Punished for not liking a NiceGuy ™

There’s an article making the rounds right now called To My Someday Daughter. The articles takes the form of a letter from gamer Geordie Tait to a daughter he may someday have, apologizing to her for the ways gaming culture will ostracize her, punish her and just generally treat her like crap – unless some things change between now and then, of course.

Tait zeroes in on a recent incident in the gaming community: Gizmodo recently published an article in which one of their interns, Alyssa Bereznak, discussed feeling duped by a man she met through an online dating service because his profile didn’t mention that he was a hardcore gamer – in fact, a champion gamer with many gamer fans. Bereznak talked about quizzing him to determine that he gamed often and gaming was a big part of his life, and that was when she lost interest. In response, many members of the gaming community called her all manner of gendered slurs, harped on how “shallow” she was, and just generally punished her for suggesting their champion wasn’t a good catch. [ETA: Bareznak did not name him in her article (found here). Gizmodo later edited the article to include his name, for reasons I cannot fathom. Any comments criticizing Bareznak for publicly naming him will be deleted, even though it's perfectly understandable why people are confused, because it won't make for a worthwhile comment thread if there are lots of comments about something that never happened, followed by lots of comments clarifying what did happen.]

Except Jon Finkel, the gaming champion she briefly dated. According to Tait, he never put her down as a person for deciding he wasn’t her type. I’ll have more to say on this in a minute. [ETA: based on this, Finkel may well be an actual nice guy as opposed to a Nice Guy (tm). The article title comes from my feeling that the gamers who punished Bareznak see him as a Nice Guy (tm) and therefore one of their own kind, and is not meant to impugn Finkel as a Nice Guy (tm).]

Here’s the thing: sexual freedom means you get to choose who you date. If you choose to date only within your race, then even if that’s a racist choice, sexual freedom demands that you be allowed to make that choice. If you refuse to date people who aren’t conventionally gorgeous, that’s your business. And if you don’t want to date gamers because you believe they will put gaming way ahead of you, then even if you’re wrong about that, it’s still your sexual choice. And you know why? Because the only person who stands to lose or gain from your fussiness is you.

In business situations, the law is intended to force bigots to hire qualified, quality workers no matter how they feel about those workers’ races, beliefs, orientations, etc. This is because people need jobs to feed themselves – it’s a matter of survival. It’s also because employment biases tend to be widespread, so it’s not like a worker rejected for his race can just go to another employer and expect a fair shake. Dating, on the other hand, is not a matter of survival. Nobody ever died of not dating. And while one person may refuse to date gamers, chances are someone else will consider your gaming a neutral or even positive factor.

Basically, your right to date is trumped by someone else’s right to pick and choose who they will date. This is really an issue of safety as well as sexual freedom: if someone you’re dating has no boundaries, they might hurt you physically, steal from you, deliberately chip away at your sense of self-worth, isolate you from friends and family, persuade you to make big life choices you’ll later regret (such as moving to a new city or giving up a career opportunity you really wanted), etc. Your dating choices don’t just impact your love life; they can potentially impact your whole future.

Finkel understood this. He may have disagreed philosophically with the way she seems to have painted all gamers with one brushstroke (as do I), but he managed to separate that from her right to pick and choose who she will date. He also managed not to take her rejection personally.

But now let’s look at the other side. I have to say that Bereznak’s article is inflammatory as far as I’m concerned, and had she left something like this snippet as a comment on this site, it would have been deleted by a mod based on the first sentence alone:

Just like you’re obligated to mention you’re divorced or have a kid in your online profile, shouldn’t someone also be required to disclose any indisputably geeky world championship titles?

I later found out that Jon infiltrated his way into OKCupid dates with at least two other people I sort of know, including one of my co-workers. Mothers, warn your daughters! This could happen to you. You’ll think you’ve found a normal bearded guy with a job, only to end up sharing goat cheese with a guy who takes you to a one-man show based on Jeffrey Dahmer’s life story.

Let’s break this down. More than likely, Finkel was neglecting to mention this facet of his life because he’s had negative knee-jerk reactions to it before, which are probably based entirely on stereotypes. But Bareznak treats this as a deception rather than a strategy for negotiating your way around stereotyping (the original version of the article said “This is what happens when you lie on your profile” – it has since been edited to “leave things out of your profile). By that logic, if Barenzak has ever been overweight, which means all those fat cells are still there just waiting to balloon up again even if she’s slim now, she should be sure to put that on her profile so that fat-phobic men can avoid her. And for heaven’s sake, if you’re a “feminist”, you should put that on your profile so that people who think “feminist” means “man-hating woman with butch appearance” can be sure to avoid you, even if you don’t hate men at all and look quite feminine. I mean, it’s up to all of us to protect stereotype thinkers from being confronted with the people they stereotype! Won’t someone please think of the stereotypers?

I do think the gaming community had reason to take offense at her thinking on this. The problem was that they conflated her thinking with her rejection of Finkel, and punished her for rejecting him – as if all would have been well if she’d just continued to go out with him, thinking perhaps, “Well, maybe this is an exceptional gamer, even if all the rest of them are immature, socially maladjusted people who aren’t worth knowing.” It’s as if gamers didn’t really care what she thought of them, so long as she puts out, so it was the not putting out that really bothered them. And that’s familiar, sexist territory for women – having men not care what’s in our brains as long as we provide them a sexual outlet.

