Feminism 101
April 23, 2012 3:14 PM   Subscribe

Feminism 101: I had a visceral reaction to a link a friend of mine posted and I was too enraged to clearly address his ignorance.

Here's the link in question. He's usually a pretty respectful and well meaning guy but he said he didn't see what was so wrong about what the guy said. So I'm looking for some links to good resources that address everything that's wrong about the website in question. Thanks everyone!
posted by MaryDellamorte to Human Relations (53 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Does he actually believe these assertions? Is he saying 'I don't believe this, but I don't see what's so bad about these exaggerations/mischaracterizations!'

Or is his confusion stemming from somewhere else? Getting closer to the root of his comprehension of the issue will make it easier for me to dig up reading material/make suggestions.

(yes, this made my blood boil also.)
posted by bilabial at 3:24 PM on April 23, 2012

Well, first, it seems like the writer is saying that all American women are fat, bitchy, sloppy, rednecks whom are out to emasculate men. So, yes, I would think that this would enrage anyone.

Second, the writer seems really short sighted. Even in generalities, women across a country as diverse as the USA are just that -diverse. The writer can't seem to see this. He's had bad experiences, and he just assumes everyone is like that.

Third, it reminds me of all the "nice guys" writing into agony aunt columns, about how women don't want to be with them. In the case of the third, it's generally that these "nice guys" are actually controlling, misogynist or just plain resentful. Generally speaking, when you keep having the same negative experience with all these different people, the issue is you, not everyone else.

So, there's what is wrong with the essay.
posted by kellyblah at 3:28 PM on April 23, 2012 [21 favorites]

How did it come to your attention that your friend posted this link? Was it a Facebook news feed? Did he make approving comments about this?
posted by jayder at 3:30 PM on April 23, 2012

The fundamental position of that link is that a woman's worth is defined by her value to men. I would hope that if he's as clueful as you say, pointing that out should address the issue?
posted by kavasa at 3:31 PM on April 23, 2012 [24 favorites]

I don't think you need to rebut that with sources, I think you need to rebut that with a personal response: "When you post something that says all American women are rude, fat, unfashionable, intellectually shallow, boring, and unfeminine, you're saying that I, because I am an American woman, am rude, fat, unfashionable, intellectually shallow, boring, and unfeminine. Do you think that about me?"

Draw it to a personal level: not "feminism is simply the idea that women are human beings..." but rather, "do you really think it's ok to say those things about me and other people like me?"
posted by Meg_Murry at 3:31 PM on April 23, 2012 [46 favorites]

Tell him stereotyping is stupid and that each of these assertions have many counter-examples, then show him the picture of Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart, "Only one of these is a convicted felon".

I mean, you could find pictures of fat europeans, many stories about 'stuck up unapproachable european women', etc etc, but then you're following his framing of the issue.

Stick to the idea that generalisations are stupid, and then move on.
posted by knapah at 3:31 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

So I'm looking for some links to good resources that address everything that's wrong about the website in question.

If he's a friend, could you just talk to him in a day or two, once you've calmed down? Would sending a bunch of links from strangers on the internet really help him understand?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:32 PM on April 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

He's ignorant about feminism, rape culture and male privilege. A discussion came about (yes on Facebook) and I had to bow out because my head was too clouded from rage. He said some stuff that showcased that he's clearly ignorant about these issues and I'm not about to rehash the discussion of the article itself. He even said that women's fear of violence from men is greatly disproportionate to the actual threat. He thinks we're basically just paranoid. We've been friends for a long time and I know he'd be open to reading about things from my point of view (obviously in a few days after everything has settled down).
posted by MaryDellamorte at 3:37 PM on April 23, 2012

Heeeeey, this just happened to me! I feel like maybe you, like I was, are still in the "holy fuck are you kidding" mode so step 1: wait a bit.

Step 2: Message him and be like, "Dude, you posted this link to this page recently and I wanna know more about what prompted you to post it. Were you posting it because you agree with it, or were you linking to it because it's full of a lot of stupid, misogynistic crap?"

Then you wait, listen, and let him say his whole piece.

Then you tell him, "Okay, cool, well, because we're friends I feel like I can tell you I think it's all utter shit and I want to link you to some counter arguments that blow some major holes in everything it talked about. This is something that really matters to me, and I'm bothered by everything in the link you sent, and I'd like to hear your thoughts once you've heard another point of view."

Then you wait, listen, and let him say his whole piece.

