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How to spot a Feminist Ally in the streets, but a Misogynist Wanker in the sheets

Feminist men.

It’s a good idea in theory and it looks good on paper.

But in practice? Not so much.

I’ve come across my fair share of self-proclaimed Feminist Men in my time. Granted, many of them appear (to the outside eye) to carry out great work and seem to have a true understanding of how gender inequality works.

But I’ve also met several self-proclaimed Feminist Men who use it as a badge of honour. A bragging right. A way to appear more attractive to women. Even a dangerous smokescreen. They’re the Political Nice Guy if you will.

But any man can stand there and say he is a Feminist Man. That’s pretty easy. But we all know that many men can lie - and will lie - to get women into bed. The news stories on Ryan Adams and Moby have thrust beta-male misogyny in society’s consciousness. We’re now waking up to the idea that men don’t need to be loud, alpha males who shout “grab them by the pussy” to be a threat to women.

They can be shy with a sweet demeanour. A musician who writes love songs on an acoustic guitar. He might get along with his mum. Skinny and couldn't physically assault you if he tried. Not be sexually promiscuous. Votes progressively and goes to protests.

And boy, have I been caught out.

I’ve dated and been friends with several men over the years who like to think they are woke af but actually treated me like shit. Three men stand out in particular: two sexual/romantic and one platonic (but wanted to be sexual/romantic). Between them I’m owed money, been kept from speaking to other people at parties, intellectually insulted, demeaned, spoken down to, mansplained, scared to date other people, and been pressurised into sexual acts that I wasn’t comfortable with.

It wasn’t a fun ride.

And what makes these memories so difficult to carry around with me is that I know these men will fool other women in the future. I've dated numerous shitty men in my time but some of them were obviously shitty and I can't believe I was ever fooled. But these men: they play a pretty tight game. They know how to play the Feminist Man card to their advantage.

But women talk, and we like to keep each other safe. So I've taken a look back at these Fake Feminist Men and tried to identify the warning signs that I could have seen.

So ladies, if the Feminist Man you've just started dating showcases more than four of the following traits then he might be a phoney.

He expects a cookie for being a good person

Great, you respect women - but fuck receiving praise for being a good person. Similar to Nice Guy Syndrome, Fake Feminist Guy expects a cookie because he knows rape is wrong. The real Feminist Dudes know y'all don't get praise for being a fucking decent person.

His definition of feminism doesn't get any deeper than "women should have access to abortion"

I appreciate that people who are new to social justice might have a shallow understanding of the topic. But feminism is a lot more than not groping women in nightclubs. There's mansplaining, Gender Pay Gap, sex workers rights, beauty image, body politics, not talking over the top of women.....

If you're talking to a new guy who wants to learn more, offer him some advice and resources (Every Feminism is a great one). If you're speaking to someone who is a long-established, self-proclaimed Feminist Guy and he still isn't past the basics you should just roll your eyes and refuse that second date.

He takes a sulk when called out

We all get called out from time to time. It can be a chance to grow or a chance to sulk. Which option your dude chooses says a lot about is his commitment to the cause.

He can't admit to a period in time when he wasn't a Feminist Man


But even the most social justice orientated of us are not immune to the effects of the patriarchy or social conditioning. We've all fucked up at one point. I've dressed up as a Native American for Halloween, claimed that Silence of the Lambs wasn't transphobic, and voted Liberal Democrat.

And I'm okay admitting these things because a true social justice warrior knows that in order to undo oppressive structures we need to confront ourselves about the role we play in them. I probably still do oppressive shit that I'm yet to unlearn.

If he can't give you an example of his own personal growth as a Feminist Man then he's very likely not the real deal (and has very low levels of self-awareness).

He doesn't support sex-positive feminism

The feminist hill that I am willing to die on is that sex-negative feminism and sexual assault go hand in hand.

Let me break it down.

Sex-negative feminism argues that there's a right way to shag. It turns sexual preferences into a theoretical debate. It tells consenting adults what they can and can't do in their own bedroom. It tells us that women don't like rough sex, making money from sex, or watching porn - despite anecdotal evidence.

