Disclaimer: even before going vegan my politics leaned about as far left as left can go, so undoubtedly my "leftist" bias will be showing in my possibly LONGEST post to date.
Also, congratulations to the many Americans (younger ones especially!) NOT voting for election-deniers, conspiracy theorists or extremists during November's mid-terms. Canadians applaud you. (But boo to Floridians and Texans who re-elected Republicans hell-bent on implementing anti-abortion, anti-gay, and anti-transgender legislation.*)
Note: this post was begun in late October, but the recent Club Q shooting (and subsequent response by those who helped stoke hostility towards LBGTQ+ members), only reinforce some of the reasons I give later on for writing it in the first place.
Alright, let's start with the one word that has helped trigger an almost world-wide (okay, UK, USA, Australia and Canada at least) moral panic (trans panic to be specific) that in my opinion could even be viewed as a social contagion of sorts given how it has spread:
And just in case you haven't come across this term yet, count your lucky stars as it seems to have become ubiquitous both online and in media print. While the term "woke" (and "stay woke") originated in the States among black activists years ago to mean being aware of racial injustice and discrimination, it is now more often used as a pejorative insult against people, institutions and ideas perceived as too progressive, in particular when it comes to issues concerning race and gender inclusion.
Which means we now have woke as an adjective describing almost anything and everything (plus there are so many derivatives of the word, like wokeness and wokified, it's hard to keep count), and I've even seen Wokes used as a noun to refer to people. Say what?
And it wouldn't even be so bad except that you have anti-woke sites popping up everywhere (e.g., Vote Against Woke – deleted as it violated election laws, Stop Woke Activism, and the especially insidious Blueprint for Canada – sorry, I wasn’t going to amplify these sites by linking, but the Blueprint site is just so ridiculously off the mark that I couldn’t resist adding a few links at the bottom of this post**), and worse, a concerted effort during municipal elections to stack school boards with regressive anti-woke trustees. Thankfully, most of them DIDN'T get elected, but they sure tried. (Sadly, anti-woke school election candidates in the US did have more success.)
(To be clear, "wokeism" isn't only decried by those on the political right, as there's a segment on the political left – in higher education and publishing particularly – also strongly denouncing "woke culture" as illiberal.)
So, in no particular order, let the partial list (I'm sure I've missed a bunch) of knuckle-clenching words for the woke-fearing (ha, made up my own woke word) begin:
- left or leftist (but notice how you don't really see "rightist" too much)
- politically correct (remember when this precursor term to woke was in vogue?)
- trigger warning
- Antifa (because being anti-fascist and anti-racist is a bad thing?)
- identity politics (as if white, straight, Christian, etc., aren't identities used in politics as well)
- intersectionality (tsk, tsk, as if one identity/oppression wasn't already too much)
- gender theory
- gender expression
- gender identity (yes, Virginia, there IS such a thing as gender and it IS distinct from biological sex)
- gender affirmation (and gender-affirmation care)
- trans women (saying "trans women are women" will really set them off)
- cis or cisgender (also irrationally loathed)
- okay, basically anything containing the word gender (except for gender-critical)
- genderqueer, genderfluid, nonbinary (because heaven help us if we can't classify folk into neat confining little boxes like male, female, feminine, masculine)
- pronouns (amazing how itty bitty words like he/she/they can irrationally irritate a woke-fearing person like almost nothing else)
- trans-exclusionary radical feminism (TERF for short, but there is nothing radical or feminist about it, which is maybe why they prefer to sugarcoat it by using the term gender-critical instead – also, in a twisted way, the acronym TERF is considered by most who practice it not only to be a slur, but actual hate speech, even though hate is exactly the effect of what they’re promoting)
- social justice
- social justice warrior (usually SJW for short)
- equity (equality of opportunity is MAYBE okay, but NOT equity of outcome)
- inequity (because that implies that some benefit from unequal outcomes)
- racism (believe it or not, but this term is actually viewed by some as an anti-white slur)
- racist (some people consider being CALLED a racist more outrageous than someone actually BEING a racist—I know, it boggles the mind)
- anti-racism (again, a big no no, because while not being racist is one thing, actively trying to dismantle racism seems to be beyond the pale)
- systemic racism (this notion is considered especially offensive—not that it exists, but that some have the nerve to suggest it exists)
- critical race theory (or CRT for short, is SO explosive for some that apparently the only way they can deal with the notion of trying to explain racism is to denounce the theory itself as racist)
- Diversity, Equity, Inclusion initiatives or DEI for short (some prefer strategies like The Theory of Racelessness which argues that there is no such thing as race, and to think so is racist, reminding me of those who claim to be colourblind when it comes to race and who will quote MLK as if he was saying to ignore the colour of someone's skin instead of not judging a person by it)
- privilege (white privilege especially, and this may be because many of us have had the luxury of not even having to think of our skin colour while growing up)
- white fragility (say those two words together and you'll really see some people get defensive, like the professor I'll be mentioning in the why-I-wrote-this-post section below)
So there you have it: the two main topics and related words (race, gender identity) that will send the anti-woke into a frenzy these days. Use them sparingly or liberally, as you see fit. ;)
Some other terms you'll often see bandied about by these folk include the by now often-misused term freedom, freedom of speech (a borrowed American term actually, as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms refers to freedom of expression rather than freedom of speech, which, by the way, should not incorporate hate speech under the guise of "free" speech), parental rights (in conjunction with education), anti-mandate, government overreach, tyranny, global elite, global cabal, gatekeepers (a favourite term of Pierre Poilievre's), grooming, indoctrination, virtue signalling, cancel culture, and on, and on.
