Mika Ross-Southall

Beware the woke misogynist

Sam Mills warns against men who publicly champion feminism in order to lure women into abusive relationships

The #MeToo movement isn’t all it seems. More than three years after countless sexual abuse allegations shook the world, the relationship between men and women has mutated into something ‘subtle and insidious’, writes Sam Mills. Her new book — an intriguing blend of feminist theory, memoir, psychological sleuthing and self-help — investigates the rise of what she calls ‘chauvo-feminists’: men who champion women’s rights in public to appear woke while in private their ‘shadowy doppelgänger’ is misogynistic. ‘If sexual harassment is not just about desire but about power,’ Mills says, then ‘the means will no longer be a hand on a knee as a way of implying threat’.

Threaded throughout the essay is Mills’s own encounter with a chauvo-feminist named ‘R’, a highly regarded British academic. She meets him at a party and they flirt every day over email for a month. During their first date, R shows her the online profile of the previous woman he was seeing and says he broke it off because she wanted a relationship. ‘There was a narcissistic pride in the way he was showcasing his ex to me,’ Mills writes, ‘like the photographs you see of a man who enjoys shooting wildlife and stands next to the carcass.’ They have sex that evening nonetheless (‘I was guided more by desire than reason’). Halfway through, he mentions that he has slept with one of her friends.

The subtext was clear: he was after a one-night stand, she says, and had ‘carved out a part for me’ where he was smart, in charge, and ‘I was his victim’. Over the next few months they bump into each other at literary parties and book readings. R demeans and undermines her. When she calls him out on his behaviour, he denies it and suggests she’s being paranoid.

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