You tell ’em, kitty.
Every so often, I get to wondering why I haven’t picked up a copy of Maclean’s in years. And then I do, and I’m instantly, disgustingly reminded: Oh yeah, Barbara Amiel is still writing for them. Booooooring. And so are her little clones. Like, for instance, one Emma Teitel, who thinks it’s time we big bad meanie feminists stopped picking on pickup artists, just because she felt sorry for some poor little pizza-faced kid who once accosted her at the Eaton Centre:
About a year ago I was walking through the Eaton Centre mall in downtown Toronto when a teenage boy approached me and asked me very meekly if he could have a few minutes of my time. I said sure, assuming that he was working for a charity and hadn’t had much luck attracting donors during rush hour in the dead of winter. (I did a similar, soul-crushing job in college.) I waited for his pitch about poverty, child soldiers or land mines, but it never came. Instead, he told me how “cool” my glasses were and asked me if I had a boyfriend. It became instantly clear that he didn’t want a donation; he wanted a date. I told him I was a lesbian in a hurry (my go-to exit strategy with street preachers) and I was soon on my way—confused about why a teenage boy would so boldly pursue a four-eyed woman in a ski jacket 10 years his senior, but flattered nonetheless.
It wasn’t until the next morning that I realized my age and attire were irrelevant to the equation, because my adolescent suitor didn’t have eyes for me; he had eyes for literally any woman with a pulse. According to multiple news outlets, Toronto’s biggest downtown shopping mall had recently become ground zero for so-called pickup artists (PUAs as they are known online), a loosely connected international community of guys who share seduction tips with each other on the Internet and take to the streets to “woo” as many unsuspecting women as humanly possible. Their techniques range from corny (showering women with compliments) to cruel: “Negging,” a PUA technique popularized by American pickup artist and journalist Neil Strauss in his 2005 book, The Game, consists of showering women with low-grade insults. According to Urban Dictionary, “negs” are “meant to undermine the self-confidence of a woman so she might be more vulnerable to your advances.” (An example, used frequently by my own grandmother: “Wow, you have beautiful eyes. It’s a shame I can barely see them behind your bangs.”)
The Eaton Centre, obviously displeased with the fact that some of its female shoppers were being subjected to this bizarre breed of socially awkward male interference, issued a statement on Twitter alerting customers about the PUA presence on its premises. “Rest assured security is briefed and your health and safety are our top priority,” mall staff tweeted before Christmas last year.
The pickup artist who tried and failed to woo me on account of my cool glasses was, as far as I could tell, a threat to nobody’s health and safety. In fact, I felt a little sorry for the guy. Spending one’s free time trying to engage strangers romantically in a shopping mall doesn’t merely reveal an absence of social grace, but quite possibly, an absence of friends.
Gawd, it sure is windy out there in beautiful downtown Toronto today, eh? But wait, here comes something that looks like a nut graf…finally:
But it is no longer socially acceptable to pity the PUAs, because they are apparently—in these socially divisive, Ghomeshi-saturated times—a viable threat to the feminist cause. That cause has been active against the PUA culture, and has borne fruit. For example, Julien Blanc, the 25-year-old pickup artist of the PUA organization Real Social Dynamics—and author of such promotional gems as: “Develop panty-dropping masculinity with this rock-solid structure to self-generate the powerful emotions girls crave”—was banned from Australia this month on the grounds that his dating seminars (for which he charges more than $1,000) incite violence against women. Several petitions asking the Canadian government to bar Blanc from entering Canada are in the works here too; the outcry against him has been so strong on Twitter that Canadian Immigration Minister Chris Alexander issued a statement on the social media platform last week condemning the pickup artist’s teachings, and ensuring the public that his office is “looking at all options and will consider using every tool at our disposal to protect the rule of law on Canadian soil.”
Er. What’s with the “apparently” there, Emma? And what’s with all the sneery commentaries on “these times”? This isn’t some new thing. This is the same old shit that has always been with us. Why are you undermining efforts to stop it?
If a guy walks down the street randomly grabbing women by the throat and shoving their faces into his smelly crotch, do you not see that he’s committing blatant, overt violence against women? Because that is what we feminists oppose, among other manifestations of sexism and the patriarchy.
And if a guy makes it his mission to preach this same violence like it’s some kind of gospel, and make big money at it like Jimmy Fucking Swaggart, do you not see a problem there, one worthy of feminist efforts to expose and eradicate?
