Twisted flyboys and online meat markets

Readers respond to recent articles on a U.S. servicewoman's fight over mandatory Muslim garb, and the perils of self-branding in the world of Internet love.


Salon Staff
May 17, 2002 11:00PM (UTC)

Read "Taking Off the Abaya" by Megan Twohey.

Thank you for reporting on Lt. Col. McSally. I am a former Air Force officer, and applaud and support her. I have been to Web sites that spew vitriol against her, and I encounter the same mind-set I saw in the '80s when I was sexually harassed in my own office in the Pentagon. These sites are run by our finest flyboys, and sadly by some women as well.

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Substitute race for gender and we never would tolerate the sort of segregation the Saudis are imposing. As long as they erase women from society and disallow religious diversity, they remain oppressors and bigots. We are accomplices every time we get into a gasoline-fueled car.

Until there is meaningful change and tolerance, we must speak up, we must act. My family is putting our money into action and hope others will do so, too. We drive a hybrid vehicle, car-pool when we can and also take care to buy gasoline from companies that primarily use non-Saudi oil.

-- Esther Massimini, formerly Capt. USAF

That one should be free to do one's duty is an interesting freedom to have, given that duty usually involves some sort of restraint or sacrifice. Would wearing the abaya be OK if it were shown to be effective in stemming the harassment of servicewomen? Is it reasonable for military personnel to expect that they be treated in the same way as political functionaries and private citizens while in another country?

Obviously, the Saudis have invited us. But it is not true that this means there will be no resentment and that if there is any resentment, or violence, unbiased justice will quickly follow. So, I am confused whether the issue is one of the unfairness of U.S. military policy restricting women in any way, or one of the effectiveness of such policies, as they could be both unfair and effective.

-- William Stafford

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Read "Meatmarket.com" by Heather Havrilesky.

I had to respond to Heather Havrilesky's article on online dating. I have maintained a personal ad (through the Salon personals, no less) on and off for several months now, and have met three of my prospects -- one of whom was a handsome, intelligent man eight years my senior. In his ad, just as Havrilesky described, he came off as smart, sarcastic and just-cultured-enough, while still fluent in the language of the 2002 Zeitgeist.

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I rode for three hours on a smelly Martz bus to meet this man in Philadelphia, found that we clicked in person just as well as we had on the Net and on the phone, had a great time, slept with him and found out a week or so later that he "didn't really want a relationship, per se."

Ms. Havrilesky has nothing to worry about. No matter how suave, insightful, clever, zany or sensitive they paint themselves to be, guys are still very much the same -- whether you meet them at a party or on the big, scary Internet.

-- Abigail Myers

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While I realize Ms. Havrilesky wrote her piece with tongue firmly in cheek, I couldn't help but notice that she left out one vital aspect of online dating: self-delusion. It's pervasive, and as much as I hate to point it out, women seem to have the biggest problem with it. I know, I know, but for the heck of it I browsed the men's section of the Salon/Nerve personal ads (full disclosure: I'm a member), and found most of the guys' profiles to be levelheaded and sincere. I have no way of knowing what they do when they respond to a woman's ad or get a response from a woman (assuming they ever do, of course). But I think it's safe to assume that most of these guys aren't the kind to act like lascivious sleaze-balls (again, I could be wrong).

The women, on the other hand, are all about ONE thing, in my experience: a guy's looks. I have been rejected for my "looks" by women whose own personal stats run something like this: "5'4", 180 pounds." I mean, really, who are these ladies kidding besides themselves? Brad Pitt is not browsing Salon/Nerve, and even if he were, he'd probably be looking for someone similar to the woman he actually married.

The irony is that I've been complimented a number of times for the contents of my profile, made it to the phone stage, gotten more compliments for my phone manners and personality, only to finally hear some variation of this: "So, when are you going to send me a picture? No picture, no date." Huh? Gee, I thought I was a "really interesting guy" you "wanted to get to know better"? What happened?

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Feminism is a wonderful thing, but one of its less estimable side effects has been to create a generation of women who seem to have taken on the worst "objectifying" habits men have always possessed. And it's a damn shame.

-- Rob Anderson

Funny how as you continue to try and suck a few more drops from the long-withered teat of the dot-com bubble, you do a lead story that has a suspicious slant in favor of the personals service your site belongs to for no good reason, which itself seems to favor posting up "candid" shots of underwear models in order to get suckers to shell out. If the story more accurately reflected the horrors of online dating, and the matchmaking site gave more representative photos of the scarifying shut-ins that fall for this sort of thing, it might be able to pass as harmless fluff rather than blatant prostitution.

-- Dominic Vignolo

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I quite enjoyed Heather Havrilesky's article, having reached a similar conclusion in an article I did for my online zine. The thing is, I'm also a bit concerned by the implications: The entrepreneurs behind Spring Street Networks and other online networks have done those 19th-century efficiency experts, such as Taylor and the Gilbreths, one better. After all, what could be more efficient than persuading the consumers to package themselves as the product?

-- Ken Mondschein

Ms. Havrilesky has written a brilliant article about online dating and the branding strategies we all use to market ourselves to potential partners. Unfortunately, she failed to go to the final step, which is that today's consumers are as conscious of this dynamic as she is, even if they are unable to articulate it as eloquently.

At an age that gets younger every day, Americans recognize when they are being marketed to and develop the ability to see through the brand to find the actual product. Just like we know that an advertisement for an apartment "in the middle of everything" means "it's really noisy," we also know that "I never lie" means "yes, I lie sometimes, but at least I try not to." Once you've met a couple of people you initially contacted online, you learn what the game is and the way it's played.

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I think the author gives too little credit to today's dating consumer, ascribing to them a mind-set that doesn't exist. Nobody believes online ads, at least they don't for long. The attitude we have is that if you find somebody who chooses to brand him or herself in a way you find appealing, there's a chance that the person underneath that brand is one you can get along with as well.

-- Mike Considine


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