And if it ends up that he still has some ignorant views on the topic, it'll be up to you to decide if he's worth it. Personally, I wouldn't be able to be friends with anyone who thinks that violence against women is not a Big Thing, but that's me. If it ends up that he really isn't open to other possibilities, the lack of respect you have for him now will skyrocket into resentment, and that's not going to be fair to either of you, so tread carefully.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 3:43 PM on April 23, 2012 [6 favorites]

[This is not where you debate the item the OP linked to. Very seriously do not do this here. This is where you help the OP solve their problem. If you don't feel that you can do that, it is totally AOK if you do not answer the question. Thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 3:46 PM on April 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

So much to unpack here. You could point out that the use of the word "uppity" is derogatory when used by men to describe women as well as to minorities, as it implies that someone is trying to rise above their station (ie: below white men where they belong).

But really, how can a male friend not see this line as a total distortion of the reality that American men AND women face together:
"American feminism is rife with hypocrisy, double-standards, and dysfunctionality; yet it pervades all our modern culture..."
Few men I know would argue that we live in a feminist utopia (or even dystopia). Women still make less money and are Right This Minute fighting to keep the few hard-won rights that they have over the control of their reproductive rights. I get that life in America isn't all fun and games for men either, and those who feel frustrated and lonely are bound to reach some pretty effed up conclusions about why that is.

If he can't see this as call for women to sacrifice their identities, personalities, and their very bodies purely for the sake of male comfort and attention in both the short and long term, then he has a lot of catching up to do.
posted by hermitosis at 3:46 PM on April 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

He even said that women's fear of violence from men is greatly disproportionate to the actual threat.

Can you clarify whether he's from a specific culture that does not believe in rights for women?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:47 PM on April 23, 2012

I found this article, complete with entertaining comments, on Jezebel.

Basically, the guy on your link is talking to a demographic of wanna-be playboys who see women as a hobby or activity that they wish they were "good at", not as people. Individually, to these men, we are things to be evaluated on the basis of our appeal to them and our receptivity to their advances. If we fail either of these criteria, we are to be discarded. But if we discard them, or make judgements regarding them, or show any signs of having agency or personhood or wanting to be related to as a human being rather than just as a set of legs-akimbo goalposts, then obviously we're "bitches."

The feminist term for this (as I'm sure you know) is objectification.
posted by Pallas Athena at 3:48 PM on April 23, 2012 [22 favorites]

Brandon, he's a white American male.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 3:55 PM on April 23, 2012

Sometimes the best response is to remind him that in this big wide world of people, nobody gives a shit about this or his opinion. He and the writer can spend a lifetime together not getting anywhere with women.

Something on his Facebook like:

Ha ha ha! You think THAT'S WHY you're not getting anywhere with women?
posted by vitabellosi at 3:56 PM on April 23, 2012 [21 favorites]

I dunno, it doesn't strike me as much offensive (I mean, obviously it's offensive but it's just some guy on the internet) as it just does kind of sleazy and pathetic... "Well-traveled playboys"? yech. I don't know his motivations for looking at what is essentially a pua site advocating traveling to semi-developing nations to find women, but I would at least point out that the kind of guy who peruses that kind of site often makes womens' skin crawl.

I think this might have had a better place in a light-hearted sounding comment on the news feed before the big debate, though. Now he might be too defensive to hear this.
posted by geegollygosh at 3:56 PM on April 23, 2012

It initially reminded me of the countless "Opposite sex to me is different and wrong for the following reasons" posts that certain facebook friends (male and female) seem intent on posting.

I'm loathe to post any sort of response to this because I don't know the chap in question. Any response really depends on who he is, and whether you consider him a bridge worth burning. I'm going to have a guess at who he is though.

You say he seems to be a reasonable and well meaning guy, so I'd take a point/counterpoint approach. That is, there's no reason to address any commentary to him, you just need to say "I hated the article and here's some reasons why." Give him a chance to clamber back from the brink and say - "Hey yes, it is gross. I agree with you."

He probably reads the article as mainly exaggeration with an element of truth. You'll never get to those elements, because he probably doesn't even know himself what they are, and I'm guessing that logic will not be your friend here. It's a risky manouver, but mockery of the author (Obviously a sexually frustrated 60 year old ex-pat with nothing to say that can't be gleaned from last decades stored Dear Wives letters, trying to justify last century sexism with bad HTML and a desire to justify Russian prostitution rings) may be a way to get him to see the article differently.

But you're angry. And if 10 years of metafilter has taught me anything, it's that sometimes righteous anger is what is needed to change opinion.

