Sunday, 23 July 2017

Tinder, Misogyny and Victim-Blaming: A Rant!

 Let's start this blog by expressing a simple fact: I hate dating sites.

Yes, I know half the world seems to be meeting online, these days.  And yes, I know not everyone on dating sites is a socially crippled weirdo (heck, I've been on plenty of dating sites and I consider myself to be at least semi-normal).  But I've had enough bad experiences on the likes of OK Cupid, Plenty of Fish and Tinder to be... Shall we say, less than enthused about dating sites.

In fact, I even made a video in which I shared some of my horror stories:

Check it out, I promise it's funny.

Still, ever since I escaped an abusive relationship, I've been living in a world of unrelenting singledom and, to be frank, I'm bored of that.  I miss having someone to share things with.  I miss cuddles and kisses and more than just cuddles and kisses.  I miss having a date to bring to events (on the rare occasions on which I actually get invited to "events").

Sure, there are definite bonuses to being single, too: the whole duvet to myself, much less potential heartache in store and so on, but for a while now, I've been "looking" to meet someone.

I tried Ok Cupid (hated it).  I tried Plenty of Fish (hated it).  And then, after much persuasion from family members, I tried Tinder (guess how I feel about it?!).

Despite the general dislike I have for basically every dating site or app I've ever used in my life, I decided to stick at Tinder for a while, given that it was handy having the app in my pocket and nobody can message you unless you've already matched with them, so I figured that might weed out the idiots (spoiler: it doesn't).

And so, on Friday night, I decided to do a spot of - what I up until now, only very privately referred to as - "window shopping."  I fired up Tinder and started swiping through profiles.  I came to one that featured a guy called Az (yep, we're naming and shaming in this blog).  He referred to himself as a surgeon, who specialises in cosmetic procedures.  He was fairly attractive and his photos made him seem interesting (as much as static pictures ever can, anyway).  So, I swiped right and, funnily enough, it came up on my screen that we were a match.  Hooray!

Now, one of the many (many) problems I have with Tinder, is that messages seem to be frequently ignored - perhaps it's just me and my innate unlovability, but basically, when you match with someone, you're asked whether you want to message them, or keep swiping.  More often than not, I choose to message someone and...  I never hear back.  These are people who looked at my pictures and the information in my profile and thought "yeah, okay" and yet, when I message them, they seem to suddenly become repulsed.


So, in this case, I decided I'd wait a while, before I messaged.  I figured I'd take some time to think about what to say, seeing as "hey, how's it going?" has almost never elicited a response and nor has actually referencing something they've talked about in their profile.

Anyway, fast forward two or three hours and my phone suddenly buzzed with a message from the aforementioned Az.  It said simply: "Hi. xxxxxxx"

Now, I won't lie to you, dear reader.  I actually said aloud: "Bloody hell, go easy on the kisses, mate."

Oh, if only being excessive with written kisses had been this guy's only problem...

I responded, saying hi and asking how he was.  He replied with the words:

"I had to swipe right, because I adore busty women.   I think you might be busty, sorry to be direct, but I can tell."

Now, I'm no Pamela Anderson, but I have boobs.  They're a decent size.  But, seeing as Tinder is rather notorious for being little more than a hook-up app (and that wasn't the reason I was using it) I made sure that when I chose my profile pictures, none of them were too revealing, in terms of cleavage.  In fact, there's really only a glimpse of cleavage in one picture, out of five uploaded, and it's not my main profile picture.

Still, I figured that maybe this guy was just trying to be complimentary, albeit not in the most gentlemanly manner, so I replied: "Thanks?!"

It was at this point that things went downhill, pretty speedily.

His reply asked: "You are though, aren't you?  I can tell.  I am a cosmetic surgeon.  I can take a flat chested woman up to a FF.  You're not flat-chested, but you're nowhere near an E cup.  I really like bigger boobs and I can make them bigger.  I think we should meet."

Just as a casual reminder, in case you'd forgotten: This guy was a total stranger to me.  This was his idea of an appropriate conversation-starter.  He was basically saying: "I've been looking at your pictures to see if your boobs are big enough.  I'm capable of improving your body to fit my standard of beauty."

I told him no, I didn't want to meet a total stranger who was weirdly obsessive about my bra size.

He carried on ranting about "improving" me and reminding me how much he loves enormous breasts, as though at some point, I was supposed to shrug and say: "Oh, well.  If you really love them, I guess you can enlarge mine."

How about a world of no?!

