I’ve been on Twitter since 2009 and thought I’d seen all the hashtags – #MotivationMonday, #ManCrushMonday, #WednesdayWisdom, #FollowFriday – and then #MeToo came along. Shocked, horrified and appalled, I read the accounts of women across the globe (even throwing my own tweet into the mix), all keen to voice their experiences of sexual harassment and assault in the wake of the Weinstein Hollywood Scandal.Understandably, this has been a confusing time for men. Unsure whether to respond to the scores of tweets with #NotAllMen or #HowIWillChange, or, how to reference the situation without relating it to the fact they have daughters, the waters have been muddied and the role of the online male feminist has become almost as difficult as being a woman. Though that rocky path looks set to change, thanks to a viral Twitter account that is here to set the record straight.
Performative Woke Man, a self-professed ‘online male feminist’, can be found tweeting from @wokennice, and self identifies as ‘one of the Good Ones’. He’s keen to promote the issues he cares about – helping young women through stress and anxiety in these unprecedented times while enriching the lives of everyone everywhere by sharing his love for Stewart Lee. Also a lover of cats and mugs of tea, he regularly explains to his followers what mansplaining is: “It is a portmanteau – which is the joining together of two words to make a new one. I am actually very hot on stamping out mansplaining, and make sure to @ in all my favourite feminists [on Twitter] so they can see me do it.”
When I contacted Performative Woke man for an interview, he insisted we meet in a local cat cafe at 4:45pm on a Sunday. A regular (he always sits at the same table with a different ‘friend’ each week) he hastily ordered us two rare Spanish lagers and some olives for himself (his mother was keeping a roast dinner warm for him straight after our meeting, so I was told to not exceed 40 minutes). For our meeting, he chose to pair some ripped jeans with scuffed Gola trainers and a chequed shirt rolled up to 3/4. I caught up with him on the hot topics that have seen him gain more than 6,000 followers in a matter of days.
You’ve spoken at length – even quite publically during a date at Italian restaurant chain Zizzi – about your love for Stewart Lee. Can you elaborate?
Oh, I adore Stewart Lee. The greatest stand-up of all time. I could quote you everything he’s done word-for-word. Even that rubbish novel he did in the late-90s. I have it all memorised, and I like to recite his canon like I’m an ancient Greek poet. In fact, in the summer, I visit all the royal parks and shout aloud many of his routines to the ducks and the runners, and the trees and the lovers. And as you say, I am known to recite his routines to lucky restaurant patrons. And yes, I have done stand-up. Improv, actually. I am part of an ‘unrehearsed’ troupe – the ‘That’s Improvvable Players’. I love it. Every third Saturday of the month we perform a comical reimagining of a classic film, such as Jumanji or Smokey and the Bandit II. This month it’s my turn to write the script. We will be performing my own kooky take of the Tom Hanks/Denzel Washington classic, Philadelphia.
I’m keen to hear more about your play on eating disorders. How is this going?
Bit of a sore subject, actually. There were many – and I mean many – people who were in a position of power to tell me that it was a bad idea. But, yeah, I can see now it was a bit off for a man with no experience of such a sensitive subject to write a play about vampires with bulimia. It was OK in the end though, because I was able to retool most of it into an uplifting story about a group of prostitutes who do an Open University course in sociology. I’m still casting, actually. I’m looking for young women with tattoos and a lot of body confidence to audition. No experience necessary.
How has Twitter helped you reach your audience on issues you care about?
I care deeply about the cause of mental illness in young women. And I do a lot of work behind the scenes on that score – mainly via direct messages. But I also care passionately about the cause of online male feminism. If anything, online male feminists have it worse than actual feminists. We are looked on with contempt, as if we only call ourselves feminists as a way to appear more correct than everyone else. An act of intellectual peacocking, if you will. But, so what if we are? We are correct. And we need to let everyone else know it. Online.
You controversially tweeted that you think OK Cupid is dead. Why is this the case, I thought Tinder was?