- Links to well reasoned websites will achieve nothing.
- criticise the article, not the poster.
- Make personal attacks on the person who wrote the article
- Be angry. But be eloquent and angry.
posted by zoo at 3:58 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

That's quite the link. I wonder if it's maybe time to reevaluate the friendship? I mean, we all have our quirks, and hopefully they are not so over-the-top or unpalatable that it prevents our friends from overlooking them in favour of the qualities they love and appreciate in us. However this is an issue of your core values and those of your friend, who seems to have some very different values from yours.

While values are personal and not ever 'right' or 'wrong', they also are often quite firmly rooted. So as Badger hints at above, it's as unlikely that you will change your friend's values as it is that seeing his link will change your values.

And if you must respond, do it with humour.
posted by lulu68 at 4:00 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Is he young? If he's 21 and thinks like this, maybe a well-reasoned argument might open his eyes.

If he's older, it's probably a lost cause. It might be a lost cause anyway.

You might just want to walk away from this argument. I've never seen this sort of thing go well.
posted by pantarei70 at 4:03 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

If a friend(?) of mine linked to something like that in conjunction with comments like "hey, I don't see anything wrong with what this guy is saying", honestly I'd have to reconsider my association with them.

You don't get to the point of agreeing with that sort of writing through mere ignorance. I know plenty of guys with absolutely no exposure to "feminism 101" who would nonetheless know immediately that there was something very, very wrong with an article like that. Basically...there's a massive amount of *contempt* (for women or whatever demographic a given similar article might be about) that inevitably seems to come into play whenever I see someone bothering to link approvingly to that sort of writing.

That said, since your question specifically asked for good links...I'm quite fond of geekfeminism.org and some of the posts on Sociological Images are pretty good as far as highlighting what sorts of things are and aren't respectful, and also pointing out the various ways in which sexism harms *everyone*, including men and nonbinary persons.
posted by aecorwin at 4:06 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

"While I do not wish to focus on appearance or dress style (the world is shallow enough as it is), my primary complaints and beef against American women are that they are 1) unapproachable, anti-social, and cliquish toward strangers, and 2) lack depth, substance, and culture, making it difficult to connect with them, find common ground or chemistry. If it weren’t for these, America would be a much better place."
You might point out that this author, and those like him, are clearly suffering from a self-fulling prophecy -- why would women want to act approachable, social, and gregarious toward a man who bears such anti-social and ugly prejudices so proudly? There is real hypocrisy in faulting women for being dismissive of men who probably aren't that good at masking their resentment of women. The difference is, as a man, he feels entitled to that attention.

Also, ask your friend to explain exactly how most of this stuff doesn't apply just as easily describe American men as well. In fact, if you flip the pronouns on a lot of it, it's hard to understand why the writer is singling out women at all:
Compared to the US, men in Russia/Europe have a much richer and refined intellectual life, are more cultured, higher educated, have a broader knowledge of the world, and speak many more languages (most of them speak between 2 and 5 languages while most American men speak only their own). Unlike # 2 and 3 though, this one requires interaction with the men in these regions to notice. In contrast, not only do most young men in the US not value having an intellectual life, but they lack curiosity as well, and can’t even hold an intelligent conversation. Often trying to hold even a normal conversation with them is like talking to a dead wall...

I hate to say something so politically incorrect and offensive, but the following is absolutely true. In Russia and Europe, between 95 and 100 percent of the young men are skinny or height/weight proportionate. In contrast, in the USA between 40 and 60 percent of the men are overweight, varying among region. This is absolutely indisputable, apparent, objectively measurable, and not subject to relative opinion or standards at all, as it has to do with obvious physical differences apparent to the naked eye that even the biggest idiot in the world who goes to both regions could identify immediately without effort.
posted by hermitosis at 4:10 PM on April 23, 2012 [18 favorites]

"Dude, you realize that no self-respecting woman, European or otherwise, wants to bone a dude who objectifies her this way, right? Maybe you shouldn't post this gross stuff publicly, it might come back to haunt you next time you're trying to get laid. Just watching out for you, bro. ;)"
posted by milk white peacock at 4:10 PM on April 23, 2012 [7 favorites]

If he doesn't already possess the critical thinking skills that would help him recognize that many of those items on that list could apply just as easily to American men, I'm not sure how far you could hope to get by sending him reading material.

