Sounds like someone is having a hard time on the dating apps.
The Federalist published an article Tuesday with the accusatory headline, “Your Refusal To Date Conservatives Is One Reason We Have Donald Trump” that immediately caught the Internet’s eye. In it, the author outlines why OkCupid was wrong to offer users the option to put a badge on their profiles signifying their support for Planned Parenthood. This, to his disgruntlement, allows liberal women to date only men who favor abortion rights.
“This type of assertive mating,” reads the blurb above the piece, “is one factor that allowed for the rise of a candidate like Donald Trump.”
This is a glorious, even Freudian, typo (which has since been partially fixed). The author, Jerrod A. Laber, goes on to describe “assortative” (not “assertive”) mating, the like-marries-like phenomenon by which people with similar backgrounds and beliefs couple up to produce offspring with those same backgrounds and beliefs. That, Laber claims, has pushed the left further to the left and the right further to the right, opening a “schism” that politicians such as Trump have exploited.
There’s some basis for this argument. Studies have shown that assortative mating leads to increased socioeconomic stratification. These gaps in income and education contribute to political polarization as much as if not more than the ideologically aligned marrying each other based on ideology alone.
But that’s really beside the point. Laber muddles Americans’ abstract tendency to self-sort based on background with women’s — and men’s! — individual decisions not to date people who disagree with them on a topic so central to their lives they can’t simply ignore it. Assortative mating as a sociological concept is worth studying, but the proper response is not to pin the “problem” on women and ask them to “solve” it by swiping right on men they know they’ll come into conflict with.
Assertive mating, in other words, is a very good thing indeed. There should be no need for people to explain that anyone, male, female or otherwise, should choose whom to date based on what they know will make them happy, and not on what in aggregate may or may not have led to the election of a very bad president. As Laber himself points out, “everyone has deal-breakers,” and they can be about anything from a favorite book to a hot-button political topic that has nothing to do with reproductive rights.
But perhaps there’s a reason OkCupid chose Planned Parenthood for a partnership: In a romantic relationship, a partner’s view on abortion can be the biggest deal breaker of all. It cuts to the intensely intimate question of what a woman can and can’t do with her own body. And when a man and a woman have sex, she could get pregnant — birth control or not. The decision on how to proceed should be hers, but there’s certainly less strife when the two parties agree on the outcome. The alternative can rip a relationship apart.
In a bizarre disclaimer toward his manifesto’s end, Laber writes, “If a progressive doesn’t want to date a conservative and vice versa, that’s perfectly fine.” But a badge broadcasting pro-Planned Parenthood beliefs, he argues, is “a political protest” — while a private admission to a potential suitor presumably would be merely a personal one. What he’s missing, of course, is that political and personal are often the same thing.