In the end, after four further breast-obsessed messages in quick succession, I sent him a response, telling him that as someone who was bullied at school for not quite fitting society's ideal of what beauty is, the very last person I would ever be interested in, would be someone whose opening gambit was to tell me he's assessed my body and decided what changes need to be made.  I told him - in words more polite than he deserved, to be honest - that next time he matches with a woman, he might want to consider changing his opening chat to something more along the lines of: "Hello, how are you?" rather than "you're nowhere near an E cup, but don't worry, I can fix that!"

 I made it very clear that I wasn't even remotely interested and then I reported him for inappropriate messages.  Because as far as I'm concerned, repeatedly contacting a stranger about the size of her breasts is inappropriate.

The following morning, having checked the messages, to ensure it just wasn't some weird dream, I went off on a *bit* of a rant about it on Twitter.

It went on for over 25 tweets.  It was an EPIC rant.

Now, just as Tinder is notorious for being full of guys only after one thing, so Twitter is notorious for being full of trolls.  So, I was quite relieved when I received a lot of nice replies from people.  Some simply said they were sorry for what I'd experienced.  Some shared their own bad dating site stories.  There was no judgement.


...Along came a Mr L. Meadows.  And yes, again, I'm naming and shaming, because as a woman who has experienced too much of this crap online, I am sick to the back teeth of men like Az and L. Meadows and I feel like their behaviour needs calling out.

Mr Meadows very kindly decided the problem wasn't with the man who had sent me inappropriate messages.  It was with me, for having been on Tinder in the first place.  He told me:

"The Internet is the haven of socially inept people.  Don't go on a dating site and then complain because you met one of them!"

Does that sound familiar, to anyone?  Because it did, to me.  It reminded me of the kind of victim-blaming rubbish that women who are abused, assaulted or raped have thrown in their direction, time and time again.

"If he abused you, why didn't you just leave?" Or "But what were you wearing?  And had you been drinking?  Were you walking alone?"

Essentially, what L. Meadows was telling me, was that I was responsible for what had been said to me, because I made the mistake of using a dating site in the first place.  Never mind that an enormous percentage of couples meet online, these days.  Never mind that I've spoken to several nice people, online over the years.  What happened to me - having my body assessed by a stranger who repeatedly continued to talk about my breast size, long after I'd asked him to stop - was my own fault.

Now, me being me, I decided to respond.  Because I hate myself, or something, I don't even know...

I told him that no, not everyone using dating sites - or indeed the internet in general - is a socially inept, nasty piece of work and that I wasn't about to generalise in the rather petty way he seemed to want to.  Nor was I about to blame myself for the actions of another person, just because I made the decision to download Tinder in the first place.  I didn't invite comments on my body from a vile stranger.  He made the decision to send them.  And he made the decision to continue sending them after I'd told him I wasn't interested and I didn't like his obsession with my boobs.  That makes him the one in the wrong here, not me.

L. Meadows didn't like this argument.  Presumedly, because it was logically sound and if there's one thing trolls hate, it's logic.

He told me that "a trickle of nice people" doesn't change the fact that most dating sites are full of idiots and I should've known as much.

Now, sure.  If you watched the video I posted way back in this rant, you'll know that I've encountered more than my fair share of weirdos on dating sites.  I've also encountered many, many internet trolls on websites such as Twitter.

But beyond that, I've met friends online.  I've discovered and become part of a community who helped support me after an abusive relationship.  I've found fellow small YouTubers, who I chat to about video-making and growing our channels.  I've seen both sides of the internet - good and bad.  And I highlighted this to L. Meadows.

Clearly, reasoned debate isn't his strong point.   I say this, because he decided that, if I was making reasonable comments that he was struggling to pick apart, he'd have to try harder to troll me.

So, he started stalking my timeline, to find something - anything - to attack me with.

I mean, I'd feel sorry for him for clearly having no life, but... 
...I choose not to, because he chooses to be an ass.

Now, one of the women who responded to my ridiculously long Twitter rant had told me she would have wanted to say something nasty back to the so-called surgeon on Tinder.  I replied:

"I very nearly told him: "I could offer you a penis enlargement, but it seems you're already a massive dick..." ;-)"

Many LOLs were had at how incredibly witty I was, ho ho, ha ha etc.

But one person wasn't laughing.  

L. Meadows wasn't laughing.  

He was furious.

How dare I make such a disgusting statement?!  How dare I complain about what this guy had said to me, when my language was just as bad, if not worse?!  I wasn't the victim, I was the bad guy in all this!!  Not only did he actually tell me that my joke made me the bad person in the situation, he also began subtweeting about me to his (fairly small) smattering of followers:

"What's good for the gander is also good for the goose!  Try to remember that ladies, when slagging off men."