Just so you know, if it had been a friend of mine who had posted that link, it would make me feel sick to my stomach. And then I would decide not to be friends with that person anymore. That maybe isn't the noble thing to do, but this kind of thing gives me heartburn and brings unnecessary stress into my life. If you're having a similar reaction, consider the benefits of cutting yourself off from this person. It isn't your responsibility to change him anyway.
posted by blixapuff at 4:11 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Piggybacking on hermitosis, I think doing a search-and-replace on the article, swapping "women" and "men" and "she" and "he" would help him get the point, if he's capable of doing so. Not sure what you'd replace "feminism" with in that ludicrous paragraph that claims that feminism is somehow pervasive in U.S. culture. "Patriarchy," I guess, but that's actually true.
posted by Ragged Richard at 4:23 PM on April 23, 2012

I think this is one of those instances where you really can't fight complete irrationality with reason. This post isn't simply about bad information, outlandish caricatures, misogyny, a utter lack of nuance when it comes to understanding gender, culture, nationality...whatever.

It is about anger, fear, and profound insecurity directed at some perceived source of threat. It is very, very difficult to effectively fight base emotions with good arguments and facts.

Maybe you can get through if you find a way to respond kindly to the anger and fear, but not the argument, such as it is.

I can't say that I'd have the patience for this. Maybe when I was a college feminist, but not now.
posted by space_cookie at 4:25 PM on April 23, 2012 [25 favorites]

You can spend your life trying to get the people around you to change or you can spend your life being around people who already understand.

Sometimes, when people show you who they are, you need to move on.

He doesn't really sound like the kind of guy who's going to peruse some resources and make an intellectual change regarding women.

You can point out to him that "dude, that link is not cool - basically it's saying that women are objects who exist to make men happy at the expense of themselves and their self esteem - are you REALLY cool with that, dude?" And see what happens.

But if you think you can spend your time getting through to him, I don't know how successful you're going to be - I'd concentrate on other things.
posted by mleigh at 4:25 PM on April 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

It is about anger, fear, and profound insecurity directed at some perceived source of threat. It is very, very difficult to effectively fight base emotions with good arguments and facts.

This. A billion times.
posted by mleigh at 4:26 PM on April 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I mean, very simply, this "article" is not based on any facts, but assumptions and stereotypes.

So I'm looking for some links to good resources that address everything that's wrong about the website in question.

Where are the sources? Where are they getting these "facts"? That's where I'd start.
posted by two lights above the sea at 4:31 PM on April 23, 2012

if he were my friend, i'd say: any broad generalizations like that are almost certainly not true, if you give them any weight at all. it doesn't look very reputable regardless of the content (the first link mouse over says "click here to claim your ipad2!"). the purpose of that page is to scam lonely men into signing up specialized dating websites.
posted by cupcake1337 at 4:34 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

"Also, ask your friend to explain exactly how most of this stuff doesn't apply just as easily describe American men as well. In fact, if you flip the pronouns on a lot of it, it's hard to understand why the writer is singling out women at all ..."

It's not helpful to say "all this offensive stuff also applies to men." So don't do that.
posted by jayder at 4:39 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

So I'm looking for some links to good resources that address everything that's wrong about the website in question.

Where are the sources? Where are they getting these "facts"? That's where I'd start.

Yeah, I sort of agree that the onus is on your friend here to find information that backs up any of this. The author of the article refers to it as simply "the truth"... based on what facts? On whose experience?

If your friend can't come up with any specific evidence to verify any of these claims (besides the one that actually may apply equally to both men AND women), then on what grounds does he think they're "true"? Isn't it just because they are designed to play on people's fears, insecurities, and un(der)fulfilled desires, just like space_cookie says?
posted by hermitosis at 4:59 PM on April 23, 2012

1) Your rage is not his problem. Of course the article is tasteless and insulting, and you are right to want to point it out. That's what friends do. But getting viscerally angry about it seems worrisome to me. Anger is an insult to our expectations, and you might want to measure what your expectations are regarding the shit people post of Facebook.

2) It is not constructive to use words like "ignorant" and "incapable" when describing what he believes. "rape culture" and "male privilege" aren't universal truths of the world like gravity and the sky being blue. They are merely ways of looking at the world through the lens of one type of feminism. It would have the same effect as when a well meaning Christian tells a non Christian that they just can't understand [something] unless they have truly accepted Christ. What he knows or doesn't know about feminism is irrelevant. All that is relevant is that he is engaging in stereotyping, which is rightly offensive to many people.

3) Don't bother with links, that's just an appeal to authority that will go unheeded by someone who does not share your trust in that authority. Just tell him in your own words why that post was offensive to you. People can argue until they are blue in the face about their chosen authorities on a subject (ie, global warming), but you can't deny someone's feelings on an emotional subject.
posted by gjc at 5:00 PM on April 23, 2012 [7 favorites]

You might point out that the pretentious faux-technical tone used to present opinion as fact is likely a big part of what makes the author unsuccessful with women.

