How I've learnt to spot a fake male feminist, and the warning signs I want you to know

Is he a true ally to women, or is he using feminism to his advantage?
Dating An Ally How Do You Know You're Dating A Fake Feminist
JASON CONNOLLY

Trying to predict a romantic partner’s true intentions is one of the biggest mysteries one encounters when dating. But one big question many women must ask themselves in the year 2022 is this: are they an ally?

Finding some kind of compatibility when it comes to political or social beliefs is an important requirement within the dating world. It’s been made more complicated, though, by the smoke screens created by “fake feminists” – who may boast a cringey “smash the patriarchy” t-shirt while mansplaining political correctness on a first date.

The further I’ve embarked through my twenties, my attitude towards this particular issue has changed. In previous years, if I felt someone I was dating didn’t quite understand a nuanced problem for women or the distinct privilege that someone holds by, you know, just existing as a cis male member of society, I would simply voice my initial thoughts and then just end the conversation with an eye roll if I didn’t like their response.

One experience that stands out in my memory was a bewildering conversation with a guy I dated a few years ago. He talked a lot about his boss, who happened to be a woman. He had a lot of respect for her – her ranking at his company, the way she conducted business and the fact she was incredibly successful in spite of, you know, having ovaries. It seemed to him that because a woman could hold a top-rank position at a company, gender equality had been pretty much achieved.

Cue the eye roll. It takes a stunning amount of privilege to not see the need to look at the complexities of gender inequality. That one successful woman does not equal complete change, and that unless this individual was working to put their power forward and insisting it trickled down throughout the rest of the company, the “girl boss” sentiment amounted to next to nothing.

So, at that moment, I barely argued back. Even though I have a degree in political science and a pretty confrontational personality – a lethal combination, some might say. And why not? I didn’t deem interrogating his privilege worth it. I knew I was right – I knew the complexities at play. Who cares if he didn’t?

Read More
Can we stop referring to the 'post-Me Too' era when so many women are still suffering from sexual violence?

The allegations against Chris Noth show that #MeToo is far from over.

article image

But half a decade later, the world has changed, and I’ve changed. The shock, fear and heartbreak surrounding the murders of women such as Ashling Murphy, Sarah Everard (Sabina Nessa’s murder occurred months later, not far from where Everard disappeared) brought the dangers that we face just by leaving the house into even sharper relief. 

This problem is as complex as it is tragic. Just because someone you’re dating claims to be an ally – in the aftermath of quite a social shift in conversations around male violence against women – doesn’t mean he’s being genuine by any means. It may be that they use their “wokeness” as a means to appear attractive to you, and for no other reason.

Men that act like this are sometimes referred to as “pick me boys”. The trouble is, if you reject their advances – and don’t, in fact, pick them – these men have also been known to abandon said wokeness very quickly and become defensive and rude, abandoning their feminist posturing when it no longer suits them.

“Recently, we've had a certain kind of man able to access feminist narratives and apply them to his own advantage,” Nichi Hodgson, dating expert and author of The Curious History of Dating: From Jane Austen to Tinder, says. “It's a sister tactic of wokefishing.”

So how do you know you’re dating someone who is a true ally to women, and isn’t co-opting your own beliefs and experiences to appear more attractive to you? These days, what’s for show and what counts as true understanding?

“If you want to know if someone is an ally or a fake feminist, pay more attention to their actions than their words,” Hodgson suggests. “If you feel you are being undermined or disrespected by their actions or microaggressions but they protest otherwise, you are right to be wary.

“An ally will never try and explain feminism to you, or claim they know more about it, even if they are well read or researched.”

Read More
Why there's nothing in the world more powerful than female friendship

In fact, female friendships are changing the world.

article image

Counsellor Ruth Micallef also states that an important distinction to make from the outset is whether a partner is “faking feminism” due to ignorance of the nuances of the situation, or using it as a guise for their narcissism.

If you feel that your partner is truly lacking understanding, there are ways in which you can communicate this to see if you can get yourself on equal footing.

“Think of a few concrete examples of how their lack of allyship affects your relationship, and then sit down and outline what's going on,” Hodgson suggests. “You can presume best intent – i.e perhaps they are not wilfully trying to undermine you – but that their actions affect you all the same. If you can suggest what you would prefer them to do, that's also helpful.”

If this doesn't work out, or you suspect that your partner is faking being an ally in order to manipulate or control power dynamics, it is OK to set boundaries and exit the relationship.

Read More
My husband took my surname when we got married. Would it have been ‘anti-feminist’ to take the traditional route?

“We were judged by strangers and loved ones alike, congratulated or condemned by people who thought we were either bravely standing up to the patriarchy or causing a lot of fuss over nothing.”

article image

After all, the proof of allyship in this case is not in what it says on someone's t-shirt, in their dating app bio, or even what they tell you in a bar on your first date – but in their actions. 

It’s all about how a potential partner communicates. Whether they show understanding instead of preaching it and whether they listen instead of assuming they know someone else's lived experiences. 

These distinctions are so important, as is taking the time to ensure that our romantic partners fall on the right side of them – and of history.