Features Australia

The Year My Woke Broke

10 August 2019

9:00 AM

10 August 2019

9:00 AM

When Prince Harry revealed, in the issue of Vogue his wife guest-edited, that they would only have two children ‘to help save the planet,’ the couple became the unofficial Duke and Duchess of Wokeness.

The Great Awokening began in 2014 with the Black Lives Matter movement.  White middle-class Democrats suddenly expressed much greater concern about racial inequality and enthusiasm for racial diversity and immigration. The main impact was to drive working-class Democrats into the arms of Donald Trump.

By 2016, ‘wokeness’ was defined by a New York poet no less, as ‘a cultural push to challenge problematic norms, systemic injustices and the overall status quo through complete awareness,’ and required ‘an active process of deprogramming social conditionings focusing on consistent efforts to challenge the universal infractions we are all subjected to.’

If that didn’t make much sense to you, you aren’t alone. At the time, Elle magazine wrote, ‘we’d like to think we’re pretty clued up on modern culture, new fashion styles and lesser-known musical artists but, we must admit, this word (woke) throws us.’

By 2019 however, wokeness had become so ubiquitous that Gillette, that bastion of maleness, was running ads for razors attacking ‘toxic masculinity’ with commercials that featured news clips reporting on the #MeToo movement while an irritating voice-over intoned, ‘Bullying! The #MeToo Movement against sexual harassment. Toxic masculinity. Is this the best a man can get?’ and a row of man-bots repeatedly chanted ‘boys will be boys.’ The ad, which was actually directed by an Australian woman (why is one not surprised?) provoked an immediate backlash, with unWoke blokes warning that companies who ‘get woke, go broke’, while Wokies chided that the negative response proved ‘just how fragile masculinity can be.’ But that wasn’t enough for the bearded millennial marketing genii at Gillette who, instead of shaving, start the day asking, ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the wokest of them all?’ They followed up with an ad of a (black) father teaching his (female-to-male) transgender teen how to shave their face, presumably unaware that girls have been shaving their legs for decades without parental instruction.  Gillette Venus, not to be left out, ran a ‘fat acceptance ad’ of a morbidly obese woman frolicking on a beach in a bikini, with the disturbingly war-like tagline, for a company selling sharp objects, ‘Go out there and slay the day.’


The good news, for whoever she had in her sights — presumably a cis-gender, fat-shaming, white male — is that Gillette lost its wager on wokeness, with its (Procter &) Gamble shaving $8 billion off the bottom line.

Still, it is too early to declare victory in the war on woke. Razor warriors may be licking their wounds, but they still can wax woke about progress in hair removal rights; a Canadian ‘woman with a penis’ is demanding the right to make women with vaginas wax her willy, in a case of ‘back, crack and sack’ or be sacked.

Social justice nitwits also scored a win for knitwokery when the world’s largest knitting website banned any expression of support for President Trump because support for ‘the Trump administration is unambiguously support for white supremacy.’

Yet such strides are cold comfort to  woke trustafarians (rich twenty-somethings living off their parents trust funds) who have been mercilessly mocked by Titania McGrath, the comedic creation of Andrew Doyle. McGrath is currently performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and her show Mxnifesto scored only one star out of five in a review in the Guardian which suggests she is hitting her target. Explaining the title, she tweeted ‘We all know that the word “woman” is offensive because it contains the word “man”. But did you know that the word “black” is equally offensive because it contains the word “lack”, suggesting inferiority? From now on, it is no longer “black woman” but “blxck womxn”. McGrath published, Woke: A Guide to Social Justice, in March, in which she modestly alludes to woke achievements; ‘consider how the definition of the word “Nazi” has been successfully broadened to include anyone who voted for Brexit, has ever considered supporting the Conservative party or who refuses to take the Guardian seriously.  Although this is great victory for the progressive cause, it does mean that there are now more Nazis living in Britain than existed in 1930s Germany.’

No wokie is safe from McGrath. In 2017, Professor Rochelle Gutierrez of the University of Illinois warned her colleagues that ‘on many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness.’  McGrath concurred adding that ‘the Ku Klux Klan were once known to set fire to plus signs in order to intimidate their victims.’

McGrath was suspended from Twitter for a day and afterwards declared, ‘I now understand how Nelson Mandela felt,’ although her ordeal was worse: ‘at least his male privilege protected him from ever having to put up with mansplaining or being subject to wolf-whistling by grubby proles on a building site.’

In 2018, the chief executive of Kent Fire called for Fireman Sam, a popular children’s TV character to be renamed Firefighter Sam. It struck a chord with McGrath who wrote, ‘Frankly, if some “fireman” tried to save me from a burning building, I’d tell him to go f-ck himself.’

Signs of the Un-Awokening have appeared in the US. Last month Maureen Dowd, prima donna of opinionistas at the New York Times, who had been bewitched by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx socking it to Trump, was now more bothered and bewildered by AOC and the woke WOC (women of colour) at war with Nancy Pelosi and mainstream Democrats. Dowd, who had dreamed that Pelosi and AOC would be ‘the most potent feminist partnership in American history’, confessed wearily that she was sick of scaling “Wokeback Mountain”. ‘AOC should consider the possibility that people who disagree with her do not disagree with her color,’ she wrote, lamenting that ‘you know how topsy-turvy the fight is when the biggest defenders of Pelosi, who has endured being a caricature of extreme liberalism for decades, are Trump and the Wall Street Journal editorial board.’

When will the wokeness end? One  prediction is November 4, 2020, when Trump is re-elected in a landslide. In the meantime, McGrath tweeted  about Prince Harry’s news that he was having only two children, ‘This doesn’t go far enough. If the royal family really cared about reducing their carbon footprint, they’d all stop reproducing for at least the next three or four generations.’  Your Royal Wokeness, you have been warned.

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