And then there’s one last little thing, which is undeniably sexist: gamers chatting on about how stupid Bareznak is for not dating Finkel, on the basis that Finkel is in very good financial shape. Right, because what every woman wants is a man who will spend money on her, and when we unwittingly reject rich guys for any reason at all (valid or otherwise), the joke’s on us! Yes, guys, thank you for meeting Bareznak’s stereotyping of gamers (who, as mostly white, educated guys, are really not as disadvantaged a group as they might believe, as Tait points out) with the patriarchy’s 1950’s stereotypes about me. Screw how often a gamer games, or how good he is at it: if I ever find myself on a date with a gamer, I’ll be alert for signs he’s a sexist jerk. But then, I’m alert for those signs on any date, because instead of stereotyping people by how they spend their time, I actually try to get to know them. It’s neat, and so much more accurate than broad, baseless assumptions.

Comments

  1. Maria says

    More than likely, Finkel was neglecting to mention this facet of his life because he’s had negative knee-jerk reactions to it before, which are probably based entirely on stereotypes.

    Heh, see, I immediately assumed he did that because he didn’t want to attract gamer girls. IME gamer guys consider non-gamer girls a serious prize, as ick as that sounds.

    But Bareznak treats this as a deception rather than a strategy for negotiating your way around stereotyping (the original version of the article said “This is what happens when you lie on your profile” – it has since been edited to “leave things out of your profile).

    The thing is, I DO think that’s a deception. If gaming is such a big part of his life, then he must’ve been super deliberately careful not to mention it (or any interests associated with it) in his profile. Considering how much writing your OKC profile takes, that’s a lot of self-censor.

    By that logic, if Barenzak has ever been overweight, which means all those fat cells are still there just waiting to balloon up again even if she’s slim now, she should be sure to put that on her profile so that fat-phobic men can avoid her. And for heaven’s sake, if you’re a “feminist”, you should put that on your profile so that people who think “feminist” means “man-hating woman with butch appearance” can be sure to avoid you, even if you don’t hate men at all and look quite feminine. I mean, it’s up to all of us to protect stereotype thinkers from being confronted with the people they stereotype! Won’t someone please think of the stereotypers?

    I don’t think these analogies work — there are different social structures bashing women for taking up space (either mental or physical) and because having deets like that in your profile in OKC can lead to a lot of virtual harassment. I mean, shit, I used to get really hateful comments there all the time because of my pics, and sometimes that harassment went outside OKC into AIM.

    I think it’s more akin to having a hobby you’re really, super into… and choosing, throughout your profile, to not mention it, at all, even though part of the way OKC works is that you’re shown matches who’re supposed to be compatible with you in advance. It’s contrary to the purposes of that particular dating site, and it is, to me, a form of dishonesty. Like, if you were someone who was really, really, really into FANDOM X, and most of your friends were in fandom, and most of your social life involved fandom events and cosplay, and that didn’t come through in your profile? Not only would I be squicked at the fandom obsession (not really, y’all know my feelings about HP!) but at the crafted public persona. Because to me that says you’re comfortable presenting your real self in this predominantly male arena, but when it’s time to get laid/date, you feel like it’s cool to be fake.

  2. Sarah says

    I’d just like to point out that while the people bashing this lady have gone over the line and into demeaning and terrible territory, the gentleman she went out with did not and thus I must say I dislike the title of this article since he seems to have been a genuinely nice guy and not a ‘Nice Guy’. I understand this is directed toward a lot of the defenders who do seem to be ‘Nice Guys’ but I wanted to mention that the specific guy on the date seems to have been quite reasonable.

    Also he might have left out the Magic champion status for a two-fold reason – to avoid people assuming he’s a mouth-breathing basement dweller (as you point out) and also to avoid people who would geek out over it. I believe the article says that he didn’t bring up Magic or talk about it extensively on the date. She mentioned that her brother gamed and he mentioned that he played Magic. She googled him and found out his status. So I think he left it out simply because he didn’t want anyone making a big deal about it – either peope who would judge him or those who would automatically see him as a rival or hero.

  3. says

    Maria,

    Hmm, there may be gaming/online dating nuances that I missed, due to lack of experience with both activities. I don’t think what you’re saying invalidates the overall point, tho, that the quality of thinking behind one’s dating choices is a totally separate issue from one’s right to make dating choices, and many in the gamer community failed to make that distinction (though several others, apparently, made it just fine).

    Sarah,

    That’s a great point. You know why I titled it that? Because I was thinking of it from the perspective of the Nice Guys ™ who punished her. Nice Guys don’t distinguish truly nice guys from themselves, and rush to defend the honor of both Nice Guys and guys like Finkel indiscriminately – not even noticing that Finkel’s lack of interest in being defended. I’m not prepared to assume Finkel is a truly nice guy – I do think he behaved like one in the aftermath of all this, but we don’t know anything else about him (including, as Maria pointed out, his motives for hiding his gaming status). Hmm. The title still makes sense to me, but I will add in a note in the article regarding all this.

  4. says

    I’m glad to see there are gamers and geeks standing up for the Gizmodo writer. The original link was spread around my Twitter feed (mostly geeks; mostly women) when it first broke, tagged as “What a snob” or “This woman just pissed off all of geekdom”. Yet when I read it, I just saw a woman annoyed that her time had been wasted when she felt that waste could have easily been prevented. (Granted, I read the article post-edit; words like “dweeb” and “nerd” might have changed my opinion.)

