Monday, June 10, 2013

Is something really wrong with Seattle guys?

The Seattle Times recently ran an opinion by Danielle Campoamor (available here). She claimed, in essence, that guys from Seattle are "shy, timid, and seemingly incapable of striking up conversation" with women. She was since a guest on KIRO radio and is considering a book option, presumably about the subject.

By her own admission, she has subsequently been inundated with dating requests from the same male Seattleites she bashed in her column, at least from the ones who weren't bashing her back (not uncourageously, as bashing tends not to be). Whether this constitutes a point of ironic victory for Pacific North-westerners with penises is out for the jury to decide.

The controversy gives an interesting insight, however, into the mixed messages men are hearing from women. On the one hand, guys hear things like Danielle's column, calling on them to "be a man," to "not to be a pussy," etc etc. On the other, they are increasingly told by radical feminists that initiating any kind of conversation with romantic intent is potentially sexual harassment (depending on the mood of the recipient). Those who point this out are, of course, defending a patriarchal rape-culture, and through their speech are practically defending rape itself. Hell, they're probably a rapist themselves. Rape rape rape. Hey, would you be interested in meeting for coffee? STOP RAPING ME! STOP RAPING ME!

Clearly this isn't the precise verbiage used, but it can certainly come across this way. This is a typical Facebook interaction between these kinds of radical feminists and male non-feminists, pulled from Reddit two days after Danielle's column.

I've gone through my own versions of this kind of conversation, and seen others go through it too. It isn't particularly relevant what the disagreement is about; any conflict of perspective with a liberal-minded woman can potentially land a man with labels that will doom him politically, socially, romantically, and even economically. Who, after all, would want to hire, date, or even be friends with someone whom others claimed to be a misogynist or a rape-apologist?

Is it any surprise that the men in one of the most liberal cities in the country are so coy and hesitant to step out of line in matters concerning the opposite sex?

Danielle says "Some men claim the women's equality movement, which empowered women to simply take care of themselves, has left a man two steps behind and incapable of putting his foot down. I find such an excuse ridiculous." Oh, well if she finds it ridiculous, then I guess it's settled.

In all seriousness, she is in some ways correct. We shouldn't make personal responsibility a casualty of self-pity and the socio-political mission of a radical minority. That said, Campoamor severely underestimates the effect that "progressive" gender expectations have shaped male behavior. Men didn't used to behave like this. They weren't "left two steps behind," which would leave men where they were a few decades ago. A more accurate description would be that they were "pushed two steps forward," (backward is the new forward). They've been trained by the dominant culture of her beloved Capitol Hill that it's safer not to push the boundaries. In essence, Seattle men have done precisely what women have told them to do, and suddenly, women like Danielle are realizing it isn't actually what they wanted.

I recognize that Danielle is clearly not a radical feminist, but some food for thought from more recent news may at least help her and her supporters empathize and understand why men are often behaving as she described, especially in the college-cultured areas where she enjoys spending time. Last month, the Federal Government laid out the blueprints of what they hope to be a nation-wide standard for sexual harassment definitions and codes in colleges. Among the prohibited actions (which fall under the description, hence making perpetrators "sex offenders") is "any request for dates or any flirtation that is not welcomed by the recipient of such a request or flirtation." This is more than just a legal admonishment; it's the classification of ordinary dating behavior, the kind Danielle decries the abject lack of, as something we should morally detest. Ask and ye shall receive.

If women have a problem with guys being too shy and timid, perhaps the issue writers like Danielle should complain about should be the underlying cause of the "demise of guys," (as Zimbardo would say), rather than trying to tackle the symptom as the cause of this social malady. Her theory of guys being too digitally immersed to be functional in "the real world" has some merit to it, but it isn't anything close to adequate by itself. Other parts of the country are as connected as the Northwest, and more so. The primary problem is socially and culturally deeper, and the "manly man" that Danielle and other women are biologically wired to desire--the provider and the protector--will not return until he is allowed to.


  1. I think Danielle is perhaps oblivious to the fact that there may be something about HER that make men not want to approach. How could there possibly be something wrong with every. single. man. out. there? It's pretty basic science that the control in each scenario (men not striking up conversation with Danielle) is, well, Danielle, and the variable is the men. In each different scenario (or experiment) different men (or substances) react the same to Danielle. It must therefore be Danielle.

    Long tangent aside, 'men of the Pacific Northwest' have no issues approaching ME, so it must not be the fact that I'm female, it must be the fact that Danielle is Danielle.

    In other words, you cannot draw conclusions about an entire culture based upon one observation from one scenario (that scenario being, whether menfolk approach Danielle). Statistically, I think the magic number of scenarios needs to be 30, in order to draw an accurate conclusion.

    1. I partially agree with you, and perhaps even more ironically, Danielle's own experience following her article's publication at least somewhat contradicts her thesis.

      However, conversely, your experience might make YOU the common denominator in your interactions with men; perhaps you are a surpassingly intelligent, attractive, approachable woman, and your experience isn't shared by others. Judging by the female comments on Danielle's Twitter account, her concerns appear to be fairly commonly shared.