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No one. Owes you. Anything.
May 28, 2014 1:34 PM   Subscribe


 
Man, that was a great essay.

Says so much about what I wanted to say about the Rodgers asshat.

And it's so true, too! I find myself behind the wheels of a large automobile, and a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife, and I ask myself, well, how did I get here ?

What that guy said in that essay. That's how.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:49 PM on May 28 [5 favorites]


Back in the late 90's when I was doing my Education degree, we saw a video called "Fat City" that talked about how bullies and victims of bullying often have learning disabilities, or mild to severe emotional and communications disorders that prevent them from being "likeable." But basically bullying and social exclusion are symptoms (or the result of) lack of communication skills, and you can really help excluded kids by explaining how to be "likeable."

While there is of course juvenile attitudes of entitlement at play, a lot of problems might be solved just by teaching kids how to fit in and make friends. Smile. Make eye contact. Personal grooming. Be positive. Be resilient.

It sure would have helped me. I had a terrible time in elementary school and junior high school and high school (even now and here I am called "weird"), although somehow I managed to blossom in university and later on in life.

With my own sons, I've noticed sports have really helped them out.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:57 PM on May 28 [9 favorites]


According to this book, the Columbine shooters were not the friendless, picked-on kids that they were painted to be in reportage that immediately followed the shooting. I have to wonder what we'll find out about this case in a few years. (For what it's worth, I don't think anyone that goes on for 140 pages, single spaced even, about every single possible detail of his life, was the sort of person who'd respond to any rational arguments about anything.)
posted by raysmj at 2:00 PM on May 28 [13 favorites]


A similar reaction to the UC Santa Barbara shooting, by Arthur Chu, the Jeopardy champion, digs a little deeper into the misogyny of 'nerd culture' and how that relates to these feelings of entitlement.
posted by tinymegalo at 2:03 PM on May 28 [39 favorites]


With my own sons, I've noticed sports have really helped them out.
Me too. For me it was sports, explicit social coaching from peers and mentors, and a foggy, fleeting understanding of the concept that you've got to make yourself better, which the article puts this way:
The best way to get the attention from the women you want is through becoming the person you want to be. You can’t force anyone to adapt to you, but you can change you, and then the people you want around you will lock in and see you and find love in you and for you.
I'm really glad that nerd subculture, which has traditionally seen itself as counterculture, is starting to see how it reflects and perpetuates many shitty aspects of mainstream culture.
posted by daveliepmann at 2:07 PM on May 28 [5 favorites]


From the article:

If you feel like the world won’t listen to you, that people are judging you and saying you have no place with them, and you lash out at them, then you are basically saying “You were correct the whole time. I was never to be trusted or included. Your instincts to leave me out were on the money.”

Holy cow, this is tremendously insightful.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:13 PM on May 28 [47 favorites]


The best way to get the attention from the women you want is through becoming the person you want to be. You can’t force anyone to adapt to you, but you can change you, and then the people you want around you will lock in and see you and find love in you and for you.

But wait, this is still perpetuating the same old thing, isn't it?

Instead of:
1) Harass the woman you choose
2) She gives in

he proposes

1) Change yourself until you're super awesome
2) Stand near the woman you chose and wait for her to notice
3) She gives in

Shouldn't the idea be that you *can't* actually "choose" someone else, no matter what, because they are a person and have the right to choose for themselves? Shouldn't the idea be to just interact with women as people, and eventually mutual attraction will develop with someone who is right for you? Because the idea that you can "change yourself" and then the "right girl" will be drawn to you is, while less pernicious than outright harassment, still removing the woman's free will in the matter. It's important to learn that you can make yourself "perfect" for someone and they still won't be interested in you because well, people make their own decisions as they see fit.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:13 PM on May 28 [73 favorites]


Honestly, almost every analysis of Elliot Rodger I've seen gets most of the entitlement issues right, but there's something most of them seem to miss:

Misogyny is a huge part of what Elliot Rodger did. SoCal is too. It's full of shallow, selfish, materialistic, racist, heteronormative, vapid culture. And yes, misogynist culture too. His violence came from wanting to manifest that culture and being frustrated that he couldn't.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 2:15 PM on May 28 [28 favorites]


Seconding tinymegalo's recommendation of Arthur Chu's article. I was once a teenage girl/college student who was frequently subjected to this BS from male "nerdy" classmates and friends who considered themselves "nice guys" and could not understand why I wasn't automatically romantically interested in them because clearly they deserved "the girl of their dreams." The sense of entitlement is so insane and offensive. And disgusting. And off-putting. Yuck. I can't believe it's 2014 and so many still cannot grasp the concept that women are autonomous human beings, not prizes to be awarded.
posted by Mallenroh at 2:16 PM on May 28 [26 favorites]


In times like these I really have to wonder why it's never (or at least rarely, to my eye) stressed that self-awareness is probably the single most important component of a healthy life. We're constantly handed very specific definitions of good behavior, complex moral and legal codes, questionable social constructs, and so on. I don't remember ever really being told to take a step back--to step back as far as possible--and look constructively at myself. But increasingly I feel that the only dividing line between being "that guy" and being a net positive to those around you comes out of being able to look at yourself critically and build constructively.

Maybe I'm oversimplifying or assuming that introspection is simple. But for every ten groups explaining religious ideology to me, or telling me why their political candidate is best, I wish one would have told me to get out of my own head as much as possible.
posted by Phyltre at 2:20 PM on May 28 [29 favorites]


I was just going to make the same comment drjimmy. I can see where the author is coming from in this essay. But it doesn't address a key problem that you see with entitled men. The people they want around them, giving them the love and adoration they feel is their due, are the "hot chicks". "Becoming the person [they] want to be" to attract the people they want around them (hot chicks) is going to do nothing to address their sense of entitlement, the sense that they deserve the "hot chicks". In the end, an "attractive" entitled man is not an improvement over a non-attractive entitled man. They may be able to dupe the women they want into a relationship, but that sense of entitlement and objectification is still going to be there.
posted by longdaysjourney at 2:22 PM on May 28 [4 favorites]


I was about to say something similar to drjimmy11. I was into the article overall but this part struck me as a bit off:

When you get to a place where you’ve removed your own insecurities and panic and fears so that you can actually speak with and listen to a woman, that’s when it works. That’s when they’ll like you. That’s when they’ll realize that the idiots don’t stand a chance against us guys who know how to be kind, us guys that know how to make eye contact, us guys that know how to speak with a human being because it’s fascinating and fun to speak to another human being, and not just because they might get you off at the end of the night.

When you get to that point – when genuine interest and respect and a desire to truly connect with another person guide your actions – that’s when the ladies will respond, because that’s when any reasonable and compassionate human being would respond to such an effort. When you stop looking at hot girls as “hot girls” and instead start treating them as “a person whom I’m ready to listen to and talk with”, that’s when you really have earned the right to connect with those people. And they will connect with you.


Maybe this is uncharitable of me, but this just sounds like the same old, "If you're actually nice, rather than a resentful jerk, then you deserve attention from women and you'll get it", when I thought the author's actual point is that you don't deserve anything and there's never a guarantee that people will like you or want to date you.
posted by Slater Sheldahl at 2:24 PM on May 28 [7 favorites]


a lot of problems might be solved just by teaching kids how to fit in and make friends. Smile. Make eye contact. Personal grooming. Be positive. Be resilient.

Don't be fat. Don't wear glasses. Pretend not to be smart. Pretend you care about sports. Listen to the bands approved by your peers. Wear the right clothes. Be disdainful of parents and teachers. Join in the mocking of others who don't fit in.


...sorry, as somebody who has never fit in anywhere (except perhaps among other misfits in that sort of backwards way), this just rubs me completely the wrong way. Somehow I managed to grow up being a feminist rather than a misogynist, despite not dating until I was 31.
posted by Foosnark at 2:24 PM on May 28 [83 favorites]


Shouldn't the idea be that you *can't* actually "choose" someone else, no matter what, because they are a person and have the right to choose for themselves?
My reading of the article's recommendation is identical to your recommendation. He's not advocating or saying or even implying that women will or should "give in" once you've transformed yourself. He's merely stating the fact that people like awesome people, so your best strategy is to go become awesome.

It's essentially the same good advice you see given on mefi/askme: go do things you enjoy that other people enjoy and stop thinking of every woman you meet as Female To Evaluate For Sex Beep Boop but as a person. He states this explicitly elsewhere in the article.
posted by daveliepmann at 2:27 PM on May 28 [10 favorites]


That was magnificent. I actually believe we do owe each other respect for each other's humanity and assistance in an emergency (I.e. calling ,911) and other things that would be nice, but by the same sense of duty we also should understand that developing as a person is hard and people have reasons they behave less than ideal ranging from things totally out their control to some lack of insight to do things another way. In any case this was well written and needed. So often people who think other's owe them things fail to take it upon themselves to see themselves as being in debt to everyone they meet. When you take that idea on its a lot easier see there are people who you just don't know how to be a good friend to or are unpleasant to be around for various reasons. And you might wish them well but you have nothing in common. The whole idea that pretty girls owe sex to people is not only gross but none of the guys who think it seem to think they owe sex or romance to all lonely women who are good people.It just doesn't work like that, you can care for people in general out of a sense of goodwill but it doesn't mean you're compatible as friends or lovers.
posted by xarnop at 2:28 PM on May 28 [3 favorites]


This essay was interesting, though I think a lot of what he says is not entirely novel in substance.

Something bothers me about his claims "No-one owes you anything" and that the world doesn't owe you anything. On one hand, there are lots of men who think women and the world at large owe them something, certainly, and that sense of entitlement, sexual and otherwise, is hugely problematic for men and for women, to understate the case dramatically. But social justice maybe doesn't come from men who think of their lives in such strictly atomistic terms as these:

Change yourself, change your circumstances, and carve out your own world that you do fit into.

This is fine advice for being yourself, and embracing the idea of defining your own success. And that's good, as far as it goes.

It's just that there's so much more to being a good person than being a good man, and so much more to being a good man than success and autonomy or finding like-minded people to connect with, or even relinquishing the crudest forms of masculinist entitlement. I guess what bothers me about the idea that the world doesn't owe men anything is that men really should expect certain things from other people. We really do owe each other certain things; respect, civility, justice, and more. Boys need to learn to distinguish between feminine attention they don't deserve, or material success they haven't earned, and the dignity they do deserve simply because they're people and not because they're boys. If the world doesn't owe me anything, if nobody owes me anything, why should I owe anything to the world or to anyone, after all?

So I think while we do need to make sure boys don't get messages that girls and women owe them attention or affection or indulgence or sex, we shouldn't deny that being a person in society means that there are expectations and important obligations in both directions between individuals and the rest of the world.
posted by clockzero at 2:29 PM on May 28 [27 favorites]


This woman who commented hits the nail on the head for me with her response:

I read this, and found myself feeling angry...angry in the same way I have done since hearing Elliot Rodger's story. Not because there's anything wrong with what you are saying - quite the reverse, it's a great piece and thank you for writing it. It's just that at first, I couldn't work out what it was that I was stewing over after reading it.