Ie, he's a loser.
posted by fshgrl at 5:01 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Meh, I've found with things like this arguing just validates the offensive underlying principles (namely, that there is anything wrong with being unattractive to a certain kind of jerk.) In fact, I just made my twitter bio "Unlike women in the rest of the world, they aren’t soft, tender, sweet, don’t giggle when you say nice compliments, and don’t like wearing skirts and heels."

Because so fucking what if American women are butch. Good for us, then.

(And yeah, I warrant that this is dehumanizing crap, but I absolutely refuse to accept their terms for evaluating women/femininity and then argue in such a way as to seem like I'm petitioning them for their acceptance/approval).
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:07 PM on April 23, 2012 [19 favorites]

"Please email this link to your family and coworkers!"
posted by alphanerd at 5:17 PM on April 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

There's not a lot you can do with this because what he's expressing here isn't (at its core) an opinion; certainly not a political opinion. What you have here is a sexual fantasy. This is his way of telling the world that he has bad luck with women (he's American, right? Been dating or trying to date all these fat boring butch American girls?) and that he imagines that faraway lands are populated by ladies who would appreciate him, giggle, be beautiful and receptive to his advances.

It is political in the sense that it's tied up in the idea that women's value is determined by how sexually appealling and accommodating they are. However, if he doesn't live his life that way - if he's been a good friend to you, if he's a decent and respectful person in his interaction with the actual women in his actual life - then you can, I think, assume that this... stuff... is a function of his sexual imagination, and not really a symptom of true misogyny. Of course you should call him on it, and help him see that these opinions are (1) wrong and (2) disgusting and embarrassing to be broadcasting on facebook; but I don't think that a political education is going to fix it.

I may be biased in that I've encountered decent, upstanding men who in moments of weakness -- post divorce usually - flirted with these ideas. (One of them, the least upstanding, married a Russian mail order gal; it did NOT go well.) But the rest grew out of it when they came out of the dark times in their life that brought them to those websites in the first place.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:21 PM on April 23, 2012 [6 favorites]

Due to the subculture I grew up in, I still have a lot of "friends" and relatives who post things like this on a pretty regular basis, and over time I've just had to hide them and/or distance myself from them because any sort of debate or discussion just devolved into absolute mush and would screw with my mental state for days. I was a political science major and a good debate is my version of crack; but these things are not good debates. They are intellectual quicksand pits.

I'm sorry if this doesn't really answer the question of what to say to your friend; I guess my point is, I wish I knew; but the cynicism of my personal experience says that I don't think any sort of serious argument is going to change his mind. I would just state my opinion (in person, or a private message) in as simple, clear and unantagonistic words as possible and then bow out.
posted by celtalitha at 5:29 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

I might go the route of copy/pasting and writing "citation needed" after every claim that is presented as "100% true" here that actually depends on a cheap assumption that the reader will simply agree with with the stereotypes being presented.

For example, he claims that "In Russia and Europe, between 95 and 100 percent of the young women are skinny or height/weight proportionate". Yet there is no link to any sort of reputable scientific study or survey about this, nor does he define what "or height/weight proportionate" actually means in any objective way.

Or here: "In fact, it’s widely agreed among well-traveled playboys that the US has among the most unapproachable and anti-social women in the world. "
How many playboys did he survey? Were the survey questions biased? Does he have a representative sample? What's his confidence interval? Does he actually know the answer to any of these, or is he just using a straw man readily identifiable by anyone with a 101-level familiarity with logical fallacies?

American culture is big on the idea of rationality, truth, and "scientific proof". Use this to your advantage. Just because some dude is saying something that sounds like something you want to believe is not a good reason to believe it. If I said "95 of 100 men I've met are douchebags" as if this was scientific proof that of douchebaggery, your friend and I'm betting this author would be all over me for being biased, having an abnormal sample, whatever.

Bottom line: one person cannot make such sweeping generalizations about a huge number of people, with NO evidence besides their personal experience, without being completely mocked from an empirical perspective. One person relying on the anecdotes of "all my friends say/think this too" would get laughed out of a room at any science or quantitative social science conference. Why does your friend have such low standards for evidence?
posted by nakedmolerats at 5:44 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

The classic measures and countermeasures are well covered in Vance Packard Hidden Persuaders.