    I also think the fact that this was a dating site skews perceptions of necessary truths. If I’m chatting with a coworker or a classmate and I decline to mention that I own over 500 speculative fiction books and regularly update a spec fic blog, that doesn’t affect them. They’re only ever going to be dealing with Professional!Sylvia. But if I’m trying to be friends or romantic/sexual partners with them, and I leave that out? Now they’re dealing with Personal!Sylvia, but they’re only seeing part of her. We’re trying to see if our lives will fit together, but they aren’t seeing a large part of my life that they’ll need to work around.

    And I want to come back to the idea of wasted time. Bereznak invested time, energy, emotion, and probably money into an evening that had no payout for her. And this is a gamble you take every time you go on a date, but Bereznak was annoyed because she felt this waste could have been prevented with a few simple words ahead of time. These Gamer Nice Guys don’t care about her lost investment. They feel she should have gone anyway and enjoyed herself and been grateful, because. Because he’s rich, because he has some limited fame, because if she would just look past his geek exterior she would see that he’s really a good person underneath. All of these are reasons that he should be entitled to her resources, no matter whether or not that investment is likely to further her goals or satisfy her desires. That is male privilege in a nutshell.

  5. says

    I’m a little uncomfortable with the implications that if you want to date, you must disclose your most time-consuming passions from the get-go. Maybe that’s true in online dating, if it’s catering to a specific type of dater. But my experience with showing people much of myself is that they will judge me harshly for something sooner or later because I run counter to the status quo/norms in, oh, about a thousand ways. When you’re “not normal”, people think the onus is on you to justify your right to be “not normal”, rather than just accepting that we’re not all the same.

    Why should I open myself up to judgment and ridicule just because I’d like to socialize with somebody for a couple of hours and see if we share any world views or compatible senses of humor or anything else that might work? It is unbelievably exhausting when every time you meet someone new, you know there is almost zero chance they will simply accept you, and instead they will actually object to who you are at the core, and your right to be who you are. I think there have ever been maybe 2-3 people in my life who actually accepted me for what and who I am.

    Like I said, if online dating is for people trying to forge serious relationships in a purposeful manner, then that’s different. If I was determined to marry, for example, then sure, I’d have to reveal myself more fully and then sit through 500 guys’ judgmental crap to get to the 1 guy who doesn’t think like that. But as long as I’m willing to take a no-strings-let’s-see-what-happens approach, I’m entitled to reserve the big reveals for after we’ve discovered we actually have any chemistry or anything. And that is a valid form of dating.

  6. says

    Jennifer Kesler: Like I said, if online dating is for people trying to forge serious relationships in a purposeful manner, then that’s different.

    That’s been exactly the case with my experience of online dating. It’s a large internet, though, so I’m guessing there’s something for everyone out there.

    I don’t see that as the central problem, though. I think Bereznak’s OP was making that argument (“online daters should mention timedrains that might present conflicts with their partner”) but the Nice Guys quickly derailed it with their outrage that a woman would ever dare Not Like something about a man. And as we all know, Not Being Liked is the worst thing that could ever happen to anyone, ever.

  7. says

    Sylvia Sybil,

    I agree that that’s not the central issue. I just couldn’t tell if you and Maria were saying this was deceptive only in an ONLINE dating context, or in general arguing that if I don’t reveal all the stuff people like to judge me on before the first date, I’m “lying” and “infiltrating”, to use Bareznak’s words. And I wanted to clear it up in case I wasn’t the only one reading this who felt that way.

  8. Maria says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    I’m specifically referring to online dating. IME online dating is a purposeful search for a particular type of partner and regular dating is more a “hey, let’s get to know each other” kind of thing. This of course depends on the site — I wouldn’t expect someone on, like FetLife or AdultFriendFinder to let someone know about timedrains, because that might not be the other person’s business, depending on the kind of encounter being negotiated. That’s why you’ll see that some of the etiquette of online dating is different from regular dating– IME you will see a ton of explaining and specifics in advance, particularly about expectations and time.

  9. says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    Oh, oh I see. That’s what was I trying to show with my example of a classmate growing into a friend/lover – at first you don’t tell them much and that’s OK because they don’t know you very well, but after a while when they’re your friend, it starts to feel like you’re hiding something important. (Rereading my own comment, I guess I got too hung up on labels and didn’t emphasize the growing relationship enough.) The purpose of online dating, as far as I’ve seen, is to skip that first step and go straight to the part where you know each other well.

  10. Mintywolf says

    I remember reading about this . . . kerfuffle . . . not too long ago. As for the situation itself, I can sorta see both sides; I can understand the thought of not wanting to mention something that someone might judge you for, until you’ve gotten to know one another. On the other hand, as I’ve progressed through life I’ve often discovered that those who *would* judge me harshly based on stereotypes aren’t worth my time anyway.

    It reminds me of the horrid book ‘the rules’ (a.k.a. how to build a relationship based on mind games); it warned against telling a man you date anything ‘unusual’, like ‘I have three cats.’ because they might never call you back. My response to that is that if they’re going to be like that, I don’t want them to call me back anyway. So while I understand the thought of wanting to not mention something like that, he probably should have. If something’s a large part of your life, it usually deserves a mention, and in my view it’ll save you time weeding out people you probably won’t be compatible with anyway.