I used to love OK Cupid because that’s where you could find all the damaged young women who needed saving. But, I dunno man, as I get older, these young women are getting less appreciative of my efforts. Certainly, they are much less open. It’s their loss though, because I think I have a lot to offer as a mentor to these women. I’m probably the nicest guy they will ever meet, too. As for Tinder, I never was a fan. I think it fosters a shallow understanding of courtship. I don’t want to ‘swipe’. I want to get to know the real you. What are your favourite records? What’s your favourite meal? Do you suffer from anxiety/depression? You know, the essentials. But those Tinder profile pics, though. All that pouting. God, there is so much more to women than looks! I’m more attracted to personality. I honestly believe that. I really do. Look at me. Honestly. No, look me in the eye. Honestly. Honestly.
Do you think female comedians are funny? Who are your favourites, if you had to choose?
Oh, thank you so much for this question. Let me tell you, when I was younger, I used to detest female comedians. To me, they were just not funny. But one day I said, Woke, you need to give these girls a chance. Just because you want to have sex with someone doesn’t mean you can’t laugh at their jokes. And it was tough at first. But I treated it like I was overcoming a fear of spiders – aversion therapy I think they call it. Well, I would expose myself to small doses at first. Mainly things like Eddie Izzard and Danny La Rue, just to get me used to laughing at anything in a dress. Next, I was allowing Victoria Wood to exercise my chuckle muscles, and I went from there really. These days, I devour anything to do with female comedy. I love Jo Brand and the late Joan Rivers. And also that Geordie one with the glasses. Actually, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Whenever a female friend or colleague makes a joke, I force myself to laugh as hard as possible. I want them to know, I get you. You are funny, for a woman.
Why do you think so few women make it onto comedy panel shows?
One word. Patriarchy. It festers in every corner of society. But having said that, most men in the world of media and comedy are feminists, so it isn’t as if they’re not trying. But you know, there are these structures of oppression working against these poor male feminists which prevent them from booking women. It’s them I feel sorry for, really. But, it is a positive move that Taskmaster has now gone from one token woman to two. Hopefully in fifty to a hundred years’ time women will finally be fully represented on panel shows. Who knows, in 2118, the panel on Have I Got News for You may be all women. Not only women, but robot women. Or it might be a gender-neutral cloud of nano-bots floating through the ether, making topical jokes about an actual Maybot, or a Robo Bojo.
Why did you choose to play the ukulele and how many people clicked ‘attending’ on your recently publicised Facebook event at the Hobgoblin Pub?
The ukulele is not an instrument. It is a weapon. A weapon against the patriarchy and white supremacy. My ukulele songs are part of a hegemonic project to destroy fascism and bigotry in all its forms. And I do this through my persona: ‘The Ukulelicorn’. I wear a horn on my head and a rainbow cape. I also tackle issues of mental health in my songs. I have a Salt’N’Peppa parody song called ‘Let’s Talk About BPD’ which I feel has really helped many young women, and some men, come to terms with their mental illness. How many people clicked ‘attending’? Unfortunately, I am banned from Facebook after a very major misunderstanding which involved an ex-girlfriend and the Thames Valley Police. Laptops were confiscated, and there were a couple of nights in police cells. But thankfully the issue has been put to bed, and Take a Break magazine has agreed to partially withdraw their story. Unfortunately, this all means that Facebook is a no-go as a promotional tool until my probation officer says otherwise. But I still have Twitter.
How do we solve
I’m glad you asked. As a man, I think I am in a unique position to see ‘under the bonnet’, as it were, of the male psyche. And what I see are, deep down, Good Men. It is not our fault, you see, that society has made us…sorry, them, this way. The media feeds them this lie that women belong to us. That we need to take charge of courtship. And it all starts as toddlers, right? How about that kiddie’s story, Rapunzel? All about ‘saving’ a woman. I would have climbed up her hair in solidarity. But these other misguided men, they would have done it for something in return. Weinstein would have asked Rapunzel for a neck massage, or something. That’s if he could have climbed up without pulling the poor girl’s hair out. But yeah, I’m not like that. I’m not one of those predators. Trust me. No. Trust me on that. Erm, so how do we solve it? Maybe by banning children’s fairy tales?
Follow Performative Woke Man on Twitter @wokennice