The guy who wrote that page is marketing his "dating advice" and marketing is all about pushing emotional buttons in the target demographic. Learning how to see through this crap is an essential sane survival skill. If you want to break down every logical fallacy that piece contains it would not be too difficult but it might not be worth it. There is so much of this nonsense all around us that it is more efficient to just tag it as useless and move on. Does facebook have a flag-it-widget?
posted by bukvich at 5:46 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

[Folks, this is not MeFi. Please help the OP answer her question or keep moving. Question is not anon, other suggestions can be sent to her directly.]
posted by jessamyn at 6:30 PM on April 23, 2012

I don't think you're going to be able to point out the errors in thinking with links alone, given his stubborn insistence to remain willfully ignorant. He is being defensive because if you're right and the article is wrong, what does that say about him? That he's ignorant, naive, and he only has himself to blame for his failures with women. Not a tasty pill to swallow.

I'm reading your question as, "What can I show this kid to instill a basic sense of empathy and respect for women?". I don't know the answer to that one. If you find something that works, please share.
posted by Lieber Frau at 6:55 PM on April 23, 2012

Well, here's my attempt at a diplomatic but challenging response. Borrow as you like:
I think it's quite possible that the author is making claims that seem true to his personal experience; I know that some people find it easier to socialize in some cultural contexts and harder in others, and introduction/approach norms do vary across the world. It may be that for a number of reasons the author is better adapted to this in cultures other than those he's encountered in the US.

However, there's a couple of warning flags for me that make me think he's really overstating his claims at best and likely leading people astray:

(1) Some very sweeping generalization. The United States is a pretty big place with a lot of different kinds of people. How likely does it really seem that his assertions apply across all the regions and demographics across the entire country?

(2) He makes some pretty strong statements that assert heavy empirical weight: "I can guarantee 100 percent that the following [is] true and testable", "the material on my site proves without a doubt", "the following is absolutely true". There's also a couple of places where he gives percentages relating to body weight and other traits/behavior, which implies some kind of sample/study. But he doesn't seem to actually back this up with anything other than some photos or more essays -- there's no links to anthropological/sociological studies or anything else that you'd think would come with such statements of empirical confidence. It points to the idea that the author may be a bit confused about the difference between his own experience and generally proven facts.

(3) The site seems to be sortof an informercial for the author's ebooks. That means he has a commercial interest in overstating the value of what he's offering (in this case, his insights into dating norms across cultures) like a lot of other puffery out there in the sales and marketing world. Or make it linkbait.

(4) Think about the individuals you know and if this really holds up there. Yeah, dating is often frustrating (for everybody, even the women, believe it or not), but you probably know people who do just fine and even some who've found lasting love.

Finally... it's kindof hard for me not to take this personally. I'm an American woman/I count a number of lovely American women as my friends, and the author seems to be saying that the probability is high that as such, I am/they are overweight, underdressed, uncultured, unapproachable, and bitchy. I'd like to think that's not what you think of me/them.

Like I said, I do think it's possible people find dating easier in different cultural contexts, and it might be fun to try on a few and see. But the author is going well beyond that into making claims that are neither well-supported or kind. I'd like to see less of that in the world.
Third, it reminds me of all the "nice guys" writing into agony aunt columns, about how women don't want to be with them. In the case of the third, it's generally that these "nice guys" are actually controlling, misogynist or just plain resentful. Generally speaking, when you keep having the same negative experience with all these different people, the issue is you, not everyone else.

The idea that claiming to be both reasonably nice and frustrated in dealings with women implies a high likelihood of being controlling or misogynist has some of the problems the article does: it's mostly supported by personal/anecdotal evidence and it's likely to provoke a fighty response. Best to leave it alone.
posted by weston at 6:56 PM on April 23, 2012 [6 favorites]

I've reached a point in my life where I don't consider it my role to educate the ignorance out of other people, especially when there is a vast disconnect in underlying assumptions. It's not that I believe those people are a lost cause, it's just that I personally only have a limited amount of time and energy and by and large I want to do fun or constructive things with that time and energy.

I have a number of people in my FB feed who are rabidly religious, and a number who are strongly Republican. By and large I just don't pay attention to their harmless nattering, but do not defriend them. It's possible to be civil in conversation with them on unrelated topics. Most people are good at heart.

But if they have a big habit of posting stuff that made me angry, though, I will block them for my own wellbeing. I don't need to get angry, and it's not my role in this life to make them see the light. If they're capable of seeing the world differently, then the world is going to have to motivate them to make that change.

The thing is that base assumptions almost never change in the sitcom typical 22 minutes of jocular conversation. It almost always takes a long, long time to change someone's mind about a God, or about authoritarianism, or about women as second-class citizens.