Then I realised. It was the point at which you advise that guys adapt themselves, and I suddenly thought, 'How can this advice be needed? It's cool, but it's not the discovery of America or anything. How long does it take guys to get that women have to adapt themselves every day of their conscious lives?' There isn't a day, not one day, that a woman isn't forced to compromise/change /adapt in order to just live another day. What we look like, what we wear, how we walk, how we talk, what we say, what we eat, how much we eat, what shape we are, where we go, how we get there, what we do when we get there, how much we eat/drink when we get there, what we are wearing when we get there, how we pay attention to others while we are there, how we get home, who we are with when we get home...how we behave with them on the doorstep, in the front hall, in the front room, in the kitchen, in the bedroom, turn out the light and repeat tomorrow... oh wait, no, go downstairs and check the front door first. And the windows too. What are you wearing in bed? Sure it's not provocative? OK, you can go to sleep now - maybe.

And against all this comes the revelation, like a bolt from the blue that men may have to change. For some of us, the wonder is that it took millennia for this message to emerge. What created the original programming? Where did it begin, that sense that it wasn't 'fair' for girls not to want (sic) guy? If it's not the video games (and I agree with you about that ) what exactly is the cause?


Yup. I can say that I don't remember a time in my conscious life that my behavior wasn't policed by men, women who agreed with the norms patriarchy set, and by society at large. And for what? Is it still part of the "women are property" mentality that we've yet to shake off? Regardless, this has to change, and and change now.
posted by droplet at 2:30 PM on May 28 [72 favorites]


That sort of anger is precisely the problem, though. Saying something like "Bathe regularly and be friendly to people" means making the leap to "OH SO I SHOULD JUST START LISTENING TO MUSIC PEOPLE LIKE AND BE LIKE THE DAMN PREPPIES AND WATCH SPORTSBALL?! NOT ME MAN I'M WAY TOO EDGY AND INDEPENDENT AND A LONER."

Which is why you'd have problems making friends in the first place, but that's also an illumination on the problem. Many nerds think that if they just say the social rules are stupid and they won't abide by them, then they shouldn't be held to them. But taking the moral high ground of "BATHING IS JUST SOCIALLY CONSTRUCTED BY AD AGENCIES TO SELL SOAP FIGHT THE POWER MAN" may be true and even feel rewarding for raging against the machine, but everyone will still think you stink.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:31 PM on May 28 [27 favorites]


Yes, raysmj, I agree with your assessment and I was thinking that as I read the essay. If Rodgers had read this or if he had had a friend who said this, it would have made no difference, as far as I can tell, based on his writings. In fact, based on his writings, it sounds like he had friends and family members who said this, and that his parents hired people -- not just therapists, but "social skills counselors" who evidently were pretty much just other people his age -- who said this to him. And he didn't hear it, and possibly couldn't hear it. There was something going on much deeper than an essay can address, no matter how insightful it is, and indeed this was insightful.
posted by janey47 at 2:49 PM on May 28 [5 favorites]


I guess what bothers me about the idea that the world doesn't owe men anything is that men really should expect certain things from other people. We really do owe each other certain things; respect, civility, justice, and more. Boys need to learn to distinguish between feminine attention they don't deserve, or material success they haven't earned, and the dignity they do deserve simply because they're people and not because they're boys. If the world doesn't owe me anything, if nobody owes me anything, why should I owe anything to the world or to anyone, after all?
I think this is a logical backlash against the entitlement that's seen as being taken to an extreme, but the extreme opposite interpretation of that is some Hobbesian world where you fight for everything because nobody else is going to grant it to you without struggle.

My alternative advice is to just ask people: be kind to each other. Like, genuinely kind, selfless, and big hearted. Do good things for each other without expecting the favor to be returned and simply because the act of generosity is a pleasure in itself. Be willing to listen to someone, and rather than take the worst part of their argument and draw a strawman out of it, look for the best part and suggest, "I think what you're trying to say is ... and still I disagree for these good reasons." Because you aren't looking to prove yourself right, and someone else wrong. You're looking for mutual understanding.

Let go of your ego for a moment and do things for other people without ever expecting the gesture to be returned or recognized. It's invisible to everyone but yourself, but it will change you and it will make you a better person.
posted by bl1nk at 2:52 PM on May 28 [11 favorites]


...sorry, as somebody who has never fit in anywhere (

Well, smiling and eye contact does help.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:57 PM on May 28 [5 favorites]


How long does it take guys to get that women have to adapt themselves every day of their conscious lives?' There isn't a day, not one day, that a woman isn't forced to compromise/change /adapt in order to just live another day. What we look like, what we wear, how we walk, how we talk, what we say,

great sentiment, but please trust that it's not a male/female thing. My memories of being young are that it was a massive stew of adapting, and it's never stopped. It's what humans do in social situations, a condition of going out into the world. We (certainly those of us who are remotely emotionally/spiritually healthy) are constantly adapting ourselves (at least in some small way) to accommodate the needs/wants/sensitivities of others. Because on some level, it's worth it -- it's part of the price we pay for not being lonely.

Not that the adaptations we choose are always wise ones, but that's another discussion
posted by philip-random at 3:06 PM on May 28 [6 favorites]


Instead of:
1) Harass the woman you choose
2) She gives in

he proposes

1) Change yourself until you're super awesome
2) Stand near the woman you chose and wait for her to notice
3) She gives in


"She gives in" might be one way of reading it, but the way he's writing suggests to me something else -- you adapt, learn to recognize the rights of other people to like or dislike you, and *someone* (probably) will like you. Yourself first, and then, while not everyone, not even everyone you like, some people will.

I guess there's some room for criticizing the happy ending here, because there are no guarantees, and maybe you can even find parallels with the worst parts of PUA culture that would suggest there is any such thing as a crank you can turn and get the attention you want.

But leaving some kind of narrative for success is probably key here, because we're talking about stuff that everybody wants, maybe even needs. That doesn't change the fact that no one should have any obligation to give it, but telling people there's a way it can happen strikes me as an important part of the conversation.
posted by weston at 3:12 PM on May 28 [16 favorites]


I liked this essay. In third grade, I plotted out traps and such that we could make and deploy at school with friends. After a stern talking to, I learned that talking about that sort of thing, even by speculation scares people and is a dumb idea. That said, I feel like there is a second point that is implied, but missing from this essay and others that I've seen. In fact, the only place I've seen in are in memes about teaching boys not to rape.

No one is responsible for your immediate actions but you. A person cannot force you to hit them (excepting wires, being held at gunpoint or hollywood style hypnotism). A woman never forces a man to rape her. Beyond not owing you anything, no one can force you to do anything without using violence.

Society tells men not only to expect to be rewarded with the woman at the end, but also that their actions concerning the woman are not their responsibility. She somehow has mysterious ways of forcing men to do things.

I feel it's preaching to the choir to shout "she does not have magical vagina powers, now grow up!" here, but this has been on my mind on and off for a while. The privilege of abdication of responsibility is one that I have not seen discussed much (and if I'm missing an article on it, please point me that way).
posted by Hactar at 3:17 PM on May 28 [9 favorites]


I'm glad I'm not the only one who didn't like this. It's got multiple issues. The first is a kind of equalizing effect, reducing every facet of experience to the same glib platitude. This is why I don't fully appreciate the #yesallwomen hashtag. Or rather, I can appreciate that it exists, but it's often universalizing in a way that's off, particularly the more viral parts of it. While all women might experience misogyny, all women do not experience it the same way, or even comparably. There are factors that affect the amount and kind of misogyny one faces. For every girl who is catcalled for being attractive, there is a girl who is rendered invisible for being fat or unattractive or just unpopular or even just not a WASP -- which means that when bad things happen to her, those are rendered invisible too. For every girl who is told "you wore a short skirt, you were asking for it," there is a girl who is told "you should feel lucky someone wanted you at all." Rodgers' shitty memoir thing even illustrates this process -- for all the girls he bellyaches over, there are plenty of others he just skips over because they were not sufficiently hot and blonde. You see the same thing happening with his [male] roommates -- one mention and done And then you read the news stories and find out he shot his roommates. Rodgers never mentioned that part. Because they didn't matter to him.)

I'm not even reading anything into this. At one point Gethard literally goes "Hot girls don’t have it easy. Neither do ugly girls. Or ugly guys. Or black people. Or white people. Or poor people. Or rich people." But you're deluded if you think some of those groups don't have it substantially easier than the others. Well, deluded, or a white guy. (His essay is just white as fuck in general. Gethard mentions the oddballs going en masse to places like Brooklyn and Chicago, and he calls them "little hubs of creativity and oddball energy and acceptance," while others call them "hyper-gentrified." And that's just the oddballs who can afford to move there. Also, he uses "square peg/round hole" wrong, but that's neither here nor there.)

But there's something else specific that's bugging me. "Genuine interest and respect and a desire to truly connect with another person" are not sufficient to make friends or find love. If so, everyone who is lonely would be a bad person by default. A lot of people have outright said it: "if you're a virgin/friendless at 23, it's YOUR FAULT for being a murderous prick," and yet there are plenty of virgins, or people who have difficulty making friendships. Specifically, there are a lot of girls (and women) who struggle with this, and this is the exact sort of rhetoric that is used and weaponized against girls.

Think of mental illness -- Rodgers was diagnosed with Asperger's, and the commentariat loves to point this out, blame it. Even putting aside the fact that it sounds like Rodger had shitty therapists -- if we're to believe Rodger, one of them bragged about how many women he had sex with, and while I'm sure that was twisted in his retelling I can't imagine what it would be twisted from -- girls experience mental illness too. A lot of women have Asperger's -- and no one knows how many, because they keep getting misdiagnosed with BPD or bipolar disorder or countless other diagnoses that skew female -- and one of the things Asperger's fucks with is women's learned ability to pick up social cues that would tip them off to danger (it's called a "spidey sense," this is like if Spidey never got an origin story) plus external factors like having friends to walk them home, or social safety nets in general. It's often said that mental illness increases one's chance of being a victim. This is how. And implicating these girls as murderers-in-waiting certainly isn't going to help.

But even on a more broad level, I don't think it's particularly useful -- and is probably actively harmful -- to mock Rodgers post-facto for being friendless or a virgin. It's like Mean Girls: when you say that, it just makes it OK to call girls that. And if you don't think that's dangerous, what comes to mind, reading so much commentary on the shootings, is Steubenville. The girl at Steubenville was told it was her fault because she didn't have any friends, her fault because she wasn't popular, her fault for going to the party alone, her fault for wanting to "social climb," which is the term people use for "a desire to truly connect with another person" when they don't like the person with that desire, and when that person who isn't liked is a girl, bad things can happen. I am not exaggerating anything. These are all literally things that were said on public social media about her, which makes you wonder what else was said about her in private. During the incident. After the incident. Right the fuck now. It's not just her, either. It happens to girls all over the world.

A poster upthread brought up a point which I think is so important, which is that for all the focus that's been put SoCal and race and class have as much to do with it. Rodgers might have been rich, but he clearly saw everyone else around him as wealthier, with more mansions, more pools, which is totally a SoCal thing. (I think one of his YouTube videos, which were his version of his curated public self, to the point of being goddamned BMW ads, was at someone else's pool.) He reserved his worst vitriol for people who weren't white -- really overt shit, like "I am descended from British aristocracy, he is descended from slaves!"