Nope, apparently she doesn’t:
Blanc, by comparison, is a sophomoric ass so blatantly trolling the feminist community with idiotic rape jokes and a following that is insignificant in comparison to the number of people speaking out against him. He has 8,200 Twitter followers; the petition to have him barred from entering the U.K. just reached 150,000. In other words, he isn’t Hitler. He’s Stifler. Which makes the current media blitz he’s enjoying all the more annoying. The most ironic thing about Blanc’s notorious hashtag is that the vast majority of people who appear to be using it are feminists. (I searched the hashtag and scrolled down the results for roughly 25 minutes trying to find one tweet that championed the sentiment rather than derided it. I failed.) Were it not for the scores of women using it in their posts to denounce Blanc, it would likely cease to exist.
Huh. I see she bought his “only joking” defence. Poor dear, she doesn’t realize it, but she’s the one being trolled.
Emma, I’m with your grandma. You really do need to pin back your bangs. An unobstructed view of reality is so much better than looking cute but being unable to see past your own cutesiness. When even the stuffy old Torygraph says nobody’s buying that “apology”, doesn’t that tell you anything? Here, let me brush that wool out of your eyes:
Before he locked down his Twitter account (probably because he realized, belatedly, that no one was actually finding his rape “jokes” funny), Julien Blanc was promoting the Duluth Power and Control Wheel as a “checklist” on how to “Make Her Stay With You”.
Does this sound “funny” to you, Emma? Because it’s actually a teaching tool which feminists helped to develop, and which is used by counsellors of abused persons to help them recognize common strategies of control used by abusers. And there is nothing “sophomoric” about that. On the contrary, it speaks to just how controlling, abusive and downright cynical Julien Blanc really is.
But hey! Let’s throw a few bones to the feminists before we throw them to the dogs, eh Emma?
It appears that out of a laudable and deeply felt outrage at a potential injury to women, some in the feminist movement have amplified exactly the misogynistic messages they’d like to snuff out. They’ve effectively become Julien Blanc’s spokeswomen, his PR firm. Kirsty Mac, a feminist and stand-up comic whose activism was instrumental in the decision to ban Blanc from Australia, disagrees with this idea wholeheartedly. “Australia said no to violence against women and the world followed,” Mac wrote to me in an email. “Social media might very well be the beginning of the end of the misogyny in pop culture.”
Drawing attention to a problem in an effort to eradicate it is not the same thing as promoting it, Emma. And knock off that divide-and-conquer shit about “some in the feminist movement”. This is something we can all get behind, and should. As the AIDS activists used to say, Silence = Death. You might want to remember that before you start prattling about nuance.
Oops, too late. She’s prattling about nuance, now…
It is certainly the beginning of the end of nuance. Feminist causes have exploded on Twitter in the last year, from #YesAllWomen (the viral hashtag that emerged in the wake of misogynist murderer Elliot Rodger’s violent rampage in May) to #BeenRapedNeverReported, the infinitely powerful and informative viral hashtag that emerged in the wake of the sexual assault allegations against former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi in October. The social media movement against “street harassment” (a.k.a. cat calling) is just as lively. So too, whether we like or not, is the backlash against the Rosetta mission scientist Matt Taylor who wore a tasteless shirt on TV during the live broadcast of the comet landing, emblazoned with hundreds of miniature pictures of semi-nude ladies; a problematic message, many argued, in an industry that employs so few women.
These conversations are overdue. Yet the downside to their playing out on social media is the lightning speed at which online feminism has amalgamated sexist offenses of wildly varying severity—pickup artistry, cat-calling, date rape—into one melting pot of equivalency. The result is that the difference between what’s idiotic, what’s lecherous, and what’s criminal is lost.
This is the hapless kind of false equivalency that has infected so many worthy social movements and reduced their stature, with moral persuasion replaced by ideological bullying. The greatest heresy is for anyone, male or female, to suggest that there might be another side to the story—like, for instance, Brandon Thomas, an 18-year-old self-styled pickup artist who lives in Tulsa, Okla., who told me he was virtually friendless before he got involved with the PUA community two years ago. “I had no idea how awkward I was . . . Parents and friends tell you what you want to hear,” he said. “A dating coach tells you what you need to hear.” (He claims that every PUA technique he uses is imbued with respect for women.)
Not all pickup artists are equal; and very few of them are the spawn of the devil. (Most, I suspect, are merely virgins.)
Yes, Emma, and I was a virgin too, once upon a long time ago. But it never turned me into a serial harasser of strangers in shopping malls.
