Men, Feminism, and a Modern Woman

I wanted to post my story somewhere, so I thought here is as good as any.

I wanted to share this to get the advice from other people out there who have been facing this same thing.  While support and understanding are nice, and this will also be therapeutic for me, what I’m hoping for here is guidance.  Ultimately, right now, I am totally and completely at a loss, and it seems the more I try to understand, the more lost I get.  I’m not able to find a way through any of this.

As the title says, I’m just an average modern day woman.  I considered myself a feminist in high school, but it wasn’t until around 5 years ago that I became “vocal” about it.  I started going to marches, and started asking why I wasn’t getting promoted at work.  And during this time, my life has not seen any real commitment from men, and it certainly isn’t for lack of trying.  Over the years, I’ve repeatedly tried, and failed, to get anything beyond a second date, much less a boyfriend or a steady partner.

Trying Online Dating

At one time I had around 5 dating profiles, including OKCupid, Plenty of Fish, Craigslist ads, and a few others.  For OKCupid and Plenty of Fish in particular, in all, I probably sent out over a thousand messages, and only ever received a handful of replies.  I would need to send out 50 or 60 before I got even one response.  I tried dozens of profile rewrites, and watched instructional guides on how to write a profile, but nothing changed.  I did mange to get around 15 or so dates.

The few that actually did show up were generally ones who dressed up their online profiles claiming they were feminists, “body positive”, and “sex positive”, and always said they were looking for a LTR.  So to be honest, I had expected at least *something* to happen in that direction!  Like, a call the next morning, or a second date (I mean if you’re looking for a LTR, you’d expect at least that, right?)  But when we went out and they asked what I did, then found out I was educated on top of being a feminist, they’d sit across from me, disinterested, speak in a flat tone with very little emotional affect, withdrawn, talk about extremely mundane things, maybe order a sandwich, and then leave, usually with only a handshake, if that, and then never contacted me again.  I became confused as to what they think “feminist” means, if this is how they react when we’re in person.

I’ll speak more about myself in a moment, but usually around this time, I understandably get questions about what I must be doing on these dates.  Am I doing something, and am not aware of it?  I’m actually a financial consultant, and am a well respected member of my team at the firm where I work.  I’ve designed and teach classes on finance and marketing, and I’ve also given public talks.  The courses and materials I’ve written have been endorsed by my company.  Added to that, I’m also a former marketing exec, so I know how to run a business both front end and back end.  (Given how this is often received, I can understand why we don’t see women in STEM fields.)

Moreover, I have lots of friends at work, and I’m the woman people often come to when they need advice.  That makes this puzzle all the more frustrating to solve, as I honestly can’t figure it out.

To deal with most dates not showing up, and the dates that do show up being so extremely withdrawn, I decided to stop trying that, and went on meetups.com instead.  This allows you to find social meetups all around the city where you live.  That way, I know for certain that people are definitely going to show up, and there’s a better chance of meeting someone.  It just seems like a more efficient method.  But this hasn’t worked either.

At any given dating meetup, I’ll speak to someone for 2 minutes (often times less than a minute), and they seem to get scared off.  Admittedly I’ve only gotten feedback a few times, but from what I’ve been told, I’m somehow “overwhelming” and “intimidating”.  I put those in quotation marks because I can’t for the life of me see how I’m either of those things.  Here’s a little about myself and my background.

Some of my Background

I specialized in chemistry and atomic science for 10 years, and spent several years in Germany teaching those subjects. I wrote a few books on those fields which were also used in teaching classes. I switched careers for a short time and became a marketing executive, as I mentioned, for a few different companies. I decided to come back to America about 5 years ago, and I settled in Dallas. I now work as a financial consultant and teach classes in that field.

I *love* studying social science on my free time! I’ve recently spent a lot of time with feminist theory in particular, and wrote a few simple introductory guides on the subject, some of which were picked up by Upworthy. Statistics is another favorite of mine. I’ve been thinking of writing a book on feminism and basically answering all MRA and MGTOW claims, as they often miss the broader social context.  I just found the subject enlightening, and others can have a look if they want.