But for all that's been said about his comparative privileges, there was very little evidence in Rodgers' life story that he would have amounted to much of anything given his life path. Let's be realistic here. He struggled through college and made few connections and didn't seem to have a life plan beyond winning the lottery. If he hadn't gone on a murder spree he probably would have moved back in with his parents and played World of Warcraft and eventually died. He would be like countless other MRA forumites who are essentially on the fringes, if not exactly the underclass, of society, and decide that women are somehow the culprit. (Rather than class, or the economy, or yes, often their own decisions.) A lot of people like to mock that -- no wonder they're MRAs, because they're losers. They're "them." But misogyny is not something reserved for the unsuccessful in life. (And again, the unsuccessful in life are also women, and those women get it hardest of all.) Misogyny is alive and well in people with the clout to ruin far more lives than Rodger could; they're just not using guns. A kid at Duke University just sued the college for a diploma after he was kicked out for raping a girl. The founder of Snapchat just had his gross fraternity emails leaked, and there is approximately one horrific tech-bro misogyny story a day. We love to pick on lonely people for their entitlement -- and don't be mistaken, it is necessary -- but these are some of the most entitled people on the planet. These are people who are told from birth that the world owes them everything, that they can change the world to serve their desires. The only difference is, they often get it, and it's not for being a good person. I, as a woman, am not scared of the Elliot Rodgers of the world so much as I'm scared of those people. The one can mostly affect me by random chance, wrong place/wrong time. Lots of things can do that. The other can affect me directly, via power, via money, via government policy. And that, to me, will always be more dangerous.

(One other element that's been glossed over is that long, long before PUA even became a mainstream thing, Elliot got really into The Secret, which is basically entitlement as a philosophy: if you want something, the universe will give it to you, and if you don't get it, you just need to want it more. He seemed to be a suggestible personality and got really, really into this -- he blows thousands of dollars on lottery tickets he was "destined" to win -- and I suspect it has more than a little to do with the core issue. After all, PUA types are notorious for ripping off the past few decades of Law of Attraction/NLP woo; it's pseudoscience in theory and dangerous in practice.)
posted by dekathelon at 3:22 PM on May 28 [66 favorites]


Very interesting essay but as well as being awesome you have to be vulnerable and open with people to make friends too. In fact that defines how we treat people we don't want to be friends with: we show them a front and we hide raw emotions or personal secrets. Players, snobs, drama queens, loners: there is a million words for being emotionally absent or dishonest and they all translate to "bad friend material".

If you are too insecure or ragey or think too much of yourself to show vulnerability people won't want to be your friend or date you. Not neccesarily because they dislike you but because you are interacting with them in a way that says "I do not want to be your friend. Good day sir".

Elliott seems like he was literally incapable of not fronting, that was presumably part of his mental illness. Of course he had no friends.
posted by fshgrl at 3:40 PM on May 28 [2 favorites]


What I’m saying is, me and my friends, we were the Columbine kids.

As others have mentioned, no you weren't. The Columbine kids not ostrized loners with no friends. They were popular kids, known for partying and holding down jobs at local pizza joint. They were also very insane, because they actually bought guns, created explosives and tried to kill everyone in the school.

To compare socially awkward or maladjusted kids to people who go on a shooting spree is wildly inaccurate. Talking about sexism and wanting to improve how the socially awkward find a place in the world is great, but there's something foul about about comparing the deeply mentally disturbed with nerds.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:42 PM on May 28 [13 favorites]


You can’t change the world, but you can change yourself. And by changing yourself, you can change your world.

This is pretty much the same advice that is preached in many of the "manosphere" blogs--Build a better you and success will follow.
posted by Gringos Without Borders at 3:47 PM on May 28 [1 favorite]


My alternative advice is to just ask people: be kind to each other. Like, genuinely kind, selfless, and big hearted. Do good things for each other without expecting the favor to be returned and simply because the act of generosity is a pleasure in itself. Be willing to listen to someone, and rather than take the worst part of their argument and draw a strawman out of it, look for the best part and suggest, "I think what you're trying to say is ... and still I disagree for these good reasons." Because you aren't looking to prove yourself right, and someone else wrong. You're looking for mutual understanding.

I think these are good points. At the same time, they seem orthogonal to questions about social patterns, because this advice seems geared toward everyday social interactions where little is at stake. Yes, people should be kind. Of course. We should listen to each other, and we should try to avoid being gratuitously contentious.

But life confronts us with lots of situations that we're not necessarily able to handle with this kind of beatific equanimity: people are rude to us when we're tired and overworked, people are inconsiderate when we're feeling stressed and uncertain, and people take advantage when we try to be kind. So I think that it's a lot easier for people in certain social positions to be kind and selfless and big-hearted than for others, and not considering the problems posed to kind selflessness by the cruelty of systemic social forces is itself a kind of privilege.

I'm not saying that the person I'm quoting above is bad or thoughtless, I'm merely pointing out that it's a lot easier for a upper-middle-class professional dude, say, to resolve to always be pleasant to his barista than it is for a woman to resolve to always be kind to the men who scream profanities at her in public for no reason.

Let go of your ego for a moment and do things for other people without ever expecting the gesture to be returned or recognized. It's invisible to everyone but yourself, but it will change you and it will make you a better person.

It's nice to be able to do that. Most people cannot afford, in more ways than one, to be so selfless.
posted by clockzero at 3:50 PM on May 28 [9 favorites]


"Don't be fat. Don't wear glasses. Pretend not to be smart. Pretend you care about sports. Listen to the bands approved by your peers. Wear the right clothes. Be disdainful of parents and teachers. Join in the mocking of others who don't fit in."

Reddit sums it up thusly:

1. Be attractive
2. Don't be unattractive
posted by MikeMc at 3:54 PM on May 28 [5 favorites]


but while all women might experience misogyny, all women do not experience it the same way, or even comparably. There are factors that affect the amount and kind of misogyny one faces. For every girl who is catcalled for being attractive, there is a girl who is rendered invisible for being unattractive -- which means that when bad things happen to her, those are rendered invisible too. For every girl who is told "you wore a short skirt, you were asking for it," there is a girl who is told "you should feel lucky someone wanted you at all." Rodgers' shitty memoir thing even illustrates this process -- for all the girls he bellyaches over, there are plenty of others he just skips over because they were not sufficiently hot and blonde.

Yes to this. I love the #notallwomen hashtag and I like these essays. But as a person who was never the "hot girl" and who, as I get older, finds the street harassment drops exponentially (I'm not complaining!), there's something to this. I cringe a little every time I read about how some of these men feel entitled to a girlfriend and pretty much knowing that had younger me been standing in front of them, they'd have rejected me outright. So whenever I read something like this:

I remember feeling how he felt. I remember thinking girls didn’t like me and it wasn’t fair. I remember being furious that girls liked idiot meatheads when I was the better option.

I remember feeling the exact same way. Except I was the girl and was often being rejected by the same guys who might have complained they couldn't find a girlfriend. I never felt entitled to a boyfriend and never actually felt moved to violence over it so I guess that's where the comparison ends but I guess what I'm saying is that while we're having a conversation about women and misogyny and harassment it's easy to focus on the unwanted attention women get every day and forget about the society's total dismissal of the "invisible" women (middle-aged, overweight, etc.). And how it's just as misogynistic.
posted by triggerfinger at 4:03 PM on May 28 [53 favorites]


Instead of:
1) Harass the woman you choose
2) She gives in

he proposes

1) Change yourself until you're super awesome
2) Stand near the woman you chose and wait for her to notice
3) She gives in


It's interesting that you use "gives in" in both interpretations, as if there is literally no circumstance under which a woman could be *actively attracted* to a man, merely relenting to his will under positive instead of negative circumstances.

Gethard's point is that being a good human, who is kind and interesting and sees other humans as 3D beings, is both an end in itself AND the sort of thing that other somewhat-actualized humans find really attractive.

I also don't see where "stand near her and wait" is anywhere in the original text. Presumably a good, kind, interesting human can ask another such human out on a date? Such a person wouldn't ever follow up a "no" with harassment, abuse, or a manipulative guilt trip. Such a person is still inevitably going to receive a "no," sometimes. But the "yes" answers will more likely be genuine and enthusiastic.
posted by like_a_friend at 4:05 PM on May 28 [15 favorites]


I came to the blue just now to post this article, but I see zarq has beaten me to it, right down to the post title i would have chosen, making that the third time today (posts and comments). Jinx, zarq!

As a woman, I didn't hear Gethard's advice as suggesting that any woman will magically give in once you've transformed yourself. What I heard primarily was: be a human being who's interested in other human beings outside of whatever momentary service they can provide for you.

When you get to that point – when genuine interest and respect and a desire to truly connect with another person guide your actions – that’s when the ladies will respond, because that’s when any reasonable and compassionate human being would respond to such an effort.

Res ipsa. Most critically, if you're at that point, "scoring" is not going to be your chief goal for the night. I think this is pretty sound spiritual advice on the whole. Might have to forward this article to my (male) kid.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 4:05 PM on May 28 [7 favorites]


(Just a note: Literally a minute after I posted here I went to Twitter and learned that #yesallwhitewomen and #cisgaze had both developed as hashtags in response to a lot of these essays, and it says a LOT that reading the viral/mainstream coverage I didn't even know they existed until now. Credit where credit is due.)
posted by dekathelon at 4:07 PM on May 28


"Except I was the girl and was often being rejected by the same guys who might have complained they couldn't find a girlfriend."

Where to begin with this! I was never especially active in high-school and retrospect there were two primary reasons:

1. I was dense. A girl would basically have to scream "I LIKE YOU!!!!" in my face before I would accept that weren't "just being nice" (my wife says I'm still like this).

2. There were girls that I knew "liked" me but I avoided because I didn't think they were attractive enough. Not that that they weren't sufficiently attractive to me but I was afraid my friends would make fun of her and/or me (we were absolutely ruthless when it came to ripping on each other about everything, tears were shed and punches thrown on more than one occasion). This is the stupidest fucking reason ever. So my advice to young men would be: "Fuck what your friends think, if you like her and she likes you that's all that matters."
posted by MikeMc at 4:17 PM on May 28 [8 favorites]


"Entitlement" is a bad word choice, I think, because it gets used in several different senses.

On one end of the spectrum, there's the sense that clockzero brings up: the basic things that we as a society say all humans are entitled to.

On the other extreme is the horribly creepy notion that "if I want that hot girl, and I think I'm better than her boyfriend, I'm entitled."

But there are in-between states, and I don't want "you should set aside your sense of entitlement" to sound synonymous with "give up hope, you'll always repulse people."

For example, the idea of things that you can reasonably expect. If you are hygenic, and try to look as best as you can, and learn to genuinely make friends with, and connect with people, yes, you can probably reasonably expect that someday you, too, will romantically connect with someone. I don't see that as a problematic sense. It's only when the person edges over from "reasonable general expectation" to "specific unreasonable expectation."

There's a world of difference between "I have faith that there's someone out there for me, too," vs. "she owes me sex," and I wish we had different words to describe them.
posted by tyllwin at 4:28 PM on May 28 [15 favorites]


there's something foul about about comparing the deeply mentally disturbed with nerds.

