Obviously I agree with Marcotte's general point that women have the right to say "no" to a guy without being condemned. It's true that some of the comments on Bereznak's article are uncalled for. But I'm surprised that this is being construed as a feminist issue. In my view, the original post is petty and ill-tempered. It's one thing to call out men who display predatory, creepy, or controlling behavior. However, from what the author describes, this is a perfectly reasonable guy who has a hobby she doesn't like. And I don't think people are criticizing Bereznak for not wanting to date this guy or leading him on, as this post suggests; for the most part, as far as I can tell, she's being criticized for arguing that an anodyne hobby is proof that a guy is unworthy to date not just her but anyone ("Mothers, warn your daughters!")--which actually is pretty shallow--and for trashing him on the internet. Again, some of the comments in response are indefensible. But there is no intrinsic conflict between feminism and civility.
That aside, however, I wanted to offer a comment on dealbreakers. There are some flaws that should be dealbreakers under any circumstances--abuse, dishonesty, cruelty, etc. And of course women (and men) have the right to define the traits that will or will not accept in a partner, whether those are substantive or frivolous. In my experience, having a hard-and-fast list of dealbreakers is not particularly worthwhile. I suppose we all have a wish list, but I can't think of any guy I've ever dated who had all the virtues I would enumerate, and none of the flaws. The inalienable virtues are kindness, integrity, and chemistry (although most other traits are subsidiary to those); beyond that everything is negotiable.
With that said, I will offer a list of things that give me pause:
- Hostility to my frequent natural history gossip about animals I have seen or read about in the news. (An ex: "You don't need to tell me every time you see a lizard." Oh, but I do. I can see how this might get annoying, but that points to a larger principle: most of the things we would cite as dealbreakers probably beomce dealbreakers for the other party too, if only because the first person is so stubborn on the subject.) (By the way--while I was writing this post an opossum came on the porch. He made so much noise rustling through the dry grass that I thought he was a person and felt slightly alarmed because I couldn't see a person. When he turned up, I was calmed; but he was alarmed by me and walked away.)
- Facial hair (I read once that only 10% of women like beards, but those who do are REALLY into it; so it's fair to say that on this matter it's better to stand on preference, thereby creating room for the Pareto-optimal outcome in which the women who love mustaches can have them.)
- A self-described pattern of terrible romantic relationships. (I suppose some people are really unlucky, but in most cases, it's easy to spot the common denominator.)
- Ad nauseam arguments about politics/insistence that political views are indicative of character. (I can go for a while with political arguments, but not forever, and there are lots of valid perspectives.)
- Fussiness/primness. (Everything goes a lot more smoothly if everyone gets over themselves first.)
- Being a bad driver. (My boyfriend doesn't even know how to drive, which is especially sad for me because he doesn't like to drink, and would therefore be a perfect designated driver; but I've found that even in the passenger seat he is an excellent traveling companion. In other relationships, however, I can recall being quite irritated when asked to do all the parallel parking.)
- Personal style. (I once asked a friend's very stylish boyfriend how far one can meddle with one's boyfriend's style. "Harm reduction," he said. "That's all you can do." He's right; but this is often enough.)
- Common interests. (A kind partner will take an interest in your concerns, and I can see how if you end up with someone who really cares about, say, tax law, you may feel like you drew the short straw. However, the world has more interesting subjects than any of us has time for, and one of the nice things about dating in general is that you get to be a sort of tourist in someone else's intellectual life.)
- Musical preferences. (I am a young person living in Austin, but how much time do you really spend listening to music together, and how hard is it to find some areas of overlap?)
- Similarly, preferences in books/movies/etc. (I don't understand why they ask this on dating sites. Are we supposed to articulate our values through consumer preferences, even if they are denominated as aesthetic? With that said, there are some favorite books and movies that, if cited, should be a red flag. I once dated a guy who said his favorite book was Perfume--the German novel about a psychopath who kills a bunch of women and chops them up and boils them down for fragrances. Would you like to predict the trajectory of that relationship?)
- Dietary preferences. (I dated a vegan, and we went on a lot of road trips together in places where the restriction created some logistical concerns, but unless you're extremely self-centered, this is simply not that big of a deal.)
- Political views. (This seems to arise most often with regard to reproductive rights, which makes sense because that is the political issue most likely to be made personal in the dating context. So you should talk that out before it is relevant and decide on a case by case basis. The idea of ruling out all Republicans or all Democrats, however, strikes me as pretty narrow-minded.)