August 14, 2008

Asian Male-ism I: PUA and Female Objectification

I've been getting flamed recently. It's nothing new, of course, I get flamed all the time, but this time is perhaps a bit different because the issue happens to be one which we likely won't solve entirely over the web, plus it happens to be flaming by people whom I actually like. In this case, my flaming is over what some regard as my endorsement of Pick Up Artists on my first PUA podcast here, my second podcast here, and my endorsement of a site that one poster described as a "sausage fest." I'm getting flamed because of sexism on some of these sites (though I've never posted on any of these sites), and also because I didn't condemn some sexist language (which I didn't notice) used on the 44s. One member said that I was promoting "sexism" to prop up Asian men. Another called out my "ignorance." I've been called other things as well. Though I don't intend to get people angry, I know that it sometimes happens.

For the record, I don't endorse PUA. I consider Pick Up Specialists Kwak and William to be friends, but I've neither supported nor condemned what they do. I think the both of them are great guys, and I welcome the opportunity to keep in touch with them as they grow as activists and people, but I'm not a PUA, nor have I ever sent any business their way, at least not intentionally. However, I do post about these PUAs, and I do post about sites where some PUAs hang out because I believe they are doing something that has elements of potential. They may not be doing everything right, but there is potential, and they've helped some people achieve what many of us take for granted. The idea of teaching Asian men confidence is a good thing, and these PUAs are on the ground doing it, even if there are problems in their approach. With the exception of Kingstonism (and I'm sure most of you have followed that debate), I've rarely flat out condemned anything. I've never condemned Falling For Grace, even though I think we need variety outside of the "regular" AF/WM themes. I've never condemned ModelMinority, although I think some of the guys on that site are crazy. I've never condemned 8 Asians, even though they hate debate, which I love. I even promote the politically smart reappropriate.com, even though I usually hate Jenn's and James's ideas about Asian men. I'm relatively liberal when it comes to OPM (Other Peoples' Movements), and so I always try to see the positive in every endeavor that Asian Americans take upon themselves. Unless I see something blatantly unethical, I usually don't issue any blanket condemnations.

I acknowledge that many PUAs objectify women, and I've voiced my opposition to such objectification. My whole "roundtable" with APB was about how I thought a "high brow" approach would nullify the need for a "low brow" approach. I still believe this is the case, but given our lack of funding, our current lack of a network, and the entrenchment of those academics who promote the status quo, right now it's just a pipe dream. I think it was William who said, "That all sounds high and mighty, but what can we do now? The answer, for some of these men, is to learn how to approach women. It's low brow, tacky, goofy, aimed at an unusually crazy group of men, and ultimately not entirely fulfilling, but it's something. It teaches men to be open with women, even if they're total assholes. At least it's honest. A lot of these guys happen to be complete assholes to begin with; the PUA just makes it come out. Of course, having a movement that would turn assholes into gold would be nice too, but that kind of thinking usually takes place among people who are more established and past the basics of just learning how to approach women. Think about it--if you find a man who is afraid to approach women and has had few conversations with women, how can anyone expect him to be smooth, considerate, or respectful? If a man has no contact with women over his whole life, I'd say that you should expect him to be an asshole.

Now we could bypass PUA with education. Deep education renders tacky PUA obsolete. However, without that network in place combined with the intellectual capital to say something of substance and supported by financial funding, change cannot take place now. Right now, the "high brow" people need to create that network, build on that intellectual capital, and better learn how to finance and make the system work. We can talk to people and educate people in the meantime with those we touch personally. It's a long process. In the meantime, we shouldn't outright condemn people who are trying to work at a lower level because, well, they're at a lower level. Oppose sexism, and oppose their sexism, but don't oppose the idea of men learning to approach women because it doesn't turn men into sexist assholes; it just brings sexist assholes into the open. It also brings nice guys like Kwak and Albert into the open. People don't see this, but there are some positive lives being changed here, including women. How would Kwak's girlfriend ever have met Kwak unless he had been taught to "approach?" PUA ultimately is based on openness even if there is no badly needed moral component. It's not activism, but people are having basic needs met. Think of it as a temporary fix for men who are stunted in emotional growth. It's not our highest or best goal, but it serves some people as a temporary fix, and it does make positive changes, even if it empowers jerks.

For those who dislike the PUA approach, the solution is to continue building education. We do this by educating, sharing (online), and talking (real time--I still don't think there's a substitute for real time communication.). Build the networks. Learn the system. Get practice doing work. Obviously we can accomplish much more, but we need to work at it.

More about this later. Hopefully I can speak a bit about the male issues vs. female issues from a male perspective in the next installment. In the meantime, share your thoughts.

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