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Editorial: AMD's VP for product marketing probably shouldn't give dating advice

Laura June

Last week, AMD's corporate vice president for product marketing, Leslie Sobon, published a piece entitled "Get a Geek in Five Easy Lessons." The how-to guide was published on AMD's blog, so I'll be the first one to admit that I was shocked from the moment I started reading it. The piece (which you can and should read right here) is one of the lamest, most confusing things I've read on the internet in a very long time, and believe me: I read a lot of terrible stuff. Contained within this blog is Sobon's "expert" advice on how a single and seemingly quite desperate lady (she assumes there are throngs of you) can snag a geek -- no easy task if you believe what she's got to say. Sobon's advice for grabbing up a nerd for your very own? Change everything about yourself, lie through your teeth, pretend to be interested in super boring stuff, and before you know it: nerd happiness.

Now, before you tell me I have no sense of humor, I'll admit freely that it's possible that Leslie Sobon has written what she considers to be a joke piece worthy of The Onion. So I say to you: if this is a joke, why is it not funny, and why is it on the AMD blog? Likewise, of course, if she's in any way serious... well, then why is it not funny and why is it on the AMD blog? Regardless, there are a lot of problems with Sobon's piece, as you'll see below. Read on if you care to travel to the depths of my cold, angry female mind.

The "five lessons" of Sobon's piece are quickly summarized: learn a bunch of huge, technical words (what they mean doesn't matter), hang around at geeky places like GDC, ask questions (again, you don't need to actually know what you're asking or be interested in the answers), pretend to love Iron Man even if you don't know the specs of the Blu-ray player it plays in, and of course, ignore the fact that his clothes suck, because inevitably, they do. He is a geek, after all: that pocket protector is not optional. So, in many ways, Sobon's advice is like any ladies' magazine from the 1950's, in that she assumes you have nothing in common with your prey (you are man hunting, are you not?), that you never will, and that that's okay. In fact, changing everything about your actual self in favor of a new, improved, less truthy "nerdy" girl is the best way to go about catching one of these rare and beautiful creatures. So, here are the major problems I've got with "Get a Geek in Five Easy Lessons."

First and foremost, this piece is on an official AMD blog, and Leslie Sobon is writing in her capacity as the vice president of one of the company's departments. As such, her attempt at lame Carrie Bradshaw-isms are out of place, unprofessional and an embarrassment to the company that she works for, even if there's a standard "opinions expressed here" disclaimer attached to the blog.

Secondly, I find it appalling that Sobon thinks that the best advice she can give to her female readers is dating tips, especially since they're not even good ones. In fact, they're terrible. For instance, she suggests that ladies ask specific, nerdy questions such as "What will win, X86 or ARM?" then listen to the answers without worrying what any of it means, because pretending to be interested will carry them far enough. Have you ever talked to someone about the subplots of War and Peace, or tried to explain to a third cousin what you do for a living ("I write about computers, on the internet")? Have you ever watched those people try to pretend they understand what you're saying, or not fall asleep before you finish? Well, now imagine trying to do that in a dating situation. I'm not saying people don't do it -- just that it's not exactly a newfangled or savvy dating tip, unless you live on the set of a sitcom, where pretty much anything goes. Of course, she's also subtly implying that she herself fakes her way through geeky conversations, which is preposterous. I've never met Leslie, but am fairly certain she didn't rise to the highest ranks of AMD without having a detailed knowledge of "nerdy" topics like CPUs and 3D technology.

Sobon also assumes that there aren't any women out there who don't have to lie about geeky stuff to date a nerd -- like other nerds.

Third, Sobon, who has worked in the "high tech" industry for most of her professional life (she put in eight years at Dell before joining AMD in 2006), seems to have only encountered a pop cultural stereotype of nerds, not actual human beings. She doesn't really say much about them, to be fair, except that they seem to hate pants and love sandals. Now, any lame attempt at a "pants" joke is just that, and probably not to be taken seriously, but... seriously? That's the best thing you can come up with to say about the men you're telling your female readers to chase down? They're crappy dressers and they're interested in a bunch of boring stuff that no female in her right mind would ever care about? So, I'm supposed to want to capture one... why? Of course, Sobon also assumes that there aren't any women out there who don't have to lie about geeky stuff to date a nerd -- like other nerds.

Ultimately, the fact that it's unclear if this is a weak attempt at a joke or a serious 'dating guide' is a real problem, and really, that should never be the case when a high ranking employee of a respected company picks up a pen, unless AMD simply doesn't care what we think about it. The post is so ridiculous that I don't even see any need to respond by saying, "I work with fifteen guys (who certainly qualify as geeks) and they're all good dressers," because it's so incredibly stupid that an adult would ever think, or write such a thing, especially one who works inside this industry, where female executives are such a rare thing. And on that point, they are an incredibly rare thing, as Leslie is undoubtedly aware herself. I think it's safe to say that reinforcing ridiculous joke stereotypes (even if you're like, totally kidding) -- about both genders, and geeks as a whole -- is not necessary in this day and age. We have The Big Bang Theory for that.

Update: AMD's blog seems to have crumbled under the weight of our hot, nerdy traffic, but for now, you can check out a cache of the post right here.

Joanna Stern also contributed to -- and wholeheartedly endorses -- this piece.

[Image credit: Geek with Laptop]

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