For every male feminist horror story I have lived, I’ve been told a dozen more by equally-frustrated female friends. There was the chap who invited me to an event, not so much as a plus one but as a testing ground for his ribald, sexist one-liners. After each remark he would look to me, gauging my reaction to see exactly how much of his cheap and dirty humour he could unleash while still passing the feminist litmus test.
I had lunch with a man whose openness about sex and sexuality impressed me until I declined his offer for an afternoon quickie – his response made it clear that his feminism had no room for my apparent frigidity. Then there was the gentleman who messaged me every second day to ask my fem-pinion on everything from vajazzling to Lena Dunham’s memoir. When I finally asked him to cool his jets, he responded furiously that I should be grateful for his incessant questions and I was lucky a man wanted to hear my opinion at all.
It’s not that I don’t think men can be feminists. There are several men in my life who have approached feminism with respect and considerate thought, who have used feminism to examine their own privilege and experiences within the world and have become better people for it.
But these men are in a disappointing minority compared to the rest of the male feminists I, and many other women, have encountered: men who use the term “feminist” as either bait or an alter-ego, assuming that their opt-in respect for women will entitle them to legions of adoring lovers – really the most anti-feminist act of all.