For nearly a year, I’ve been single and actively dating in New York City. After a few bad relationships, the most recent with a Republican who didn’t identify as a feminist, I vowed to change the types of guys I went out with, to make sure they were all unwaveringly pro-women. Sure, there have been a few men who have claimed to be allies and peaked my interest since then — I had a two-week fling with a Brit on a work visa and an unexpected romance with an old friend — but nothing has worked out. That is to say that despite trying to date feminist men, I’m still single. And when I started connecting the dots, I realized that these men who claimed to support women were often bringing me down the most.
You probably know one (or 10, if you, like me, went to a woke-obsessed liberal arts college) of these self-proclaimed feminists. They’re the guys who took a gender studies class in college and tell everyone who didn’t ask about it. Or the guys who mansplain mansplaining to you on the first date. To protect you — and myself for that matter — I’ve compiled a list of what I call “patriarchal agents,” men who at first glance seem like they’re on our side, but say things and behave in ways that can actually be pretty misogynistic if you look just a little deeper.
The guy who insists you shouldn’t wear makeup
We all love being told that we are naturally beautiful, in theory. It’s a kind sentiment, but one often polluted with misogyny. There’s a difference between telling someone that they don’t need to wear makeup (if they don’t want to) and shaming them when they do. An ex of mine once pointed out in front of a large group of people that I overdid my contour, adding that needing to wear makeup is a “construct of the patriarchy.” Excuse me? My Fenty foundation makes me feel like a queen. With or without makeup, all that matters is how you feel about yourself. You don’t need anyone to tell you the “right” way to self-validate. Plus, the last time I didn’t wear makeup, he asked me if I was coming down with something. You can’t have it both ways, buddy.
The guy who tells you how good he is at pleasuring women
I recently went on a date with a guy who proclaimed, “I’m not like other guys. I love going down on women.” Sounds great, right? It might’ve been in a different context, but we were talking about where we grew up when he dropped that very unwarranted comment. Guys, when you say things like that without explicitly being asked, it makes you sound like you’re overcompensating. It’s like the girl in junior high who tells everyone that she “hates drama.” Girl, we don’t trust you.
The guy who loves to play devil’s advocate
I love a good, nuanced debate when appropriate. What I don’t love is people who like to push buttons just for the sake of riling you up. I’ve met a lot of men who are obsessed with playing devil’s advocate, presumably just so they can voice their real, often problematic opinions without having to own up to them (while being able to still call themselves feminists). I noticed this a lot during the wake of the #MeToo movement last year when various men in my life would say things like, “I’m not saying I don’t believe women, but what if they are lying?” It’s like, I’m not interested in engaging with that hypothetical scenario, dude. I have statistics on my side. I don’t need your “what ifs.”
The guy who expects you to have a sizzling hot take on anything related to feminism
I dated a guy who sent me news articles every single day followed by a one-word text asking, “Thoughts?” Just because I identify as a feminist and am a woman doesn’t mean I need to exert the mental energy to come up with an interesting opinion on everything. Sometimes, news stories are too hard to grapple with or perhaps even triggering when they first come out. For example, I needed a few weeks to process the Kavanaugh hearings before I could eloquently speak about how they made me feel. Let me come to you with my opinions on my own terms and after talking through them with my best girlfriends over a few bottles of wine.
The guy who won’t let you be multifaceted
This is sort of a general roundup of all the types of men mentioned above. I’ve come across several men who like to call me out whenever one of my opinions doesn’t exactly match up with my other ones. This guy shames you for having nuanced thoughts, not having formally formed opinions (you can change your mind about things!), or disagreeing with mainstream feminism. You’re allowed to be an imperfect feminist and question your beliefs, and no man can play the part of feminist godmother guiding you on that journey. Bippidy boppity boy bye!