If you're feeling generous, send them a link to something rational and non-shouty. But be prepared to be rejected or scoffed at or just laughed off. And that's your cue: they're not interested in changing. And then file them in the same category of "people I will briefly associate with when a social need arises but not otherwise", and get on with the business of life.

If they're genuinely interested in learning more, again, it's not your job to give them a syllabus. Point them at some good feminism resources and ask them to get back in touch with you when they've done some serious reading and have had a revelation. And then sign off until they re-engage.

I don't advocate sealing yourself off from all differing opinions; it's actually good to keep an open mind. But there's no reason at all to give all opinions the same amount of your time and attention, especially when they make you very, very angry.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:01 PM on April 23, 2012 [11 favorites]

Well, I mean, the claims about obesity in Europe are demonstrably untrue.

The U.S. is the 4th most-educated country by this measure, behind Canada, Israel, and Japan -- none of them European countries. By this measure (completed college degrees), the U.S. is 3rd, behind Russia and Canada.

When faced with a fairly young man who claimed he had better luck with women in (in this case) Russia than in the United States, I asked him if he was aware of the phenomenon of green card marriages, and if the fact that he was a wealthy (by American standards, not by virtue of being American) American might not play into the fact that women in Russia were so taken with him? He was shocked and it had plainly not occurred to him (who did, legitimately, suffer from some gold-digging interest from women in the U.S.) that women who displayed interest in him in other countries might ALSO be gold-digging AND might be passport-digging as well! Part of the issue was that cultural flirting cues were different and so the "gold-digger" signals he had gotten used to from women interested in him for his money in the U.S. were not the same in Russia.

As a general life rule, we can probably all agree that anyone claiming to be an international playboy isn't.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:13 PM on April 23, 2012 [12 favorites]

That link is so dumb I can't even get mad. The men who read it and prepare accordingly are in for a rude awakening. As someone said above, it's sheer fantasy.

It's not helpful to say "all this offensive stuff also applies to men." So don't do that.

I think the suggestion to ask why men have escaped all these supposed wretched and hypocritical conditioning forces is pretty valid. Then if it were me, I'd probably forget about it, possibly unfriend him if he were annoying enough. People are so obstinate about idiotic views like this that it's best to just shame them slightly when they express them and move on.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:17 PM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

You might simply point out that-- regardless of your opinion of the piece-- what he's doing is publicly posting something that insults 95% of the women he's actually likely to meet (including just about everybody who's reading it) while praising people he's never met and may never meet.

And that's just stupid.
posted by alexei at 8:18 PM on April 23, 2012 [6 favorites]

In fact, it’s widely agreed among well-traveled playboys that the US has among the most unapproachable and anti-social women in the world.

It's here that I hit the....I really can't take him seriously phase. I think I would ask him for supporting data to prove his theory, rather than gather up data to try to prove mine. For example, who are these well traveled playboys? Does that mean we fare better among playboys with limited travel experience? Is there a group, and did someone survey monkey them?

This whole essay is one of those fallacious arguments about the mythical masses (everyone knows....the world is flat) where the assertions cannot be proven, and the hope is that an authoritative tone coupled with a orderly structure and some bluster can carry the day. Rather than trying to prove the reverse, make him prove the veracity of his argument. And 'me and my friends feel this is true' is not data. They are the ones weighted down by the weight of their incorrect thinking. Why are you doing all the heavy lifting? They might want to, or need to, believe this about American women.

I mean, why should I have to jump in the pool just because you posted an article that Black people can't swim?
posted by anitanita at 9:15 PM on April 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

I actually saw almost this same essay when I was living in Costa Rica, with Russian switched for Tica/Costa Rican women, posted on a Costa Rican wiki that was aimed at expats living there. (It's here if you really want to look, but it's basically the same thing, only simplified). I assumed it was just some gross marketing for some sort of "Date "foreign nationality" women now!" kind of service, which there were a lot of there because there were A LOT of older, expat guys looking for those kinds of services. (I would see ads in the papers all the time "50+ American entrepreneur looking for Tica who speaks at least a little English, no kids but wants kids, thin, 20-24" for example).

It could open his eyes a little if you showed him:
a) this same basic thing is being said about nearly every "exotic" kind of woman that American/Western men seem to seek out
b) the kind of men who are actually posting these kinds of things (i.e. "old creep expats who don't even care if a woman actually speaks the same language as they do, as long as she knows the word "yes")
posted by primalux at 10:16 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm with commenters who feel less and less like confronting this sort of thing and more like spending precious time on mutually fulfilling relationships.

