And the mansplainer brigade rushes in

As posted previously: Message from some guy on Facebook:

Hello, I was just surfing through Facebook and your photo kept me wondering and admiring because it is indeed a rare privilege to come across such an angelic damsel i would love to be a friend **smile**

And less than two hours after I pointed out how sexist this was and why, the mansplainer brigade rushes in. From Facebook:

I’m sorry, is everyone here seriously piling on to someone (robot or real) because they tried to hit on somebody on facebook?

No. We are piling on because he was being sexist in his approach, focusing entirely on appearance with no attention to anything else. (Assuming this was a sincere approach from a real person who is now reading this thread, all of which I highly doubt.)

Really? Here you are, hedging your bets against being called a bitch all the while essentially being a rude person. Potato potatoe.

I actually thought my reply was quite polite, civil, calm, and straightforward. What about it was rude? Do you think that it is inherently rude for women to point out to men that their romantic/ sexual advances are unwanted, and that it’s sexist to focus their attention to women entirely on our appearance?

What is wrong with “no thank you” or “thanks but no thanks? “

What is wrong with telling men that their behavior is sexist and unwanted? Also, what’s wrong with letting women decide for ourselves how and when to respond to sexism?

I’m usually pretty supportive of your messages, but this seems less about feminism and women’s rights than it seems to be about being socially awkward (both you and him) and not knowing how to initiate or respond.

If this really were (as I highly doubt) a case of a socially awkward man making a sincere but ill-chosen approach, what’s wrong with pointing out that his behavior is alienating women and that he should behave differently if he wants women to like him? Wouldn’t sincere but socially awkward people want that feedback?

Don’t expect your followers to give you carte blanche for being rude just because you’re modality of rejection is being rude.

And again: What, exactly, was rude about my reply?

If this WAS. A human being that reached out to you, it seems to me that you had zero consideration for that person as a human, flaws and all.

Actually, I did treat him with consideration. Despite the fact that I think this is probably a total jerk at best and a scam-bot at worst, I gave him the most charitable interpretation of his words — that he was sincerely approaching me, and doing it badly. I explained what was wrong with his approach, and told him how to do better in the future, with no insults or name-calling. Again, you seem to think that it is inherently rude and inconsiderate for women to tell men when their behavior is sexist and unwanted. It seems that you have zero consideration for women who are targeted with sexism, and much more consideration for men who dish it out.

You made a pretty big (huge, in fact) assumption about that person without any information beyond his (or robots) initial attempt at contact. What a all, sad world to live in where everyone that doesn’t do or say EXACTLY the perfect thing to your liking is an enemy in the waiting. Dislike.

I made the assumption, based entirely on his own words, that he was approaching me based entirely on my photo, without ever having read anything I post. I made the assumption, based entirely on his own words, that he was focusing on my appearance without paying any attention to anything else about me. And I did not treat him as an enemy — unless, again, you think telling men when their behavior is sexist and unwanted qualifies as such.

Queue the mindless footsoldiers, most likely…

Yes, by all means — scold me for being rude, and then insult my friends and readers. m-/

…but I would seriously like to hear why you thought this approach was ok. To score internet points? I just don’t get it. Why even engage if that is how you feel?

Pointing out sexism in the world is, in the most literal sense of the word, my job.If you don’t like it when I do that, even when I do it in the calmest and most reasonable manner possible, I encourage you to stop reading my work.


And then, just a couple hours later, the mansplaining continued from another source (albeit in a somewhat less aggressive vein):

Idk. Isn’t it possible he knows and even admires her and even had good intentions but is not very articulate or precise.

He was actually very precise. He complimented my appearance, based on my photo, without mentioning anything about interests or ideas based on my posts. (Assuming that this is a real person and not a scam-bot, that is, which seems unlikely.)

Not so much on t interweb, but irl when two people meet, often all they know of one another is info from appearance.

??? This is on the Interweb. We know lots about each other apart from appearance. (And even in the flesh, that isn’t necessarily true.)

Maybe to that guy “Angelic Damsel” to him is simply his generic compliment to women. Can’t “angelic” be used for caring, concerned, or compassionate . Otoh “damsel” might be t last word I would ever use to describe Greta. All i can do w that is go back to generic compliment.

Please read the post. He didn’t simply use the phrase “angelic damsel.” He went on about how much he wanted to be my friend, based entirely on my photo, with nothing else about my interests or ideas based on my posts. (And if he is handing out generic compliments — why should I see that as complimentary? I like being complimented for who I am.)

