Photo credit: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/aug/11/my-search-for-mr-woke-a-dating-diary
Since being added to the dictionary in 2017, it has been made clear that the term ‘woke’ has both meaning and history. ‘Woke’ is defined as an ‘alert to injustice in society, especially racism.’ A term that has empowered movements such as #blacklivesmatter and #metoo.
More recently, the term ‘Woke’ has been mocked by right-wing extremists and absorbed into Piers Morgan’s ‘snowflake generation’ bracket.
But being ‘Woke’ defines more than just the stereotype of being a political young person, and a hashtag. Social media has given politics, opinions and movements such as the woke movement, a platform. One that has allowed them to enter mainstream culture. In fact, YouTubers, Nathan Zed and Kat Blaque have built their platforms on challenging the prejudice of ‘being woke.’
However, leaders of the anti woke movement over time, have released a plethora of statements to describe their feelings on this movement. Infamously Laurence Fox’s appearance on the BBC’s Question Time sent him viral, after making the statement that he “won’t date woke women”. Toby Young, a right-wing columnist, decided to brand Prince Harry and Meghan Markle as “the oppressive King and Queen of Woke”. And of course, Piers Morgan tweeted “The tiny but very vocal woke brigade are trying to suck all the joy out of life & cancel everyone & everything that doesn’t share their absurd world view.”
Political correctness has become a term that is utilised by the right-wing in order to encourage the concept that there is a very prevalent divide between ordinary people and the liberal elite. The right-wing is doing the same thing they accuse the liberals of doing: trying to control public thought and opinion. Their opposition to political correctness is also arguably motivated by the intention of carrying their own bigotry and serves a purpose of creating a more obvious divide in society of both opinions, and the injustice this movement stands for.
Most people in the age bracket of 18-24 recognise that being progressive and an activist for your beliefs, is in fact, a good thing, Research by IPSOS Mori found that 42% of young people (aged 10-20) had participated in some form of meaningful social action in the last year. Author Malorie Blackman tweeted in support of the woke movement stating we must “watch as those with a negative agenda try to spin ‘woke’ into a pejorative term, an insult. Same for SJW – social justice warrior. How is that a bad thing?”
It’s frustrating that the term ‘woke’ is now becoming weaponised against the movement, since being branded as a ‘cool’ word to use. This has not only erased all the socio-political connotations but made it ‘gimmicky’. For many politicians, ‘woke’ has become the perfect way to encourage statements of hate towards the left-wing, as opposed to projecting the importance of the birth of the movement and what it stands for; protecting minorities from injustice.
In fact, Brexit has been branded as being the ‘Trojan Horse’ within the start of this anti-political correctness/ woke campaign. It has allowed commentators to make outlandish statements about the direction that social acceptance is going. Thursday nights question time viewers saw a lengthy racist rant by an audience member who suggested that we “Close the borders, completely close the borders,” and continued to make statements about how foreigners are showered in freebies when entering the UK, including the NHS and education system, which she also emphasised were systems to which they were ‘destroying’. The BBC shockingly Tweeted the rant and defended it as being an ‘opinion to agree or disagree with’ as opposed to the reality of the tweet, that was amplifying messages of hatred and racism to a platform that legitimises this. The Guardian recently conducted research which confirmed that racial bias is unfortunately still alive and well. This is why we need to empower the woke movement and what it stands for, and to fight against this injustice and normalisation of racism that was projected from our national broadcaster only last week.
Obviously, like in any movement, there are extremities that taint the severity of the movement. For example, earlier this week, the animal rights charity PETA tweeted that many of us are guilty of ‘speciesism’ claiming that phrases such as “kill two birds with one stone” and “bring home the bacon” are both examples of ‘anti-animal language’ but in reality, as pointed out in the replies to the to PETA’s statement, there is a huge difference between malicious slurs and words like ‘guinea pig’ (to be replaced with ‘test-tube’).
It is important to take note that these examples are exactly what takes the term wokeness, to its opposing extreme, repurposing social justice as a method of generating clicks and serving as a tool for online outrage.
Extreme ‘Wokeness’ only serves as a reinforcement of the social justice warrior stereotypes that are then mocked by alt-right media. To accuse Ariana Grande of trans misogyny only goes as far as to distract from real anti-trans rhetoric that is prevalent all around the world. Especially in light of statistics in a report by ‘The Guardian’ that shared how hate crimes have doubled in five years in England and Wales, the Home Office had found these figures to show a surge in offences linked to sexual orientation and trans identity.
It is important to continue to fight against this injustice that is statistically apparent in society, as to remain silent would only allow the backlash to shift more dramatically, and could lead to such beliefs to become more mainstream. It is important to use the tools of social media that “has given minorities more visibility and a voice.” Rico Johnson – Sinclair. Birmingham-based programmer, and empower the meaning of the ‘woke’ movement.