Yeah, that's why the "We were the Elliot Rodgers." line annoyed me. I wanted to yell "Were you diagnosed with mental illness as a child? Did you spend your pubescence heavily treated and pumped full of mind-altering chemicals that occasionally have some very nasty side-effects. No? Then you were not fucking Elliot Rodgers."

Lots of nerds are angry, entitled, and misogynistic. Lots of nerds are lonely and sad and wish someone loved them. Very few nerds go on a killing sprees. All the people using this one as a pretext to show off their enlightenment or give orders is gross.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 4:29 PM on May 28 [4 favorites]


Man do I relate to that #1, MikeMc. Looking back at highschool days, I cringe to think of the clear signals I totally, blitheringly missed at the time. Even from girls I was crushing on.
posted by rifflesby at 4:30 PM on May 28 [3 favorites]


it's a mix of good individual advice and rotten social outlook

the world can't be fixed, so screw it and commoditize yourself

my generation did that - and a lot of younger generations hate us for it

me, i have the strange idea that the world - society, does actually owe you something like an environment where some random asshole doesn't slap you in the face just for the hell of it

(it does not owe you a hot girlfriend, though)
posted by pyramid termite at 4:41 PM on May 28 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that's why the "We were the Elliot Rodgers." line annoyed me. I wanted to yell "Were you diagnosed with mental illness as a child? Did you spend your pubescence heavily treated and pumped full of mind-altering chemicals that occasionally have some very nasty side-effects. No? Then you were not fucking Elliot Rodgers."

Lots of nerds are angry, entitled, and misogynistic. Lots of nerds are lonely and sad and wish someone loved them. Very few nerds go on a killing sprees. All the people using this one as a pretext to show off their enlightenment or give orders is gross.


See, I think this misses the point entirely. If there's something foul here, it's comparing children with mental disorders -- shit, children being treated, or at least children people are trying to treat -- to children who will grow up to shoot people. Look, I can do this too. Lots of people on medication for mental illness are lonely and sad and wish someone loved them. Very few of them go on killing sprees. Did you develop such a groundswell of hate for other human beings, and women in particular, that you shot up a school? Do you even want to do this? No? Then you are not fucking Elliot Rodgers.
posted by dekathelon at 4:44 PM on May 28 [2 favorites]


I'm glad I'm not the only one who didn't like this.

I didn't like this primarily because I'm loathe to take life advice from sci-fi writers and public access comedy show hosts.
posted by MikeMc at 4:46 PM on May 28 [2 favorites]


Lots of nerds are angry, entitled, and misogynistic. Lots of nerds are lonely and sad and wish someone loved them. Very few nerds go on a killing sprees. All the people using this one as a pretext to show off their enlightenment or give orders is gross.

This is something that's bothered me about some of the things I've read in the past few days. This isn't to excuse or minimize misogyny or male entitlement. Those things are real and far too common. They certainly played a role in Elliot Rodger's derangement.

On the other hand, I really hope that the cultural takeaway from this episode isn't a belief that being a love-entitled male nerd is somehow a stepping stone towards becoming a mass murderer.
posted by seymourScagnetti at 4:47 PM on May 28 [4 favorites]


1. I was dense. A girl would basically have to scream "I LIKE YOU!!!!" in my face before I would accept that weren't "just being nice" (my wife says I'm still like this).
I don't need a wife to tell me I was and am still like this :-(

This essay seems a little off to me, for some reason. There's nothing particularly wrong with what he says, it's just, I don't know, like a picture hung ever so slightly crooked somehow.
posted by dg at 4:52 PM on May 28 [2 favorites]


Regardless of what made Rodger tick I think this (and Chu's similar article) hits on a lot of points that are due for some exploration and a lot of cultural ugliness that needs some sunlight. I think a look at the comments section of any article about the Isla Vista shooting makes this obvious.
posted by oinopaponton at 4:56 PM on May 28 [2 favorites]


Reddit sums it up thusly:

1. Be attractive
2. Don't be unattractive


Reddit, as usual, misses the point pithily. The actual two-step way to improve your relations with humans are as follows:

1. Be interesting
2. Be interested

DO things. Care about stuff. Have a hobby, have a passion, have three! Have things that you do because you want to do them. Ideally, have these be things that you DO, not just watch or read or eat or buy, things you can work at and improve on. Be interesting.

And then, be interested in other people's things. Not fake-interested-waiting-to-talk, but really interested. Experience the people in your life as full complete humans with their own passions and hobbies and joys and sorrows, with their own stories and dreams and fears. You're not going to connect with everyone this way, but you'll certainly make it a hell of a lot more likely.
posted by KathrynT at 4:56 PM on May 28 [48 favorites]


Here is the best piece on Elliot Rodger I've seen so far.

It's critically different because it holds him accountable while having empathy for the fact that he was destroyed by pressures of toxic masculinity that we all face.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 4:56 PM on May 28 [2 favorites]


I wanted to yell "Were you diagnosed with mental illness as a child? Did you spend your pubescence heavily treated and pumped full of mind-altering chemicals that occasionally have some very nasty side-effects. No? Then you were not fucking Elliot Rodgers."

As the parent of a child diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome at age 6 who currently takes three psychoactive medications, I say this reasoning is crap. The same assertions came out when it was Adam Lanza - "Oh it's those people we need to worry about, not nice normal people like us." Like grasping at any straw to attribute those acts to "them" rather than "us".
posted by Daily Alice at 4:59 PM on May 28 [12 favorites]


Reddit sums it up thusly:

1. Be attractive
2. Don't be unattractive


Which is only true if you open up the definition of "attractive" to include all the various ways that people might be interested in you and/or you might be interested in other people. Or what KathrynT said.
posted by jessamyn at 5:00 PM on May 28 [6 favorites]


Man do I relate to that #1, MikeMc. Looking back at highschool days, I cringe to think of the clear signals I totally, blitheringly missed at the time. Even from girls I was crushing on.

Not that it's 100% on-topic, but I really love these two MeTas, which are about exactly this:

Regrets, I've had a few

Lead me to my people.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 5:01 PM on May 28 [4 favorites]


Which is only true if you open up the definition of "attractive" to include all the various ways that people might be interested in you and/or you might be interested in other people.

I was going to say this, I mean I'm sure we all know there are people who are physically attractive but have unattractive personalities but that would probably be giving whatever Redditor came up with that saying too much credit.
posted by MikeMc at 5:11 PM on May 28


I think while Chris' writing makes some sense it's missing the mark...

I did not make a single friend in school, when I left at 18 I never talked to anyone there ever again. If I could go back in time to my old self and tell me what I know now it would have changed nothing. Telling me this advice is useless: it's just as useless as thinking telling all the fat people they just need to eat less and exercise more to fix their problems. It's just as useless as telling all the unemployed people that they need to better themselves and become productive members of society, because everyone wants to be a productive member of society. It's about as useful as telling a depressed person they just need to be more positive. And everyone in the room nods sagely.

I think he's got cause and effect mixed up. I'm in a pretty good place in life right now. If asked, I might even parrot the exact same things Chris Gethard says, but I would be really wary of offering it as advice. It's like you hear the advice from entrepreneurs is "don't be afraid to take risks" because, in the pool of risk taking entrepreneurs, 99% fail and are forgotten, the 1% succeeds wildly and gets interviewed by journalists and his advice gets into the news because that's what worked for him... no journalist tries to find the 99% who failed and vanished. Theoretically if you had a pool of risk averse entrepreneurs where 40% succeeded only very modestly you would never know it could be more optimal because no one bothers to interview them either...

While I am criticizing what he is saying I don't really have an alternative myself. But maybe it's because there isn't a magic phrase you can say to someone to change their worldview. As has been stated further up the thread, building one's true self-confidence is probably the first step: that has to happen before you can say this magic phrase.
posted by xdvesper at 5:25 PM on May 28 [12 favorites]


Also worth a read is reappropriate's article wherein the topic of emasculation of Asian-Americans is explored.
posted by L9 at 5:26 PM on May 28 [1 favorite]


The similarity between the link's advice and the circumstances which facilitate the "now that I finally met someone, everyone wants to date me!" effect are interesting. It's one thing to say you don't need someone else -- whatever that means coming from a species of loving dreamers -- but when you don't because you already have a partner, something subtle is different which often makes you more attractive. What is that something? How do you replicate it by yourself? I think that on a fundamental level, it's about validation. This is where things become tricky because in order to make progress here, you have to be willing to undertake an exercise of willpower, both to come to terms with specifically what you need to do to move forward, but also to actually do it, and even, or especially, to start in the first place. As an impressionable kid, how do you learn to validate yourself when even the attempt seems worthy of ridicule?

For as much as the so-called American Dream is about a house with a white picket fence and economic success, it's also about the family who lives inside. As a man, to challenge the nature of your relationships with women is to raise questions which strike dangerously close to the core of the sort of identity those of us who grew up with television have likely had cast for ourselves. To think of the myths, both personal and public, which must be overturned to begin to become a more whole person, someone who is already a partner with themselves and is therefore naturally in a state of "now that I just met someone, everyone wants to date me," all of these things are daunting, absolutely terrifying. Even if you have the best support system in the world, it's possible to fail at this process. At every step it's easier to blame someone else, to surrender agency to the notion of being downtrodden, a victim of processes beyond your control or understanding. What if your support system is non-existent?

No one really ever talks about this sort of thing and I find it hard to summon the words to do so even now.

On another note, we can't be all that surprised when a generation of children raised to desire the unattainable via advertising turns out to have unfillable voids in their hearts.
posted by feloniousmonk at 5:29 PM on May 28 [7 favorites]


dear god all that reddit shit is fucking gross as hell

the whole "also you dress like shit" thing is just showing the vomit icing on the shit cake of these dude's entitlement: they think the world owes them a hot girlfriend and will mock women who don't fulfil their standards, using the whole "well I'd never want to fuck you" thing as if the women they're spewing their misogyny all over give a shit

and they're convinced that the world owes them this conventionally attractive model-perfect woman-object while they cannot bother getting shirts that fit, trimming their neckbeards, taking care of their hair or making themselves smell decent

it's the fact that they expect so much more of women than they are willing to bother putting into themselves

and if you don't believe me look at anyplace on the internet where these fucking douchecanoes gather to mock women and see them all criticize their appearances. look at the shit Lindy West and Anita Sarkeesian get.

every time I hear that "be attractive don't be unattractive" thing it makes me want to start lighting everything on fire. I left reddit for a reason why does reddit keep coming to me
posted by NoraReed at 5:30 PM on May 28 [14 favorites]


"Be Attractive. Don't Be Unattractive" is from a SNL skit from 10 years ago about avoiding a sexual harassment lawsuit. It had Tom Brady in it.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 5:36 PM on May 28 [2 favorites]


This is the skit.
posted by jessamyn at 5:38 PM on May 28 [5 favorites]


And then, be interested in other people's things. Not fake-interested-waiting-to-talk, but really interested. Experience the people in your life as full complete humans with their own passions and hobbies and joys and sorrows, with their own stories and dreams and fears. You're not going to connect with everyone this way, but you'll certainly make it a hell of a lot more likely.

