Thursday, December 05, 2013

Lulu: “girl power”–make that “mean girl power” - in action

A couple of things stick in my mind.

One is the “dog date”.

I don’t know anyone who actually experienced this, but a “dog date” occurs when a not-so-attractive (by popular guy standards) woman is asked out by a popular guy. (Think Greek, think jock.) He and his fellow popular guys bring their “dates” to a party, where the biggest dog is chosen. And everyone laughs up a storm at the hilarious notion that a popular guy would actually have asked a “dog” out.

Somehow, the “dogs” were supposed to accept that this was all in good fun. And everyone was supposed to pretend that this was the proper order of things.

The other thing that’s in my mind is a Princeton eating club tradition that I heard about from a woman I was once in a writing group with. In her story, she recounted being escorted into the eating hall, where she was evaluated by the assembled young men. I can’t remember what the evaluators actually did – pounded on the tables with their knives and forks? – but I believe that, if you were met with silence, it was because you had been weighed and found wanting, that you were not considered attractive, and the young man who brought you as his date would ask you out again only at his social survival peril. To have gotten the silent treatment was considered a humiliation, a putdown of the foolish Princetonian who had been naïve enough to bring a girl to campus who didn’t rate, looks- or clothing-wise.

The woman recounting her lunch at Princeton let us know that she’d been pretty well received, but that Jackie Kennedy had supposedly gotten the  most positive reception ever.

Somehow, the decency of a young man exposing a young woman he presumably liked to such a degrading system was never questioned.

This was the way it was.

What mattered most were looks, and if women didn’t like it, well tough.

As someone who grew up exceedingly insecure about my looks, it is painful to write about this.

What brought these thoughts up was reading about something called Lulu, which gives me an upside-down version of the pangs that “dog dates” and eating club scoring do.

No, Lulu isn’t a “looks” rating system, but it is an online slam book in which women – or, in post-feminist, Lulu-esque terms – girls rate men they’ve dated in a number of different categories. Anonymously, of course. Because, like, shouldn’t girls be able to trash guys without, like having to be upfront about it?

On Lulu, women can rate men in categories — ex-boyfriend, crush, together, hooked-up, friend or relative — with a multiple-choice quiz. Women, their gender verified by their Facebook logins, add pink hashtags to a man’s profile ranging from the good (#KinkyInTheRightWays) to the bad (#NeverSleepsOver) to the ugly (#PornEducated). The hashtags are used to calculate a score generated by Lulu, ranging from 1 to 10, that appears under the man’s profile picture. (The company’s spokeswoman declined to explain the ratings algorithm.) Men can add hashtags, which appear in blue, but these are not factored into their overall score.

Since it was started last year by Alexandra Chong, who has a law degree from the London School of Economics, the service has provided a sort of “Take Back the Internet” moment for young women who have come of age in an era of revenge porn and anonymous, possibly ominous suitors. “The thing that drew me to Lulu was that dating without a reference is the scariest thing you can do,” said Erin Foster, 31, an actress and writer. “Meeting someone out in the world when you’re not in school or don’t work with each other or have mutual friends — you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.” (Source: NY Times.)

So now you can get that idea by seeing what some snippy bee-yotch is hashtagging about his looks, personality, and behavior.

Might it not be better to just not go on dates with guys you haven’t been able to vet on your own?

Guess I’m just so yesterday.

“I think sometimes girls feel like they don’t have that much power in the hookup world,” Ms. [Sewell] Robinson said, “but this gives them something to bond over, and you can give advice to a girl you’ve never met before.”

Girls! Girls! Girls!

Didn’t girls used to be females under the age of 18?

But little Lulu’s all over girls:

We created Lulu to unleash the value of girl talk and to empower girls to make smarter decisions on topics ranging from relationships to beauty and health.

Lulu is a private network for girls to express and share their opinions openly and honestly. In our first iteration, Lulu is a private app for girls to read and create reviews of guys they know.

A diatribe on young woman who’ve decided to call themselves “girls” will be reserved for a late time and date.

Nothing wrong with it in small doses, I suppose, but this “girlie girl” stuff – all of a piece, I suppose with the wearing of the f-me pumps, and sexy outfits at work – is fairly disturbing.

A woman can be independent, competent, and strong. A girl at this age is playing cutesie-pie, pale-frail, trap-a-man. And she wants the boys to know that she’s no threatening dick-witherer.

Forget Helen Gurley Brown. That’s Helen Girlie Brown to you, sister.


Welcome to Lulu. Let's start the conversation


Isn’t a “conversation” a two-way street, best done between and among human beings who aren’t cloaked in anonymity? Isn’t a conversation an exchange of ideas; the telling (and re-telling) of stories; the sharing of our hopes and fears?

In what way, shape, or form is assigning a bad date the hashtag “f-ing dickhead” a conversation?

Sounds to me like trash-talking mean-girl-ism to me.

For this we (metaphorically speaking) burnt our bras?

I was going to end this post with E.M. Forster’s exhortation to “Only connect!”, rather than anonymously trash talk others. But then I found a better quote from him:

There's enough sorrow in the world, isn't there, without trying to invent it.


A number of years back, I wrote with alarm about an online (anonymous) campus gossip site. I’m delighted to report that Juicy Campus went out of business, and the founder has now become Mr. Nice Guy. Would that the same fate befalls Lulu, and that Ms. Chong finds something more positive to do with her life.

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