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January 2013

"Divide and Conquer," Passive Aggression and Bad Dating Tactics

One of the more sinister, passive aggressive actions that some men engage in is their “divide and conquer” tactic whenever they’re trying to pursue one woman while she’s with another woman in public. The complaint that women traveling in “packs” makes it harder for men to talk to one woman is fairly common amidst dating conversations. Women out in groups at clubs or parties etc. make the risk of rejection and/or being laughed at, much higher for men, in some men’s minds. But not even just in packs does their apprehension seem like it’s at an all time high; even a duo intimidate some. They use “divide and conquer” tactics in three common ways, in my experience.

Beauty/youth as a divider:
I’ve had some men try the “oh…is that your mom?” line on either me or the friend I was out with. This is supposed to imply that one of us is “older” and thereby “less attractive” (since women are supposed to be naturally competing for men on youth and beauty in a patriarchal society) than the other, and make us hostile towards each other so that in fact it shifts from him fighting for attention from one of us to us fighting for his attention. The laughable part is that except for one woman (the second one I mentioned in a previous post) no woman I was with ever fell for this. We became that much more solidified in views and usually ended up laughing the guy away. And no, he was never simply making an honest mistake. I was always out with a woman within 3 years of my age and even worse, we were in settings (i.e. college, social groups) where it was CLEAR that there’s no way we were in such an age differing familial relationship.

Attention as a divider:
I’ve had some men be blatantly hostile or blatantly ignore me or the friend I was with, anytime we spoke, while focusing sanguine attention and compliments on the other. This tactic attempts to make the one receiving less attention “fight” harder to be included in the conversation and the become the “object” of attention, and also more likely to lower standards if the guy chose the one who “fought” harder. Also, it is supposed to set the two women at odds, so again, they are enemies in that situation, not him as the intruding and manipulative party. This one has never worked between any woman I was with when it happened. We actually discussed the tactic being used once we started to ignore or laughed the man out of there.

Second location as a divider:
This one is more complicated as the man might seem decent at first, but after asking for a dance or something that will require one of the women to leave, he tries to move her to a different area of the space, which would be fine, if he wasn’t actively making sure to divide the two friends for the rest of the ENTIRE evening. I’ve experienced this from both angles; a man trying to divide me from a friend and being the one divided from. Naturally because I find humor (amidst annoyance) in these behavioral games for which I already know the objective, I usually made eye contact with they guy (and laughed) or made eye contact with my friend. My friend would laugh and be back at our table in no time and the guy would be angry, which of course made me laugh more.

To be clear, in none of the instances I went out with a woman friend and this occurred, did we go out to “meet men” so we aren’t speaking of “cock blocking” (what an awful term…) incidents on our part, or anything like that. If I was with a friend who was interested in a man at that location, that would be totally fine, though if she fell for any of these stunts, that’d make me suspicious of her radar and her intentions with friendships. I don’t continue friendships with women looking to use me as an emotional place holder, or someone to be around and receive platonic feelings from until a man comes along who’s automatically deemed more important by virtue of being male and being a possible source of romantic feelings, which they privilege over platonic ones. And, as I mentioned above, only one woman I’ve had a long term friendship with had this stance so ANY attention I received over her (even from men not worth either of our time) was viewed by her as some sort deduction from her self-worth, so our friendship had bigger fish to fry than worrying about silly men and silly games. And eventually, that particular friendship ended, though overall, I have quality friendships in my life and have had very few of the real and dynamic ones ever end. (Not speaking of social media buddies or associates from social groups/past jobs [these two types are still cool], but instead the type of people who’d actually be at my funeral if I died, friendships that existed before the word “tweet” existed as a human verb or friends was a label on Facebook.)

It’s hilarious to me how with my closest friends (who are all Black women), my conversations about men are about the analysis of behaviors like these, more so than who’s “fine.” (We still talk about who’s fine though.) Beyond my ideological standpoint as a Womanist, these conversations are how I’ve been able to know which compliments are good and which are crap, and so many other things that have probably saved me a ton of headaches and mistakes.

I hate games outside of chess, UNO, spades, and Angry Birds, and definitely being in my 30s has made me even less receptive to “conquer” oriented games (especially since they rely on sexist ideas about gender) that passive aggressive men play. These games are literally almost as annoying as the passive aggressive shenanigans that Nice Guys™ get into.

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