    The fanboys on the other hand are another matter entirely. As far as I can tell, rational responses were few and far between. It would be awfully nice if people thought things through and came up with reasoned responses. :/

  11. Dom Camus says

    Maria, Your comment about gamers preferring to date non-gamers is nothing short of astonishing to me. In both the offline and online gaming communities I belong to, finding a partner who shares your hobbies is considered a HUGE advantage. Indeed, having been very fortunate in this respect myself I’ve literally lost count of the number of envious and/or rueful remarks I’ve had from my peers.

    Are you a gamer yourself? Assuming you are, I’d be very interested to hear more about this strange phenomenon you describe.

  12. Patrick McGraw says

    I was going to suggest Tait’s article be given a link, glad to see an article about the issue!

    Bereznak’s original article was very insulting, focusing on how Finkel was “king of the dweebs” (that got edited) rather than his dedication to magic. Like some of the “red flags” over at Heartless Bitches International, it emphasized the nature of Finkel’s hobby rather than his level of investment in it.

    As JK said, this is of course Bereznak’s choice, and contrary to what the Nice Guys think, she can choose to date or not date someone for whatever the hell reason she wants.

    One thing about the response that Tait mentions, and that I think bears reiterating, is the way Finkel’s “defenders” characterized Bereznak as “shallow” while also gloating about how she passed on a guy with a lot of money. Want to bet that if she had chosen to continue dating him, Finkel’s money would have been cited as evidence that Bereznak was “shallow?” I wouldn’t bet against it, and I doubt anyone else here would either.

    How much information to give about oneself is an issue that I struggled with in my forays into online dating. Not just hobbies (mine are VERY nerdy – Warhammer has even more of a basement-dweller stereotype than Magic, and there’s a lot of stigma against Adult Fans of Lego). But things like the fact that I am disabled – intially due to kidney failure, and now in the process of requesting disability on psychiatric issues. I don’t think I need to mention the stigma against the mentally ill here.

  13. Chai Latte says

    You know what gets me? This basically boils down to condemning women for having standards or dealbreakers. Invariably we are dismissed as ‘shallow’ or ‘too picky’ (not necessarily a bad thing). Women are expected to approach dating in a ‘fair and balanced’ way. We’re supposed to give *everyone* a chance. Whether *we* like them or not is irrelevant. *barfs* Yeah, okay, whatevs.

    But, as I tell my guy friends, it’s NOT a democracy. It’s a date-ocracy. We accept and reject others all the time according to reasons that vary from one individual to another. (At this point I refer them to ‘Seinfield’ for a humorous exaggeration of this principle–not to mention evidence that MEN DO THE SAME DAMN THING, which they never want to acknowledge).

    And yet, so many of them make the decision to blame all womankind for their rejection by one woman. Whether she was nice about it or not doesn’t seem to come into play. Now this is where I have an issue, because I’ve been rejected quite a bit in my day. It happens, it’s a risk of putting yourself out there. And yet, somehow, I have refrained from blaming all men for this. Instead, I take a look at the other person, myself, and realize that it’s not necessarily the best match. This does not mean the other person is evil personified; it’s just one of those things.

  14. Maria says

    Dom Camus,

    Yeah, but mostly board and RPG, if that matters. My partner is a gamer as well — Warhammer 20K. But yeah, a lot of the guys I knew in college would date gamer girls, but considered non-gamer women (particularly conventionally attractive, thin, white ones) a really serious prize. Now, as an adult, that seems to be less the case, and the gamer guys I know will dog the shit out of a pretty “mundane” girl — calling her a shallow bitch, saying she looks fake, etc.

    I assumed that if he didn’t say he was looking for a woman who liked games, that he wasn’t actively searching for one and might be reaching for that prize. I know this is an assumption, but I seriously couldn’t think of another reason that someone would not mention they like gaming.

    @Patrick McGraw
    TBH I’m a little surprised at some of the connections we’re making here… having a nerdy hobby isn’t the same as being mentally ill, y’know? There’s a stigma attached to both, but in the former, if you say what you’re into for activities (which I THINK the profile-making process prompts you to do), the site should filter in people who might be interested in that activity in advance. There’s a big gap between saying, hey, I like gaming, particularly Magic and Dominion (or whatever), and being like I’m a world champion. I can definitely see not mentioning being mentally ill — it took my husband over a year before he talked to me about his PTSD and TBI, because it made him feel so vulnerable. But to me, that’s not the same as his love of WH20K, which he mentioned on the first date and will. not. shut. up. about… which makes sense because he’s so into it.

    **Edited because I did something weird HTML wise that borked the last paragraph

  15. Patrick McGraw says

    Maria,

    Nerd nitpick: Warhammer 40k, not 20k.

    I connected nerdy hobbies and mental illness because these are both things that there is a huge stigma attached to, with stereotypes and prejudice involved.

    And someone with a nerdy hobby isn’t necessarily looking for someone who shares their hobby or for someone “mundane” who does not. (And I know exactly what you’re talking about with viewing non-gamer women as some sort of prize. I’ve seen more than enough of it.)

    I want a woman who, even if she doesn’t share my hobbies, appreciates that they are part of who I am and doesn’t regard them as a flaw that needs to be changed. (Same thing for whatever her interests may be.)

  16. says

    Chai Latte,

    Word. And it also doesn’t mean that YOU, the rejected party, suck. Incompatibility is one of the main reasons for dating rejection, and it doesn’t say word one about someone’s overall quality as a human being.

    Patrick McGraw: I connected nerdy hobbies and mental illness because these are both things that there is a huge stigma attached to, with stereotypes and prejudice involved.