YES THIS. Goddamn if I'd had the self-awareness to understand this concept in high school when I was such a loner loser outcast of an "underachiever". Oh sure, I got told all the time that I was too smart to be failing, and I hated my school life because I was constantly bullied, but you know it also occurs to me that I was a stuck up, holier-than-thou, sanctimonious, uninteresting, disengaged, no-eye-contact-making, mopey, slovenly, boring, hateful asshole. You know, no fucking wonder I had no friends, looking back on that timeframe. I had literally zero social skills and no motivation to even bother, and I'm not proud of that attitude, actually. Being a cynical angsty jerk isn't interesting or being a square peg or whatever nerd culture polish you want to put on it, it's just being a jerk. But the message I got sold and latched onto tight with both hands (partly because I got told this by most of the adults in my life and partly because I wanted so badly to believe it) was that "oh, it's fine, you're smarter than they are, and they're just immature jealous bullies, you'll see, it'll all work out once you get older." So, rather than actually give me any motivation to figure out my own shit, all I got was a bunch of validation that it was just fine to continue being an asshole to my peers. And yeah, you reap what you sow.

I'm still working on the human relations angle to this day, because I have to constantly remind myself not to tack my framing all over other people's motivations, and that other people actually don't usually care enough about me to piss me off on purpose. Mostly because they've usually got their own shit going on to deal with, and I should probably cut them some slack and try kindness instead of giving them the stink eye.

if I treated people now like I did when I was between the ages of, oh, ten and probably about twenty-five, I'd be a) probably unemployable and b) isolated and bitter and forever alone in a 2 room apartment full of cats and dirty dishes and overdue library books.
posted by lonefrontranger at 5:44 PM on May 28 [14 favorites]


that columbine book by cullen is just straight up wrong. those kids were absolutely bullied extensively and constantly. from this book:
In fact, a typical Columbine school day for Harris and Klebold was hell. Former student Devon Adams told the Governor's Columbine Review Commission that the boys were regularly called "faggots, weirdoes, and freaks."
As one member of the Columbine High School football team bragged after the massacre, "Columbine is a good, clean place except for those rejects. Most kids didn't want them there... Sure we teased them. But what do you expect with kids who come to school with weird hairdos and horns on their hats?... If you want to get rid of someone, usually you tease 'em. So the whole school would call them homos."
Harris got it worse than most, not just because he dressed weird or was one of the computer nerds, but also because he was short, he was a transplant from out-of-state, and, due to an embarrassing indent in his chest, he never took his shirt off during P.E., giving the jocks more ammo to attack him.
Former Columbine student Brooks Brown recounted one incident: "I was smoking cigarettes with [Klebold and Harris] when a bunch of football players drove by, yelled something, and threw a glass bottle that shattered near Dylan's feet. I was pissed, but Eric and Dylan didn't even flinch. 'Don't worry about it, man,' Dylan said. 'It happens all the time.'"
Once, a student reported them to the administration for allegedly having brought drugs to school, just to humiliate them for a laugh. Harris and Klebold were dramatically removed from class and searched -- as were their lockers and cars. No drugs were found, but the damage was done. Another time, according to a report, students surrounded them in the cafeteria and threw ketchup at them.
They were so marked for abuse that even talking to them was dangerous. One female student recounted how, when she was a Columbine freshman, some jocks spotted her talking to Dylan Klebold in the school hallway between classes. After she walked away from him, one of the bullies slammed her against the lockers and called her a "fag lover." None of the students came to help her -- and when asked later why she didn't report the incident to the administration, she replied, "It wouldn't do any good because they wouldn't do anything about it."
Klebold and Harris weren't the only victims of bullying. Debra Spears, whose stepsons attended Columbine in 1994-1995, said, "It was relentless. The constant threats walking through the halls. You had a whole legion of people that would tell you that just going to school was unbearable." Her stepsons both dropped out and never earned their diplomas -- Columbine essentially destroyed their lives.
it goes on for a while with more examples and explains how the bullying was tolerated all the way to the top but my wrist hurts.
posted by p3on at 5:46 PM on May 28 [17 favorites]


If I could go back in time to my old self and tell me what I know now it would have changed nothing. Telling me this advice is useless: it's just as useless as thinking telling all the fat people they just need to eat less and exercise more to fix their problems.

I agree that the essay as written actually appeals to people like him now, not like he was. But, I think it is possible for an isolated and frustrated angry teenager to be guided by someone who was like that formerly. I have seen it happen.
posted by michaelh at 5:52 PM on May 28 [1 favorite]


michaelh - not only have I seen it happen, I've managed to succeed at it a few times. I coach collegiate bike racers.
posted by lonefrontranger at 5:58 PM on May 28 [3 favorites]


The reason I liked this is that I like things that opens a general conversation about expectations for social interaction, how to be a good person, what community values are or should be, and because so much of this is grey and determined by the people in the culture, these need to be ongoing conversations.

What I didn't like it about it was that I disagreed with a large portion of it. I'm enjoying people's comments above.

I am a huge fan of intentional community and a community with a sense both of obligation and duty to each other and also of... yes entitlement that those in the community should have access to things they need to flourish. I like a "from each as able, to those as needed" mentality to duties in a community.

I think that like cells in the body have a duty to function beneficially for the system (and if they stop they are often marked for destruction as defective cells) we are part of a larger body and we are all meant to serve each other and we are all here for each other.

So in many ways I totally disagree with a lot of what he wrote. What I DO agree with, is that even if others fail you, you still need to ask why they are failing you, what is going on with them? Why don't they have a pro-social value, why don't they have empathy for people right in front of them? Is there something about you particularly that is hard for them, or are they just busy? For me, I just focus on learning why people fail each other so I can combat that in myself, since I can't change others. When I see what my own obstacles to changing within myself are, sometimes I know better what supports might help others also grow in empathy, awaken to it, and be able to do it for others more. It's really hard and not everyone has that much energy to put into relationships that aren't immediately easy. This is understandable. Often the better health we are in and the more supported we are, the more we have ability to deal with difficulties or caring for those who aren't giving us exactly what we want, but may have some gifts to offer if we give them a chance.

But the fact that I probably have a higher sense of obligation among people is also a really important reason to tease out where these obligations must end, as in, providing men with sexual service is not a publice service that women should feel indebted to men for as part of this system of support and goodwill. Mentoring people to help them treat their partners well and get there and meet people to have better chances, sure!!! Connecting people with opportunities to meet people in supportive environments where they might make friends and are encouraged to be supportive, yeah! Friendly supportive environments where people in need of social interaction can get it, yes!!! I think we should build community structures that make it possible for people to meet their needs and yes building a social group of some kind is a need that I think everyone should have and we should all help each other have access to.

But I just do think the major point that no one is obligated to give sex or romance to someone else just to appease their sexual needs just because they are a nice person... it's just messed up. And that's a needed statement.

How well his ramblings match up with the situation he thinks they apply to I'm not sure, but it's a good conversation to have in and of itself.
posted by xarnop at 5:58 PM on May 28 [1 favorite]


... even if others fail you, you still need to ask why they are failing you, what is going on with them? Why don't they have a pro-social value, why don't they have empathy for people right in front of them? Is there something about you particularly that is hard for them, or are they just busy?
Have to agree with this, but it has to work both ways and particularly so with empathy - it doesn't seem to have occurred to him that the person on the other side of the equation was hurting just as much as him and was dealing with it in the only way they knew how - by disengaging from the thing causing them pain.

I like the analogy to cells in a body - very apt.
posted by dg at 6:13 PM on May 28


And what I’m definitely not saying is “The world is right – you don’t fit in, so change.” What I am saying is – “You are you, and that is great, and there is someplace for you, so find your voice, use it, and find the people who do want to hear it, every day, because they’re out there and waiting and they’re lonely too, and you can help each other.”

Okay, the thing that is bugging me about this essay is that it's so very just world hypothesis. If you're just an awesome person you'll just find the perfect place for you? I mean, being awesome helps, but Gethard is acting like for every person there's a little niche in some hidden corner of the world out there just for them and I don't buy that. I would still advocate being a good person in all the ways he advocates, but in the long run I don't think it guarantees you anything.
posted by john-a-dreams at 7:05 PM on May 28 [10 favorites]


and they're convinced that the world owes them this conventionally attractive model-perfect woman-object while they cannot bother getting shirts that fit, trimming their neckbeards, taking care of their hair or making themselves smell decent

it's the fact that they expect so much more of women than they are willing to bother putting into themselves


yes this

really what is this please explain
posted by sweetkid at 7:29 PM on May 28 [1 favorite]


I was not liking the piece very much, but I was willing to give it some leeway, until he got to the point where he said that being hot is a risk factor for rape.

Just... no. Men don't rape women because they are so overcome with desire that sexual assault is some sort of compliment. People rape because they have decided that their wish to dominate another human being is more important than anything that human being wants, or feels, or thinks, and many offenders target vulnerable people whose stories will not be believed if they do speak up (so, people with mental illness, physical disabilities, or developmental delays; the elderly; trans women; women of color). Rape is not some sort of punishment or compliment for being a hot woman.
posted by jaguar at 7:55 PM on May 28 [14 favorites]


The piece is has a weird ambivalence. Up to a point is a paean to self-improvement and self-reliance p, and then it flips over to embrace passivity. No one owes you anything but you rarely get anything you don't decide that you don't owe yourself.
posted by MattD at 8:51 PM on May 28 [1 favorite]


Lots of nerds are angry, entitled, and misogynistic. Lots of nerds are lonely and sad and wish someone loved them. Very few nerds go on a killing sprees. All the people using this one as a pretext to show off their enlightenment or give orders is gross.

Well, statistically, nobody goes on killing sprees. If this incident is worth talking about, it's not because we think we can prevent one of these super-rare killing sprees. It's because it shines a spotlight on a boy who had really, obviously screwed-up ideas about women and relationships and his own sense of entitlement. And yet, those ideas are also not really that far from the mainstream in our popular culture.

Having ideas like Elliot Rodger's is a sad, terrible thing--for the person who has them and for the people around him--even if he never does anything violent. It's worth rooting them out of our own lives and calling them out when we see them in others.
posted by straight at 8:54 PM on May 28 [12 favorites]


The fine article has some good points even though the author still has some unpacking to do. Self-awareness is ever a challenge and requires constant vigilance.

For the first time in a long time I now work closely with several men who are within my same age group, and generally have all had very similar upbringings (raised Mormon/Protestant/Republican, in Utah/Nevada/Mountain West, and we all work in IT-related fields and thus of the types of personalities generally found in those kinds of roles, etc…). Before this time I was in a very different industry and working with folks from all other kinds of different backgrounds (ages from 30 - 65, queer, hetero, Christian/Jewish/Buddhist/Agnostic, pretty much everyone was multi-lingual and had lived in many different regions of the world…it was the travel industry and the walks-of-life skewed farther and wider). Basically I went from working nearly a decade within a multi-national multi-cultural team with a lot of years of experience to an extremely insulated, local, and young team that is 100% male.

The differences in POV and general attitude between these two groups has been really shocking. Even though I’m of the same age, race, upbringing and overall skillset as these new coworkers, in so many ways I feel somehow upgraded compared to them? It’s not a distinction I’ve shared out loud of course, and not meant as judgment of supriority, but I’ve definitely felt it through many of our non-work conversations. I try to have open and inquisitive conversations with these men and it’s almost as if we’re speaking different languages. I guess it’s the language of privelege? I don’t know, it’s very weird. These men are by all accounts succesful and happy and well-compensated, and generally they are not “angry young men” but there’s still a touch of that lurking in the corners of their discourse.

