The internet is good for a lot of things that bring smiles to people’s faces: Cat videos, viral food trends, you know the drill. It’s also good (or perhaps more accurately, “good," because... well, you'll see) for a lot of terrible things, though: Trolling, abuse, and revealing the worst parts of humanity. In this Reddit thread about a woman who found a cruel “pros and cons” list her crush wrote about her, we see both these sides of the internet at play: The terribleness of people, and the best of people. The guy who wrote the list covers the terrible side — but the responses of other readers of the thread cover the good one. Sometimes, the internet totally has your back.
“I’ve had a crush on my friend’s brother, and everyone was super supportive and encouraging me to go for it,” u/morlabo wrote in a a recent post on the r/TwoXChromosomes subreddit. But during a hangout session the other night at her friend’s house while the brother was out, they found a “pros and cons” list lying on a table about u/morlabo — and it was brutal. “The pros list was short — that I’m small and that I’m a ‘human female who might actually want to f*ck’ him (ew),” u/morlab wrote.
“Ew” is right. Is this you right now?
Because that is me right now, with all of my ire directed straight towards the dude who wrote that list. We’re barely a few sentences in, and he is already the worst.
But wait! There’s more! And that guy gets even worse! Continued u/morlabo, “The cons list was much longer and hit a bunch of my insecurities. He made fun of my teeth, my voice, called me clingy (I've hung out with the dude ONCE) and girly and annoying, among other things. He also wrote that I have ‘no plan whatsoever’ (I've just escaped from a long abusive relationship and moved back home and am fighting PTSD). He also wrote a to-do list, which included ‘brainstorm ways to get a girlfriend other than [me].’”
And this is me now:
“I'm crushed. I had no idea he was like this,” wrote u/morlabo. “My feelings for him are obviously gone, but my feelings for myself have taken a huge hit. This is an extremely vulnerable time for me already as I've just gotten out of something horrible and am new to the post-college dating scene.” (That’s a real kicker, by the way — this guy’s behavior is the kind of thing you’d expect from a 16-year-old, not an adult.) “I just can't believe that anyone would write something so juvenile and cruel,” u/morlabo finished off. “Should I call him out? What do I do now?”
Many Redditors jumped in to provide support and advice, much of which leaned towards kicking him to the curb, not wasting any more time on him, being kind to herself, and building up a “Team u/morlabo” to help support her:
All good advice, I feel.
But u/morlabo’s question is relevant in the big picture, aswell: What do we do when we’re faced with behavior like this? Perhaps the most upsetting thing about the whole situation is the fact that this guy is far from the only one out there like this. Our culture of rampant sexism and toxic masculinity have normalized all the ideas held within his “list”: That women are only valuable for their appearance or whether or not they’ll have sex with you; that policing women’s voices or speech is acceptable; that women are objects to have or possess, rather than, y’know, accept and value and be their own people.
Implicit, too, in the “no plan whatsoever” bullet point is a whole host of issues, among them victim blaming and mental health stigma — which are also rampant throughout society (and in case it needs underlining, it's no small thing that u/morlabo escaped the abusive relationship; that's not easy to do). It brings to mind a study about victim-blaming published by the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin in 2016. Wrote Bustle’s Suzannah Weiss at the time:
“The researchers presented people with descriptions of victims of various crimes, sexual and non-sexual, and asked to what extent they were ‘contaminated’ and ‘injured.’ Unfortunately, people across the board viewed victims of sexual crimes as more likely to be contaminated, and the more ‘contaminated’ they found them, the less ‘injured’ they considered them, suggesting that they sympathized with them less. But the extent to which people considered all kinds of victims contaminated depended on their values.
“Those who believed in ‘binding values’ such as loyalty, obedience, and purity, which tend to be aimed toward keeping groups together, were more likely to victim-blame.”
Let me be clear: The fact that this sort of behavior is a product of and perpetuated by our culture in no way excuses it or exonerates the guy who wrote that list. It does, however, indicate the severity of the issue — and why we as a culture need to do the work to fight it.
But the question still stands: What should u/morlabo do in the meantime? It’s not her job or responsibility to teach this guy not to oppress other people; he needs to do that work himself. Personally, though, I like this Redditor’s response the most:
I think that gets the point across nicely.