    This is the same kind of connection I was making in the article. I get Maria’s distinction – that some stereotypes come with full-on oppression while others are just mean and unfair, and obviously the former is more politically loaded than the latter – but as individuals meeting individuals, most everyone has to navigate stereotypes. If “I’m a gamer” has caused as many people to stop talking to you as “I’m mentally ill”, then from a purely personal, not-socially-analytic perspective, they could seem equally problematic in forging new relationships.

    I belong to a few oppressed groups, but lord knows the thing I most need to avoid telling guys early in a relationship is that I’m anything like a “feminist” (I don’t consider “feminists” particularly oppressed as a group). If ever a guy is bothering you and won’t go away, just say, “I’m a feminist.” They will leave their chair spinning and never bother you again. Well, it may not work if you spend most of your waking hours on a liberal college campus or something like that, but in the general population, among the “normal” people, it works like a magic incantation. I use it a lot at bars.

    A few years ago, at a friend’s urging, I set up some online dating profiles – OKC, EH, and a couple designed specifically for nerds. Mentioned the feminism thing. Got not one response in 6 months with a good 4-5 profiles up. Not even from the nerd sites. My pic even looked cute by conventional standards. Why no response? Because feminists are man-haters with butch appearances who want to oppress men… just like gamers are acne-covered social maladjusts living in their mothers’ basements. Neither feminists nor gamers are particularly politically oppressed just for being feminists or being gamers, but both are ostracized by others because of stereotyping.

    But again, I am totally acknowledging and agreeing with the distinctions you make between being in groups that are actually oppressed and being in groups that are just treated like shit. Tait made that point too, and I guess I should’ve reiterated it in my article.

  17. Maria says

    Patrick McGraw,

    LOL Yeah, I just told him about this convo, and his eyebrow twitched. Then he muttered something about “Heretics” and “the Emperor’s wrath,” and went to go paint something.

    I consider this a win.

    More seriously, I know what you mean about how necessarily wanting to share your hobby, but instead wanting someone that is okay and can appreciate them. I think that if you’re setting up an online dating profile you can use that to filter out people that wouldn’t be interested in appreciating your hobby.

    I still disagree with the comparison between mental illness and nerdy stigma as being similar on a micro-level or as equally problematic. To me, the kinds of social isolation I’ve experienced in the dating world as a chubby WOC bear very little resemblance to the experiences I’ve had as a nerdy woman dating. One type of discrimination does not necessarily stop when you’re hanging out with other members of your activity group because the social structures marking out that identity as Other don’t just disappear.

  18. Brian M says

    When I first read about this, over on a gaming forum, my first thought was…ok, actually my first thought was “somebody had a bad date and vented about it – why are you all caring about this?”. Who has dated that hasn’t vented and ranted about an unpleasant dating experience? Yeah, people make some exaggerated statements when they are venting about a bad experience – again, who hasn’t?

    But my first thought aside from that was assuming that the MtG player on the date probably did, in fact, perpetuate the idea that gamers and “geeks” are socially inept and incapable of dealing well with women. While its possible, I’m a little skeptical that she would have had such a negative reaction if he really had been a charming, interesting fun date except for a hobby she just wasn’t interested in dealing with. Perhaps I was incorrect in assuming the comment about going to a play about a serial killer was actually literally what happened – one of the gamers on the forum wondered about that, and found such a play was, in fact, playing in the area, so assumed it was probably where he took her. This seems like a serious social faux pass for a first date to me (unless perhaps your potential date has listed “fascinated with criminology and the study of serial killers” high in their interests).

    Point being, having grown up a gamer geek, I think this “girls vs geeks” stigma is pretty much the fault of the guy geeks. I’ve seen how a lot of guys treat women in such environments, and how games themselves treat women (RPGs with stat penalties for being female, anyone?). This is a hole male gamers have dug for themselves, and they’ve got themselves to blame for the stereotype.
    Ok, given that any guys reading this are bothering to read forums on The Hathor Legacy, there’s a higher than usual chance that you are not, specifically, the guys I’m talking about. But you know what I mean anyway. This isn’t some strange societal invention with no grounding in reality. If guys don’t want women feeling like “gamers are geeks and repulse women”, they need to help make the hobby and its members NOT do such a good job at repulsing women.

    And I do think that having a huge, time consuming hobby that’s very important to you is a major stumbling block to a potential relationship. Heck, even to a potential friendship.

  19. says

    Maria: I still disagree with the comparison between mental illness and nerdy stigma as being similar on a micro-level or as equally problematic.

    I was explicitly saying they are NOT equally problematic, ever – you’re right about that, and I don’t think Patrick is disagreeing, either. But how you experience them individually can vary a lot. I’ve been mistreated FAR more for being a feminist than for being depressed, even though mentally ill people are an actual marginalized group and feminists are just politically disadvantaged and generally unpopular (sort of like gamers). If I didn’t know better, then just going by my personal experience I would assume feminists have it harder than depressed people (esp. since depression seems almost stylish in media sometimes), and I would be wrong about that. But it WOULD explain why I might omit my feminism on a dating profile, and that’s what we were talking about – Finkel’s possible motives for omitting his gaming from the profile.

    Brian M,

    Now, THAT’S interesting – if the stereotype that plagues gamers is of their own creation through expressing their male privilege to ostracize people, act like jerks and get away with it, then their mistreatment could actually be the group’s fault. So, guys who perpetuate the problem have no business complaining, and guys who are suffering because OTHER guys perpetuate the problems that lead to the stereotype would have a legit complaint, but mainly to the jerks within their group. (I have similar feelings about Christians: the good ones really need to speak out and stop letting the assholes be the public face, or else of course everyone’s going to feel attacked and respond in kind.)