Sex-positive feminism, on the other hand, lets individuals decide for themselves what sex acts they like to engage in. It encourages open communication and seeing people as unique human beings. Though saying that, "sex-positive" men sometimes use feminism as a guilt trip to make women do kinky things they are not into but blah blah blah liberated feminist women embrace their sexuality blah blah blah don't be a prude and have sex exactly the way I want to blah blah I don't care about your needs.

Bottom line: you're looking for someone who respects your sexual choices, whether that's dungeon orgies or missionary with the lights off.

He brags about eating pussy

Eating a girl out does not make you a Feminist Man. Fucking shut up. Read this article for more because I don't have the energy to deal with these men anymore.

Doesn't take bisexuality seriously (or any LGBTQ+ identity)

How a guy reacts to me mentioning my sexuality is a make-or-break for me. If his eyes light up, I'm out. If he asks if I have a preference, I'm not out but he's getting called out. In practice dating me is like dating a monosexual. It won't affect the relationship so I don't want much of a reaction.

He listens to your romantic and sexual needs

Feminist Men like to think they treat women well. It is sort of the idea. But then they get it into their heads that "treating women well" means following a bullet-pointed list and treating women as a homogenous group who all have the same sexual and romantic needs.

That's still patriarchy at play, y'all.

A man who has truly unlearned the whole Women-Serving-Men thing will be up for honest communication about your needs and won't just arrogantly assume them.

He just mansplains in general

Whether it's how to do your job or the politics of your home town, don't put up with that shit.

He's friends with creeps

You can tell a lot about someone by the company they keep.

One of the Fake Feminist guys I dated didn't even have any friends, which should have been a massive warning sign. While the other had a wide social circle. But that social circle included men who were creepy as fuck in blatantly obvious ways. If he was fond of a guy, he wouldn't speak up - but couldn't wait to verbally jump on men who he already disliked for another reason.

And the guy I mentioned in the introduction who wanted to be romantic/sexual with me rather than just platonic? Since cutting him from my life he made the decision to stand by someone who was convicted of sexual assault!

Has no platonic female friendships

Men that are desperate for a girlfriend to the point where they will approach anyone (including swiping right on every fucking girl) irk me. It still showcasing an inability to see women as people if he's wondering if every new woman he meets might be his next romantic or sexual conquest.

A true Feminist Man isn't looking to date every woman that walks past him because he sees women as more than that. He knows what he wants in a romantic partner and recognises that not every woman will fit that criterion. And you deserve better than someone who will say yes to a date because he would say yes to anyone1

He thinks all relationships should look the same

I want to make this abundantly clear: I do not, by any means, think that anyone is less of a social justice warrior because they want an opposite-sex marriage where they move to the suburbs and have two children (and maybe a dog).

But a social justice warrior respects alternative relationship styles and won't react negatively if you want to check in on the first few dates that you want the same things long term (wanting children, opinions on marriage, polyamory/monogamy etc). Even better if he's had an active think about different relationship styles and has a good idea about what he would want. It's 2019, we can't assume everyone wants the same thing anymore!

Is intimidated by your success

I've dated (or even just met) several men who like me because I've "got depth" and "not a bimbo". But the moment they realise there's a chance I might be smarter than them they shuffle their feet or start mansplaining.

A true Feminist Man won't worry about you outperforming him. Or earning more. Or getting better grades.

Insists on paying

When I'm in a formal relationship, yes, I think the higher earner should pay more. And thanks to the sneaky Gender Pay Gap it will usually be the man. But when I'm on the first few dates with a new person I don't feel comfortable with them paying. How they react to this can demonstrate their attitude towards money within a relationship, and whether they would be comfortable with a woman earning more.

It's the same reason why I tend to swipe left on men who brag about being homeowners on their Tinder bios.

