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Beware the Fake Male Feminist

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has no reason to lie about being a feminist.

A few years back he proclaimed his feminism on Ellen, then created a video about it, of which Time Magazine said, “This doesn’t feel like one of those ‘love me, I’m a feminist!’ PR stunts – it actually seems like he’s really contemplated the issue and he makes some excellent points.”

I was with a self-proclaimed feminist for seven years. He was quite seriously emotionally abusive. I eventually found out he was on several pick up artist forums and he had paid for some literature on “how to exploit the glitch in the female psyche” shortly before we met. With hindsight, I can see how he used techniques such as negging and gaslighting, both to hook me in the first place and to stop me from leaving. He would use the feminist label to deflect any criticism. – Rosie

Joseph is handsome, wealthy, talented, and likeable. He doesn’t need to proclaim himself feminist to get people to like him more. Especially when you realize that doing so will anger a portion of the population who state, “Feminism is cancer” or women who say, “I don’t need feminism.”

My ex had a reputation in our small town for helping out women escaping domestic violence. He offered shelter and meals to these women, while making their partners fully aware they were no longer welcome at his business. What was kept secret was his other reputation for being a violent alcoholic and hitting all of his partners.– Anon

There are several public men who have come out as feminist, including Patrick Stewart, John Legend, Antonio Banderas, Daniel Craig, Alan Alda, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Will Smith, President Barack Obama, and the Dalai Lama. I have no reason to doubt the veracity of any of these claims. Nevertheless, for reasons I explained in this piece, I don’t go around calling myself a feminist (although many others call me that, and I’m flattered when they do).

My ex-husband would regularly call himself a feminist to anyone who would listen. Meanwhile, he didn’t want me to work because he was afraid that male coworkers would hit on me, wouldn’t even let me drive our car anywhere by myself without him with me, and policed the amount of skin that I should show at any given moment. – Melissa

The reason why I don’t wear feminism on my sleeve is there are so many fake male feminists. For any women who encounter a man who is quick to say he is feminist, they are right to be wary.

Guys fake feminism enough that Saturday Night Live did a skit about it. The feature image for this post is from that skit, where the guy wearing the “The Future is Female” shirt yells after being shot down, “I’m wearing this shirt and you won’t even let me nut?” As he’s being escorted away he says, “I followed all the rules!”

I had a male feminist friend who told me that it’s normal for men to feel an urge to rape women, and that I was just using feminism to shame him for his normal male sexuality. – Susie

But it’s not just satire. There is the real case of Hugo Schwyzer, the disgraced professor who took up teaching gender studies and proclaiming to be feminist as a tactic to have sex with his female students. There is also Jamie Kilstein, the alleged progressive feminist who was removed from Citizen Radio after allegations of being abusive and engaging in predatory behavior. According to the article: “Kilstein allegedly used his feminism and popularity to make sexual advances on them.”

I have a male friend, self-professed ally in several progressive causes. He routinely posts political articles about women in the Trump administration with disparaging comments about their faces, bodies, makeup, etc. – Leslie

This piece in the Guardian states: “men looking for feminist-sanctioned romance tend to fall in to one of two categories: those who use our attraction as a sign of approval and seek out trophy feminists to clear their conscience of any inherent patriarchal wrong-doing, and outright predators who employ a bare-bones knowledge of feminist discourse to target any young woman whose politics so much as graze the notion of sex-positivity.”

I ran progressive political campaigns in my early twenties. Everyone purported to be feminist. I was the only female staffer, I was paid half as much as everyone else, and despite having interns and everyone being fully capable, I was expected to clean up after everyone … A few days after our races ended, one of the male staffers drugged and raped me, knowing full well that his cred as a feminist and my reputation for calling things out as gender issues would shield him. The number of men I have encountered who fake social justice cred to rape and otherwise abuse women is staggering.– Anon

Pick-up artists will teach their clients to use feminism as a tactic to get laid; other men use it to seek approval despite having deep-seeded misogyny.

The “use it to get laid” aspect isn’t complicated. But the need-for-approval-from-women use of feminism could use deeper examination. What’s the story with these guys? I can only guess. They want women, but as playthings. They worship women, but as objects and not independent humans. They need to have women approve of them, because their masculinity is fragile. These men hate women, but outcry against misogyny creates cognitive dissonance so they pretend to love them by proclaiming themselves feminist.

He was a self-proclaimed feminist and Berniebro … I did not invite him into my bed but he crawled in next to me and persistently tried to fondle me in front of my very awake child. I grabbed my laptop and went to the living room. Same deal. I tried just talking about my paper and de-escalating … Luckily he eventually gave up, I guess his boundary is literal rape. – Brianna

Again, these are guesses. Who knows what’s going in those fucked up minds that they would say one thing then act in a completely opposite manner.

What about the men? What’s a poor man to do? #sarcasm

Male co-worker in a male dominated science field. Calls himself a feminist because “women should be treated equally in all ways,” but has mentioned several times that I may not want a promotion because I have kids (he does too). – Sarah

Except not completely sarcasm, because it’s a question in need of an answer. First off, realize that shouting your feminism is going to raise eyebrows and be received with skepticism, because of the sample stories you’re reading in this piece and because of guys like Hugo and Jamie. People won’t automatically assume you’re like Joseph / Daniel / Antonio / Will / Patrick.

