Wednesday, March 15, 2023

What Woke Means


Though she adds that she devoted a whole chapter in her book to defining "wokeness", so she must have an idea of some sort, and I thought of checking it out. The book being Stolen Youth: How Radicals Are Erasing Innocence and Indoctrinating a Generation, by Bethany Mandel and Karol Markowicz and published by Ben Shapiro's Daily Wire Books. There's no online preview, but the authors' promo op-ed in the New York Post did in fact offer a bit of an effort at unpacking the meaning as the authors use the term, as an "ideology" to which they are apparently opposed. Only I'm sorry to say it quickly fell into a pit of circularity and never really re-emerged:

We call it “woke” because it’s somewhat different than the simple liberal bias of the past.

Your own elementary school teacher might have had liberal politics but she knew what a woman was and didn’t try to sell you on the idea that your race decides your destiny but your gender can be changed from day to day.

Wokeness allows for very limited thought and speech. Everything must be considered through the prism of wokeness and language must be adjusted to the acceptable confines.

Conformity is only a part of wokeness, however, the spectacle must follow. 

This means that the woke teacher in 2023 can’t just parrot the correct words, she needs to demonstrate that she belongs to the tribe.

That might entail putting up a BLM sign or the latest iteration of the LGBT rainbow flag in her classroom.

Or it might mean that when a cluster of girls suddenly declare themselves trans, she keeps this a secret from their parents and helps get them “gender therapy.” 

It's "woke" because it's not the same as liberalism, and it's not the same as liberalism because it accepts the "confines" of wokeness, and also because it performs wokeness too, as a "spectacle". It's woke because it's woke, in word and deed.

Though there are also the examples, which provide a really useful set of clues: it has to do with attitudes toward race, which is usually African American, and gender, which is usually LGBTQ or trans; specifically attitudes from within those minority communities, such as Black people's belief that their lives matter, gay people's idea that they are permitted to take pride in themselves, or trans people's insistence that they may be capable of knowing who they are, even if they're pretty young. 

Which is enough, in fact, for a stab at a definition: wokeness is awakeness, toward a particular thing, the voices of members of disadvantaged minority groups, whether you're a member of such a group or not, of readiness to listen to what they say for themselves.

And that's why Mandel froze, because she couldn't say that, because it's so obviously right, and so clear that her own oppositional defiant attitude, and that of the current Republican party, is La la la la I can't hear you. And couldn't think of a decent lie to tell instead.

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