Whenever I try to point this out, even in the most innocuous of way, I’m immediately dismissed as being “a pussy” or “a sap” or at best “merely a fan of the underdog” or some other completely ignorant nonsense.

There’s a naiveté complicit in their entitlement. Just world fallacy, perhaps, or just that same old narrative that plays out over and over in our stories and our myths; the hero’s journey is always a man’s journey.

I think back on my own life. I was picked on and rejected a lot. I was a nerd, I was weird, I had bifocals like a grandpa at age 13. My parents couldn’t afford nice clothes and I had no fashion sense. I’m left-handed —admittedly an infinitesimally small prejudice but it makes a lot things harder to do, sports especially— , I once farted in math class in 8th grade and was forever branded with the nickname “Mr. Pooter”. I never really fit in with anybody. I still remember the insults and the teasing and the bullying.

But I was never “a Columbine kid”. Not for a second, not even for a breath. Oh sure, I fantasized about winning a fight with the scary skater kid who yelled evil shit at me and my one, single friend in the hall every day. But I never wanted to kill him. I never wanted to destroy anybody. I never felt that the world owed me anything at all.

Sports did not work for me. Music helped; I was in orchestra and choir. We were all misfits there and it was OK. But even that wasn’t what helped me. As I think about it I’m finding it’s very hard to pinpoint the things that led down better paths. I suppose it was my parents, my dad especially. He is not an articulate man and is not some enlightened feminist (indeed, I may be the only self-professed feminist in my whole immediate family). But something in the way he lived his life, or the words of encouragement he gave me, something resonated there.

I think it was the fact the he always told me that I couldn’t make anybody do anything, that I could only be in charge of myself. And that I shouldn’t live my life expecting others to do what I wanted. Or the the fact that, as a man who couldn’t speak with eloquence, he emphasized action and example. Maybe it was the way he talked to my mom during a disagreement; no matter how heated the exchange he was always the first to calm himself down and always the one to apologize, to look for his own culpability in the matter without any prompting from her. That always impressed me. My dad is the most sincere apologizer I ever met. As macho as he acts most of the time (retired army, still gets a high’n’tight, talks like John Wayne) at the end of it all he’s the first to take responsibility for his choices, the first to say “I’m sorry”.

Of course I still had/have some unpacking to do. Self-awareness is ever my challenge, but I think that it was my father’s insistence that “you can only do the right thing yourself and can’t expect anyone to follow you” that ultimately helped me see what really matters.

I feel for these angry young men, I pity their brutal ignorance. I feel even more for the victims of their hatred and violence. I don’t want to live in a world where this is the status quo. I don’t want to live in a world where the partriarchy is so insidious it isn’t even questioned. At the end, I only know that I can do the right thing…and maybe someday my friends who dismiss me as a sap will take a second look at their own assumptions.
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:38 PM on May 28 [12 favorites]


lonefrontranger: I hated my school life because I was constantly bullied, but you know it also occurs to me that I was a stuck up, holier-than-thou, sanctimonious, uninteresting, disengaged, no-eye-contact-making, mopey, slovenly, boring, hateful asshole.

Thank you, that was brave and deep and relateable for me -- I was poorly socialized, well-meaning but completely clueless in HS. All-male school didn't help.
Here's the thing -- everyone young person thinks they are nice, except for a tiny percentage of sociopaths. So for the lonely, it's always unfair.

Without self-awareness, or friends to offer advice, it's easy for denial about your shortcomings to overwhelm your judgment and turn your sadness into anger. The more socially inept you are, for whatever reason, the less you will want to face it because it's really painful to be that isolated, especially if you are just aware enough to know you are blowing it socially and lie awake at night, reliving painful moments of social humiliation over and over again in your mind.

I had decent and well-meaning (if checked out) parents with good values and enough money, and a few misfit friends, and was an avid reader so I slowly puzzled it out and didn't fall into the denial/anger/"that's frat boy mainstream bullshit" trap. But I was close enough to get a taste of it.

I'd say this: I really disagree with whoever said "people like this can't hear you, advising them is no use." I still remember a few random pieces of unsolicited advice -- from people I only sort of knew -- that did wonders toward socializing me and showing the route to better adjustment.
posted by msalt at 10:37 PM on May 28 [4 favorites]


they expect so much more of women than they are willing to bother putting into themselves
This is something I've long identified as pretty shitty behaviour, even long before I started to understand the prevalence of harmful patriarchal behaviour. I don't know how many times I've seen and heard a bunch of pot-bellied, unkempt, loud-mouthed yobbos comment negatively on the appearance of a woman due to some imagined tiny flaw in her appearance. Dudes, if you're going to set those kind of high standards for appearance, at least brush your fucking hair!
posted by dg at 12:57 AM on May 29 [3 favorites]


As a woman I've had many conversations with men who believe that they are entitled to my attention and affection and become angry when I don't "give" it to them.

I was talking to my partner the other day and trying to communicate the uniquely female experience of having a /significant/ proportion of my conversations occur with men who are entirely uninterested in actually talking to me. You know, the ones who approach and pretend to be interested but just fake a conversation in the hopes of instigating a sexual relationship then hightail it out of there when you communicate disinterest (at best) or become angry and aggressive (at worst). I think most women understand this experience. I remember going to college and being so lonely and not understanding why I seemed to be making so many guy friends who would never want to call or do anything with me once I mentioned I had a partner.

I'm a lot better at identifying the dynamics of these types of interactions now, and let me tell you, it's fucking exhausting to pour time and energy into so many fake conversations about nothing where the other party is clearly uninterested or mustering up a semblance of interest for completely selfish reasons. And to know that if you explain this to the other party, if you say "Look I'm not interested in having this bullshit fake interaction" that they won't know what you're talking about because it's an dynamic that they have never been on the other side of.

So the point of this is that if you are interested in approaching women with the exclusive intention of finding somebody to hook up with or begin a romantic relationship please have a little more respect and open yourself up to the possibility of making a new friend and being satisfied with that outcome. Because it really fucking sucks to be told again and again, implicitly, that your thoughts and ideas are only valuable or worth listening to if you're going to put out later. So no, don't just approach girls at parties for the point of meeting girls. We can tell. Approach women with the intention of meeting a new friend.
posted by pugh at 3:50 AM on May 29 [10 favorites]


they expect so much more of women than they are willing to bother putting into themselves

I don't disagree with this but I think it would be more accurate to say that they value the worth of women differently than they value there own. For them being nice, smart, and having interesting hobbies and interests makes them datable while for women the only criteria that really matters is how they look. This of course makes it more frustrating because they then focus on really narrow views of female beauty and increasingly fail to see women as people who have value beyond their physical appearance. Not that attraction to your partner isn't important but telling them to improve their physical appearance is really only a bandaid what's really needed is a much more holistic change.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 5:40 AM on May 29 [2 favorites]


Sheydem-tants: "I came to the blue just now to post this article, but I see zarq has beaten me to it, right down to the post title i would have chosen, making that the third time today (posts and comments). Jinx, zarq! "

Jinx! :)

Love your username, btw.
posted by zarq at 5:55 AM on May 29


Sorry my comment was cis-centered and heteronormative, I'd like to add that there exist a variety of these dynamics and while my experience is common it is in no way representative of everybody's and does not give any introspection or insight into LGTBQ experiences
posted by pugh at 7:01 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]


I was willing to give it some leeway, until he got to the point where he said that being hot is a risk factor for rape.

Just... no. Men don't rape women because they are so overcome with desire that sexual assault is some sort of compliment.


I recognize the world is full of people who will do stuff like using how someone dresses in an attempt to absolve themselves of responsibility, so it's easy assume someone who is connecting hotness with assault could be attempting to remove accountability from the discussion.

But acknowledging that being attractive might make a person a more frequent target for people who choose to sexually assault others is not the same thing as saying an attractive person is in any way responsible for other's choices. Accept them as equivalent statements strikes me as reinforcing the problematic concept rather than refuting it, and given the take-responsibility context of the article, it seems pretty clear to me the author wasn't guilty.
posted by weston at 10:16 AM on May 29 [2 favorites]


you don't deserve anything and there's never a guarantee that people will like you or want to date you

While that may be true, it's guaranteed to be an ineffective sales pitch for self-improvement.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:18 AM on May 29 [3 favorites]


tbh I've been both "conventionally hot/thin/blonde" and "plain-jane / mousy / fat / invisible / middle-aged" and various shades all along the spectrum throughout my 45 years on this planet and while I recognize the problematic nature of his statement, let me tell you something.

Being attractive, thin, young and vulnerable-looking attracts A LOT more attention of every sort (good, bad and dangerous), and along with that there's this whole weird subtext that goes with it that implies that if you do happen to be a young, pretty, female within conventional standards, suddenly EVERYONE, male, female, straight, gay, bi, lesbian, WHATEVER is somehow weirdly entitled to Have All Kinds Of Opinions about you without actually, you know, acknowledging you as a human being first. And frequently they will have these opinions based purely on your outward appearance before you even open your mouth. Which, yeah, I'm willing to try to give people the benefit of the doubt but that's all kinds of messed up.
posted by lonefrontranger at 10:39 AM on May 29 [9 favorites]


But acknowledging that being attractive might make a person a more frequent target for people who choose to sexually assault others is not the same thing as saying an attractive person is in any way responsible for other's choices. Accept them as equivalent statements strikes me as reinforcing the problematic concept rather than refuting it, and given the take-responsibility context of the article, it seems pretty clear to me the author wasn't guilty.

That is not what I was objecting to. I do not think the author was putting any blame on victims. I do think he was implying that unattractive women are not raped, which is laughably untrue and which frames sexual assault as being about attraction rather than about domination.
posted by jaguar at 10:46 AM on May 29 [2 favorites]


jaguar: " That is not what I was objecting to. I do not think the author was putting any blame on victims. I do think he was implying that unattractive women are not raped, which is laughably untrue and which frames sexual assault as being about attraction rather than about domination."

I do not see that, in any way, in the essay.

If I had, I would not have posted it.
posted by zarq at 10:48 AM on May 29 [3 favorites]


zarq, he says it flat out:
“I’m sure [hot girls] get into clubs I can’t get into, or get drinks served to them without waiting as long as I have to. But they also get judged for wearing the clothes they wear. Or get pressured for not putting out. Or have to worry constantly, at least a little in the back of their mind, about getting raped.”

The guy just stared at me.

“I don’t know dude,” I said. “Hot girls don’t have it easy.”
"Hot girls" never once expands out to "all women" in that discussion.

It's not the main point to the piece, and I don't judge you negatively for posting the piece, and it is quite possible in the zeal to be rhetorical the author ended up saying something he doesn't actually believe, but the assertion that sexual assault is "hot-girl problem" is most definitely there.
posted by jaguar at 10:52 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]


I wanted to yell "Were you diagnosed with mental illness as a child? Did you spend your pubescence heavily treated and pumped full of mind-altering chemicals that occasionally have some very nasty side-effects. No? Then you were not fucking Elliot Rodgers."