It is FAR more important to act like a feminist than merely say you are one. Deeds, not words. Earn it.

I was championed at work by a senior (male) manager who wanted to progress talent, and in particular support women. When I started to influence his position on things his self-proclaimed feminist (male) peer went to him privately and asked what was going on between us. His assumption was that to have that influence we must have been having an affair. – Sarah

Yet there is a flipside that creates dilemma. If more men do come out as feminist, like the aforementioned celebrities, and most importantly, have actions that back up the claim, then it serves to normalize feminism and fight back against the alt-reich trolls saying feminism is cancer and the women who say they don’t need feminism.

For over a year, my sister dated an abusive heroin addict. During that time, he convinced her that HE’S the real feminist, and that I am a misandrist … He was using in-group language to make his feminism seem more rational, and that is a terrifying abuse tactic. – Tiffany

It’s a tough decision. I don’t wear it, I do it. I didn’t have to learn it, I was raised this way. My relationship with my wife wouldn’t have made it past the first date if I was otherwise. We were together for 25 years before I wrote my first piece on this subject for TIME Magazine. I wasn’t doing it to get laid, and I didn’t need approval. I did it because it was right and a good use of my voice.

My ex-husband was the most supportive, kind, loving man, right up until we got married where he apparently expected me to work 2 jobs and be his mother. He was all about women’s independence and strength until his laundry wasn’t done, then the abuse came. – Elizabeth

My advice to men? BE a feminist because it is right. And if someone calls you a feminist, say thank you. Because whether they mean it that way or not, being called feminist IS a compliment.

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See below for additional stories of fake male feminists.

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James S. Fell, MBA, writes for the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, AskMen, the Guardian, TIME Magazine and many other fine publications. His first book was published by Random House Canada in 2014. He is currently working on his next book, which is about life-changing moments.

 

I was married to a “fake feminist” who pretended to respect women, tried to make me comfortable, put me on a pedestal, only to turn around and behave in sexist, controlling ways. I believe he was/ is a malignant narcissist with a whole world of hatred against women. Unless one is his daughter, sister or mother she is eventually labelled “crazy/a bitch/fucking cunt/etc.” – Anon

My ex-boyfriend used every opportunity to mention how different he was, how respectful of women he was in comparison to other men. During our break-up, I discovered that he had been taking explicit photos of me in my sleep, without my consent. – Bea

A man once exclaimed to me that he is a feminist, then went on to mansplain to me that women can’t actually be feminists, apparently because we have a conflict of interest by being women. – Kel

I dated a guy that was a self-proclaimed feminist … He was also a master of gaslighting, so every time I would confront him about sexist remarks, his lack of help around the house, or his numerous double-standards (he had to have access to my phone and all of my accounts while his were “private”), he would argue in circles until I was left devastated and believing his narcissistic and misogynistic views. – Alicia

My former boss aligned himself with feminists … His misogyny came on display gradually … he tells me to ask more questions in meetings instead of making statements – about a topic in which I have a PhD … Then he consistently describes tech companies who are trying to hire more women as practicing “charity” … telling me about his new girlfriend, he said they were having sex the night before, he stuck it in her ass without asking or even warning her, and she was upset and pushed him off. He told me the story clearly expecting I would say “Wow, what a bitch!” – Laney

My brother claims to be a feminist, but says that if he got a girl pregnant, he would disappear and make her raise the kid herself. – Olivia

The punk/metal community here can be really bad for it. When I brought up the fact that a promoter sexually assaulted my friend, one very ‘proud’ feminist said “yeah but I heard she was being crazy” as if that’s justification. – Allison

I dated a guy in college who was a new age hippie who claimed to believe in things like the right of women to be the bread winner in the home. The truth is that he was a freeloader and cheater who used his fake feminism to get laid. But the cherry on top was that he had a raging addiction to rough sex porn and rape-y erotic fiction. – Renee

I have lost count of the number of men in my life who profess to respect women and be feminist who then supported Trump for President and apparently see no contradiction in that whatsoever. – Gemma

There was a really attractive bloke in my undergrad Media cohort who did a few Gender Studies subjects with me. He had a lot to say about women’s rights. I thought he was clever, sensitive and thoughtful. That was until he cracked the epic shits because I wouldn’t give him a blowjob after Uni one night. – Stacey

I had a boyfriend who had gained a fairly high profile in the areas of running and fitness and such because he lost 400lbs. He seemed to be very self-aware, very dedicated to self-improvement, very empathetic, and described himself as an ally … Then once when we were out, I felt uncomfortable with some guy who was staring at me and the BF goes, “Aw take it as a compliment!” A few other times he pointed out dudes checking me out and once he said, “Hey that guy is totally eye-fucking you,” as if I should be flattered. – Marlo

I moved in with a man who claimed to be a feminist. Once he was sure I couldn’t afford to leave, he told me he had threatened to have his wife arrested if she didn’t sign an agreement that she wouldn’t have an abortion. After the divorce, he wouldn’t work unless it was under the table so he wouldn’t have to pay child support. – Karen

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