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feminism

I Asked My 'Woke' Exes if Ghosting Me Was Feminist

I'm beginning to think there’s more to it than bad luck.

Sofia Barrett-Ibarria

Illustration by Na Yon Cho

I met Paul* at a comedy show in LA in 2016. He was cute, bisexual (like me), and poly. I DMed him that same night. He had a lot of feminist-identifying female friends and spoke openly about progressive politics and racial justice—something I really liked about him. In his own words, he was “pretty woke.” We hooked up on and off for almost a year, until he stopped returning my texts. I was irked by the fact that a man who flaunted his wokeness didn’t have the courage to just break up with me.

I try to make it a point to date guys who embrace feminist ideas. But when I have met and dated men who are vocal and passionate about their beliefs, on social media at least, they’ve ghosted me almost every time. Now I'm beginning to wonder if there is more to it than bad luck.

I don’t assume that men with progressive politics automatically have a deeper respect for their sexual partners. Violence, abuse, and mistreatment affects women in every strata and facet of our society. But I was wondering whether the men who flaunt their wokeness, who use it as a virtue signal, are more prone to being assholes.

Recently in Hollywood, we’ve seen a number of men who were once viewed as progressive face everything from criminal allegations of rape to accusations of creepy behavior. Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of sexual assault and rape by dozens of women, is the most extreme example—he was once known for donating hundreds of thousands to politicians like Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren, and even joined in the Women’s March at Sundance in 2017. Comedians like Louis C.K. and Aziz Ansari, who have both been accused of sexual misconduct, used feminism as a central part of their acts.

According to Dr. Jane Greer, a New York–based relationship expert and the author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship, the disconnect between the political and the personal is quite common. “These men want to believe they are being genuine, and they can appreciate the value of being feminist and supportive of women,” she told me, “but when it comes to their own personal needs, that's a horse of a different color.”

Ghosting is not a crime, but it underscores a blatant disregard for the feelings of other people. To get a better understanding of why "woke" guys ghost, I reached out to a few of the self-identified male feminists who’ve done it to me in the past. Here’s what they had to say:

Paul

Paul is the guy I met at a comedy show in 2016. He’s in his late 20s. Initially, we hooked up consistently. But then it became this weird, unpredictable thing where sometimes he’d want to hang, or sometimes he’d ignore me until we eventually stopped talking altogether.

VICE: So what happened to you?
Paul: I initially was under the impression you just wanted to hook up and fool around. But then when I started feeling like you might want more than that I kind of backed off. But of course, being an asshole, I didn’t back that far away because I still wanted to hook up. And the more it seemed like you wanted a more serious romantic relationship to prevail, I just kind of backed away because I felt like anything else would lead you on.

You didn’t feel like you could tell me that up front?
If I specifically stated I only wanted to have casual sex before every interaction, that would be kind of cruel and not a very healthy thing for either of us.

Do you feel like ghosting is OK to do, as a feminist man?
Feminist? No. Man? Barely.

How do you feel about other men who identify as feminists?
I do believe in the ideology of feminism, but I’d rather strive for equality in my actions and support, rather than take up space in a movement where I’m not supposed to be a primary voice. We’re supposed to be listening. I feel like a lot of men who self-identify as feminists are kinda suspicious. I think it can be self congratulatory and typically a self-designated label.

Do you think that some guys who identify as feminists might do so because they think it makes them more sexually attractive?
I believe that 100 percent. I’m sure in some cases I thought it was a good “in.” I wouldn’t put it past myself or any man.



Jack

Jack* is in his late 30s. He is a loud and proud pro-feminist advocate on social media who also happens to live in my apartment building. Many of his posts on social media include Audre Lorde quotes, and he frequently comments in support of #MeToo movements. After we hooked up once, he gradually ghosted, but still leaves comments on my Instagram photos.

VICE: I’ve been ghosted by feminist-identifying guys in the past. Do you think that’s extra shitty coming from a male feminist?
Jack: I guess I think people can be feminists in a global sense—be public allies, affect policy in a positive way—and still be shitty in a local sense, i.e. ghosting a lady. I don’t know if any feminist is going to be perfect in anyone’s eyes.

That’s true.
I communicate in bed. I always wait for “yes” and listen to “no.” I also hire women at my bar because women need a better leg up in my industry. Like, I’m good in a local sense, but less good in a global sense. Am I not a feminist? I don’t know. If you label yourself a feminist out loud, no one is happy about it. The right wing calls you a pussy; they yell at you for white knighting and virtue signaling. And the left wing tells you you’re not doing enough. I have always called myself a feminist. Feminism is, at its root, about equality. And more than that, actual fairness. I believe in fairness. While I think you could probably still be a feminist and a shitty date, you wouldn’t be a very good feminist. My dad goes to church every Sunday, and I’ve seen his internet search history. He’s a Catholic, but a pretty shitty Catholic.

So with you and me, are you not feeling the vibe?
The vibe is fun! I’m sorry. I’m just not great at hookup culture. If you’re looking for a date that leads to a more emotionally involved thing, I’m sorry, but I can’t really offer that either.

Alex

Alex* is in his late 20s. We met in high school. We dated briefly, but he broke it off. After college, we briefly reconnected over flirty chat messages when I slid into his DMs. But eventually he ghosted me again. He’s always been very active on Facebook and frequently posts “woke” statuses about feminism, immigration rights, and environmental activism.

VICE: Do you identify as a feminist?
Alex: It’s just a constant learning process. [I am] learning how [in the past] I treated women and used them to validate myself and who I was. Looking back, it came out of feeling unattractive in [my] younger years and having my sexuality bullied.

That’s tough.
What I do remember about why we stopped talking was that an ex, who had cheated on me, was expressing interest in me again.

I see.
Before and after we had met, I had this toxic relationship with someone who didn’t exactly treat me the best. And I just remember at the time, when she started telling me she liked me again, I jumped back onto that boat because I was crazy about her—not considering your feelings or how you felt. It’s still not really an excuse. I’m still regretful about how my pursuit of validation ended up harming others, all because I felt rejected for so long. It had little to do with you and more with me acting out my own issues.

I understand.
So… as it goes for feminist men ghosting you… could be because they have attachment issues. Could be they are afraid you will see through something, but in essence, I’m always doubtful of men who emphasize their feminist beliefs. Should be played out through actions, not words backed up with nothing.

*All names have been changed.

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