Pick Up Artist giving a "talk" at at Nerds Meetup Group
August 20, 2013 10:35 AM   Subscribe

I'm a long time member of a nerdy Meetup group. What can I do about a pick up artist related event that's going to happen today?

I've been the member of a meetup group for nerds and geeks for almost four years. In the beginning the group and people were both great, but things have started to change, especially recently. Last week, one of our members posted a meetup advertising for a special session with a "relationship counselor" called Dr. Dennis Neder, who wrote a book about being a "real man in a woman's world". I suspected this was probably a pick up artist, but didn't really think of it much afterwards.

A few days gone by and there was a some debate about it in the comment section. My friend, let's call her Ann, reacted strongly to this, saying she was very offended by this. But the host, who was another friend named Mae, was trying to get people to go and saying this was totally legit. At this point, I started looking into Dr. Dennis Neder. I found one of the free books he authored. I skimmed through it, and found most of the typical PUA claptrap. Stuff about insulting women back who reject you, using "coercion and psychological pressure" on women to go out with men, hypnotism, and other things.

At this point, I kind of felt that I had to say something. People who go to the Blue regularly know there's topics about women being harassed, especially at events for nerds, geeks, and atheists, which is most of the kinds of people this meetup group has. In fact, someone on the blue responded that I should speak out about this, or else it's just enabling that behavior.

So, I took my findings and summary of the book and posted them on the comment section for the meetup. I pretty much said that this book was sexist and had a warped view of women, men, and relationships. And that people should be offended by this. I was glad that I posted something, because Ann's post expressing her offense at this meetup was deleted, on a trumped up technicality of containing profanity and name-calling. And nobody else was really bringing up the salient points.

I also took my concerns to an assistant organizer, who was a close friend of mine, and she attempted to talk to the other assistant organizers and the head organizer, but nothing is being done at all and the head organizer has decided to let the meetup go through because of the potential for "valuable discussion and debate" (she has a history of being way too hands off about any remotely controversial issue).

This meetup is probably going to happen (about 18 are planning to attend), and Mae said she intends to post more if it's successful. There's no precedence for this sort of meetup, so this has never been something we've done before. I really don't like seeing this sort of thing legitimized, especially in a meetup group that's been a significant part of my life. And Mae seems to be pushing really hard to promote this meetup, which is unusual (she never was pushy, and has never done a meetup before). Which makes me think think this she's getting something more out of this. I mean, Neder himself is probably just thinking nerds are an easy target to sell his tapes and books to, or hook up with, or something.

So, at this point, what can I do? I don't think I can go to the Meetup.com staff, because they mostly wash their hands of anything that goes on at a meetup itself. I have the support of one assistant organizer and a few other members, but that's it.
posted by FJT to Human Relations (26 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Stay away in droves?

The best way to kill these things is to smother them.

Just don't go. Stop talking about it.

Do you feel that the people who might attend are so weak-minded that they won't see him for what he is?

This is a free-market exercise. You can't bully people into doing what you want them to do because you don't like the agenda. If this meet up turns out to be the kind of place where this kind of 'guest' is welcome, find another meetup.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:44 AM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Start your own meetup that has no tolerance for this sort of bullshit.

The right people will follow.
posted by inturnaround at 10:46 AM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Best answer: Offer an alternative event. "This guy seems like a dickhead and I'm not comfortable legitimizing his beliefs or offering him a chance at self-promotion. Anyone who is similarly uncomfortable is welcome to join us at ABC Bar for drinks. We'll probably go to XYZ Tacos at some point and depending on the sense of the group might catch a midnight showing at Some Arthouse Theatre on 5th Ave. Hope to see you there or catch up with you next time!"
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:46 AM on August 20, 2013 [56 favorites]


It's great that you spoke up. Unfortunately it sounds like you can't do more than post "I won't be coming, as this isn't the sort of event I want to participate in. I'll see you at the next meetup."
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:48 AM on August 20, 2013


If there was ever a time for setting up a new meetup, this would be it.

You don't have to go, you don't have to stay in this group. Set up a meetup for that time or close to it. Talk with the one assistant organizer whose support you can count on.
posted by RainyJay at 10:54 AM on August 20, 2013


Or you can go and laugh your ass off.