I like writing articles on modern day issues through the lens of questioning privilege, culture, and oppression. I simply love challenging ideas, having my ideas challenged, and learning new things. I also like learning new things in general, whether it’s academia from Cornell University’s website, or channels like Vsauce or Sci-Show. I sometimes write responses to such things, and I love having deep discussions.

However, I can’t say any of that, because every part of it, from what I’ve gathered, comes off as “intimidating”.  Nearly everything listed there seems to be an insta-kill for any conversation I’m having with a man.  There are times when I can even see their facial expression and body language change as I talk – they start leaning back, arm are crossed, expression changes, and then they find someone else they want to go talk to just moments later.  I’ve even had men get up and leave the table mid-sentence.

It’s come to a point where I don’t know what to do. What about this image is so scary?

But… what else can I say?  I don’t watch TV.  I stopped watching a long time ago because trash-TV became so popular.  I’ve never drank alcohol, never smoked, and never used… and I’ve found mentioning any of these things *also* nearly always elicits a negative response (like clean and sober is a bad thing).  I’ve learned one thing I absolutely should not ever mention are my fitness accomplishments.  I don’t include sugar in my diet, and eat mostly whole foods (spinach, kale, carrots, peas, etc).  Because of this, and because I train consistently, I can deadlift two hundred pounds, and can finish a hundred pushups in under 8 minutes.  Sometimes my arms look too muscular and that’s a put-off as well, so I try to wear long sleeves to cover them up.

Sometimes I feel so frustrated; as if I have to now apologize for making good choices with my life.  I understand a large part of this is that men put women down for being educated or accomplished, but I can’t get my head around having to pretend to be dumb to make a man interested.

Some Case Studies

And there are so many times when I got comfortable and ended up talking casually about a given topic, or about myself, and it ends with a guy being turned off before I know it.  Once I was on an outing with a bunch of others as part of a meetup.  I started feeling comfortable being with the crowd about a half hour in, so one of the guys approaches me and we start talking.  He talks a little about trying to start a business.  I added that I new a little about business too, then talked a little about what I knew.  After a few moments, I notice that he’s gone quiet… I look over at him while we’re walking, and yea… I’ve turned him off.  Alright.  He was trying to start a business, so I thought I’d share some experiences, but okay.  Wrong move.

Another time I was at a friends place, and the guy sitting next to me said he was a “sapiosexual” (someone attracted to intelligence).  I smiled and said I was too, so I started talking a little about what I’ve been reading lately from Soren Kierkegaard.  He went quiet, his facial expression went neutral.  A few moments later, he stands up and goes somewhere else.  Maybe we have a different understanding of what “sapiosexual” means.

Over 5 years, dozens of meetups, and dating sites, the takeaway lesson for me was to just shut the hell up about literally anything I’ve ever done, studied, accomplished, the places I’ve traveled… pretty much everything about me needs to be kept quiet.  So I’ve got alternative answers to the most basic questions I might get asked.  Where do I work?  I just work in an office.  I type letters and stuff.  For a big company.  What do I do for fun?  I like watching cat videos.  And seeing selfies on facebook.  (This again is possibly the main reason we don’t see women in STEM fields — you do it, and you’re forever punished for it.)  Plans for the future?  I hope to have my happily ever after story (if I said my actual plans they’d get scared off).  What do I like?  Um… big strong manly arms?  I mean what else am I allowed to like?  And then there’s “tell me about yourself”, which is the hardest of all because it’s so open ended and I struggle with what to say that isn’t going to be a complete turn off.  I usually mention something briefly about my time in the office, then turn it back over to them and fawn over whatever they say.

Using this method has actually worked…. conversations have gone from ending after 2 minutes to actually lasting a good long while.  It’s also resulted in not one, but TWO followup dates from the meetups!  Neither went very well, and neither resulted in a second date.  One ended with a friendly hug (the one where you’re bent over and lightly patting the other person’s back), and the other ended with a handshake.  But hey, this was still an improvement!

