Fortune smiles upon me once again: The perfect illustration of a guy who doesn't quite get it.
Dustin Seibert- and his lovely little collumn here called "Game on the train? I'll take a pass"- is, I suspect, the sort of guy that many feminist blogs are talking about when they're call someone a Nice Guy™. He gives lip service to "getting it," but his attitude, and a lot of his comments, suggest to me that he doesn't really get it.
A casual glance might give you the impression that he's most of the way there. After all, he's writing about how he doesn't approach random women on the train. That's good, right? Of course. He also mentions that one of the reasons he doesn't approach random women on the train is "I know too many women who get freaked out by such advances." He's making progress, yeah? Well... maybe not so much.
See, while it's great that he's not bothering women on the train for their numbers, his attitude about the whole thing is depressingly angry and snide. Right after acknowleging that he knows too many women who are bothered by the unwelcome advances of strangers, he adds "The sneers that pop up on their faces a split-second before I even get a chance to smile say, 'I don't have a chance,' 'I'm not interested in what you're selling' or simply 'why the hell are you talking to me?!?'"
Ignoring for the moment that what he really means is "you don't stand a chance," think about that attitude for a second. His concern isn't about what the women are feeling about unwelcome advances- it's about how he feels about the rejection he gets from women who are bothered by unwelcome advances. He doesn't like feeling shut down, so he doesn't approach women.
On the one hand, the result is great- he's not bothering women and invading their personal space. On the other, the reason is a shitty one- he doesn't like feeling rejected, not because he respects their personal space. If there was any doubt about that, the stand-alone line "They're likely also thinking, 'Well, if he were really good-looking, then I might be more receptive." makes it quite clear. It's not that he thinks women don't like being bothered on the subway- it's that he thinks women want to be bothered by men more attractive than himself. He's taking a situation that ought to be about the woman's feelings and turning it back into something that's about his own.
In other words: Seibert? It's not about you. It's not about how attractive you are. It's not about how interesting or shallow you are. It's about respecting another person's right not to be pestered and hit on while they're taking the tram.
There are plenty of other cues about Seibert's mentality. He's unhappy that women might find him unattractive, but repeatedly discusses approaching attractive women: "that one very attractive women sitting by herself on your train", "Perhaps approaching a pretty young local in East Snackbite, Ill would be easier", "will the cutie standing on the corner..."
For an article talking about how Seibert doesn't hit on women on the train, he seems singularly invested in blaming women for his not hitting on them. He talks about the "inaccessibility" of women on the streets as though it's a bad thing that he can't hit on them. He refers to "lowe-culture" men who "ruin it for us good guys" as though, if only it weren't for all those classless losers, Seibert might have a chance to score some numbers on the street. After all, he's "no sketchy individual", and he's just trying to "offer substantive sonversations" that are "falling on deaf ears."
Shorter Seibert: "Poor Nice Guys! We have it so hard!"
The problem, of course, is that I think a lot of people probably read this kind of article and don't see a problem with it. They read it and they really do think "Wow, that sucks for him! Why are those women so mean to him! He's cute, and look at how nice he is!" Because he's paying lip-service to the desires of women, no matter how back-handedly, any criticism is likely to be met with resistence. After all, he respects women, so why are we so hard on him? That he spends the entire article blaming women for the situation and discussing how unfair and difficult it is that women are unreceptive to advances in public... well... never you mind that.
So, there you go, exactly the sort of subtle sexism that underlies a lot of what we've been talking about. I almost feel like I should send him a thank you note. But, somehow, "Thanks for being a sexist asshat who blames women for your problems" just doesn't seem like it'd go over well.