TERFs in particular (if you're a radical feminist who is also trans-exclusionary I WILL call you by that name no matter how strongly you consider it to be a slur) who have become obsessed with the imaginary evils and threats posed by transgender women (yes, they ARE women) are equally obsessed with terms like biological sex (essentially positing biological determinism or essentialism arguments that feminists like myself have railed against for years), sex-based rights, and one of the more ridiculous terms, adult human female.
It can be confusing, for sure, as one of the tenets of feminism is to reject gender stereotypes, but that doesn't mean that gender, along with sex, doesn't exist. And whether gender is more socially constructed or biologically based (my take on the 'is gender based on biology or merely a social construct' debate is that it's likely a variable combination of the two with other factors thrown in that differ for everyone), every person should have the right to express their gender identity as it feels comfortable to them.
Meaning that a cisgender woman should be able to present herself in more traditionally masculine ways if she wants, a transgender woman should be able to present herself in more traditionally feminine ways if that feels right for her, and ALL women should be able to present themselves any damn way they want. In short, there's no room for anti-trans sentiment if you consider yourself to be feminist, as anti-trans IS anti-feminist. And frankly, so-called feminists picking on the most vulnerable group of women as their main (and in some cases only) target of feminist activism (including the all-the-more-reprehensible for misusing her large platform, highly privileged and powerful J.K. Rowling), is disgusting. Using feminism as a cover to exclude trans people and justify transphobia is wrong on every level.
Now you may wonder why I've gone on at length about anti-wokeness (and gender issues in particular), on this vegan blog, so let me (at length again, I'm afraid), explain. I wrote about all of this stuff because:
- I'm tired of seeing the word "woke" everywhere, especially when used as a negative signifier
- while words change over time (e.g., gay no longer just means lighthearted and carefree), it bothers me when words or slogans (e.g., My Body My Choice) get co-opted
- or worse, used to mean something entirely false, e.g., equating "grooming" with gender-affirming care for trans youth, rather than the actual process of manipulation by abusers
- and it's not just words, but anti-woke politicians actively trying to implement not only what can be taught in schools concerning race and gender, but anti-LGBTQ+ legislation that has real and devastating effects
- in fact, rather than youth wanting to transition because of social contagion as claimed, I'd argue that perhaps the real social contagion is the “trans panic” that seems to have arisen among folk who are just repackaging all the anti-gay hatred and serving it onto the transgender community instead
- the folk objecting to woke also tend to be anti-mask, anti-vaccine, anti-mandate, skeptical of climate change, prone to conspiracy theories about things like "The Great Reset," obsessed with freedom that they falsely believe has been taken away, confused about what "free speech" does and does not include, and worst of all, convinced that their rights are being taken away while actively trying to ensure that the rights of groups THEY don't like are taken away
- I'm tired of seeing these symbols in my small Ontario town on a regular basis: huge Canadian flags on (usually) black pickup trucks, F___ Trudeau flags and bumper stickers (I even saw a Confederate flag once, and a bumper sticker saying "Jesus is my saviour, Trump is my President" for Pete's sake), and the fringe freedom fighters STILL congregating downtown every Saturday with their flags and picket signs
- man-child Elon Musk (remind you of anyone?) pandering to the anti-woke crowd on Twitter ensuring it becomes even more of a cesspool than it already is
- people with real clout and institutional power whining about "cancel culture" while using free speech that actually has the potential to cancel those with much less power simply for being who they are (I'm thinking here, for example, of toxic misogynist and weirdly-afraid-of-pronouns Jordan Peterson, J.K. Rowling once again, and even Margaret Atwood, whom I'd admired, retweeting anti-trans articles and signing, along with other privileged individuals, Harper's letter lamenting their concern that they're not free to say whatever the hell they want without social backlash or consequence. In other words, their speech should be free, but heaven forbid that anyone else complain about what THEY say. Again, this from people with big enough platforms that unlike others, they'll likely never encounter the danger of being cancelled, either figuratively or literally.)
