainstream.

    • Sady got some things wrong in her post on this, I think – perhaps because of the immense level of outrage she’s been subject to simply for saying recently that she doesn’t like Harry Potter, or that Rory on Doctor Who is a shark-jump character, or that Game of Thrones is creepy. There were a few things in all those posts, much as I liked two of them (I like Rory myself), that made me suck my teeth, I admit – but I didn’t feel the need to send her an abusive email about it. 127 comments in on Tiger Beatdown’s thread on AB and JF, she’s finding the attacks for not being full of fandom-love hard to take, and I think she does make some very good points here:

      even #MooreandMe has never inspired the level of personal attacks and derailing that not being in love with nerd subculture has done. We can talk about rape, disability, socialism, race, elections, whatever; nothing that any of us says will ever inspire more personal, abusive rage than the statement “I don’t like Harry Potter.”

      I said that when you criticize sci-fi and fantasy, fans tend to overreact in an abusive manner.
      I’m still waiting for the part where someone proves me wrong.

      I’m seeing a re-iteration, in these comments, of the exact same problem that I talked about in the original post. That women aren’t allowed to have preferences or opinions about subcultures that are popular on the Internet.

      [when] you have a bigger problem with me not liking your subculture — after repeated negative, aggressive, abusive interactions, not initiated by me, not all from men, and some from self-defined “feminists” — than you do with that subculture’s habitual abuse of anyone and everyone who DARES to judge it, and you insist on “erasing” my own negative interactions, or justifying them, I have every right to roll my eyes when you talk about being “erased.”

      I’m not entirely on board with her last paragraph about erasure – that she feels her own experiences are being erased doesn’t mean that she can’t be simultaneously erasing others. But it’s crystal clear that she’s very right on one thing – she’s being howled down for daring to not like their toys.

  9. Well, she’s totally right. Game of Thrones *is* creepy. I don’t judge people for liking or not liking it, though.
    This whole thing leaves me feeling very – uncomfortable. She did wrong, but there’s a core point that I’m annoyed is being brushed under the rug by the angry nerd boys, that you explained beautifully, TT. She doesn’t have to like anything, and she doesn’t *have* to date anyone. Yeah, that can hurt sometimes, but people have to be grownups and live with that.
    Maybe it’s a sore point for me. I’ve been subjected to far too many pushy, lovelorn geek boys who’ve turned weird or passive-aggressive or simply just aggressive at me when I haven’t provided what they wanted. I’m probably biased on the subject as a result.

  10. I wonder she disclosed in her profile that anyone with a geeky hobby is a definite no for her?
    I’d guess that the overreaction to her article would be partly fueled by the historical persecution that those with geeky hobbies tend to get during their school years. So its a similar reaction that someone might get if they complained that someone should have listed that they were black so they’d know not to waster their time. Many people have racial preferences when it comes to dating, but its considered rather socially unacceptable to talk about it.

  11. “I’d guess that the overreaction to her article would be partly fueled by the historical persecution that those with geeky hobbies tend to get during their school years. ”
    As a young-ish (25), near-friendless, socially inept, nerdy woman I am so freaking tired of being expected to compensate for nerdy doodz high school rejection/excuse problematic shit from nerdy doodz because they were rejected in high school. Tired.
    AF was mistaken and unkind to write as if her preferences were universal and geekiness is a deal breaker for everyone. She also could have been more kind in her article about non-preferred hobbies.
    People freaking out because some women don’t want to date men with incompatible interests (and dare to declare as much)? Predictable and problematic as all hell.
    “So its a similar reaction that someone might get if they complained that someone should have listed that they were black so they’d know not to waster their time. ”
    Nope. Nerd rage due to perceived “oppression” has played out differently to the many internet discussions I’ve seen around internet dating and racial preferences. Much, much less violent imagery, far fewer threats and more gratitude that the person with the preferences is avoiding X class of people (from the people within the non-preferred class). I think the difference may be something to do with entitlement, personally.
    Which may or may not be related to that whole “oppression/persecution” mindset some nerds doing the freaking out have, and you alluded to in your post.
    “Many people have racial preferences when it comes to dating, but its considered rather socially unacceptable to talk about it.”
    I may be misinterpreting, but are you going with “last acceptable prejudice” schtick here? If so, that dog won’t hunt.
    Side note: As a brown person, I prefer my bigots to declare themselves early on, so as to avoid (my) disappointment down the track.