Judges your taste in pop culture

I'm not entirely sure how this came to be, but I've met a lot of "Feminist Men" who act as though pop culture that is aimed towards women is the stuff of immaturity. Think boybands and chick flicks (but not female superheroes because the Feminist Men like that stuff because, duh, comics are generally male territory and female superheroes are tough, not "fluffy"). This is not behaviour saved for nerds who live in their mother's basements; I've met a lot of progressive men who seem shocked when they learn that I enjoy stereotypically girly pop culture. I've never sat a man down to get to the bottom of this phenomenon, but my hunch is the persistent idea that feminine and feminist can't go together.

Also applies to any man who takes it far too personally when you don't like his favourite bands or whatever. For me, it was a Feminist Men perplexed by the idea I didn't like Star Wars. I don't like things set in space so I've never bothered. He was too bothered about this.

Has a house that is growing mould

When I'm dating someone new, I judge them by how clean their house is. I don't expect high-end art pieces on the wall or their kitchen to be filled with every gadget from Argos. But I expect it to be clean and functioning. You're an adult who knew they were having a guest round so make sure you have a toilet roll for Pete's sake.

Many men don't pull their weight domestically - even when they are single and living alone. It's almost as though they consider cleaning to be so unmanly that they still won't do it even when there's no woman around. The earliest warning sign that he'll expect you to do all the cleaning in a relationship is if he didn't even do it when he was single!

He is offended when you say "men are trash"

A true Feminist Man will understand your frustrations. A person of colour can say "white people are trash" to me and I'm okay with that - because we are. These statements are about systematic problems, not individual people.

He amplifies the rumour that only alpha-males can be sexist

One of the beta-misogynists I dated once said "of course he's the type to sexually assault, he is a footballer" in relation to the Ched Evans case. This same guy ignored my verbal no in the bedroom and assaulted me. Rolling my eyes at the irony helps with the trauma.

(Same guy also refused to get a Tinder account "because only creepy men use Tinder").

If a beta man actively and explicitly says that it's only alpha men that are the problem then run for the fucking hills. Don't wait for any other point on this list to show up - just go. This is a big warning sign. Get out.

He tells you to wear less make-up

I've noticed this thing with Feminist Men who try to rip down bullshit beauty standards by telling women to wear less make-up.

News flash: women don't necessarily wear make-up to attract men.

Yes, it's a personal choice that can be layered with patriarchal bullshit. However, it can also be worn for purposes of self-expression. I quite like looking a bit like a badass hipster. It gives people I've just met some non-verbal queues about me as a person.

True Feminist Men let women do what they want with their bodies.

Has a history of dating younger women

I'm not explicitly against age-gap relationships, but they are worth thinking about.

Most people's maturity plateaus around about 25, so your typical 31-year-old isn't going to have much in common with your average 23-year-old - but that was exactly the age gap with a Fake Feminist Guy of my past. I was still finding my feet in the world and hadn't fully matured yet, making me a prime candidate for someone who was incredibly immature for his age (and, uh, likes to attack people's self-esteem).

But the big warning sign is if they have a history of dating younger women.

And any man who admits that his Tinder is set to only show younger women.

His appearance is a bit scabby but doesn't fancy low-maintenance women

I once wrote a blog post on this!

Has ever muttered the phrase "real women have curves"

Go away and die.

His feminism isn't intersectional

Ask for his opinion on Trans Rights, Black Lives Matter, and trade unions.

Because if your feminism isn't intersectional then it's bullshit. 

He doesn't understand the role of an ally

Sometimes being an ally means doing nothing. It's knowing when to shut up and let the oppressed group do the talking. It's not something you "are" just because you say you are. It's a label you earn -and you earn it through actions. Ultimately, if the Feminist Guy you've just met won't STFU and can't provide a basic level definition of an ally then he, sadly, probably isn't one.

And finally, some things that don't indicate how feminist a man is: 

  • how promiscuous he is
  • likes football, rugby, golf, and other manly sports
  • gets along with his mum
  • enjoys kinky sex
  • cuts down trees with his bare hands
  • if he's LGBTQ+ in anyway
  • is a vegan
  • owns a dog
  • supports other progressive movements
  • how much effort he puts into his appearance
  • has been to a strip club

What have I missed? Probably a lot. I like to rant. 

Men are trash. Especially Nice Guys. 

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