    Not, for clarity, that this excuses being mean to any individual just because they’re a member of a particular group.

    That’s a really interesting perspective I hadn’t considered.

  20. Maria says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    I see what you’re saying. I’m just a lot less sympathetic to Finkel’s possible desire to avoid the stigma of nerdiness than to your not saying you’re feminist (in a virtual world where people will harass you for that).

    But besides that, you’re right… Bereznak got a lot of harassment (and will probably continue to get some as long as that article is live) for daring to Not Like a guy.

  21. Maria says

    And I suppose if you’re coming from male privilege, someone daring to Not Like you would feel EXACTLY! THE! SAME! as someone oppressing you or being prejudiced.

  22. says

    Maria: I’m just a lot less sympathetic to Finkel’s possible desire to avoid the stigma of nerdiness than to your not saying you’re feminist (in a virtual world where people will harass you for that).

    And that’s valid. I think we’re coming from very different places on the dating, too. For some unfortunate reason, I mostly attract men who are in committed relationships and looking for an affair or gay and looking for a beard, so my idea of dating deception is a little heavier than “forgot to mention he’s a gamer.” ;)

    Maria,

    LOL, I’m sure it would FEEL the same, heh.

  23. Patrick McGraw says

    I brought up the nerd/mental illness issue because that’s my experience, along with non-evident physical disability. And obviously my experience is not anyone else’s experience.

    Jennifer Kesler,

    (I have similar feelings about Christians: the good ones really need to speak out and stop letting the assholes be the public face, or else of course everyone’s going to feel attacked and respond in kind.)

    Indeed, we need far more people like Fred Clark at Slacktivist.

  24. says

    Brian M: I’ve seen how a lot of guys treat women in such environments, and how games themselves treat women (RPGs with stat penalties for being female, anyone?). This is a hole male gamers have dug for themselves, and they’ve got themselves to blame for the stereotype.

    This. Another example I see a lot is the ridiculous (lack of) armor female characters get in character design and concept art. Complaints about chainmail bikinis are usually met with dismissal and derision. See also: booth babes, games that don’t even have a female player character, widespread use of “rape” as a synonym for “pwn”, etc.

  25. Patrick McGraw says

    Sylvia Sybil,

    One of the massive frustrations in World of Warcraft is how much of my paladin’s PLATE ARMOR involves belly shirts or thongs. Blizzard has gotten better about it over the course of the expansions, but that doesn’t excuse all the lower-level stuff that’s still around.

  26. Shaun says

    Maria,

    I know an anime voice actor who doesn’t mention what he does in his profiles, because he wants a romantic partner, not a fan. If this guy has championship titles he may feel the same way, I’m not really sure how that works.

    I also don’t really understand what hobbies have an obligation to be mentioned and which don’t. I game, and that’s usually one of the first things I say when asked about my hobbies, but I’m just as interested in social justice, and I DON’T bring that up until after I get to know someone.

    I get that the internet allows us to search for people on descriptors such as race, height, sexual orientation, hair color, interests, educational background, penis size, etc etc etc, but does that mean there’s an obligation that your profile should represent EVERYTHING about you? Of course I think everyone should be able to filter profiles according to whatever criteria they want, but I also think people have the right to provide as little or as much information as they please, as long as it’s all true.

  27. Maria says

    Shaun,

    I suppose you’re right (though I don’t think of social justice and volunteering as “hobbies” — they’re something I just do, and that I feel is implied when I say I’m a progressive or a liberal or whatever), and of course you’re not obligated to fill out every detail about yourself. I’m more saying that there’s a difference between saying, “I’m into Magic” vs “I’m a MAGIC CHAMPEEN!!!!” vs “I like long walks on the beach.” All three statements are true, of course, but the last one, to me, is missing something.

  28. Lindsey says

    Late to the party, but there was a movie called “Fever Pitch” in–I guess there were two of them, one a remake of the other. Anyway, they were both about a man obsessed–OBSESSED–with a sports team, and who when they were in season followed them around to all their away games, had a home filled with paraphernalia, etc. The 2005 version explores the compromises that both have to make to have time for the each other’s focus, the female lead with her career and the male with his sports obsession. It acknowledges that the male character’s obsession is kind of weird, and is the reason he’s not married.

    I’d feel nervous about dating someone who was a world-champion or serious competitor in any kind of venue, as all of those take a huge amount of time. I once dated a roller derby girl and she had to practice three or four times a week for an amateur league. The amount of time spent there was acceptable to me, but it was still just sort of surprising how much it required of her to be an unpaid competitive rollerskater.

  29. says

    I think I’ve finally put my finger on why this “what to put in your profile” debate bothers me: it’s all a question of etiquette. It’s like debating Miss Manners and Emily Post, and the proper way to leave your calling card at a young lady’s house. If you don’t follow Bereznak’s (or anyone else’s) advice…your date might think you’re weird. That’s it. At its heart, this advice is “how to make a good impression”. People are free to follow or disregard it; it’s not like the site is going to delete your profile for fraud or anything. The only possible consequence from this is…making a bad impression on a near-stranger.

    Yet because a woman DARED suggest that a man broached some invisible rule of etiquette, trolls come out of the woodwork to defend him and his right to do whatever he wants without being perceived as rude.