  12. AB, not AF. Oops!

  13. As a young-ish (25), near-friendless, socially inept, nerdy woman I am so freaking tired of being expected to compensate for nerdy doodz high school rejection/excuse problematic shit from nerdy doodz because they were rejected in high school. Tired.

    An explanation is not equivalent to an excuse. And while many people are able to overcome discrimination they suffered through school (racial/geeky/gender/sexual preference etc) its pretty clear that for some it adversely colours their views and behavior later in life.

    I may be misinterpreting, but are you going with “last acceptable prejudice” schtick here? If so, that dog won’t hunt.

    Um, not last acceptable prejudice by any means. But it is relevant that it was posted to a geeky type website. This article was intended to elicit a high level of outraged responses.

    • This article was intended to elicit a high level of outraged responses.

      That’s why I repeatedly described it as a trollumn in the OP.

  14. I’ve got mixed feelings here – of course the vile comments she received are over the top and unacceptable, but I cannot help but imagine the storm of anger and bile would have happened had a man written the very same comment she has written about a woman geek.
    Take what she has written and swap the genders and I suspect the same people riding to the barricades in her defense would ride to the barricades against him (if she was a him and he a she…). That bugs me. Try it:

    ”Here was a girl who had dedicated a good chunk of her life to mastering Magic, on a date with a guy who can barely bear Monopoly. This is what happens, I thought, when you lie in your online profile. I was lured on a date thinking I’d met a normal office girl, only to realise she was a champion dweeb in HR manager’s clothing… This could happen to you. You’ll think you’ve found a normal cute girl with a job, only to end up sharing goat cheese with a world champion of nerds.”

    Refusing to date someone for any random reason is a right of any man or woman, but publicly deriding and humiliating a person because their hoby doesnt meet your gender role expectations is just wrong, and should be called out, whether done by male or female

    • I cannot help but imagine the storm of anger and bile would have happened had a man written the very same comment she has written about a woman geek.

      There’d be plenty of people calling such a man a jerk or arsehole for humiliating her by name and geekhating, sure. I very much doubt that he’d be getting you-need-to-be-raped threats though.

  15. I can’t believe how many people are willing to overlook that. Woman is a jerk on the internet with possible intent to get a rise out of people? Well she deserves what’s coming to her.
    It’s all sounding very familiar. Getting rape threats? Well, what have you done to deserve them? What did you do to make people threaten you with rape?

  16. Yeah I’m well and truly over that shit. If a man had said that about a woman to be honest it wouldn’t have got NEAR the top of the pile of heinous shit men say about women – it wouldn’t have even registered as one of the things to get outraged about. I’d think ‘Meh. What a dick’. As I do when the genders are the way they are.
    This is something that continually astonishes me. Feminists are castigated for being ‘angry’ women and ‘hating’ men, and yet all the feminist outrage I read is about behaviour and what’s wrong with it. If a guy had said this a/ it’s not anywhere near as bad as shit I hear and read on a daily basis and b/ if I did have a problem it’d be with the act of publishing, and being dickish about stereotyping interests, not about his lack of a right to have an issue with her interests, and certainly not the abuse and threats. But having been on a Facebook group for the last couple of weeks about a tongue in cheek ‘Belittle a Misogynist Day’ (in response to the ‘Kick a Slut Day’ groups) all these men who are all FREE SPEECH when it comes to Kick a Slut Day are never content saying what they have a problem with in our behaviour, or content for us to exercise their belove ‘free speech’ – it immediately rolls into jokes about black eyes, spousal abuse, and how we all just ‘need a good raping’ and how they’ll beat their wife on film and upload it for us to watch. Seriously. They’re vile and pathetic but they ‘win’ because after hearing joke after joke around violence/sexual violence when one of them tells you he loves you and that you just need a hug you start to freak out that despite your privacy settings being high, maybe he knows where you live. Despite taking a good crack at being unphased by this shit for the last week I was in tears last night after being ground down by the sheer force of the viciousness of the hatred.
    So I think that point about the ‘you need to be raped’ threats is the central one in tigtog’s post and it’sone that needs addressing: when is it EVER EVER okay to respond like that? And why is it so very very common for men to do that to women? And that other men/women won’t call them out on it? That it’s somehow ‘justified’. So the ‘anger and bile’ that might be directed at a man? Anger yes, bile? What does that even mean? And it’s certainly not apples with apples you know?

