Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Alyssa Saga

Some Twitter folks may have wondered what the "#NotRightForAlyssa" hashtag that's been making the rounds since yesterday was all about.
Short version: Pretty-much the entire Internet ganged-up on a lady blogger... and it was largely justified. Really short version: Go read this. Long version?

Okay, so yesterday Gizmodo published a piece by intern Alyssa Bereznak titled "My Brief OkCupid Affair With A World Champion Magic: The Gathering Player." I'm not giving them a link, because - let's face it - nerd-baiting for traffic was the whole goal here. The gist of peice is that Bereznak went on an OkCupid-arranged date with a guy who "seemed normal" (direct quote), only to be informed - to her abject horror - that he was a competitive player of the "Magic: The Gathering" card game.

Another sample quote: "Just like you're obligated to mention you're divorced or have a kid in your online profile, shouldn't someone also be required to disclose any indisputably geeky world championship titles?"

The whole thing is written in what's probably intended as a halfway self-effacing tone, but the basic "joke" is the supposed absurdity of there being "championships" for a geek hobby like "Magic: The Gathering," and of this guy actually being said champion. Oh, one other detail: She identifies him by name - which is pretty-much what takes this from "stupid, mean-spirited article" to full-bore "mean girls" territory:

"The next day I Googled my date and a wealth of information flowed into my browser. A Wikipedia page! Competition videos! Fanboy forums comparing him to Chuck Norris! This guy isn't just some professional who dabbled in card games at a tender age. He's Jon motherfucking Finkel, the man who is so widely revered in the game of Magic that he's been immortalized in his own playing card."

Oh, and if you DO google up the article, please note that it's actually been altered since it's initial publication to remove two of the nastier lines. Here they are, as originally seen:

"I later found out that he infiltrated his way into OKCupid dates with at least two other people I sort of know, including one of my co-workers. Mothers, warn your daughters! This could happen to you. You’ll think you’ve found a normal bearded guy with a job, only to end up sharing goat cheese with a world champion of nerds."

"So what did I learn? Google the shit out of your next online date. Like, hardcore. Also, for all you world famous nerds out there: Don’t go after two Gawker Media employees and not expect to have a post written about you. We live for this kind of stuff."

So, once this hit the web - the web had a fit. What was kind of terrific was, while one expected a certain amount of "defend your own" tribal wagon-circling from male geeks who've "been there;" by far the most wide-ranging and vocal shaming of Bereznak (who seems to have vanished from the web since the whole business began) came from women of the geek/gamer community rushing to denounce her behavior in general and "making our whole gender look bad" specifically.

Finkel himself responded to the whole thing on Reddit, and the Australian version of Gizmodo openly-disowned the piece. But my favorite response, for various reasons, came from The Escapist's Susan Arendt (who, full disclosure, is the exceptionally cool and talented producer of both of my shows there) who drew up and published an apology from "The Ladies of Nerdland" to Finkel, signed by a diverse group of Twitter-ettes. I advise you to read it HERE, and then tweet the crap out of it.

My favorite quote from the piece: "Because if the positions had been reversed, and a man had written a similarly snarky post claiming that a woman should put a "fondness for knitting" on her profile to prevent accidentally going out with her, the female community would be in an uproar - and rightly so. But if we're going to point out when men behave like jerks, it behooves us to do the same when women do it."


Adam said...

This may be the first time I heard about an internet scandal before actually hearing about it on the web. I just got back from a party where someone brought it up but I didn't think much of it at the time. To see that it's this far reaching is astonishing. But much respect to the Escapist ladies and all the other geek girls denouncing this behavior for what it is.

TheAlmightyNarf said...

And I had almost forgotten why I don't read anything on Gawker anymore...

Seriously, this has gotten blown way out of proportion. Some obvious trolling got posted on a site with a history of obvious trolling. The best response is to ignore it because they sure as hell aren't going to stop as long as it brings in the traffic.

lemonvampire said...

Anyone else hoping Anonymous latches onto this and directs their attention toward Gizmodo/Gawker?

Matt said...

I know this is a more or less trivial thing, I understand that these sites use troll bait for traffic, I know that there are women out there that think exactly like Alyssa does... but it still makes me sad regardless.

I mean, what is it that makes it so hard for people to know they are just being mean spirited for the sake of being mean spirited? I showed the post to my girlfriend and as she was reading it she asked "Why did you show this to me?" You see, after reading half of the piece she thought it was going to be a "don't judge people like I did, he's awesome and we're really happy together now" post, and she was going to playfully make fun of me for being a sappy sucker for that kind of thing. But once she finished she said something to the effect of "Yeah, she's a bitch, but it's not really very surprising, a lot of people are like that." It's not just the undue judgment that gets me, it's that this is somehow acceptable among a large group of people (females and males alike). Entire segments of people are arbitrarily denied some avenues of happiness from other people, for no good reason other than the fact that they find other forms of happiness elsewhere.

I don't know, maybe this just touched me because I used to be the kind of person that was arbitrarily denied the company of others for stupid reasons. And it's had a lasting negative effect on my personality that's very hard to overcome. So I've got some natural empathy for this guy. Intellectually I've overcome it, but the social and emotional effects are still a struggle for me.

captcha: hopeless

Mister Linton said...

I don't really think the interwebs need to gang up on Alyssa since she has already doomed herself to a life of lonely self-righteous snobbery.

Bobby said...

So funny thing, I had an account on OkCupid for quite sometime. Met a few people that way- some have become just friends, others were more but never amounted to anything truly serious. I found it to be a fun experience overall.

Now on to the main point- Alyssa is a whining brat. I am glad so many people are crying foul.