  30. says

    Good article!

    I would love it if the world separated “actions you have a right to take, regardless of the reason” from “sucky reasons for doing so”. (Having had the whole “but what if *they* boycotted *your* stuff” argument with someone White Knighting for Orson Scott Card recently, this is on my mind.) Yes, Bereznak’s attitude toward gamers is annoying, *but* at the end of the day, nobody’s obligated to date anyone else. That’s life.

    On a more general online-dating note, I tend to put both “gamer” and “feminist” in my profile–if a guy’s going to take issue with either, I want him to take issue and go away immediately, before I waste my time talking to him–and I want to know any potential dealbreakers (anti-choice, anti-sex-before-marriage, thinks Ayn Rand is awesome) as far ahead of time as possible. And it sort of does annoy me when guys leave those out, or put up ten-year-old pictures, or whatever, because…ugh, now we have to have the Awkward Dinner of Hey I Have an Early Meeting, and I could have been home with West Wing DVDs about now.

    I personally am in favor of the Emergency Velociraptor Call System: you arrange for a friend to call you half an hour into any blind date. If the date’s going well, you don’t pick up. If it’s going badly…oh, shit! Your friend’s apartment is being invaded by velociraptors! (read: plumbing broke, messy breakup, etc). You’d better get over, so sorry, must dash.

    I’ve had some complaints about that, but…enh, better dishonesty than either rudeness or wasting an hour of my life, I say.

  31. says

    Maria: One day, I will post the Surly Girl’s Guide to Online Dating (almost typed “Gaming” there, which, hee) because…yeah.

    I also seriously don’t get the deception stuff. I mean, the goal of online dating is generally to meet up, so…do people really think I won’t notice? Or that I’ll think: “Well, you’re clearly ten years older and have fifty percent less hair than you do in your picture, and you’ve just told me you’re a libertarian, but I did put my shoes on and leave the house and everything, so I might as well fuck you, I guess.”*

    Note to online dating people: I have never thought this. Ever.

    *Or I guess that there’s some bullshit “oh, once she knows the real me, it won’t matter what I look like” thing going on, which: no, it does. You may have a great personality, but if your appearance doesn’t do it *for me*, then why the fuck, pun not intended, would I have sex with you? That Truth About Cats & Dogs movie has a lot to answer for.

  32. says

    Isabel C., Maria,

    There are a lot of women who can’t get dates to save their lives. That’s what men are relying on. I cannot say it too many times: the myth that men will date anything is bullshit. Men are EXTREMELY picky, and the media has taught them they are all entitled to date supermodels. It’s worse in L.A., of course, where being “pretty” isn’t even good enough, but it’s bad everywhere I’ve lived. Just being average looking or shy or a bit on-guard can be enough to keep you embarrassingly dateless for years on end. (Yes, there are average looking and shy girls who get dates; I’m sure there are a lot more factors, but what I’m describing happens a LOT.)

    So as long as women who can’t get dates think they NEED dates, or just sincerely WANT dates, or entertain any hope of marrying and having kids someday, that will preserve the extremely low standards for male behavior that you two are encountering. Because women who can’t get dates have to settle a lot… or do without. There isn’t another option.

    I feel like this is sort of like a privilege issue, within a larger anti-privileging structure (for women). Some het women have the “privilege” of picking and choosing in a dating structure that’s entirely designed to benefit het men, but they’re standing on the shoulders of an awful lot of invisible women who have to settle for the dregs or be alone. It’s not any of the women’s faults – it’s all down to this system in which “looking good” is the “normal” way for a woman to attract male attention, and the standard for “looking good” naturally just rises and rises until men can no longer get it up for any living woman at all, and all resort to sex robots or other guys or something, and the species goes extinct for lack of actual, adult sexuality in the males of its species.

    [ETA: I edited this a few times because I'm anxious to make sure it doesn't come across like, "Well, you lucky ladies who can pick and choose who to date have it soooo easy." What I mean to be saying is: the dating system is geared to provide men with a huge variety of women to "settle" for while they continue trying to better-deal them with someone new. That's what creates in men the expectation that you'll put up with a lot of crap... and what creates a schism between women who can't get dates at all and women who get a selection of men to choose from.]

  33. sbg says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    I’m not sure this is even relevant, but I read some weeks back one of those “what guys really want in their wimmin” articles. One of the things was that they want women to not wear so much make up: they want her to be as beautiful rolling out of bed as she is the rest of the day.

    So, basically, if you’re not naturally beautiful with all those traits that are airbrushed and photoshopped onto magazine images, you are SOL.

  34. Chai Latte says

    Jennifer Kesler: or entertain any hope of marrying and having kids someday, that will preserve the extremely low

    Yeah, that describes me right now. And yet, the alternative, the ‘dregs’, is just not an option. I can’t even *pretend* for extended periods of time. I used to be able to, though–once I did it for three years straight! Now I can barely last two months. It’s a good thing for me overall, but not so great in the short-term.

    The prospect of being alone sucks, but I’ve been alone before. It doesn’t scare me more than spending the rest of my life with some random asshole.

    I’m one of the ones that wants someday to marry and have children. Strangely, if anything, that’s only *heightened* my standards, if that makes sense. I don’t want a random jerk who can’t be bothered to speak nicely to me. The idea of staying with one of THOSE for the rest of my life is just a nightmare. Nobody should have to live like that.