To be precise, no one was fucking Eliot Rodgers. He was quite clear about that.
posted by baf at 10:53 AM on May 29 [3 favorites]


Re: the need for self-awareness -- Pretty sure Rodgers considered himself very self-aware.
posted by janey47 at 10:59 AM on May 29


the problem is one of perspective though. and I'm not sure it's easily explained.

self-aware is not self-centred, which is also not solipsism - the 3 are distinct states of mind that, confusingly enough, can also exist in parallel.

and, having been various shades of all 3 in my life I can tell you they do all feel fairly similar from within especially before you've developed much life experience. sometimes the only cure for this conflation is having someone you respect sit you down and explain the differences and tell you "hey, you know, I get that shit is bugging you, but you need to figure out how to deal with it more graciously because it's really tough to enjoy being around you when you act this way."
posted by lonefrontranger at 11:39 AM on May 29 [2 favorites]


jaguar: " "Hot girls" never once expands out to "all women" in that discussion."

Hrm. Am going to try and explain my thinking here... hopefully I won't sound like a total, naive idiot.

One of the major complaints that MRA's like Elliot Rodger seem to consistently have is that they are entitled to but aren't getting sex from pretty, young, popular women. I haven't read the whole thing, but from what I can see, Rodger's manifesto contains quite a few references to humiliation and mistreatment by pretty women -- as if they are the only group that matters. And of course we know that the Pick Up Artist movement teaches men that not only are they biologically, socially and culturally dominant over women (and therefore entitled to women’s bodies,) but also that women who don't give them sex are somehow evil and deserve to be hurt or punished. So you have a paired group of movements that seems to specifically target attractive women -- not just all women.

My impression of the essay is that it is directly addressing this mindset, by attempting to counter destructive attitudes regarding male entitlement with regard to "hot" women. By speaking to angry young men who are disgruntled because "hot" women won't give them the time of day -- which they're entitled to because they're really "nice" guys. Or just because they are guys.

It resonated with me in part because (I can't remember which thread on Mefi or perhaps Metatalk? that I saw this, but) I remember reading a string of comments from women who said that it was almost a relief to hit their 40's and 50's because the catcalling and abusive comments from male strangers trickled to a halt.

Because of all of this, it actually didn't occur to me that what he was saying could be interpreted as (as you say) a "hot-girl problem." I sort of felt that he was responding to the PUA/MRA prevalent mindset. But having re-read it and this thread, and also from your last comment, I now see how it could come across that way. I'd like to think that was inadvertent on his part. But perhaps that's wishful thinking.

For whatever it's worth, I did feel conflicted about this essay before posting it, because I thought that he might be establishing false equivalencies for people who are socially different or outcasts. I'm sorry that I was defensive to you earlier.
posted by zarq at 11:44 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]


Sorry my comment was cis-centered and heteronormative, I'd like to add that there exist a variety of these dynamics and while my experience is common it is in no way representative of everybody's and does not give any introspection or insight into LGTBQ experiences
posted by pugh at 17:01 on May 29 [+] [!]


There's no need to apologize for giving your point of view. Your comment was a fine expression of what you experienced. You are not expected to speak for everybody.
posted by Gringos Without Borders at 12:18 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]


self-aware is not self-centred,

I'd go so far as to say they're almost opposites. To me, to be self-aware means you've got a pretty good grip on how your actions etc are being received/perceived by others -- you're functioning socially. Whereas self-centered, though not necessarily selfish, means you have a hard time penetrating your particular subjectivity -- the world really is revolving around you.
posted by philip-random at 12:21 PM on May 29


I appreciate what the article says about how "hot girls" don't have it easy. I'm a former "hot girl" and have kind of worked at not being so "hot" in the eyes of others (while learning to, oh, actually enjoy sex instead of remaining frigid following being raped and molested as a kid) and life is so much better now that I turn heads somewhat less.

But I have conflicted feelings about some of the other points. On the one hand, I routinely promote the idea that if you consistently have X problem, it is easier to work on yourself than to expect the world to change. On the other hand, while I do not believe the world "owes" anyone anything, I am a big believer in the idea that individual outcomes are not the same as individual accomplishments -- that the results we get are always part of a larger group dynamic and how other people treat us helps shape how we behave, for better or for worse. Thus if the world wants better results socially, people should generally try harder to be decent to each other.

When I took intro to psychology in college, I realized my difficult husband had five of the six traits lists in the typical profile of a serial killer. My oldest son is much like his father and likely has those same five traits. And he seems to walk around with a social black cloud over his head in some ways. If he has to talk to someone in authority, they routinely act like he is intentionally a trouble maker the minute he opens his mouth. (We think this is due to him lacking the ability to read prosody and tone match his voice to signal deference.) If I had not witnessed it firsthand over and over, I would not believe how negatively people react to him at basically first blush.

But he is not a serial killer, in part because I simply removed him from public school and I don't have any problem with his lack of "respect" for authority since my parenting model is not authoritative. I get along well with him and he does not have the long history of abuse typical of a serial killer. He has the wiring but he does not have the embittering social history that I think is probably the more important factor in creating a monster.

So while I am big on suggesting people look to the man in the mirror (so to speak -- regardless of gender), I also think society needs to work harder on not creating monsters by the way we treat other people, basically.
posted by Michele in California at 12:27 PM on May 29 [7 favorites]


See, this is the invisibility thing again. jaguar touched on this upthread, but sexual assault is framed as a "hot girl problem" when it's a much broader issue; the "hot girls" (and let's be clear who's meant here: who are usually thin, who are usually middle-class or above, who are usually white, etc.) are simply the ones who are more likely to have social networks, to have the ability and sense of personal security to be able to speak up, to be supported if they decide to speak out, to be seen sympathetically -- to be cared about, basically. It's not that they experience higher rates of assault, it's that they're the ones you ever hear about. This stretches back as far as the Middle Ages when knights would fall over themselves to proclaim their unrequited courtly love for the noblewomen they admired, while secretly raping peasant women without anyone giving much of a damn.

In other words: It's the difference between "worrying constantly, at least a little in the back of their mind, about getting raped" and "worrying constantly, a least a little in the back of their mind, about getting raped and then no one giving a fuck."

(Also, "everyone having an opinion on you just based on appearance" is not a "hot girl problem" either. Fat women get this constantly -- the Internet literally just went through a round of Louie thinkpieces about it! People of color get this constantly. Et cetera.)
posted by dekathelon at 1:03 PM on May 29 [6 favorites]


In other words: It's the difference between "worrying constantly, at least a little in the back of their mind, about getting raped" and "worrying constantly, a least a little in the back of their mind, about getting raped and then no one giving a fuck."

Oh, I assure you, people mostly did not give a fuck that I was raped. Being pretty does not automatically or by itself get you better friends or social support. That is kind of a separate issue. In fact, I was told things like "boys will be boys" and "everyone makes their little mistakes" and "you should be more forgiving." Granted, that was a nicer thing to be told than what a lot of girls get told (like they are lying and they should stop dragging Uncle Joe's name through the mud like that) but I figured out in my teens that if something bad happened to me sexually, no one would really care and being completely innocent (because I was a prepubescent 12 year old when it happened) was absolutely not any kind of defense in the eyes of the world or guarantee of support. So the main take-away for me was that I decide who I get jiggy with because being "a good girl" has essentially zero value when you most think it should, so I might as well at least enjoy myself when I have the chance but because, should bad things happen, the world will essentially say "welp, too bad, so fucking sad, moving on, bitch."

And having been on both sides of the fence, I am absolutely clear that while I am not 100% safe from assault or harassment these days, I do get a helluva a lot less shit. Plus, I have spoken up before on metafilter about how all women are equally treated like just sex objects and this equally hurts the women who are being ignored and the women who are being given excessive attention. It isn't like being homely is some guarantee of career success because no one thinks of you in that way. So I don't much care to have it hung on me that I am unaware of how badly women get treated generally or something.

I have no reason to believe I am "ugly" but I am older and I dress different and behave different than I used to. It is not just that my looks are "worse" than they were. It is a lot more complicated than that. I have worked hard at being "less eye catching" in several senses because I tend to be a train wreck of excess negative attention just waiting to happen online as well, without any photos required. So I think this is a much more complicated topic than just looks per se. But I did, at one time, ascribe to the societal value that I needed to look "hot" to be "successful" as a woman in some sense. And I no longer believe that and my life is less fucked up than it used to be.
posted by Michele in California at 1:13 PM on May 29 [6 favorites]


I'm going to add my vote to the "interesting but slightly problematic" opinion pool. The message that other people aren't obliged to be attracted to you is such an obvious but unspoken fallacy. It becomes clear one you turn it around and demand the person sleep with someone they aren't attracted to. On the other hand parts of it were a bit bootstraps.txt.

One thing I want to throw in which took me a long time to realise is that communication is between people not contained within one or the other.

That is to say that if communication is awkward or there isn't much connection that doesn't necessarily mean that either person is doing something 'wrong.' Merely that they don't work together.
posted by Erberus at 1:49 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]


yes, philip-random and having been a teenager, with a vivid memory of that time, the difference can feel fairly subtle especially to someone with poor socialization, limited or distant role models, or simply lacking life experience. Added to which I was an only child of a single parent raised in a rural setting, which, being a bookish brooding child already, meant I kind of mentally imploded. That kind of isolation doesn't provide many examples for cultural or psychological growth, far from it. I would put my peer-relational social skills as a 5th and 6th grader at about a kindergarten level, and that's probably being charitable. And I didn't care because I got along with adults for the most part and didn't think kids "mattered" at all.

How do you explain to a kid that age (which I can tell you is an extremely egocentric age to be) the difference between seething and self-reflection? It's a pretty fine distinction, and digging through the layers of resentment to get to any kind of understanding, well that can take awhile, and I got to be a pro at stonewalling the couple of (well meaning but ultimately useless) therapists I was referred to. Because you see they were telling me shit I didn't like about myself, so I just went away to be in my alone place inside and ignored them because No One Understands Meeeeee!

I'll freely admit the majority of kids probably do learn age appropriate socialization as they progress throughout school, although they'd be hard pressed to articulate it in correct clinical psychological terms. Having resources like siblings and friends in a typical social suburban / urban setting teaches social framework in a way that growing up a latchkey kid on a rural farm setting simply does not. Not only was I raised by a series of physically and emotionally distant adults, I also had extremely few stable role models, so things like learning to not stare at people, or blurt out random factoids in the middle of class because the teacher was Being Wrong Again, or just basic empathy for my fellow humans was never high on their list of priorities. I was just told it would all sort itself out once I got older.

And this combination of social anxiety, hormones and unexpressed rage can lead to a situation where an isolated angsty teenager will just start fucking with people for the pure sake of fucking with them, because why the hell not, it's not like they're going to accept you anyway; they'll never stop bullying you because you are Teh Weirdz, and it's a lot better than being ignored. For me that meant bright orange and green frost eyeshadow and black eyeliner and big spiky dreadful hair and dressing like the Ally Sheedy character in Breakfast Club and stomping around slamming lockers and telling people to fuck off, and putting my feet up on the desk so I could theatrically read War and Peace in the middle of 5th grade social studies, and just generally being an annoying misanthropic asshole, in a rural evangelically-conservative Midwestern school district that got stuck in a time warp somewhere around the mid 1950s. So yeah, I might as well have come from Mars.