"If you are going to bitch about someone else's language, first make sure your's is above reproach."

Yes, he wrote "your's."  And he's an author.

There's a downside to the ease with which Amazon allows people to self-publish, clearly...  Although, he does at least refer to himself as a "wretched writer" on his Twitter bio.  I guess he's warning his readers in advance...

I'm not even sorry.

Basically, this misogynistic murderer of grammar was telling me that "if a man made that joke, you'd be up in arms about it."  But he was saying it to a woman who had very recently had a man TALK ABOUT WANTING TO ENLARGE HER BREASTS AND HE WAS BEING SERIOUS.  The joke response - which I never sent to Az on Tinder - was not even in the same postcode of wrongness as the actual messages I received.  My decision to laugh off the incident with an off-the-cuff remark which Ass Az never saw, was not even remotely the same as sending a complete stranger a message about their body and what improvements I'd like to make to it.  To equate the two was utter stupidity.  To have made me the bad guy was just blatant misogyny.

Both.  It was both.

I actually told him - quite seriously - that, were I the sort of human who considered it appropriate to send messages about intimate parts of a stranger's body after they've asked me to stop, I would consider it to be fully deserved, if a man made a joke like that about me ("I'd suggest a breast enlargement, but she's clearly already a massive tit" - boom-tish).  I also reminded him that the idiot on Tinder who caused my upset in the first place had ACTUALLY sent me the messages, whereas I never sent this reply to him, I merely made a joke to someone else about it.

But L. Meadows was adamant that I was just as bad.  I should hold myself "equally accountable," because I made this joke "on a public forum."

Oh, dear.  Bad me.  I tweeted something about someone who doesn't know my surname and therefore will never see it.  I tweeted a joke about something I could have chosen to say in response to  offensive messages, having first made clear that I actually sent a firm, but polite response to the person in question.  I made a joke in response to some fairly vile messages, which I had already mentioned, had brought back memories of being horrendously bullied as a teen.  I tried to be humorous in the face of something that had genuinely disturbed and angered me.

I am an abhorrent human and must be stopped.

Of course, like with all trolls, pointing out any of this was useless.  And, like all petty little bullies, L. Meadows resorted to telling me: "at least I don't have to troll Tinder for dates."

No, sweet-cheeks.  You just troll women on Twitter for sh*ts and giggles.  Which of us is sadder?!

This whole incident - the actual vile messages and this idiot's response to them - highlights something we really have to tackle, online.  There is, as one Twitter friend put it earlier, a "kid in a sweet shop attitude" that some men have, when using social media or dating sites.  It's as though they're presented with these women that they can message and, considering that the women are behind a screen, rather than sitting in front of them, they feel they can say anything they like.  And of course, if they don't get the response they're after, there are plenty more women to go and harass, until they do.

Because, just what was Az the "surgeon" hoping for?  A woman low on body confidence, who would agree to meeting, so he could "size her up for surgery"?!  The scariest thing about it, is that isn't beyond the realms of possibility.  And, should some woman be conned by Az, and end up having her boobs groped by someone who possibly doesn't have a medical qualification to his name, she'd then be blamed for the whole thing by men like L. Meadows.  Because the internet is full of weirdos and she should have known better.

As I said in my ridiculously long Twitter rant, we need decent men - of which, thankfully, I know many - to be speaking out against this stuff.  To be saying: "no, sending those messages wasn't even remotely appropriate.  It was sexist and offensive."

We need the good guys to call out the bad ones.  To say: "hang on, why are you blaming her, instead of the guy who actually carried on talking about her breasts after she'd explicitly asked him to stop?!  Why are you trying to suggest that making a joke about a situation she found horribly uncomfortable, makes her as bad as the guy who caused her to feel that way in the first place?!"

Unfortunately, until more of them do speak out, this is only going to continue.  Because no matter how many women speak out against it, there will always be an L. Meadows to come along and tell her she's wrong and it's all her fault and she's just as bad as the man was.  Whether it's genuine lack of intelligence, actual misogyny or just a complete failure to understand a situation before commenting on it, there will always be someone who chooses to reduce a woman's experience and find a way to blame her for it.  

I'm tired of victim-blaming.  I'm tired of having my responses to negative situations being scrutinised by men who feel the need to paint me as the bad guy at any cost.  And, after yesterday, for the time being at least, I'm sick and tired of dating sites.

We all know the real love of my life is food, anyway...

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