Both woke and anti-woke activists are tiresome scolds who need to shut the fuck up and stop treating people as census designations rather than complex human beings. All they see is categories: Black, White, Male, Female, Gay, Straight, Trans, Non-Trans.
- I am fed up with the woke movement. But I hate the anti-woke movement even more, and I think a lot of “wokism” is a reaction against the rise of far-right movements in America, Britain, Europe, and elsewhere.
- Why do I hate these movements? Because both sides focus on what people are, rather than who they are.
- Sexists (which includes homophobes and transphobes, not just misogynists) and racists treat their targets as something, rather than somebody. Race is a what; cultural expression is a who. Sex is a what; gender is a who. If you fixate on race and sex, rather than culture or gender, you are likely to make hasty generalisations that flatten the complexity of human experience. I don’t trust anyone who calls himself a “feminist” and uses sex as a way to define the righteous and the damned, and I don’t trust anyone who calls himself an “antiracist” and uses race as a dividing line between the sinners and the saints.
- TERFs are not feminists by any reasonable definition. They are reactionary fascist-adjacent ideologues who are just as sexist as their conservative counterparts. Their mentality is “penis = evil,” which is just the inverse version of “vagina = irrational hysteric.” Ironically, some woke activists end up sounding like TERFs, though their focus seems to be more on skin colour.
- You can be antiracist or culturally inclusive without making excuses for oppressive behaviour by marginalised groups. I abhor Islamophobia, but I’m not going to defend Islamism or any other form of religious extremism. Islamists, along with other religious fundamentalists, deserve to be marginalised because their views are incompatible with a functioning civil society. This is why I have no patience for leftists who go out of their way to defend right-wing fundamentalist states like Iran. They’ll rightly criticise evangelical Christian nutjobs but give a free pass to their Islamic fundamentalist counterparts who ban women from being educated or cut people’s heads off for being gay. Just because Muslims, whether liberal, moderate, or extreme, are a minority in Europe and the Americas doesn’t mean that fundamentalist Middle Eastern or African governments are beyond criticism.
- Sometimes I want to read criticisms of the woke movement, but these criticisms tend to come alongside a heaping dose of racism and sexism, including hostility toward LGBTQ people, a dismissiveness toward people who have real grievances about racial discrimination, and other forms of intolerance. All I can think about is “they are so obsessed with what I am that I don’t think they’d even see me as a who, and they hate me just for that.”
- When I read woke writing, I come across essentialist bullshit about how if you’re straight, white, male, American, Christian, British, European, or non-trans, you’re the devil. Bullshit. This is the right’s hateful rhetoric inverted as a form of purported self-protection. And all I can think about is “they are so obsessed with what I am that I don’t think they’d see me as a who if I belonged to a ‘privileged’ demographic. And because I’m ‘multiply marginalised,’ they love me just for that.”
- It is virtually impossible for me to read anything in the media about racism or sexism without my skin crawling.
- Classism is a common feature in both woke and anti-woke discourses. A lot of it looks like elites playing off each other, though I don’t mean that in a class-reductionist way.
- Claiming that any group of people, including white people, are inherently evil because of their ancestry or skin colour is counterproductive, essentialist garbage that should be wiped out of any social justice movement.
- If I excluded everybody but LGBTQ+ non-white people (I hate the expression “people of colour” and will not use it here) from my social circles, I wouldn’t have many people to talk to. Some of the most virulent prejudice I have experienced has come from members of my “own” race, including relatives.
- Both woke and anti-woke activists make me feel like a what, rather than a who. The problem is that I’m the right what for the woke movement and the wrong what for the anti-woke movement. Either way, I’m something rather than somebody.
- If I hate something or someone, it’s because of who they are, not what they are. Donald Trump is odious because of his beliefs, not because he’s a white man. Candace Owens is also repugnant, though she’s a black woman. When woke activists say “listen to black women,” do they also mean Candace Owens, or do they mean only those who are ideologically similar to them? When anti-woke activists say that they should be listened to, do they include members of the “wrong” demographics who agree with them, like Caitlyn Jenner or Blaire White?
- I’m a grudging supporter of affirmative action because of my who-not-what orientation. Although I hate the idea of ranking people based on what they are, I also acknowledge that historical injustices should be combated.
- Fighting racism and sexism is important. But that fight should be focused on humanising people, rather than using demographic categories as a sign of virtue.
- I feel I have to be woke to protect myself. But at the same time, I’m sacrificing a lot of my authenticity. I can’t say what I want to say without being told that I’m making excuses for bad actors, even though I have the same goals—that people are treated fairly and kindly. That’s why I’m blogging about this stuff anonymously.
- If you focus too much on what people are, rather than who people are, I have little respect for you or your movement.
I want to see a fairer, more equitable world. But I want to do that without all the bullshit I see from the woke movement, or the reactionary racism and sexism that have arisen both as a cause and as a consequence of it. I want to be somebody, not something. Is that too much to ask?
(I’ll talk more specifically about sexism and racism later, but this is a good overview of how I feel.)