- speaking of powerful individuals, I had a fruitless email exchange with an Wilfred Laurier University professor and author of DIE and Respect are Bad (in part questioning his definitions taken from discredited self-proclaimed CRT expert/disinformation and conspiracy peddler/leading populizer of the term "groomer" as an LGBTQ+ pejorative, James Lindsay), who is also a member of an Academic Freedom Executive Committee (comprised of all male, probably white, middle-aged, straight, cis members) despising anything they claim to be woke, because boy, do they want to hold onto their power and privilege at all cost. Looking at his Twitter feed after, I realized I shouldn't have bothered.
- I'm tired of all the nonsense that gets normalized by Donald-types in the US trickling up north, and then leaving the fringes to become more mainstream
- I get scared, and sad, watching social conservative values, policies and legislation being touted and implemented across the world, and find it disheartening to see so many right-wing (some of them being very far-right) politicians being elected
- closer to home, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Pierre Poilievre as federal Opposition Leader, yikes
- misinformation and disinformation hurts everyone
- if I thought fighting on behalf of other species was difficult enough, the taking away of rights of human beings belonging to minority groups will only mean that trying to make life better for ALL beings is even more of an uphill battle
- as vegans who believe that power is at the root of all oppression, and that various types of oppression are interlinked, intersectionality isn't just a buzzword
- as intersectional vegans, we can't just say that our focus is only on animals
- finally, as vegans, the sentiment of "stop trying to force your ideology down everyone's throats" is a familiar one, and no matter what group receives that message, it's usually sent by those not liking a dominant narrative challenged
Where do we go from here? I don't know. But I'd suggest that if you're not quite sure where you stand on certain issues, it might help to see who your ideological bedfellows are. For example, if you're an anti-vax vegan (why?) parroting all sorts of alt-right nonsense (again, why?), ask yourself why you'd align yourself with individuals or groups who otherwise have very suspect views on almost everything else. How could they then be completely in the right on this particular issue?
With any issue really, ask yourself, who are the enthusiastic supporters and promoters? Who are the detractors? Who would you rather listen to? In the case, for example, of people pushing anti-trans views, would you rather listen to and respect the opinions of trans folk directly affected, or someone like J.K. Rowling who doesn’t have any skin in the game? Parse out what is fact, and what are speculation, conjecture, and fear-mongering, from reputable sources. In short, do your homework.
* The updated Texas Republican Party platform defines homosexuality as an "abnormal lifestyle choice" and opposes "all efforts to validate transgender identity." State Attorney General Ken Paxton tried to classify transition-related care for minors as child abuse, and Governor Gregg Abbott called on people to report parents of transgender minors if it was suspected they were receiving gender-affirming care. Meanwhile, Florida Governor DeSantis signed legislation limiting the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and discussions of gender identity and sexuality in schools. It should scare the heck out of everyone that someone who proudly asserts that "Florida is where woke goes to die," may be running for President in 2024.
** couldn’t resist these links as they’re too bizarre for words:
one which shows how CRT is misunderstood, misrepresented, twisted and distorted:
https://blueprintforcanada.ca/what_anti_racism_in_CRT_really_means.html And I can say that having read a number of the books/authors they're particularly critical of.
and this “taxonomy” of woke religion which would actually be funny if its adherents didn’t think it was the gospel truth and it didn’t contain so many blatant untruths:
if you want, here's a Twitter thread debunking this entire Blueprint website: https://mobile.twitter.com/DrArendt/status/1565702149039947776
A lot to read, I know, so hopefully you made yourself a cup of tea to go along with it!
p.s. I now realize that according to the anti-woke I’m likely even woker than woke—though not exactly sure what the term for that would be, snort, and that to them I've probably swallowed the woke Kool-Aid whole, but hey...