Being someone who is rarely a smooth talker myself, I tend to cut more slack for others .

Again — this isn’t about not being a smooth talker. Many men — and women — who I like very much and find very attractive are not smooth talkers. This is about a common form of sexism: treating women as if the only thing about us that’s interesting and attractive is our appearance.

But what do I know.

It would be soooooo easy to run with this. But I’m trying to be baseline civil here, so I’m not going to.

And the mansplainer brigade rushes in

44 thoughts on “And the mansplainer brigade rushes in

  1. 3

    From the previous post about this incident:

    Anyone want to take bets on how long it takes him to call me a bitch?

    Setting aside the “rude person” insinuation, and inferring that the original suitor has yet to follow through (they don’t make Romeos like they useta), when did the first b-word accusation fly?

  2. 4

    So it’s mansplaining when a man tries to explain why a man might have approached you this way? I thought mansplaining was when a man tries to speak for a woman.

  3. 7

    So it’s mansplaining when a man tries to explain why a man might have approached you this way? I thought mansplaining was when a man tries to speak for a woman.

    chasstewart @ #4: I’ve seen “mansplaining” used to mean both men speaking for women, and men defending sexist men and explaining why their actions weren’t really sexist. The common thread seems to be men explaining to women what is and isn’t sexism, and explaining how we should and should not feel about it and respond to it.

  4. 8

    Let’s suppose he is just “socially awkward.” How were you supposed to respond? What you did — politely explaining to him why his comments were inappropriate — was pretty much the best you could have.

    If you responded positively, you’d get more of the same from him, and then they’d blame you for having given him the idea that you liked his approach.

    If you ignored him — “oh, how rude! I bet if he’d been smooth talking/rich/handsome, you would have responded!”

  5. 9

    My understanding is that “mansplaining” doesn’t necessarily refer to any particular topic, but “explaining” things in a condescending way. As though, not being a man, you can be assumed to be ignorant and should defer to male authority.

    (I hope I’m not mansplaining mansplaining 😉 )

  6. 10

    Good grief. It just ain’t right to approach anyone out of the blue with that kind of language, that kind of intimacy, period. That a lot of people think it’s OK doesn’t make it so.

    Assuming this is an honest human being acing in good faith, his attempt if the product of sexism and privilege in culture, and the manner in which men are taught to “take a risk” in starting a dialogue with a woman.

    I think it was overly kind to let him know that this approach may not quite be the good idea he thought it was. That’s some honest human interaction right there.

    they tried to hit on somebody on facebook?

    I guess Greta Christina didn’t realize she was standing under the Meat Market sign. I guess she should more carefully scout the surroundings of where she chooses to be. Hyper-alert, women, until some Man™ tells you to relax.

  7. 11

    I don’t think that approaching someone on the basis of their appearance is inherently wrong, but in this case contextually wrong. Even I (back in the day) occasionally had people hit on me because they liked the way I looked, and that was fine by me. But in the context of women often having their worth linked to their appearance, it’s a bit like telling a black person you want to be their friend because they’ve got great rhythm. It plays so much into demeaning stereotypes that it’s more insulting than complimentary.

  8. 12

    Argh, wheels within wheels. I don’t know what is more amusing: comments by people who had not read the original post and made assumptions about what was said, or the requests for clarification of definitions.

    Or is the most amusing part where people tell the author what her feelings and opinions should be, right after she explained how she felt and why?

    Never mind, I’ve decided that the most amusing part is that anyone would rush to defend spam from a Nigerian Romance Scammer. Real or not, attention must be paid! (Rolls Eyes)

  9. 15

    We know that social awkwardness is used to explain away everything from clumsy sexist approaches through to stalking, sexual assault, and plying a target with booze. I’d say, based on that, that a firm rebuke and an attempt to educate these supposedly socially awkward lotharios is a duly cautious and responsible act.

  10. 16

    Why is everyone so concerned about the feelings of a romance scammer? Seriously, after getting these solicitations dozens of times in the last few years, they are easy to recognize.

  11. 17

    This original FB come-on was so superficial and clumsy that no one in the conversation, neither Greta nor the mansplainers nor the rest of us are even sure it was a real person. If the post can’t pass a Turing Test, then surely there is something badly wrong with it – so why are these people jumping in to defend it? Is it only that they object to the possibility that the flaws in it might be rooted in sexism?

  12. 19

    Why is everyone so concerned about the feelings of a romance scammer? Seriously, after getting these solicitations dozens of times in the last few years, they are easy to recognize.