That said, part of me still does feel an obligation to tell friends/acquaintances who pull this sort of thing, at least once, that they have crossed a boundary, and that crossing it again will result in me leaving the relationship. That way, at the very least, they associate a consequence with their actions. On that note, isn't it funny (in a sarcastic, very non-funny way) that one of the first "problems" mentioned with American women in that link is this: trying to meet and approach young women in the US often feels awkward and rude, as if you are violating some type of boundary. Kind of makes you wonder how many boundaries the author of the piece has crossed, huh?

I live in France, so like primalux I see other sides to "generally accepted stereotypes". Long story short: they're a load of tripe. It's impossible to argue them.

I'd say, if you still feel conflicted about this, try and identify what's most important to you amongst your hurt feelings, whether it's that he devalued you as a friend by posting that, or objectified women as a whole which changed how you see him, whatever your strongest emotional connection to it is – that will help you identify which of your boundaries was crossed. Spell it out to him, with whichever consequences you feel true to your own self.

To get all philosophical and deep thoughts schmoopy, that's the sort of thing that slowly changes stereotypes. When stereotypical beliefs are put face-to-face with people who take the time to get to know themselves, who accept their emotions and act on them with respect and maturity, and who live that by placing value on themselves as individuals with their own boundaries. You don't have to be like everyone else or a certain stereotype to be OK. Being that belief is like that trite but true saying, "be the change you want to see in the world."
posted by fraula at 12:32 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

If a male friend showed me this, I'd assume he was just trying to get a rise out of me. Has it occurred to you he may be trying to have some kind of childish fun with your "visceral reaction"?
posted by zadcat at 3:21 AM on April 24, 2012

I agree with the posters saying that the text displays a sexual and romantic fantasy borne out of a pernicious mixture of frustration, ignorance, objectification and a sense of entitlement. It's really quite sad. As a woman, it is offensive to read on many levels - and as a European, the sweeping generalizations are just plain stupid. BTW, I've seen these same tropes get trotted out in all the European countries I've lived in (Northern, Southern and Western), although the Shangri La with the willing, gentle, über-feminine women varies...

I believe you can't really combat this sort of fantasy with facts or clever counter arguments, not the kind you can link to on the Internet anyway. I think your friend has a psychological need to believe this crap, and an unfortunate, unhealthy mindset that enables it. "In [place with wrong kind of women], women have all the power and upperhand." Over the years I've come to regard this statement as a key element, and basically the crux of the issue. It is very revealing of the ideas regarding gender and social/romantic/sexual interaction behind rants like these. And it's a very problematic view, and quite immune to attempts to influence it because it's so entwined with personal experiences, which it is used to explain.

In a similar situation - when someone I considered a friend started to reveal deeply misogynistic attitudes I was not comfortable with - I eventually just distanced myself. When I was younger, I probably would've tried to re-educate the poor guy, but I admit I've lost my faith in those attempts. I now believe that displays of even casual misogyny are rooted in deeply held convictions and world views, and a lot of maturing and personal growth is needed to get rid of that. And that's just not something you can do for another person. You can point out the numerous errors in e.g.
- the assumption that "European and Russian" women are as stated
- the assumption that American women are as stated
- the assumption that it is preferable for women to be like the described European and Russian women
- the assumption that what's (perhaps) more convenient/gratifying for men should dictate how women should live their lives

...but at the root of he problem is the guy's sense of entitlement and him not really seeing women as fellow human beings. And it's a catch 22: if you point it out, you'll get dismissed as just another harpy criticising him. If you don't and focus on the surface statements in stead, you'll be just swatting at the flies next to a swarming heap of dung.

But since you asked, if I somehow really felt compelled to engage, I would probably start by honestly telling that I found the text offensive, and by asking if the person posting it would want to hear why. Not because of my feminine European demureness (!), but because my guess is his reply would reveal he wouldn't be open to it, and I've grown so weary of this topic and wouldn't want to ruin my day by getting riled up about something I can't change. On the off chance he'd seem interested in other views, I'd try to start a sincere dialogue on... well, what life is like as a female human being, and go from there. (But frankly, I can't imagine having the energy.)
posted by sively at 3:39 AM on April 24, 2012 [7 favorites]

The article seems self-refuting, so I need to ask, does he really not see what's wrong with what the guy is saying? Or is he just saying that to be assertive or to otherwise troll you? Maybe you were wrong about him being "respectful and well meaning" and just was afraid of women and so looks up to someone who is so unafraid as to be outright hostile.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:59 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

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