Is there a phrase which describes the situation in which a person supports something that is detrimental for them, and then held out as evidence that the detrimental policy is correct?

For example: Say there is a proposed mandate to require women to work as housewives. Most women do not support a mandate to only work as housewives, but the occasional woman does. Now, the proponents of the housewife mandate hold those occasional women out as evidence that the mandate is fine: "See, these women agree!"

Is there a phrase to describe this scenario, when people take on this role, or when they are held out as an example?

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    There are various specific (and highly offensive) terms, for instance for black people who support racist systems. The term Handmaid/Handmaiden (from Margaret Atwood's book) is sometimes used for women who are seen as supporting patriarchy, but again is controversial and offensive and often used in bad faith. As to generic terms, I'm not sure, beyond the too-general term "traitor" (as in "race traitor", "class traitor", etc).
    – Stuart F
    Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 13:18
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    I'm not sure it's quite right, but the term "useful idiot" does spring to mind. (It's also not necessarily fair, since their support for a policy that's not beneficial to them may come from altruism rather than stupidity - eg in the case of a wealthy person who supports higher taxes on the rich to benefit people less well off...).
    – psmears
    Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 15:10
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    It's a sub-category of cherry-picking; I'm wondering whether What is a word for deliberate dismissal of some facts? is a duplicate. Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 16:10
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    It's as if there are anti-progressives amongst the class being referred to who are like sheep. Being held up examples makes them a kind of prize sheep. Sadly I don't think this idiom exists. Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 22:51
  • This involves what is known in general as the base rate fallacy: << Base rate fallacy The base rate fallacy, also called base rate neglect or base rate bias, is a type of fallacy in which people tend to ignore the base rate (ie general prevalence) in favour of the individuating information (ie information pertaining only to a specific case). >>[Wikipedia] But previous questions have given the answers confirmation bias / cherry picking / being economical with the truth to describe the deliberate misrepresentation. Commented Apr 21, 2022 at 16:38

5 Answers 5


Not sure if this fits the question exactly, but in political / psychological terms it's often characterized as 'voting against one's self-interest'. You can find articles discussing this in many places by searching with that as a target.


The people who think something is OK do actually think so and do not feel they are being used to represent a view they don't agree with. They might feel that they are excellent role models. They do not believe, or may fail to recognize, that the espoused view or policy is "bad for them".

(Side note: you may recall that Ronald Reagan had as one of his goals to diminish the power of labor unions yet he was able to garner the support of union labor in his bid for the US presidency. People have many reasons for holding their views and are often willing to sacrifice one thing for another. And people often choose what they think is the lesser of two evils.)

The people who trot out people who agree with or exemplify their views could be called parochial in their attitudes if they do not recognize their own biases, or polemical if they are being deliberately manipulative and not engaging in honest debate, especially if they are vilifying those who hold a different view.


Yes, as noted with the "voting against one's self-interest" or "acting against one's interest," you might find the term you're looking for in Thomas Frank's non-fiction book, What's the Matter with Kansas? or the discourse around it.

Also, the term "those who don't know any better" comes to mind in reference to your question. "Pawn" is another, though I know none of these are the exact term you're after. I wonder if "unwitting" is collocated with the noun you're after.

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Stooge "One who knowingly allows himself or herself to be used for another's profit"

Patsy "A person who is taken advantage of, especially by being cheated or blamed for something."

From this definition, "patsy" sounds like it's a bit off but in one of the Batman movies when the head villain was on trial, an accomplice was trying to save him by claiming that the he was "just a fall guy, a patsy". So at least in the Batman world, it could also fit.


Politically, sometimes these people have been called useful idiots. This phrase is associated with Communism.

Look at the Wiktionary entry here: [https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/useful_idiot]

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