In fact, I was still technically one on the night this one very slick operator, who I thought was my friend, first “rescued” me from his, er, over-enthusiastic roomie, then took me out of their basement apartment, and later, after a few beers, brought me back to my place, ostensibly safe and sound. On my parents’ own living-room floor he made out with me for a couple of minutes. That was fine; he was a buff, good-looking guy, and I kind of fancied him. But then, without warning, he undid his pants, clambered up over me until he was straddling my neck, and popped his half-masted cock into my mouth.
I was so confused that I didn’t know what to do, other than docilely lie there and let him, so as not to risk offending him and maybe getting myself hurt. (Nice Girl Training, goddamn.)
Perhaps he sensed that there was something ironic and not quite kosher about what he was doing, because after a few half-hearted ins and outs, he stopped, put himself away, and zipped up. He left shortly thereafter. I locked the door behind him.
Then I silently slunk upstairs to bed, bewildered and still a little tipsy, and feeling — not violated or traumatized exactly, but still somehow betrayed. Because he had just a few hours ago saved me from getting raped, and I honestly expected him to know better than to do it himself. He could have asked, and I might have said yes.
But he didn’t. And I didn’t. He never gave me that chance.
I never reported this as a sexual assault, because what would have been the use? I can’t say I was injured, because I wasn’t. My technicalities were still intact, and he hadn’t used any overt force. (Overt is the operative word here. And maybe it’s kind of a moot question when someone’s in a position to crush your windpipe merely by sitting his ass down.) Worse, I knew how it would look if I told the cops, my parents, and maybe even a judge and jury everything that happened: “Well, first we made out on the floor…” Who would believe me if I told them that I did not want him to do that, I did not ask him to do that, and I most certainly did not give him permission to do that?
Not saying “no” does not equal “yes”. But pickup artists don’t teach you that, they teach you the opposite. “Make the ho say no” is just one of their many rapey mottoes. In fact, there is even such a thing in pickup artistry as “rape game”, and yes, that is exactly what you think it is. (Google it. And be sure to take your ulcer meds first.) The entire thing, in fact, is nothing BUT rape, because honesty is not a pickup artist’s strong suit, and especially not when you’re trying to up your notch count by any means possible.
Yes, Emma, nuance is a very important thing. And nowhere more so than in your black-and-white world of “rape rape” versus mere “pickup artistry”, eh?
It is profoundly important for both its relevancy and survival that feminism retain the ability to distinguish between the handsy jerk who pushes his luck on the dance floor, and a man who allegedly assaults women in the presence of a stuffed bear.
And then, to judge them accordingly.
Uh, Emma? In case you forget, Jian Ghomeshi did both. He was, by all accounts, both a pickup artist AND a violator of the law. There is no rule saying you can’t be both. In fact, there is no rule that you can’t smoothly segue from the one to the other. Feminists have long understood that. It’s time you did the same.
And Maclean’s? Yeah, you suck too for publishing this rag-load of hog snot. But I won’t be holding my breath for you to improve. You’ve been full of crap-ass suckitude for the longest time. Nearly ten years ago, as I recall, you published a fluffy, uncritical feature on PUAs, portraying them merely as a titillating, mildly goofy bunch of totally awesome he-men. That article nauseated me then, and still does now. Seems you haven’t yet twigged to the fact that they are, in reality, all scungy-ass woman-haters. Particularly one of your profilees, the PUA who called himself Gunwitch — who turns out to be not only a would-be “ladykiller”, but a bona fide aspiring lady-killer, too.
PUA coaches are worse than the slimiest snake oil salesman. They are not a source of hope for the socially awkward; quite the opposite, actually. Their methods don’t work, except to lure unwary males. And among those poor saps there is many a ticking time bomb. Who can forget the “sexual frustration” of that poor ignored virgin, Elliot Rodger? When he failed to pick up anyone, he churned out a misogynous “manifesto”, then went on a murderous, suicidal rampage.
No, PUAs are not funny. Nor are they harmless. And they are most certainly not a separate entity from violent, even murderous abusers. On the contrary, they are all on the same continuum. It is a question of degree, not kind.
And since Maclean’s has abdicated its social responsibility to make that connection, I guess it’s little wonder that I haven’t read them in years…and don’t feel like I’ve missed out in the least. They’ve sold out information in favor of titillation, and thrown women under the bus. None of them has any business telling Canadian women how to do feminism, because none of them know how the hell to do journalism.