    Would their defensive nonsense be more acceptible if this was an obviously sincere message from a real person?

  13. 20

    Wouldn’t sincere but socially awkward people want that feedback?

    Man here who used to be socially awkward around women here. My answer is “YES!” Furthermore, what I would *not* want is a simple “Thanks, but no thanks” as that would not have helped me with my social awkwardness.

  14. 21

    I know this is completely beside the point, but I’m curious. If this is just a spam-bot, what’s the point? What possible outcome could be sought that is beneficial to anyone?

    Or is this just mindless trolling for trolling’s sake? A 12-year-old writing code because he can.

    For the life of me, I can’t think of any way that a spammer could benefit from this. Maybe I’m just not savvy into all-things-internet. But this makes neither rational sense nor does it seem to be all that much of a pleasurable hobby.

  15. 22

    But – but – but – as long as it presents as male, even a putative spambot must be coddled and deferred to and allowed to importune a mere woman! Because maleness! After all, it might have been set up by a Real Person (i.e. a man) originally, so all Lesser Beings should treat it with respect and rate their own time, trouble and wishes as naught in comparison with even the most distantly reflected aura of manly man Real Person-ness.

  16. 23

    @ 21 Kevin Kehres

    There are grifters who romanceprey on women – romance her, get her confidence, then her life savings for ‘investment’ purposes. They don’t need many hits from their fishing expeditions. They use formats like Craigslist too.

  17. 25

    Hello, I was just surfing through Facebook and your photo kept me wondering and admiring because it is indeed a rare privilege to come across such an angelic damsel i would love to be a friend **smile**

    In other words …

    Me, me, and more me and what I’m doing.  Hey, cute photo! (include backhanded swipe at other women’s appearance).  I want to meet you based on that information alone.

    That’s not awkward.  That’s creepy.

    Here’s what he could have done.

    Hey, Greta, I just finished Coming Out Atheist and thought it was great.  Would you care to meet for drinks or coffee so we could discuss it?  You, Ingrid, and I could meet up at the next Perverts Put Out in San Fran, if you’re so inclined.

    In other words, he could have shown actual interest in the life and work of the person he wanted to meet.  He could have acknowledged the fact that Greta’s married.  He could have asked a legitimate question where the answer could legitimately be yes or no.  He could have been a genuinely nice person instead of a trademark “Nice Guy™” (believing random, faux-chivalrous internet compliments on appearance and other such “nice guy” behavior entitled him to a woman’s time, attention, or interest).

    Is that enough feedback for the “my-feelings-are-so-easily-hurt” mansplaining brigade?

  18. 26

    It seems that you have zero consideration for women who are targeted with sexism, and much more consideration for men who dish it out.

    Well, yeah, I think that’s pretty much the whole point behind the MRA ‘movement’…..


  19. 27

    At the risk of mansplaining a bit myself (but please read final paragraph before judging me), I don’t think this is about feminism/misogyny/etc., at least not the original message. It was, indeed, a spambot, as even a moment’s cursory googling would elide:

    We could argue that the contents of the spambot message are symptomatic of a misogynist culture, but FWIW I get spambot messages from “women” (who are not real) that are basically exactly the same thing. The original message is more an indictment of spambots than it is of our broader culture.

    Ironically, what is a severe indictment of our misogynist culture are all the people highlighted in this second post, coming to the defense of a pathetic spambot. If I re-posted an obvious spambot comment from an invented “woman” and said how stupid it was, nobody would be heckling me saying that I was rude or that I should “just give her a chance”. It would all be lulz at how dumb and dehumanizing the spambot approach is. So… I don’t think this was really about misogyny to begin with, but all the people vociferously protesting that the comment was legitimate, and that Greta’s response was rude, have ironically made it about misogyny. Now that’s some lulz…

  20. 29

    “Wouldn’t sincere but socially awkward people want that feedback?”

    As possibly the shyest, most socially awkward person you will ever encounter, yes. Seriously, this idea that shy, awkward people are delicate flowers that must be coddled and never rejected is completely ridiculous. I have a lot of trouble interacting with people and always have, but I still understand boundaries and if someone tells me that they don’t appreciate my behavior, I learn from my mistakes and do better. I don’t crumble into a million little crying babies every time I don’t get what I want. And I really don’t appreciate these blowhards using my shyness as an excuse to be inappropriate without consequence.

  21. 31

    @NateHevens #28,

    This really isn’t an “at best” scenario is it? Real or not, people are defending it as though it is. Therefore the apologetics are very real, and very damaging – this is proactive reinforcement of the notion that the rights of socially awkward men to make unsolicited, objectifying approaches trump the rights of women to exist unharassed.

