Minnesota woman writes book on horrors of digital dating
GRAND FORKS — Alexandra Tweten, who grew up in Climax, Minn., has turned a blog — where women could share the horrors of digital dating apps — into a book.
"Bye Felipe," published by Running Press, based in Philadelphia, was released Tuesday, Aug. 21.
Tweten, who lives in Los Angeles, said she wrote it to help women navigate the perils of online dating and provide practical advice on how to overcome the harassment that is rampant in the world of dating apps.
"It's kind of a field guide to harassing messages from trolls, fat-shamers and mansplainers" that women sometimes contend with online, Tweten said. "It's a guide for how to respond to all these."
Her goal is to give women tools they need to take control of their dating life.
The book's title is a takeoff on a memorable quote, "Bye Felicia," from the 1995 film, "Friday," which is often used as a dismissive farewell.
The book includes stories about her own dating life and that of her friends, she said. "It's kind of a memoir, with general dating advice."
Blending humor, feminist theory and solidarity, the book offers profiles of the worst types of guys — also known as "Felipes" — ranging from the crude and crass to the potentially dangerous.
It's been described as "the dating equivalent of a life vest for women," by Soraya Chemaly, author of "Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women's Anger."
Although intended for the female audience, "it would be good for men to read, too," Tweten said.
"The main takeaway is just being confident in yourself and not letting men who insult you, not letting that stop you."
Roots in the area
Tweten, who graduated from Climax High School in 2005, majored in journalism at St. Cloud (Minn.) State University.
Her parents are Kim Tweten of Climax and Larry Tweten, of Grafton, N.D.
After earning a bachelor's degree with in journalism, with a minor in women's studies, from SCSU in 2009, she moved to Los Angeles for an internship with Ms. magazine.
"I was only supposed to be here for four months," she said. "But I liked it here — he weather, the amount of things to do, people to connect with, the opportunities that are here."
Tweten worked at the magazine for a year and later, for a few months, with Sen. Barbara Boxer's (D-Calif.) campaign for Senate, she said.
She was working at Ticketmaster Live Nation, when she started the Instagram account, "Bye Felipe," launching it in October 2014 in response to women she'd met online.
"I was in an online group with all these women, and we were talking about the crazy messages we'd get," she remembered. "One woman, who had posted something, received a response, but she didn't respond. Twelve hours later, he sent a message calling her an a--hole."
Similar stories soon emerged.
Tweten said the purpose of the blog, "originally, was to make fun of men and to commiserate with my friends — a community of women who patted each others' backs."
She created "Bye Felipe" before the Me Too and Time's Up movement came on the scene, she said.
"It was a precursor to calling out bad behavior we see, and women who are saying, 'We're not going to take it anymore,' " she said, noting that, too often in the past, women have tacitly accepted it.
"We just took it as a daily thing, and expected it to happen," she said. "I wanted to bring up the subject, why should women have to deal with that?"
Seeds for a book
A couple of weeks after Tweten started her blog, Olga Khazan, a journalist who was researching the topic of online harassment, interviewed her for an article in "The Atlantic." The article, "Rise of the Feminist Tinder-Creep-Busting Web Vigilante," was published Oct. 27, 2014.
"The story was picked up in all the media — the Huffington Post, The Guardian, The New York Times," Tweten said.
After that, "Bye Felipe" skyrocketed.
The blog, which had a few hundred followers, grew to 30,000 followers in a week, she said.
In the years since, it has grown to 422,000 followers.
Tweten seems a little surprised by the attention her blog and its messages have attracted.
"I never set out to create that," she said. "It just sort of happened."
She has been featured in national media outlets including the New York Times, Huffington Post, The Guardian and "Cosmopolitan" magazine, and has appeared on "Good Morning, America," and "Nightline."
As Tweten began to absorb the responses of women on "Bye Felipe" — and all the examples of hateful messages spewed by disgruntled men — she was inspired to pursue another venture.
"I wanted to write a book about it," she said. "I quit my day job at Ticketmaster and worked on it all this past year."
She's been encouraged by women who appreciate the chance to air their grievances about male misbehavior.
"I get responses from women who say, 'Thank you for giving women a voice. I thought I was the only one (dealing with this),'" she said.
A nasty message "does hurt, especially if you experience it all the time, and you hear it over and over again."
Tweten is busy working on a book proposal for her next book.
"I quit my job last year so I have to sell another one, or get a job," she said.
This one is geared toward men. She has a title in mind but not one she's ready to share.
"A lot of guys are sort of clueless," she said. "This will be a simple guide on how to not be terrible."
When it comes to her own approach to dating, "I follow my gut usually," Tweten said.
She advises women to watch for "red flags" when they meet men online.
"Like, if they don't ask you any questions and jump to inappropriate subjects right away, those are signs of narcissistic behavior," she said.
"There are tons of different dating apps; they all have a different sort of vibe," she said. "Go into it with an open mind. If you're not comfortable, delete it."
Tweten reassures her audience that there are nice guys out there, but it's important to be cautious and to put their own safety first, she said.
If a woman receives harassing messages, "it's best to block (that person) and report them on whatever platform you're on," she said. "It's difficult though because they just create another account."
Some men may seem to be OK at first, "but you never know what they're going to turn out to be."