Some of these kids lash out with violence, some cut, some purge, some even become genius level entrepreneurs or world leaders, and some commit suicide. There's not a one-size-fits-all answer here.

I do agree with Michele in California when she says it's in all our best interests not to create actual monsters, and furthermore I will go on to say that had I not had at least one trustworthy reliable adult mentor-who-was-not-a-family-member in my life during my late teens I would very likely not be here to annoy you by endlessly blathering on about my personal backstory. This is a big part of why I coach.
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:02 PM on May 29


zarq, you sound neither naive nor idiotic, and I totally agree that he was working with PUA/MRA faulty assumptions and trying to correct them. And since I'm obviously not the intended audience, I was trying, as I said, to grant some leeway.

I think he just got clumsy, in that in trying to debunk harmful myth A ("Hot girls have it easy"), he stumbled into reinforcing harmful myth B ("Rape and sexual harassment is about being uncontrollably attracted to someone"). The problem is that harmful myth B is one that a lot of the same PUA/MRA audience already holds -- internet comments are full of guys telling women that they're too ugly to rape, or that women should take rape threats as compliments -- and so reinforcing it is dangerous given the intended audience.

(And yeah, a lot of the constant low-level street harassment does diminish with a woman's age, but it does not always stop, and the risk of rape most certainly doesn't stop after a certain age, especially when you factor in marital rape.)
posted by jaguar at 2:46 PM on May 29 [2 favorites]


As of 2012, women were more than twice as likely as men to say they were afraid to walk in their neighborhoods at night alone. Their perceived sense of danger has notably declined since the 1970s, while male fear has remained fairly constant. The shift for women, Clement notes, doesn't appear to be generational. Rates of fear are similar now for women over age 65 as those ages 18 to 39. The same was true in the 1970s.
posted by jaguar at 4:28 PM on May 29 [2 favorites]


So basically, being "worried constantly about being raped" seems pretty uniform across age groups for women.
posted by jaguar at 4:44 PM on May 29 [2 favorites]


I really do like this essay, and I say that as a woman - and one who spent most of my school-age years being picked on for being a socially awkward nerd. Things really did change when I started looking at what it was that made people want to avoid me, and when it was inappropriate behavior on my part vs. unfairness on the part of others, which helped me get a good sense of when I could change things and when I should stop trying to fit in with people until they changed their own attitude. (It also helped that my high school was awesome, but that's neither here nor there.)

And at this point, even though I do still feel like my social life is not quite where I want it to be, I realize that most of it can be chalked up to my own anxieties and my own self esteem issues and my own overcompensation and my own failure to reach out to people, or to allow myself to be vulnerable, when I could. And I just started therapy so hopefully I'll beat that back too. :)

The one thing I do see that's missing from the essay is that also, a big part of adulthood is realizing this is all bullshit, and a lot of it disappears at that point. Some people still hold on to their old identities, but I think for a lot of us the gaps start to narrow between people because we stop slotting ourselves into strict categories and we allow for some room in our self-definition and in our social groups. I've pretty much got some interest in common with any given person, whether it's cats, or hiking, or board games, or goofy action movies, or reading the Sunday New York Times, or fancy beer, or bluegrass, or.... It's not, or at least it's not to the same extent, about who's a geek and who's a jock and who's a prep and who's a punk anymore. People just let go of that shit because they're adults.

As an aside, I think that it is okay to want companionship in life, though, and I think that's different from feeling entitled to sex with women, or to a relationship with any one particular person. Humans are social animals and we pair-bond, so there's nothing inherently broken about you for wanting a partner and feeling sad that you don't have one. I think it's just more what you decide to do about that (go out and meet people vs. rail against the world for failing you).
posted by capricorn at 6:18 PM on May 29 [4 favorites]


xdvesper: "If I could go back in time to my old self and tell me what I know now it would have changed nothing."

Ok, and yeah, it's not the advice I would have given my younger self. The advice I would have given my younger self is more like this: "Hey, you need to find avenues for socializing outside of your school where you have no friends, because there are lots of other little nerds out there who want to meet you and be your friend and write Star Wars fanfiction and they won't give you a hard time for the way you dress or eat or talk."

Which also gets into privilege a little because I lived in a well populated area and my parents had access to cars and were around to drive me places, but it would have worked for at least this one lonely kid.
posted by capricorn at 6:30 PM on May 29


Okay, the thing that is bugging me about this essay is that it's so very just world hypothesis. If you're just an awesome person you'll just find the perfect place for you? I mean, being awesome helps, but Gethard is acting like for every person there's a little niche in some hidden corner of the world out there just for them and I don't buy that.

Well... isn't there, to some extent? Maybe I just think that because the alternative is just too depressing, but it's hard for me to think that in a world this big that there's not people that can find each other and be friends.

Yeah, Gethard is writing a kind of Up With People sort of piece with a bit of flourish, like ending with how now his shit is all awesome. I also think he could have better phrased the stuff about changing one's own self to attract others. It would be far better to tell those folks to learn who you are, be comfortable with themselves, stop chasing an image of people/women and instead interact with them as fellow sentient beings.

But I don't know I can bag on an aspirational article for being kinda woowoo. I see it less as just-world and more as accept the role your own thoughts and choices play in how happy you are. There may not be many people who will Get You in your school compared to the bullies and jerks and choosing to accept yourself and aspire to better might not make the crap stop flowing. But it's got a better chance of making your life better than sitting and stewing that your fantasy of a woman isn't seeing you for the prize that you are.
posted by phearlez at 12:02 PM on May 30


Well... isn't there, to some extent? Maybe I just think that because the alternative is just too depressing, but it's hard for me to think that in a world this big that there's not people that can find each other and be friends.

I haven't. So am I a horrible person?
posted by dekathelon at 2:31 PM on May 30


No? Who said you're a horrible person? i feel like you're taking this conversation really personally.
posted by sweetkid at 5:11 PM on May 30


Pretty much all the commentary about the Rodgers case, including here, says "if you have no friends, THEN IT'S YOUR FAULT." The ones that don't say it directly say it via contrapositive: "if you are a good person and have a genuine desire to connect, then you will be liked." But these simply aren't true. If they were true, no one would ever be lonely except the bad people, and no bad people would ever make friends. And that's the "just world hypothesis" people are objecting to.
posted by dekathelon at 8:34 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


Well, I don't believe in good people/bad people in general, or good/evil in general, but a lot of people believe that and are going to say those kinds of things. It seems like Rodgers saw relationships with other people as transactional/status things and yeah, people are going to see through that really fast and not want to be friends with people who they perceive to have those motives.

I mean I think it's less, "If you have no friends it's your fault," and more, "there are ways you might need to look at yourself to see if you're really being empathetic, if you're really trying to connect to people because emotional connection is a thing we all need, rather than to get something out of the relationship." I mean sometimes I wonder if I could have "higher status" friends and get into different parties or whatever because of it. But I really like my friends genuinely and don't want anything from them but some of their time, if they are able and willing to offer it.

You just have to set your expectations really low, honestly, and expect the very best of people. Expect that everyone does the best they can to connect to others, that they want to, but it's hard, because they're nervous, worried about looking stupid, they're busy, whatever it is you're worried about yourself they're feeling too.

It's not about it being anyone's "fault," but yeah, if people can't understand empathy they are going to have a hard time with relationships of any kind.
posted by sweetkid at 9:09 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


Pretty much all the commentary about the Rodgers case, including here, says "if you have no friends, THEN IT'S YOUR FAULT." The ones that don't say it directly say it via contrapositive: "if you are a good person and have a genuine desire to connect, then you will be liked." But these simply aren't true. If they were true, no one would ever be lonely except the bad people, and no bad people would ever make friends. And that's the "just world hypothesis" people are objecting to.

It's not a shock to me that Rogers wasn't popular. He seemed very violent and threatening, and made no effort to hide it. He was trying to throw people off ledges and throwing drinks in their faces and sat alone in his room pulling the trigger on one of his handguns, and I would expect many people, especially women, to feel uncomfortable and afraid around someone who behaves that way. It's not like he was just some garden variety oddball, he was actively signalling to people that he was dangerous.

I'm pretty introverted and shy and am not a social butterfly type, and never have been. But that's not really a moral issue, and I don't think how many friends someone has or how they socialize is really a moral issue in general or says anything about how "good" or "bad" they are. Maybe there are roving gangs of "bad" people who all love the hell out of each other and would be considered popular -- it's not as though popular = good or moral or ethical in general, so that seems perfectly believable and a "bad"/immoral socially popular person doesn't seem like a contradiction.

Anyway, my issue with this essay is that it seemed to be saying (and maybe I misread this), that these guys should be (actually) nice, because then they'll be (actually) popular. No, they should be nice out of human decency and a sense of morality/empathy/ethics and out of a desire to not be a net negative in the world. If they're well-liked as well as being a good person I guess that's gravy. I mean, I'll settle for people acting with decency and some modicum of empathy out of selfishness and a desire to social climb or whatever, if the alternative is that they act like assholes, but...telling people to play nice or else nobody will want to play with you seems like a ridiculously infantile "lesson" to teach in an essay targeted to adults, to me.
posted by rue72 at 9:55 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


Listening to an interesting discussion on this subject on Tell Me More. Someone -- I forget who -- made the very good point that people are lumping together all sorts of socially inept or just plain evil boys and men who are very different, often under the ironic name "Nice GuysTM."

In real life, you have guys who are simply socially inept, and need someone to help them acclimatise: "hey, that girl seems to be signalling interest in you, did you notice?" or "I get the sense that you like XXXX, huh? Have you asked her out for coffee? That's what I would do, and just try to talk, forget about everything more serious...."

Other guys are flat out crazy and need treatment, or careful scrutiny. Others feel entitled, either because they grew up rich or famous, or are athletes or misogyny or who knows why. Others are emotionally stunted and need either counseling or I don't know, growth. Others fell under the sway of MRAs or Rush Limbaugh and have been brainwashed but can probably be converted. Others have dug in with oppositional mental frameworks about "mainstream bullshit frat boy brutes" that are stunting their self-awareness.

The killer here seems to be all of those things at once, plus a gun nut. But assuming we want to socialize all of these different groups properly, instead of just mocking them as losers, the solution is seeing the differences and reacting to them one on one with some tough love.
posted by msalt at 11:01 PM on May 30


Gethard is acting like for every person there's a little niche in some hidden corner of the world out there just for them and I don't buy that.
posted by john-a-dreams


Well, it depends. Basically, on whether everyone is a super-special snowflake or not. There are billions of people on the planet, and yeah, we're all special, but we're not that special (and I'm saying that, despite the number of people who think I'm a bit special/unique... :P ) that we can't find common ground, so yes, if you get out onto a bigger pool, you can more or less find people like yourself.

That comes round to his other major theme. Would you WANT to hang out with people are either similar to you, or who like the kind of person you are? If you wouldn't. If your own behaviour would be grating on you, or you look with contempt on people who like the kind of person you are, then yes. You need to change yourself.

So
a) We're not hugely special snowflakes
b) If you're a particularly prickly snowflake though, you're gonna want to sand some of those sharp edges off, especially if you wouldn't put up with getting jabbed by other people
posted by Elysum at 12:04 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]


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