RAG Blind Date and the pursuit of feminist enlightenment
In which my capacity for bullshit reaches its limit
About a week ago I was roped into doing RAG Blind Date because, horrendously awkward as a concept as it is, it’s for charity and at least in abstract is kind of a funny idea. What I did not expect was for it to be a catalyst in the end of my tolerance for the blind entitlement of men – y’know, to put the situation lightly.
I’d had a little contact with my date and, like most people I spoke to about it, was finding it distinctly less amusing with the looming prospect of actually having to go on the thing. But nevertheless I was resigned to the fact of losing an hour of my day to uncomfortable small talk. Such had I reconciled myself with the situation, when my friend informed me of her matching with my date on Tinder, and his less-than-enthusiastic musings on our romantic future:
My date: "Cos my RAG date is an English Emma student lol"
My friend: "Ohh whats ur blind dates name?"
My date: "Emily Claytor I believe" … "I don't know her form was witty and she seems v. nice."
My friend: "Ohhh she's sooo lovely"
My date: "But I'm not massively attracted to her and feel a bit like…." …"she seems it" … "she's not my type though vain as it sounds" … "feel terrible even saying that lol. lol well good I'm obviously not gonna stand her up that'd be really shitty" … "let's just say I'm looking forward to seeing you more lol. But obviously it's rude af not to see your rag date" … "uugh hope I don't seem like an arsehole just not being a bullshitter so to speak."
I would just like to thank this man for deigning to offer me his time, despite not being ‘massively attracted’ to me. Unfortunately I chose not to pursue the prospect of a date, but it is reassuring to know that, had I, my wit and niceness might have just about been enough to make the obligation tolerable. After all, I feel truly awful to have wasted his £5 by not living up to whatever standard of beauty he felt was owed to him by the famously successful matchmaking gods behind RAG Blind Date.
This is obviously on the whole just a funny anecdote, and a tiny part of me feels bad for sharing something that I hope is not a reflection of how he talks about people outside of the admittedly bizarre realm of Tinder. However, whilst providing a decent half hour’s entertainment, it also got me thinking on a more serious note about the subtly damaging ways in which our culture talks about and treats women. It reminded me that, whilst we are living in a world where opportunities for certain types of women are on the increase, the small allowances we make have a cumulative impact.
At 13 I had to listen to two boys on my English table go round the room systematically rating every girl’s attractiveness out of ten. At 14 I wore a new pair of shorts and had a group of boys I’d never met aggressively shout ‘sexy’ at me as I walked down my road (I was terrified and never wore those shorts again). At 16 a middle-aged man made me move my stuff so he could sit next to me on a half empty bus, forcing me to climb over him so I could get off. At 18 a boy I’d met once in a club felt entitled to message me asking for naked pictures. I met him again a few months later and he told me – unprompted – that if I’d been a bit less drunk he would definitely have got off with me the night we met (because c’mon guys, unless she is mentally incapable of saying so, that girl absolutely wants to shag you too – we love progressive morals!) The same year a middle-aged man grabbed me and groped me in the street on New Year’s Eve. A couple of months later, a guy in a club told me presumptively "ready when you are"; when I said I wasn’t going to sleep with him he did a literal 180 and ignored me for the rest of the night.
Now I’m 19 and I’m angry. I’m angry because all of these experiences, which vary in their surface-level seriousness, have conditioned me to view myself not as a human but as a product. I’m angry because of the hours I’ve spent looking at photos and in mirrors desperately wondering what I actually look like and if that’s good enough; not good enough for me, but good enough for the men throughout my life who have made me feel like an object for their consumption. I’m angry because I’ve arrived at university, at a place supposedly full of intelligent and perceptive people, and watched myself and my friends repeatedly be patronised and devalued.
People wonder how incidents like the Warwick group chats happen; how actions so warped and sick can possibly take place on our university campuses. The fact is that it stems from these tiny incidents that seem inconsequential in isolation, but are actually contributing to a persisting male culture of viewing women as physical objects before they are people. It makes me feel sick.
So this is my slightly sombre takeaway from Blind Date. You might be wondering if it is an experience I will be taking up again, and my answer is that I actually might. It’s a fun way of raising money, and you might end up having a completely non-awkward, actually enjoyable time. If experiences of feminist enlightenment are a regular occurrence, then I think it’s the best fundraising activity we’ve got.