I received Erin's message last Thursday, and he was kind enough to allow me to publish it here, the no man's land of the Internets. I was thrilled when Erin messaged me — if nothing else, I'd like for this blog to catalyze some sort of dialogue and motivate thought, particularly from different vantage points.
For the record, I agree with the sentiment that "not all men are dogs." It pains me that I have to verbalize it — as though my defense of women and our right to inhabit the same space with the same degree of comfort as men automatically brands me as an angry, man-hating witch. I hate that before I publish every single post, I wonder if my comments make me seem too frustrated, too combative, too aggressive, because despite my well-placed fury (there, I said it), I have to make light of my situation — and the plight of women everywhere — to make my message more palatable.
I'm not here to point fingers or place blame. I'm not interested in playing the chicken and the egg game — are men socialized to treat women a certain way because of how women treat them, or is it the other way around? That isn't the point.
The point is that there is a very real lack of respect, mutual respect perhaps, when it comes to dating apps and the Internet as a whole. Yes, men and women technically both face the same risk of receiving offensive messages or suffering abuse, harassment, call it what you will online. But the truth of the matter is, women face it more. As per DOJ records over the last few years, "70 percent of those stalked online are women," whereas "more than 80 percent of cyber-stalking defendants are male." 90 percent of revenge porn cases involve illicit images of women (distributed by men). Rape jokes and other "humorous" depictions of violence towards women inundate comment sections of blogs, YouTube videos and other online platforms. And telling women that it is somehow our fault, that we incentivize this behavior, that we're effectively the source of our own suffering, is helping no one.
Even the notion of the "friend-zone" is one that challenges the agency of women to decide who she is or isn't interested in. There is something deeply unsettling about the negative connotation that men have attached to the word "friend," as though the only worthwhile relationship to have with a woman is one that involves sex. And for the record, I'd like to think that all men in my life, romantically attached or not, could be described as "nice."
Not all men are dogs, it is true. Not all women want the same things when they log onto Tinder or OKCupid or Hinge. But the difference is that women face a much more severe and perpetual threat of being made to feel uncomfortable in a space that should discriminate against no one, especially considering the necessity of women's presence to make these apps worthwhile (for the heterosexual user, that is).
Not all men hate women. Not every man is a misogynist. But I will say this — it is very different experience to read these messages on a blog than to receive them on your phone every. single. day. So if I come off a little angry sometimes, sorry not sorry.