Recently, I tried to have a discussion about Woke. A mix-up on start time plus some Zoom glitches made hash of the meeting, but it was worth a try. I set up the meeting because I toss out comments that make obvious my disdain for Woke. In turn people ask me to define woke, which is hard to do in the middle of another conversation, hence the meeting.
I started by asking people if they recognized TWAW, which they did not, then proceeded to ask them to answer the question, “What is a woman?” If you have not been focused on Woke matters for the past couple of years, that seems like a waste of time. But I explained that our state, Washington state, is a very woke Self-ID state, which means that anyone can be a woman. No proof of anything is required. You can change the sex designated on your birth certificate by simply showing up at the birth certificate office and telling the clerk that you want to do so.
Did even that news get people’s attention? I don’t know, but that is one element of Woke that disturbs me, and it disturbs me not because I care about adults who actually want to transition and present as women. It disturbs me because some men will abuse the ease of legal “transitioning,” neglect the medical aspects of transition, and show up where they don’t really belong. Women’s sports, women’s shelters, women’s side of the spa, and women’s prisons come to mind. Does TWAW (“Trans Women Are Women”, meaning they are the same as natal women in every way) really make sense? Why can’t people disagree openly with such an assertion without risking their livelihood?
Another aspect of Woke that concerns me, still related to transgender issues, is the capture of medical associations on the matter of teen health care. The “correct” point of view today is that any pre-teen or teen who claims to be trans, (and the number of such has seen a dramatic increase in recent years), must be “affirmed.” In practice this means no adult should do anything but agree with the claim. Puberty blockers as early as possible is the policy of the Biden administration. Except, oops: MDs are finally admitting that boys who skip puberty will never have orgasms regardless of their gender. Perhaps the US should pay attention to the shift in practice that’s happening in the UK and Europe, namely slow down and think this through.
ASD (autism spectrum disorder) is more common among among young transitioners. Trauma, including prior sexual assault, can be a factor. Therapists who advocate a “let’s talk about this” approach have learned that young people may view being trans as preferable to being gay, thus turning the clock back on gay acceptance. Social contagion and online influences need to be understood as well.
The group of trans activists who dominate the public conversation downplay the reality that some number of people, especially people who started transitioning as teens, later de-transition. After some amount of time on cross-sex hormones, and too often after surgeries, some people realize that gender transition simply didn’t solve anything for them. For sure, many trans individuals feel that transition was helpful. But journalists who write about de-transitioners are condemned and labeled TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) even though these journalists truly have no desire to mess with adults who make the decision to transition; they are simply doing their job of presenting the public with information about the lives of young people who were readily affirmed by clinicians, and often by parents who’d prefer to have a trans child than a gay child.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about woke dogma with regard to gender is that many men and women of my age have spent decades encouraging society to ease up on gender stereotypes. Let kids explore what interests them. Let them pursue activities that are atypical for their sex. Let women become astronauts and men become dancers; but if many of us follow more traditional routes to life satisfaction, that’s OK, too. So it’s just super frustrating to hear young people say that they need to transition in order to pursue some stereotype of the sex they are not. Seriously! Stereotypes are stultifying! Spread your wings, even without the hormones and surgeries.
So what about race? Am I as wound up about Woke dogma on race? Well, yes, I am. Fortunately, as with the trans issue, I’ve found some wonderful writers and speakers who are openly challenging the notion that we are a nation of colonizing white supremacist settlers who want nothing more than to keep all those people of other colors in their place, keeping the best of everything for ourselves. And many of these are people of other colors, often multi-hued themselves, who have recognized opportunities in our flawed society and made decent lives for themselves. No one claims that “The West” or the US has conquered racism, that there are not residual impacts of historical wrongs. Honestly, no one does that!
But these alternative voices are worried that we are fostering a sense of victimhood that will only keep people from taking advantage of opportunities that are, actually, available to them. They’re also worried that by blaming white supremacists for every ill, communities will not address cultural patterns that work to the disadvantage of their own people. I’ve been part of discussions where my speaking the words “cultural patterns” put me at odds with the group and confirmed to them that I’m steeped in racism. If a person of color mentions “cultural patterns,” as some do, they’re cast into the category of self-haters, or people who are “white adjacent” rather than as people who are seriously trying to look for opportunities to help pull people out of poverty, or keep young people from a life a crime, or enable kids to thinks it’s OK to do well in school. Don’t believe me? Look up “Free Black Thought” and read what free black people think.
Equity is probably the Woke word that has the most potential to do harm to our society and to individuals. Equity sounds nice. But it doesn’t refer to equal opportunities for all. Equity is achieved when the numbers on any given metric are proportionate to a group’s size relative to the total population. Too many Asians in selective public high schools? Take away the tests that Asians study for and pass more often than other groups. Too many black kids being disciplined at school? Stop disciplining kids who simply express themselves in different ways. Too many people of color get caught for not paying their transit fare? Stop enforcing transit fares. Too many people of color caught shoplifting? Stop enforcing petty crime. My question is this: does it really make any sense to teach people that we don’t expect them to behave responsibly? We have special low-fare programs for people who can’t pay full fare. How about if we expect people to take advantage of these programs and pay their special low fare? How about if we expect kids to behave in ways that enable the other kids in a class to hear what others are saying? How about if we acknowledge that retail businesses must sell things, not give them away, in order to stay in business?
One last pet peeve: Land Acknowledgements. “Good” people now begin meetings with a statement about the indigenous people who lived here before us. These statements are called Land Acknowledgements. These may have started in Canada, but they crop up everywhere now. Again, this is paying lip service to our original sin of racism. These statements seem outright manipulative to me. They seem to be softening us up for the day when descendants of prior inhabitants ask for their land back. Nope. You’ve either got a treaty or you were just plain defeated. We’re here now. Get over it. And stop with the Land Acknowledgements already!
I see Woke everywhere and I don’t like it. It’s just not a way to run a city or a state or a country. I see Woke in every Black Lives Matter sign, in every policy that makes excuses for bad behavior, in every policy that minimizes legitimate concerns of women and girls. And I want it gone.
I assert that:
All Lives Matter
Women and Girls Matter
The rules of “White Supremacy Culture” are simply rules that work well for a complex society: Show up on time; Come prepared; Carry your share of the load; Respect your neighbors, your classmates, your colleagues.
Grrr. Well, there you have it. My rant for today. I am not alone in these beliefs. Here are some resources that I learn from:
Journal of Free Black Thought
Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism
Society for Evidence Based Gender Medicine