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Wokefishing
Photography Daria Nepriakhina, via Unsplash

Men are ‘wokefishing’ women by pretending to be feminists on dating apps

Another very cool, very normal trend to contend with

As if dating wasn’t hard enough amid a global pandemic, more fucked up trends are emerging. If ghosting, breadcrumbing, and catfishing weren’t enough for you, now there’s ‘wokefishing’: when men pretend to be feminists on dating apps in order to trick women into dating them. Cool!

Coined by VICE journalist Serena Smith, the word refers to men who supposedly hold liberal views – they attend Black Lives Matter protests, are clued up on the climate crisis, and are pro-LGBTQ+, feminist, and anti-Brexit – but really, they’re cunts. Their actual opinions tend to emerge weeks, months, or even years into the relationship, which – unsurprisingly – often leads to a break-up.

As with virtue signalling, it may be easy to spot a ‘wokefish’ if they gloat about their ‘progressive’ views on their dating app profile. Someone who proudly declares themselves a feminist probably isn’t, and will probably ghost you after three dates.

23-year-old Devon* started talking to a guy on a dating app, who referenced a line in her bio which asked men to stop sending her sexualised messages. “He was pointing out how men have to sexualise everything and make women feel uncomfortable, and how awful it is,” she tells Dazed, “which of course was something I agreed with. He also made it clear that he cared about equality for marginalised communities – women, the LGBTQ+ community, and POCs.”

As they talked more, Devon started seeing his true colours. “He kept trying to mansplain the industry that I’ve worked in for five years to me,” she continues. “A week later, he told me that he couldn’t stop having sexual thoughts about me and tried to frame it as a compliment – the irony wasn’t lost on me that he’d messaged me talking about how digusting it was that men sexualised me in the same way he ended up doing.”

Devon says the experience “made me hyperaware that most men are full of bullshit”. She adds: “Many men are ‘woke’ when it’s convenient to them, which usually means when they think it will get them laid.”

recent study showed the importance of political leanings in relationships, with 84 per cent of people saying they wouldn’t even consider dating someone with opposite views, while 67 per cent said they had previously ended a relationship because of their partner’s politics.

“If you realise someone’s actions aren’t living up to what they’ve put on their dating profile, they aren’t praticing what they preach and might have just been jumping on the bandwagon of a hashtag for the sake of it,” Kate MacLean, a dating expert at Plenty of Fish, tells Dazed. “Don’t be afraid to trust your gut.”

“Many men are ‘woke’ when it’s convenient to them, which usually means when they think it will get them laid” – Devon*

22-year-old Anna dated her boyfriend for 11 months before discovering his true personality – that he was a Trump supporter. She tells Dazed that at the beginning of their relationship, “when politics or progressive conversations came up, he was silent”. Her boyfriend didn’t “agree nor disagree with my outright hate for our president, or our corrupt, systemically racist system”, but Anna hoped he could “learn from my views and become educated on these topics”. When the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum, Anna’s passion encouraged her boyfriend to post on social media about how to help – but she soon unearthed his real views in “the most ironic 2020” way possible.

“I discovered that he was hiding a whole political personality from me via his TikTok likes,” she explains. “It was nothing but Trump 2020 propaganda and women twerking. I asked him about the videos and he began, for the first time, to defend the alt-right views and call me a ‘sheep’. This was the last time I saw him.”

“The thing that breaks my heart the most about the whole thing is that he became my best friend this past year,” Anna continues, “and realising that I showed and gave him all of myself and he only showed half of himself. I still wish him the best on his journey, and hope that his eyes and mind open through this situation, just as mine did. I hope he sits and thinks about why being a Trump supporter was a shameful thing that he had to hide.”

The trend of ‘wokefishing’ can be especially traumatising when it happens to marginalised groups, like people of colour or the LGBTQ+ community. Olivia* was ‘wokefished’ by a “so-called activist using Tinder”, who she dated on and off for about a year. “I made the discovery (that he was a ‘wokefish’) by finding out about his past relationships, specifically with Black women in Portland,” explains Olivia. “He would tell me he’d be attending protests. I’d see violence ensue on the television, but he always somehow avoided it. He also tried to tell me how to take care of my hair, which was strange since he’s white, and so is his family.”

She continues: “After I found out that his activism was just a ploy to fetishise Black women, I broke it off with him and contacted his activism group, which is now conveniently non-existent.”

“I hope he sits and thinks about why being a Trump supporter was a shameful thing that he had to hide” – Anna

“As a single person still actively dating, I think roughly 95 per cent of the guys I’ve gone out with are caucasian, and 94 per cent of them bring up race,” Olivia adds. “I’m cautious when it comes to dating, but even more so when people claim to be activists, ‘woke’, or have ‘BLM’ on their profiles.”

MacLean says that lockdown – which has meant “a lot of us have spent much more time talking to each other before meeting up” – has been a “great reminder that having the time to get to know a person’s authentic self, and working out if you are compatible, is really important”. She concludes: “As lockdown eases, don’t feel the need to rush back into meeting people straight away, take it at the pace that works best for you.”

For those who do decide to get back into dating: if you can’t identify a ‘wokefish’ online, it’s likely their true opinions will emerge in small signs, like defending the Tory government, or referring to the BLM movement as a “moment” (@ Keir Starmer), so it’s worth being on the lookout for red flags – as depressing as that sounds.

*Names have been changed