    This is not funny. It is depressingly similar to the reaction to so many verifiably real creeps who have made unwanted approaches to people we know or follow in this community. Real or not, makes no functional difference.

  22. 32

    I’m NOT even looking at whatever has piled up here.

    The original message was fuckin’ bizarre, the language is a mess and the content gives no hint of there being an actual person making any kind of introduction. The response was to the point, and quite temperate.

    This is AN instance. It is not a licensed moment for everyone to indulge free-association about THEIR experience with trolling messages, or snarky dismissals, or the dread ‘wall of silence’ effect. And it was on FACEBOOK, not some dating/introduction site.

  23. 34

    (Note on the above: I have no idea what culuriel’s gender identification preference is; responding with “m’lady” is a reference to “hello m’lady” and not meant as an actual comment on zir gender.)

  24. 37

    Well, after an enlightening trip through the tubes of the interwebs, I have discovered that “romance scams” are indeed a “thing”.

    A BIG “thing”. Multi-million dollars a year “thing”. Preying on the usual suspects — vulnerable, lonely, naive. Of which there appears to be an inexhaustible supply in the US, UK, Australia, and most other “western” countries.

    This was no innocent, awkward approach to Greta from a distant admirer. It was a scam in progress.

    Here’s the advice given by the experts in dealing with this type of thing (ie, the FBI, Interpol, US Secret Service, etc, etc. etc.).

    Say, “fuck off troll”, then block the scammer. Phone, e-mail, Facebook, anything else. Block, block, block.

    Engaging in these people opens you up to manipulation, identity theft, and worse. Don’t do it.

  25. 38

    I thought the initial response was pretty much Ideal. It did not insult the person (probably spambot) but explained what was wrong with the approach, even giving leeway in interpreting intent (“You may think you were complimenting me, but…”). It was great advice, delivered calmly. I wish I had heard it before I hit puberty. I do realize that it may have been said and I either wasn’t listening or it was drowned out by cultural noise.

    I have always been compassionate and cared about people’s feelings but, looking back, there were many times in my past when I said/did hurtful things out of plain-old ignorance (largely male privilege). I have learned a lot as I’ve gotten older but I also know that I will NEVER be able to find all the things I’m ignorant about. It is helpful when someone points out a flaw in my world-model, even though my initial reflex is still often defensiveness. Now, after much practice, my defensive reflex is generally nothing more that a momentary burst of adrenaline and the feeling of my sinuses opening up.

    Greta, it is a rare privilege to come across such a well-spoken, intelligent, compassionate person. I would love to be a friend (the real kind, not the generally meaningless Facebook kind).

  26. 39

    If this is just a spam-bot, what’s the point? What possible outcome could be sought that is beneficial to anyone?

    Hmmm… as Greta pointed out, it is literally her job to write about sexism, and whether it’s “real” or “fake,” this was a perfectly serviceable text from which to draw a lesson.

    Even if the perpetrator here is nothing but a ‘bot that can’t read Greta’s reply, there are almost certainly people in her audience who can benefit from what she’s written: Women who have been approached in just this way by real creepy men; well-intentioned (or at least potentially educable) men who might through ignorance our thoughtlessness fall into some (possibly subtler) version of this error, but for the preemptive coaching; etc.

    I’d turn the question around: Even if this approach was only the product of a spam-bot (as Greta acknowledged repeatedly might well be the case), what’s the harm in analyzing it?

  27. 41

    I actually read your response to this “person” (obviously not) as a polite invitation to engage in real dialogue, not as a rude or inconsiderate rejection. Funny how people take things completely out of context.

  28. 43

    Seems like a reasonable response from Greta to me.

    Person shows up and wants to create a social connection based only on physical appearance.

    Greta points out that wanting to create social connections based on physical appearance only is shallow, insulting and treats the person like an object instead of a unique individual with, let’s say social characteristics worth creating a connection over.

    Appearance is meaningless. Wonderful and terrible people can be attractive or not.

  29. 44

    A good observation that I am having trouble finding is that to the brain, criticism (even constructive criticism) can feel like harassment. Criticism does not feel the same to everyone so while some people are able to take it, others don’t like any sort of criticism. I wonder if people who feel second hand criticism (they feel criticized because of a group association) are less willing to put up with it and respond as it it was harassment.

    The context was a study about how teachers can make students feel harassed and I don’t know why I’m having trouble finding it.

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