    But yeah. The choice is that, or go it alone and hope that you meet someone who respects you and your standards. Self-respect is hella sexy–the rest of the dating world might not’ve caught on yet, but it totally is.

  35. Shaun says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    I totally saw the argument in a forum about… class privilege, IIRC, that women don’t know what it’s like not to be desired, and that women can pick and choose but men constantly feel rejected etc etc, ergo women are privileged like rich people, and I totally thought of your post about erasing non-beautiful women. I didn’t think the poster was still reading the thread, though (there was, after all, nothing he could learn from it), and even if he was I’m sure it’d have gone right over his head.

  36. says

    @Jennifer: Ooh, good point. I *am* lucky, in a way: I don’t want marriage or kids, I’m really happier being single than not, so I mostly date because I get a charge out of flirting and/or sex. So, if the guy’s disappointing, I’m irked, but it doesn’t really bug me, and I have no incentive to settle for anything.

    Except, of course, that the media is all “You will die alone and get eaten by your cats”, and some days my conscious mind has trouble remembering that a) marriage and kids is no guarantee of that *not* happening, and b) I have friends and family, and shut up, media. Goddamn, that shit is pervasive.

    I’m torn on the subject of pickiness. On the one hand, *I’m* picky, and it is appearance-based, in large part–the best personality in the world won’t make me want to fuck a guy if his looks don’t do anything for me–but…I also know what I’m realistically going to get, I’m good with that, and I’ve (generally) worked out a standard that works for me between what I’m willing to compromise on, what I’m not, and what I’m willing to do to expand my pool of potential men. Whereas I see a lot of guys complaining because “good-looking women” won’t date them, and those guys…do not. themselves, hit the gym regularly. (Which itself runs into the whole thing about fitness and beauty standards, but I guess my view boils down to “if you want to date someone of body type X, you will stand a better chance the closer you are”. Not always true, but often.) Or *shower* regularly, in many cases. Le sigh.

    @Chai Latte: Ooof. I agree, and I’ve got a couple friends in your position. Good luck out there.

    @Maria: Ooh, I only wish I’d thought to do that on some. (Dudes, PROTIP: asking what someone likes to watch is good. Responding to her answer with a half-hour elaboration on “Oh, I hate that show–everyone’s too bright and witty”, not so much. Tact can be Your Friend.)

    Okay, that was a really long post. Probably a sign of bedtime.

  37. says

    Isabel C.:
    Except, of course, that the media is all “You will die alone and get eaten by your cats”, and some days my conscious mind has trouble remembering that a) marriage and kids is no guarantee of that *not* happening, and b) I have friends and family, and shut up, media. Goddamn, that shit is pervasive.

    It really REALLY is.

    I’m torn on the subject of pickiness. On the one hand, *I’m* picky, and it is appearance-based, in large part–the best personality in the world won’t make me want to fuck a guy if his looks don’t do anything for me–but…I also know what I’m realistically going to get, I’m good with that, and I’ve (generally) worked out a standard that works for me between what I’m willing to compromise on, what I’m not, and what I’m willing to do to expand my pool of potential men. Whereas I see a lot of guys complaining because “good-looking women” won’t date them, and those guys…do not. themselves, hit the gym regularly. (Which itself runs into the whole thing about fitness and beauty standards, but I guess my view boils down to “if you want to date someone of body type X, you will stand a better chance the closer you are”. Not always true, but often.) Or *shower* regularly, in many cases. Le sigh.

    I break it down this way. I think the whole idea of dating “leagues” is really unfortunate, and not the product of evolution people like to claim. It’s probably derived from classism and other -isms which create artificial divides between people, and it’s based on superficial shit rather than stuff like whether the person is likely to respect you or try to kill you in your sleep, so it sucks a lot. But the concept is here, and none of us can fully escape it, so it is ridiculous to hear someone complain, “Hot girls won’t date me!” instead of complaining about the system that makes it as difficult to date outside your “league” as it is to move up a socioeconomic class! That’s the real problem. So, everybody should just go ahead and be as picky as they feel like being, and folks should get mad at this ridiculous way we’ve been conditioned to approach dating rather than at the people who refuse to date us.

  38. Chai Latte says

    One other thing, an addendum to my other post–i also don’t want JUST ANYBODY as the father of my children. You know what I mean? XD

    Although, if it is my fate to be eaten by cats, I will happily sacrifice myself as sustenance for our glorious fluffy overlords. ;-D

  39. says

    Chai Latte:
    One other thing, an addendum to my other post–i also don’t want JUST ANYBODY as the father of my children. You know what I mean? XD

    Yes! I wish more people took that into consideration when deciding to have kids. For so long, society has taught people that having kids can solve the problems of loveless/abusive marriages, and that’s a line of bullshit that’s produced some really unhappy kids.

  40. says

    After I edited the article to clarify that Bareznak did NOT publicly name her date in the original version of the article, a commenter wrote in, insisting they read it the day it came out and all that stuff was in it, and did I have any evidence.

    The original version is now linked in the post.

    What’s pathetic about that commenter is how quick they were to assume they knew best without bothering to do the slightest bit of research. When we talk about male mods at gaming forums being assholes, they do screenshots trying to prove us wrong. But when people think Some Bitch did Something Bitchy, they’re just so comfortable with that misogynistic assumption that they assume anyone claiming the woman did not do Something Bitchy and therefore may in fact not be a Bitch at all is lying in a hopeless attempt to make women look good.

    Way to make misogynists look like the leaky douchebags they are, my friend! Well done, asshole!

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