• L Torres

Why is the fake "woke" guy so dangerous?

Fake woke male/male-identifying individual (“guy”): A person who falsely claims to uphold the tenets of egalitarianism but whose ideology is rooted in the oppression of others.

So many of us have been there. We get a dm/pm from someone who identifies as a feminist and addresses something you posted regarding womxn’s oppression or violence. Maybe he gets in a few lamenting sentiments on how terrible it is, or engages in a bit of conversation as a show of solidarity with your points. All before dropping some kind of sexual commentary that changes the coloring of the convo. It suddenly feels very claustrophobic in that small shared space between you two. There are endless variations, but the comment(s) are founded in some form of sexual power dynamic, even if at face value, seems to be rooted in womxn’s pleasure. You stare at the wording, a gamut of emotions running through your mind…

If an ally is initially reaching out in this way, they’re not, in fact, an ally. They’re using their privileged position to furtively insert their own objectification of women through seemingly innocuous sexual slips of the tongue and centering themselves in the discourse all while playing up the idea of being an egalitarian.

A true male/male-identifying ally can be respectfully complimentary or even openly flirt, that’s not the problem at hand. Many of us are open to and/or welcome flirting, sexting, pic exchanges with those we’re interested in- but it’s almost always after we’ve built some kind of safe space with a person and it must be consensual. We need to feel respected as a human before we get down and dirty. This is where the true male/male-identifying ally stands out in his authentic solidarity. An ally respects the human in us and doesn’t use covert sexualization as a means of manipulating the narrative to his benefit.

For the fake woke activist, straight-up harassment, dick pic sharing, etc. is too overt a violation; it would be a clear indication of their objectification. They know they’ll be rejected outright. These nuanced, well-versed individuals know better; they’ve tokenized the feminist agenda and tailored it to their advantage in order to passive-aggressively work their way into safe spaces.

The seemingly accidental slip of objectification (aka “sorry not sorry” approach) or colloquial use of sexual terminology as a means of building a buddy-like rapport is a curated, premeditated means of manipulation. This is where some feminists gloss over red flags because as womxn, we’ve been taught to distrust ourselves, our intuition. Some of us dismiss our misgivings, chalk it up to guy talk. This clouds our internal boundaries between what is comfortable and what makes us feel used and unsafe. It blurs the lines between flirting and sexualization/borderline harassment. Subconsciously we’d like to believe this ally is different since we’ve been let down by so many men/male-identifying individuals before.

The very casual insertion of sexual agenda through feminist allyship is a calculated move. Our defenses have been lowered with the false vote of solidarity. We’re shocked, embarrassed, humiliated, confused – we don’t always have the resources to gather ourselves up and uphold our boundaries with quick comebacks and retorts. For some, the push/pull creates a mental, psychological, emotional and physical response that confuses the reflexes; our bodies know exactly what we’re perceiving although we can’t always articulate it. Our instinctive response knows this a counterfeit act of solidarity. Even if we’re unable to process our intuitive reactions in the moment, our bodies recognize the performative aspects of this interaction.

More times than not, this performative allyship is grounded in the very real act of domination over those aspiring to break free from their culturally imposed submission. Feminists have had to endure unending string of experiences, violations, heartache and loss to get to where we are. We are staunch and unwavering in our power, and display it in different ways. But powerful we are. And for the misogynist, to break in a strong-willed individual and have them bend to their will is a sheer act of chauvinism, no matter how prettily packaged or sweetly presented.

In some instances, the fake ally may actually be a semi-awakened egalitarian in the making. They’re unlearning their own trauma imposed by the patriarchy and are trying, in their own way, to build bridges and learn how to be better allies. They may (sub)consciously seek out the labor of feminists to educate them. These potential allies-in-the-making are usually not the ones to reach out with casual sexual commentary like the fake ones, but eventually have some kind of misinformed, misaligned divergence of thought with the feminist plight. This is where the true potential ally stands out from the fake one. When called out on their microaggressions and privilege, the real ones listen, take this new information and decide to reeducate themselves in order to better themselves. They are humbled and empowered by the new tools presented to them. They are introspective and ask questions. They try to educate others who think as they once did in order to shift into an egalitarian society. The fake ones, however, release a deluge of anger, denial, victimization, accusatory language (“You’re so touchy! “Calm down!”) and/or misogynist rhetoric. This usually leads to a passionate, albeit, misguided installment of mansplaining. Some sort of verbal or physical tantrum is thrown. Think I’m exaggerating? Ask the egalitarian-aligned women in your life about their experiences with men/male-identifying individuals on social media, in relationships or at work. They’ve all experienced some sort of harm. It’s everywhere.

What does this say about our oppressive patriarchy and the standards we hold each other to? We’ve grown so accustomed to being sexualized and used by some of the men who claim to be on our side; exhaustion, anger and numbness have become a way of life. Our system is so broken and so oppressive, that in dismantling it, society has started elevating the basic levels of respect men/male identifying individual give womxn with a self-congratulatory pat on the back. In holding men up on a pedestal for presenting basic respect (respect is what we should ALL be practicing with each other) society under-politicizes and over-glorifies them. A true male/male-identifying comrade goes far beyond that. They use their privilege to speak on our behalf, use every ounce of body, gender, class, social and racial advantages they have to protect us and bring our fight to the forefront.

Not everyone shows up like that for us. Which is why unless we are fully healed from our own trauma, we subliminally allow certain uncomfortable parts of the semi-problematic ones slide. Those of us who are healing or have healed many aspects of our own erasure and reclaimed our power can maneuver these situations with much more dexterity, but we’re tired of having to deal with this every single day. Because for many of us, our lives are a daily act of protest. We are tired of false comrades, of skulking, predatory moles waiting to pounce. We are drained and depleted from the patriarchal confines.

Casual sex isn’t hard to find, if that’s what you’re actively looking for. There are tons of sites to get the proverbial rocks off. Tinder is known for its random hookups. A kinky counterpart can be found on Fetlife. No-strings attached/friends with benefits situations release pent-up energy. Purposely reaching out to a community -that has historically been exploited, objectified, violently oppressed, silenced, abused, murdered, marginalized- and then gaslighting them for a power/sexual/sexist release makes the fake woke guy one of the lowest forms of toxic leachate around.

This piece was originally published on December 10, 2020.