I was swiping through Tinder when I came across someone I knew. In his bio, among things like “Abs for days” and “dog lover”, it read “feminist.” He wasn’t the first (nor the last) guy I’ve swiped through who labeled himself as feminist, but he was the only one I knew for sure was not a feminist.
I’m sure he believes himself to be feminist (he can recite some information about the wage gap if you ask), but I’ve known him only to be the guy who asks the same woman out, over and over again. He pesters her relentlessly in some vain attempt to blow past her rejection even as she tells him no several times. If she starts dating someone else he’ll be incredulous and offended because how can she like that guy, and not him? He’s a feminist, dammit! It’s half-amusing, half-horrifying that he continues to offer this up as proof of his desirability in a dating profile while remaining oblivious to how this undercuts his feminist credentials.
Like those feminist Tinder guys (I’m sure some of them are genuinely feminist), I also have “feminist” in my bio. But I include it at risk of harassment (guys have talked to me just to attempt to point out all the ways in which feminism is unnecessary and/or offensive to men). I also include it as a warning. I’m not interested in partners who are anti-feminist, and guys who are anti-feminist shouldn’t be interested in me (please don’t be interested in me). It’s an attempt to weed out the undesirables from the jump rather than having to figure out for myself that Chris, 24 from Osage Beach is actually a happy misogynist.
So meeting someone, on Tinder or off, who identifies as a feminist immediately indicates that we agree ideologically. And more than that, that they are nonthreatening, safe and trustworthy.
Well, that’s what it’s supposed to mean.
There’s a lot of talk about young women adopting a CliffNotes version of feminism after watching their favorite female celebrities do the same, but it’s not only women picking up a feminism lacking nuance and based on the points it may be able to earn you. Unlike women, men aren’t necessarily told how feminism’s ideals can benefit them. They are told it will make women interested. We’ve reached a point where men are praised for even basic decencies like taking care of their children, not being racist/sexist/insert other -ist here, or saying something about social inequities women have said countless times already. Woke Baes (think Jesse Williams and Matt McGorry) are on lists praising them for being good looking and invested in social justice. Naturally other men see this and decide to hop on the bandwagon.
Claiming feminism is easy when you think feminism begins and ends with closing the wage gap and that it makes you more appealing to women. For those nice guys like my former coworker, who are now claiming their not-really-feminism, pay equity is simple.
It’s everything else that’s hard.
Reproductive health rights, dismantling rape culture and ending violence against women, fighting racial injustice and securing rights for the LGBT community along with the long list of other national and international issues facing women.
How many men think themselves as feminists because they skimmed Jennifer Lawrence’s essay on the wage gap or because they want a solo Black Widow movie? How many think they’re a feminist because they won’t hold the door open for women or foot the bill on dates? How many call themselves feminists while excusing their favorite male celebrity for domestic violence or rape allegations? How many call themselves a feminist but would, as soon as I decided their “feminism” wasn’t enough of an aphrodisiac, lash out at me for rejecting them?
I know feminist men exist, just as I know feminist women exist. I also know that some people like to cherry pick their feminism, an issue here or an issue there, leaving ones they can’t get behind on the cutting room floor. It would undoubtedly be simpler to see “feminist” in someone’s bio and know exactly what that entailed as if including it on Tinder was the same as swearing an oath or if it was going to fact-checked by government agencies.
Matt McGorry and Jesse Williams can’t be the only Woke Baes walking around, and it’s not a huge stretch to hope that all of us feminist women will end up with a bae as socially conscious as we are.