Online predators use ‘wokefishing’ to target teens

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Online predators use ‘wokefishing’ to target teens

Categories: Events, feature, News, racial equity

February is Teen Domestic Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM). YWCA Clark County, through its Domestic Violence Program, offers many resources for teens and their families that help young people understand the signs, causes, and outcomes of dating violence toward teenagers. With the spread of ‘Wokefishing,’ violence against teens can start with an innocent internet search.

online dating image
Wokefishing is the latest hazard for teens looking to meet people online.

Let’s face it, if online dating was popular before the pandemic, it is even more popular now. Virtual platforms that facilitate meeting other people provide a great way to stay connected with others during a time when connecting in person is not only unsafe for individuals, but unsafe for our communities as a whole.

Being able to chat with someone online before meeting them in person allows you to do some vetting and assessing of red and green flags so you can decide if you want to get to know them better. It can be really hard to evaluate red and green flags during a first interaction. But online dating interactions can offer a level of security before meeting someone in person for the first time. There are, however, some important safety measures that you should be aware of when pursuing connections online.

We all know that you can be virtually anyone you want to be online. “Catfishing” is one way predators attempt to trick teens into contacting them.

Outsmarting the Catfish

The Oxford Dictionary defines catfishing as “the process of luring someone into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona.” In today’s world this is a fairly well-known form of romantic deception and manipulation which can be both abusive and dangerous.

Popular shows like MTV’s Catfish have given the masses some quick and easy tools to help you determine if the person you are talking to is truly who they say they are. Tips include:

  1. Doing a quick Google reverse image search
  2. Running someone’s phone number
  3. Checking other easily verifiable information.

So, what about when the person you’re into isn’t lying about their name, appearance, or where they live, but is instead lying about their viewpoints or political stance in order to seem more appealing to you? Enter Wokefishing.

Beware the Wokefisher!

In July 2020 Vice published a piece on this form of deception. It said:  Wokefishing “… is when people masquerade as holding progressive political views to ensnare potential partners. A wokefish may at first present themselves as a protest-attending, sex-positive, anti-racist, intersectional feminist who drinks ethically sourced oat milk and has read the back catalogue of Audre Lorde, twice. But in reality, they don’t give a shit. Or, as is often the case, they are actively the opposite in their personal lives. It’s sort of like catfishing, but specifically with political beliefs.”

While Wokefishing may not necessarily be a new phenomenon, it is definitely one that seems to be happening now more than ever. Social justice movements related to systemic racism, police brutality, climate change, gender equity, LGBTQ + rights, economic justice, access to housing, and living wages are all gaining steam as society is waking up to the shortcomings and harm caused by our current oppressive systems.

People are increasingly participating in social justice movements and realizing the individual responsibility we all have to contribute to a more just and equitable world. As a result, people are interested in filling their social circle with folks who hold similar political views, both friends and romantic partners alike.

Predators in progressive clothing

It is a legitimate safety concern for a person of color to date someone with racist ideologies, or a queer person to date someone with harmful beliefs seeded in homophobia. The term Wokefishing addresses the concern that your new love interest may not actually be as “woke” or progressive as they claim. Similar to other unhealthy relationship dynamics, sometimes these behaviors will only come to light after weeks or months of dating someone new. This type of manipulation is not only deceptive and harmful to the Wokefish’s target, but also does real damage to the movements that are fighting for equity and change.

Social change requires action, not just empty jargon and knowing which progressive words to use amongst your peers. There is a wealth of information online relating to social justice that is easily accessible to anyone who wants to learn basic terms without actually working to unlearn racist and oppressive systems. Wokefishing demonstrates why it is so important to confirm that one’s actions are a reflection of their progressive vocabulary.

This article was researched and written by YWCA Clark County’s Jessie Spinney, Tanika Siscoe, and Olivia Riley.