  17. “This article was intended to elicit a high level of outraged responses.”
    “There’d be plenty of people calling such a man a jerk or arsehole for humiliating her by name and geekhating, sure. I very much doubt that he’d be getting you-need-to-be-raped threats though.”
    The form the outrage has taken is what is very telling here. Not just the stuff that is aimed at AB, but the threats/hate/etc aimed at folks like Sady over at Tiger Beatdown. As I understand it, Sady is getting attacked for a) refusing to call AB names and pile-on, and b) saying that people with certain interests would not be compatible with her interests.
    I’m just not going to gloss over the different forms the outrage has taken, or pretend that the exact same kind of response would be elicited by a different kind of shitstorm magnet piece. I’m not going to ignore the entitled misogynist elephant in the room.

    • I’ve just added a link to this post at Feministe to the OP: Dealbreakers. Jill doesn’t address the gizmodo shitstorm directly in the post, instead referencing previous posts of her own about online dating, which I think brings the point home hard about how a woman simply saying “I have dealbreakers regarding whom I will date” is considered shallow/entitled/bitchy/misandrist by some people.

  18. Sigh. “No one is entitled to date you”. I hear a hallelujah chorus. I had several men *demand* to know why I didn’t respond to their advances when I had an online dating profile: what was so *bad* about them and what was so *great* about me? Then when I told them what put me off I got a shitstorm of abuse. Who-the-hell-did-I-think-I-was, and on and on. Welll…I was over here a-minding my own business, YOU approached me, I did not feel a spark, and politely declined, you DEMANDED an EXPLANATION…then when you got it you did your nut. Did everyone *I* fancied fancy me? No. Did I launch a tirade of abuse? No. It links to the other posts you’ve had on here about guys interrupting you when you’re reading and getting angry if you want to keep reading etc. Grr. And back again to one of Sady’s posts recently about just saying no to a guy without being all ‘nicey nice’ about it and the tirades that provokes (and how you frequently don’t because you don’t feel safe). And back again to Sady’s current post about women having political opinions online.

  19. I know I’ve been changing my profile after this lot, I’ll probably erase the whole lot now, and rewrite it, even having read on Pandagon the dealbreaker about earnestness being so dull.
    I’m also remembering some of the guff we were taught in high school, and it should have been this instead.

    • @YetanotherMatt, I don’t think there’s any magical formulae for these dating profiles, although there certainly do seem to be trends in how certain segments of the potential dating pool find certain things to be turnoffs/warning-flags etc.
      But I wish you luck, anyway.

  20. Isn’t that the point though? If I’m after a magical formula, it might as well be called called Rohipnol. If I’m trying to deny people the information to make a choice by concealing, I’m deceiving. The whole dating game has half a dozen outcomes that could be considered successful, and only one of them is getting together forever. Most of the good outcomes involve not getting together with a bad match, or walking away when the match doesn’t work. The idea of a break up as being a bad thing to be avoided is toxic. A world where two people can get together, talk about it not working, and walk away without bitterness sounds pretty good to me.

  21. But how do you make the call on what to reveal and what is really not worth worrying about on a dating profile [this is curiosity only, I don’t have or currently need one].
    Yes JF was famous in certain circles, but would he necessarily want people to know that especially if they expected him to have lots of $$ or be more interested in name dropping him, since he has ‘retired’ it would seem. So if he isn’t spending a lot of time doing that anymore does it matter that it isn’t on his profile? Maybe if she hadn’t gotten so hung up on that one thing, she might have discovered that he is actually a quite decent guy (which I am basing solely on his actions post this going viral) and maybe they might have found a common interest.

  22. When she demands that any random guy she might meet on a datesite (or elsewhere) to put up front any (un)thinkable personal (for her) deal-breaker, her standards aren’t personal anymore, but she’s trying to make them universal. (“Mothers, warn your daughters…” etc.)
    I believe that the shitstorm would’ve been kept much smaller, both in volume and area, had she kept her personal standards personal, instead of saying “No one’s never gonna love you, like, ever!” (to the nerd community on a nerd blog, to boot.)
    I’m also curious as to his account of the event, if he was as appalled as she was after the first date? What if the write-down was a case of “sour grapes”…? 😉

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