Then start a new group without those people.
posted by Vaike at 10:54 AM on August 20, 2013


Are you willing to bust up the group? Because, while I think Inspector Gadget's suggestion is a great one, it will likely have that effect.

That being said: maybe that's a good thing? Weed out the creeps, keep the people who are cool around. You may end up with to fractured groups: the kind of people who think that PUAs are cool and the kind of people who don't.
posted by AmandaA at 10:55 AM on August 20, 2013


This seems pretty simple ... vote with your feet and stay away?
posted by Unified Theory at 10:55 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Or go and ask "innocent" questions that call the PUA on his bullshit. (I tend to find the "give 'em enough rope" approach works very well with the over-confident.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:55 AM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Best answer: Speaking up against sexism (or racism, homophobia, etc.) very rarely stops the sexist behavior immediately, which is why this sort of work is so frustratingly slow.

What it does do, usually, is to plant seeds in people's minds that either the behavior they're engaging in might be less socially acceptable than they thought, or that the doubts they were already having about someone else's behavior are reasonable and maybe they'll feel ok to speak up against it next time.

I love the idea of organizing a low-key alternative meet-up, which would at least give people who are on the fence something else to do rather than support this jerk. And if Mae persists in booking misogynist speakers, I think it'd be worth reconsidering your membership in this group.
posted by jaguar at 10:57 AM on August 20, 2013 [24 favorites]


Response by poster: Thanks for the alternate meetup idea. The assistant organizer had set up a semi-scheduled trivia meetup to happen at about the same time today, so there at least exists an alternate already.

I guess I'm a little dismayed at how little resistance there was.
posted by FJT at 11:04 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is why people decide to become organizers, because they don't like the direction of the group.
posted by smackfu at 11:04 AM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I would shy away from planning to confront the speaker. If they speak on this topic regularly then they will have a lot more experience on debating this with you and are likely to have either responses to your objections or just rhetorical tricks that will make it look like they had responded. Remember the common aphorism about not wrestling with pigs: you both get dirty and the pig likes it.

You could just not go but I don't think that will really make it clear how inappropriate this situation is. Even if only a couple of people come, those left will only get the message that people were not that interested in the topic. Firmly organizing a competing event underscores the unacceptability of the original event and that the misogynistic techniques presented are not even worth engaging with.

You get to be the change you want to see in the world, and if you follow Inspector.Gadget's plan you will also get beer and tacos at the same time. Bonus!
posted by grouse at 11:05 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


The list of frequently used terms on his site is pretty awful. If your Meetup friends don't think that horrible stuff is a reason to cancel the event, I'd say you need to form a new group with more like minded people.
posted by Unified Theory at 11:05 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Offer an alternative event. "This guy seems like a dickhead and I'm not comfortable legitimizing his beliefs or offering him a chance at self-promotion. Anyone who is similarly uncomfortable is welcome to join us at ABC Bar for drinks. We'll probably go to XYZ Tacos at some point and depending on the sense of the group might catch a midnight showing at Some Arthouse Theatre on 5th Ave. Hope to see you there or catch up with you next time!"

I would agree that this is probably the best approach and doesn't have the seeming passivity of simply not attending.

In the long run you might want to consider starting another group if you feel this group is taking a turn in a direction you're not comfortable with.
posted by fuse theorem at 11:07 AM on August 20, 2013


I guess I'm a little dismayed at how little resistance there was.

Perhaps they're actually planning an all-out assault on the guy. Could be interesting.
posted by tully_monster at 11:14 AM on August 20, 2013


Mae seems to be pushing really hard to promote this meetup, which is unusual (she never was pushy, and has never done a meetup before). Which makes me think think this she's getting something more out of this.

You might inquire if there's going to be commissions paid to the group for anything this guy sells at the event.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:14 AM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Do what you can to offer another great event - really good happy hour deal, something new and cool, etc. Make it easy for people to say no to this event and yes to yours so they can explain it to Mae ("Hi Mae, I'm sorry that I couldn't come to the PUA event but I really wanted to check out the bar where FJT said he'd meet people because it's close to my office and I had to work late.").

