The official Twitter account for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs tweeted a warning to American kids traveling the world for spring break. It made this warning in the form of an extremely mild joke.
And people flipped out.
“The US State Department’s ‘Spring Breaking Badly’ Twitter Campaign Is Not Going Well,” blared, of all media outlets, VICE. “U.S. State Department apologizes for implying you’re not a ’10’,” according to Mashable. “The State Department’s Twitter Is Drunk and Tweeting Bad Spring Break Tips,” said Gizmodo. Naturally feminists and other joke-lovers from the World Wide Web were not amused, and the tweet was promptly deleted. Thanks to the Internet, though, it lives forever.
MOLLIE: So what’s the big deal? Why does anybody care about this? Also, I’m totally confused. If you’re a “10” why are you buying the drinks? I thought the whole thing was that beauty (or being a girl) gets you tons of drinks. Is the State Department tweet writer a Millennial who is confused because people don’t date any more, much less know the ancient civilization-preserving art of buying women drinks in bars? I’m glad the State Department is on the case of expensive foreign drinks. I could tell Prague was over when they started making people pay for slivovice.
Anyway, a lot of the criticism online was that the tweet was “sexist” against women. But the tweet doesn’t specify the sex of the person who is buying the drinks. So that’s a stupid criticism. The point is, though, that the deleted communiqué was an imperfectly worded but otherwise excellent tweet about not getting conned while traveling. Ooh, that reminds me of this time a reporter I was in Israel with — now a major political reporter — got totally ripped off by the taxi who was taking us to a kuh-razy bar in Tel Aviv. And then somehow when he discovered he’d been ripped off and fought back, the dude took even more money from him. Also, this bar had, among other things, a naked man doing his best Lady Godiva on a live horse. That’s not really relevant to the story but I will never forget it.
RICH: The State Department did respond to criticisms that it negged its own citizens, with exactly the wrong response. C’mon, if you’re going to neg, then own it, agree with criticisms, amplify them. Don’t do this.
Whoa, now, Travel. Overseas scam artists? Cocaine-lined luggage? More spiked drinks? You’re making it sound like it’s rough out there for a spring breaker. There’s even a hashtag – #springbreakingbadly — which means we know it’s serious. The hashtag is the sign of high dudgeon for the current administration. Students must be facing more risks than normal, this year. (Except from ISIS, which isn’t mentioned.)
MOLLIE: Are we sure this is even “negging”? Negging, according the always-reliable Urban Dictionary is, “Low-grade insults meant to undermine the self-confidence of a woman so she might be more vulnerable to your advances.”
The State Department may have undermined the self-confidence of precious snowflake Millennials, but it certainly wasn’t so that the State Department could get in their pants.
Besides, reality isn’t a neg. And the simple fact is that not everyone is the same when it comes to sexual attractiveness. Maybe everyone has a different idea of what constitutes the ideal partner, but that doesn’t mean that most men would choose me over Lupita Nyong’o, you know? But I have a question for you, Rich. Do you agree that the hotness scale is universal? Because I’m not sure I do. I think, frankly, that my assets are far more appreciated in some countries than others. That’s my biggest problem with this State Department tweet.
Rich: There are those who like to claim that certain ratios and features are hot across all continents and cultures. Obviously these people are unfamiliar with how Brazil differs from Boise, and I’m not talking about the metric system. Well, not solely about the metric system. There are also differences within the same continent. French women are known for being gorgeous, while the Brits are often maligned. Back in the U.S.A., The Beach Boys wrote “California Girls,” not Carolina girls, though they some might consider that a missed opportunity. So the State Department was perhaps a little too caught up in cultural relativism, despite its purported enlightened and progressive worldview.
MOLLIE: I know. This is just like when Charles Krauthammer and the Bush gang thought that everyone in Iraq would love democracy. They didn’t realize that different cultures have different ideas about liberty. Different cultures also have different ideas about le bootay.
RICH: The thing is, the tweet was actually, you know, funny. Other than the inexplicable use of quotation marks around the first 10 but not the second, the bureau managed to craft an effective message, which is sort of the official reason such social media exists. Of course, that was too much for the Internet scolds. As Mollie discusses, it’s not even clear that it was targeting women, but if it were, is being careful when traveling in a foreign land such a bad idea? If you’re not normally one to get wooed when out and about in your college town, should you perhaps exercise a little extra caution when you’re in a different country than that dude from the friend zone who can always be counted on to pick you up and give you a ride home?
So lighten up, enjoy your spring break, and be just as cautious about Nigerian princes when abroad as you would when you’re stateside. Or be angry. Whatever. It’s your call. I’m not really interested unless you slide an Old Fashioned into my hand. Then we can talk about your feelings, Miss America.