This seems to have worked so far, and I’ll continue using variants of this strategy; remove anything that might present as intelligent, downplay myself by as much as possible, speak as though I’ve never done anything with my life, and give as much focus to the other person as possible.  Maybe once the guy has warmed up to me, he’ll be okay with knowing I’m not a ditz.  (If anyone has had to go through similar experiences, or has a better method, go ahead and let me know how please, that’s why I’m posting this.)

At any non-dating meetups, I’ll just be myself, and break the ice by briefly mentioning some thoughts I’ve had on an extrapolation quantum field theory in regards to the argument of free will, or ask if anyone’s familiar with the Trolly Problem (famous thought experiment in philosophy that examines ethics and moral dilemmas).  Will probably be a hundred times more comfortable at casual meetups.

I’ve just been without a serious relationship now for 5 years and would really like to change that.

The Power of Negative Thinking

No doubt the title of this post grabbed your eye.  But before we get into that, let me first tell you a story on something I think all of us have heard of by now: the Power of Positive Thinking™!

You see, long long ago, there once was a man named Razak, who lived in the Kingdom of Malaya (modern day Malaysia).  He was a common worker who gathered coconuts and bamboo from the jungle.  Razak wasn’t the greatest warrior in the kingdom by any means, but he was certainly in good shape, and could handle himself with a sword or a spear if he had to.  He was very hard working, and many times people came to him for help and advice.  He was well known and respected in his kampong (home village).

Then one day, a great Malayan Tiger was found prowling around outside the gates of his kampong!  People came to Razak and asked him to handle this beast.  He knew the job was tough, and it would be dangerous, but he needed to drive the tiger away so that everyone would remain safe.

Now admittedly, Razak was scared at first, but he also happened to know about the power of staying positive!  “Come on Razak, you can do it!” his friends would shout.No_Negativity

“Believe in yourself!”

“We know you can!  YOU know you can!”

“Dont let fear overcome you!”

Encouragement came from all around, and Razak knew in his heart that he must rely on his bravery and courage, and most importantly, the power of remaining positive, if he was to overcome this terrible ordeal.

He summoned this knowledge to the forefront of his mind, and it began to build his confidence. “If you really, truly believe you can, then you can.  The only one telling you that you can’t, is you!  When you say ‘I can’t’ and expect the worst, then you become weak and unable.  But when you say ‘I can’, and expect success, you fill yourself with confidence!  Never say ‘I can’t’.  Always say ‘I CAN!’  Remember, ‘impossible’ is really I’m-Possible!”

So out from the kampong gates he walks, with courage and positive thoughts in his mind…

And immediately gets eaten.

Why?

Because walking outside to fight a fully grown 700 pound tiger on your own is COMPLETELY FRIGGEN STUPID!!!  That’s why.

Lets rewind the clock by a few minutes for Razak, and consider the power of negative thinking.  What might have happened had Razak been more negative?  He might have thought:

“If I know anything about Tigers, I know that they’re made of 3 things – teeth, claws, and fury.  I better stay inside.”

“OMG look at how big that thing is!  I better not go out there!”

“Sorry, I don’t want to get eaten today.  I think I’ll stay in bed.”

See all those?  They’re the products of “negative thinking“.  Razak is telling himself he can’t.  He’s thinking that it’s not possible, and that he shouldn’t even try – despite all the encouragement he’s getting and people that believe in him.  That’s because Razak is not a complete moron.

So inside the village he stays, and his friends begin losing faith as their tones change sharply.  Now he’s called a coward, among other things, and everyone begins expressing their disappointment, hurling strings of insults at him.  Later that afternoon, some properly trained and equipped guards are dispatched from the Malayan palace, and they take care of the tiger without incident.  Razak’s reputation was tarnished, but that’s not Razak’s fault.  Believe it or not, sometimes it really isn’t you, and it really is everyone else.