The likelihood that Mae will plan similar events in the future will depend on how successful this event is. If this event is not successful, she will be less likely to have similar events in the future. So try to stop it now before it becomes a bigger thing.
posted by kat518 at 11:17 AM on August 20, 2013


I applaud your courage.

I think your intuition that Mae is getting money or stands to get money out of this is probably correct. Consider asking her for an avowal that such is not the case.

I doubt the opprtunity to sell books to 18 people is worth Dr. Neder's time.

He may have a workshop or course on offer, or a product line, or an ongoing consulting relationship to sell.

But you won't know that unless you go see for yourself, and I advise getting at least a couple of like-minded friends together and attending. If you go alone, there's too much risk of others being able to deny your account of what happened, and Neder himself looks like the sort who might try to single out skeptics and humiliate them to me.

In fact, I don't think it's a good idea to attempt to engage at all; merely observe and then report later.
posted by jamjam at 11:17 AM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


It exists because insecure nerds don't know how to talk to women. They need help! So help them. Offer to give a class on The Gentleman's Way to Court Ladies. Include topics as developing natural and healthy confidence, noticing when she's into you, how to show positive body language, responding to her body language, what you think is ok but she actually thinks is creepy, showing positive interest by active listening, don't fall into the nerd trap of debating details and proving how smart you are, proving why Pick-Up (f)Artists only end up with insecure women and/or just fan the flames of the war between the sexes, accepting a let down, asking for a phone number, planning date 1, and determining whether YOU really like HER.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:25 AM on August 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


The category "insecure nerds" includes women. Don't plan another event that involves treating women like an alien species. Plan a healthy relationships class or something if this is a direction you want to go in. (Though I wouldn't. I would plan a normal social event, which is, after all, often how nerds meet other nerds they're sexually attracted to.)
posted by stoneandstar at 11:36 AM on August 20, 2013 [25 favorites]


Best answer: I think it would be completely reasonable to require that meetup organizers disclose any relationship, financial or otherwise, they have with a guest.

Avoiding is one way to handle (i.e. having another event at the same time).

However, fighting bad information is our fight. It's your fight, if you've been fortunate enough to have been given the tools to do so. If you don't fight -- in a positive, helpful way, of course, because you have the ability to do so -- no one will.

There are guys out there who are lonely. They want to learn how not to be lonely. They'll grasp at whatever they can. If this is all there is, then what - too bad for them?

You might be able to convey some useful information to them, maybe culled from Ask Metafilter's archives. At the very least, you can let them know (as it sound like you have) that at least one person -- and more than that -- disagrees.
posted by amtho at 11:59 AM on August 20, 2013


I agree with trying to get a policy going to have organizers agree to disclose fiduciary interests from speakers. I wouldn't hold my breath though, especially if you sense that the tone of meet ups is changing. Maybe it's best to be ready to drift off if that turns out to be the case.
posted by SillyShepherd at 1:00 PM on August 20, 2013


I think you should propose a meet-up AFTER today to open up a dialog among those who went to today's meetup. In fact if I were you I would go today to hear what junk this doc is feeding to these poor nerds so you can discuss it with them later. You can't stop the curious guys from hearing the doctor out, but maybe some of them will be skeptical and willing hear out 'the other side' afterwards? Like amtho says, these guys are lonely so be kind. Don't attack them for being curious and not resisting the PUA trap. Communicate with them why sexism really isn't going to help them with women in the long run. If they are dicks about it, then yeah, time to splinter off.
posted by hellameangirl at 3:03 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Best answer: I would definitely support the trivia meeting tonight! Go and have a great time. :)

As for being dismayed - people learn through example. Without knowing anyone in your group, I'm willing to bet at least one person either admired you for speaking up, or thought, I want to be the person who speaks up next time. By speaking up, you've made it a safer place for others to speak up next time. By openly supporting the trivia event, you've made it easier for others to support non-PUA events. It's slow, but it really does make a difference.

Edited to add: and THANK YOU for speaking up. So often this stuff persists because no one stands up and says, "I'm not ok with this".
posted by RogueTech at 4:21 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yes, thank you. I know it gets wearying, but thank you. Here's a virtual fist bump from me.
posted by amtho at 1:17 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


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