This week in the world: most disgusting man on planet Earth, Julien Blanc, had his visa revoked in Australia and is banned from entering Australia, Brazil and South Korea. Blanc is a self-professed dating guru who provides lewd YouTube tutorials and actual classes and seminars for unconfident men. Blanc is currently the subject of a change.org petition bearing over 149,000 names at the time of writing calling to have him banned from entering the UK, especially after posting a “How To Make Her Stay Chart” which was originally designed to help women identify abusive behaviour in a relationship to his Twitter feed (and then taking it down). I was going to post that chart here, but it’s not entirely germane to the topic of this blog and it’s so utterly offensive when viewed as per Blanc’s intentions that I couldn’t bring myself to saving it to my computer and republishing it.
The legal discussion about whether Blanc should be the subject of a nation-wide ban is fascinating. You can read good discussions on this topic about the UK here and with regards to Canada, here. I am not about to delve into a discussion of Charter rights and free speech, but I highly recommend these articles to get your fill on nerdy, legal discourse on what the request to bar Blanc’s entry means from a legal perspective.
As I was spiralling into the Julien Blanc inspired chain of articles online, I stumbled across an article entitled “For pick-up artists, women are targets. No wonder we don’t want to share a landmass with Julien Blanc“, published on November 11. The author is Lindy West and she has a new fan in me.
In her article, West describes a new dating app which she describes as one part art project, one part online dating app. The app, Siren, is intended to prioritize women’s safety. The app is designed for a younger generation that doesn’t want to spend so much time sitting behind a computer but prefers the instant gratification of a mobile app. According to the app’s creators, Susie Lee and Katrina Hess, “As online dating options have grown, Lee noticed that her friends’ frustration did, too: With every good introduction often came a slew of lewd ones”.
Inspired by these negative and seemingly unavoidable problems with creeps, Siren is controlled entirely by women. When you download the app as a woman, you are invisible to ALL male users, but can see all of their profiles. When you decide you like the looks of a profile, you can send the user a notification and the user can then decide whether they want to interact with you. Lee has described this as being like a woman casting a smile towards a person in “real life”, giving the smiler-receiver the go-ahead to come over and strike up a conversation. He doesn’t have to. But, if he does, and if you don’t like what you hear, you can make yourself invisible again to this user, thus ending the conversation without any fear of retaliation or harassment. This is also like in “real life” where you could simply end a conversation with a person and, unless you’ve already given that person your contact information, they’re unable to continue to harass you after the fact. Seems brilliant, right?
West writes that this should be helpful considering the endless “haranguing” (Google tells me this word means “lecture (someone) at length in an aggressive and critical manner”) that women deal with when faced with an aggressive man in whom they have no interest. Similarly, it should help out those blokes who are too shy or unconfident to know when they should talk to women (and who, in turn, end up going to Julien Blanc’s “bootcamps” on…like domestic violence crossed with dating advice? So…I guess this is very good).
Theoretically, this app seems harmless. With an objective that is purported to be protective of women in nature, and not anti-man in nature (as emphasized by the app’s goal of pairing man and woman up!), what’s the harm, right?
I’m not so sure. All the while reading about it, I couldn’t help but think: why are you still teaching me I must change my behaviour in order to get through this life?
This app, like women carrying pepper spray, not wearing too short of skirts, not walking alone at day or at night or at lunch time or any time ever, suggests that it is again, me, who must find a way to stop you from crossing a line of some kind.
When asked his opinion on this app, a friend said (and I paraphrase) he saw a lot of problems with it. Throughout our discourse he said he would often see guys going downtown and their whole objective is to make progress (read: big progress) with someone they meet downtown. If they haven’t found someone, the night is a loss. When they talk to someone, they don’t see the girl they’re talking to as someone they’re just shooting the breeze with. They don’t see that it could be a girl or a guy, and you’re just shooting the breeze, and you might have a really good time and you might have a friend. You might get up the nerve to get their number and to want to see them again. Maybe it’ll be a whole lot more. But whatever it will become, at that moment it’s just two people talking. And somehow, people don’t see that.
I swear, I almost kissed this person when they said all that (badly paraphrased quote). It’s just two people talking.
Somewhere between my gut telling me that it just shouldn’t be ME who has to change all my behaviour to avoid your bad behaviour, and this brilliant notion of it being “just two people talking”, I had to ask, why are we building apps? I mean, these women are building an app in one part to make money, but even behind the money there was also an idea.
My issue is why isn’t the idea more grassroots? Why is the idea so many years above a person forming the notion that they really ought to “harangue” me if I “reject” them? Why aren’t we teaching little boys at the tender age of five, six, seven, that these girls who around them are the same as them? Not to harass girls (or anyone) at any time? Why instead do you teach me at 12, 13, 14, 25, 26, 27 “here, girl, carry this pepper spray, make sure not to wear “slutty” clothes, and always walk in pairs”.
When I was in elementary school, a girl in a rural town not far from my rural town was raped and killed. How horrifically sad. She had been wearing pyjama pants (as used to be the thing in lieu of leggings). I was not allowed to wear my pyjama pants anymore.
It was unrelated, but it was how we deal and it’s how we have always dealt with the notion of violence against women. It’s up to us to change our behaviour.
Well, I agree. It is time for some changes in behaviour. However, I think any time I have to change my behaviour to avoid you doing what you’re not supposed to do is victim blaming. When I change to avoid what happened to someone else happening to me, I suggest that changed thing might very well have contributed to that person’s being a victim. Isn’t that precisely what victim blaming is?
If you teach me math in primary school knowing I will eventually need math, why aren’t you teaching boys to view girls only as people knowing they will eventually need to view girls only as people? This sounds insane, except that society has shown that gender inequality exists! Misogyny! So take some responsibility. Obviously a lesson is missing somewhere. Teach boys a conversation is a conversation and entitlement to certain outcome isn’t real.
The change is not in the apps on my phone or in the pepper spray in my person, but is in the lessons I, and my society and my community, teach my child. We can’t remain silent on an issue we know could exist one day, knowing that at such a young age, little one’s have little malleable brains that suck up information and that turn that information into the components of one’s adult self.
While banning Blanc from countries and downloading protective dating apps is all fine and well, it’s clear a better world would be without Blancs and the necessity for protective dating apps. Teach a youth about the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). Ancient wisdom, likely very on point.