Sexual politics and self-immolation on the Internet: A case study

Every once in a while, we see a perfect storm of controversy.

Today, we saw male entitlement, Millennial entitlement, Internet shaming, muddled online flirting and plain old idiocy combining into a miasma of self-defeating nonsense.

I picked up the conversation on a tip from a fellow women’s socceraholic, right about here:

On first read, this seemed harmless to me, particularly if you’ve just been reading about or experiencing the vast wasteland known as Tinder. The first thing that popped to my mind was Maeby from Arrested Development:

Which is certainly an improvement over what seems to be a typical Tinder conversation as far as I can gather not just from the Vanity Fair piece of late but from various friends:

Hey, what are you up to?

Not much. Just watching True Detective.

Cool. If you’ll stay right there, maybe I can come over and (bleeeeeep)

I don’t know why women bother with Tinder. Then again, I never understood why the bright feminist women I knew in college went to frat parties to get drunk and hook up with dirtbags.

To me, that Facebook exchange seems like an awkward flirtation or even an awkward way of just expressing admiration. And how can you not admire someone who has the creativity and the toughness to go on Tinder pretending to be a ghost. Good for her.

And as it turns out, the guy wasn’t even meaning to hit on her, he says.

He even sent her a nice apology and tried to take things back to the “Hi, how are you, I admire your work” stage.

See? He never really inten–

Wait … what? So … the story just changed.

So we’ll back up a second and see how these two got acquainted in the first place. Apparently, Schoen hosted something called “Mugglecast,” and Spelman, then a teenager, was a fan and befriended him on Facebook. (See, this is why I stopped taking random friend requests on Facebook — if you love my writing, follow me on Twitter, talk to me on Twitter, maybe get to know me, and then maybe I’ll take your friend request on Facebook. Don’t even talk to me about Instagram.)

And the first contact since the friend request was accepted was rather sweet.

Ten days later, they had that awkward Facebook exchange, and Spelman decided she really didn’t need him as a Facebook friend.

Which he did not take well.

Gee, and a good Svengali is so hard to find.

Let’s put this all in another context — rejection and the male ego. Look, rejection is hard. I was rejected all the way through high school. In retrospect, I understand — I was in no way mature enough to handle a relationship. I would’ve projected my troubles at home onto someone else, and I would’ve been a needy, clingy, socially awkward boyfriend. (Spare a thought here for the sweet young woman who dated me for a few weeks after high school.) And at the time, I’m sure said things I regret.

So I’m glad we had no Internet, where any whining I might have done could’ve wound up immortalized in the digital world and sent out to people who didn’t know me and wouldn’t believe me when I said I meant no harm. I’d like to think I would’ve had the good sense not to put anything rude online, but you never know.

Given all that, I so wanted to give the guy in this brouhaha the benefit of the doubt. I’ve seen other cases of Internet shaming gone overboard, and I’ve started to sympathize with the people being shamed. (See the compelling NYT Magazine piece “How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life.”) This guy was hurt, and he’s not really a stalking psychopath, right?

OK, that’s a little mean.

Well, that’s not a great comparison. Any chance you could try to back it up and just say the two most underused words in the English language — “I’m sorry” or “my bad”?

Wait, wait — weren’t you so impressed with her writing that you wanted to offer her a job that paid double?

OK, now things are just getting gross.

But wait! He’s apparently just trolling for fun and profit!

Brilliant!

Schoen also played the feminist card, having helped to start a site called Feminspire. But The Daily Dot dug into that and found that his business associates have a strange habit of racing away from him like a 1990s Tour de France cyclist on PEDs.

There’s an old saying: When you’re in a hole, quit digging. But as I type, he is continuing to sneer at everyone on Twitter. He’s not playing the victim card, but he’s the sole bread-winner for a family of nine, including a formerly homeless 60-year-old woman. Not that it’ll affect his career. Even though he said earlier he was cashing in on the attention. She hasn’t mentioned him in hours, and yet he’s trying to paint her as the one who won’t move on.

I’ve dealt with some Internet hate before. A certain women’s soccer player says something that doesn’t ring true, I question her about it, she snaps back at me on Twitter, and then I’ve got hundreds of fanboys and fangirls telling me I’m an ignorant sexist pig. I can’t claim the way I deal with it (calming, conciliatory words to the player and a sense of humor with a bit of self-deprecation to the angry fanatics) is the best.

But I know when someone needs to step away from the Internet. Maybe re-evaluate things. Then come back with some humility and humor.

Somehow, I doubt that’s going to happen here.

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