Over the coming weeks, Razak engages in neutral thinking (yep, it’s still not positive).  Razak understands why everyone sees things they way they do.  In their minds, they built him up to be some kind of hero, and wanted to see him do something entirely unrealistic.  They wanted to see their hero engage a wild animal in combat, perhaps with just his bare hands, and win.  Maybe even complete his victory with his hands on his hips, chest out, looking skyward, and one foot upon the tiger’s body (and for added effect, the tiger could be waving a little white flag, having been whooped on by our amazing Razak!)  He knows this, and doesn’t blame them.  However, he also knows that people change with time.  Just as they were nice to him before, and now are resentful, one day they’ll let that go and be nice to him again.  Normalcy returns by doing normal things.

The Pitfalls of Positive Thinking

Positive thinking is extremely useful when it’s used properly as one of many tools for a successful and happy life.  However, when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  Having or insisting on only one perspective for every situation is destructive, no matter if it’s positive or negative.

This distinction is extremely important.  The “Positive Thinking” crowd seem to have created their own unique culture, where negative emotions simply aren’t allowed – even when they’re perfectly normal and healthy.  Negative emotions allow healing and recovery from negative experiences.  The question should not be to eliminate all negativity, simply because negative things are automatically bad; the question should be on how to manage negative experiences in a healthy and well balanced way.

Lying to yourself and masking over painful experiences with forced positivity is destructive.  If your day has just been too much, then releasing tension and expressing negative emotions (like to a friend or family member) is naturally going to make you feel better.  This is something you might want to do before showing up to an interview.  This contrasts from constantly forcing a positive view on absolutely everything; instead, we’re managing a healthy balance between negative, positive, and sometimes neutral views.

In fact, a detailed study carried out by Pals (2006a) showed that exploring negative experiences can be extremely helpful in allowing a person to grow and become emotionally mature.  From the study, this involves 2 steps:

1. The person explores the negative experience in depth, thinking long and hard about what the experience feels or felt like, how it came to be, and what it may lead to, and what role the negative event may play in his or her overall understanding of self,

and –

2. the person articulates and commits the self to a positive resolution of the event.

Pals liked the first step more than the second, because skipping that first step essentially means you’re cheating yourself out of all the valuable lessons you could learn, and not viewing the event as it really was.  The goal here is to explore the negative event thoroughly, then understand it with neutrality, then resolve something positive to come from it.

If you want to learn to ride a horse, you need to learn to fall.  But there’s no way to learn from the negative experience of falling if you keep labeling it as a “positive experience”.  You might even end up learning that you’re supposed to fall instead of ride!  This is one reason why some people stay at jobs they hate, or stay in abusive relationships; it’s because they’re convinced that the act of acknowledging any negativity in what they’re experiencing is bad, rather than the experience itself being bad.  It’s also why an MLM “consultant” / “advisor” / “network marketer” (read: “sales rep”) refuses to leave the scheme once they’ve been suckered in. Without a healthy balance of negativity and neutrality, the person’s life is destined to fall into a deadly cycle of becoming worse and worse, with each step down being covered up with more and more “positive thinking”.

Keeping Perspective

Is your glass half full, or half empty?  Positive Thinking fanatics would insist that it’s half full, and condemn any other possible view.

However, what if you’re waiting for someone to finish their glass so you can put it in the sink, wash it, and go to bed?  What if the drink has medicine in it, and you’re encouraging a sick relative to finish it all?  Being half empty in both these cases is a good thing!  But again, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

In summary, a positive attitude is an extremely valuable thing.  People who remain positive recover from sickness faster, have longer lives, and make more friends.  However, in the business world especially, a “positive attitude” is often given a near-magical quality.  Business plans?  Market research?  Fulfillment stations?  Bah!  All you really need is a positive attitude, and everything else will fall into place!

That, or you’ll instantly get eaten by a tiger called “life”.