In recent posts, I discussed why I’m not Woke. (I capitalize the word because it refers to a discrete moral ideology; more on that here.) The summary is that I had adopted Wokeness by virtue of groupthink. I absorbed the Woke tendency to feel immense guilt for atrocities like slavery and colonization. Of course, these happened long before I was born, and I played no part in them. Wokeness involves a way of seeing the world in circumscribed terms, a collection of performative gestures that are thought to constitute “activism,” tribalism that is deemed necessary to correct other forms of tribalism, and the insistence that there is no such thing as objective reality.
Wokeness involves a very specific way of seeing the world and defining justice. I don’t agree with the Woke ideology. I don’t like the way it led me to see everyone in terms of oppressor and oppressed. I hate the guilt and shame it evoked in me, and the guilt and shame that it led me to evoke in other people. And I especially hate the way that I then used the Woke tenets to justify that unkind behavior to myself. Wokeness allowed me to do things against my moral principles because I was convinced that in order to achieve these abstract ideals (justice! equity! liberation!), I needed to live my life in a very particular way, a way that involved being incredibly self-righteous about everything and incredibly critical of other humans.
There’s actually an entire website devoted to teaching people exactly how to be
unbearable an agent for justice all day, every day. It’s called Everyday Feminism, and it offers a plethora of articles teaching readers that everything is problematic if you look hard enough.. Without Everyday Feminism, I would still be intolerably self-righteous, so I owe their writers a big thank you for turning me off the Kool-Aid.
Everyday Feminism’s articles follow a predictable set of formulas. They’re all essentially reaffirmations of positions the website espouses: center the marginalized voices, everything is critical theory, we live in a racist sexist ableist classist cissexist adultist dystopia, science is oppressive. I don’t think it would take a particularly sophisticated algorithm to keep producing this sort of content, because it’s incredibly trite and predictable. Most titles include a number; a buzzword; and a stock photo that probably wasn’t intended to be hilarious, which only makes it more hilarious. Some examples:
If you can get past the headlines, you arrive at the core message: Everything Is Bad Except What We Do And Think So You Must Be Like Us And Indoctrinate Other People And Use The Word “Oppressive” A Lot. Case in point: the article “Yes, ‘Stupid’ Is an Ableist Slur – Let’s Unpack Your Defensiveness About That.” (The writers on this site have a gift for condescension…to think that this title would make someone feel defensive!) I do agree with this assessment of the word “stupid” to a certain extent. I generally don’t use “stupid” as an insult, because I think unintelligent is by no means the worst thing a person can be. Nevertheless, I don’t think policing other people’s language solves many problems, unless you consider having too many friends a problem.
The author of this piece disagrees. She notes that people who wouldn’t use the words “dumb” or “retard” still say “stupid,” and that there’s something of a contradiction here. I agree. To be quite honest, I think that people have less respect for those with intellectual disabilities than they do for other disabled folks. That’s a huge problem with catastrophic consequences for intellectually disabled individuals, but again, I can’t imagine how changing people’s vocabulary will lead to a solution.
We continue. The author writes that “stupid” “is an insult, and that’s reason enough to stop using it.” Then we arrive at the core idea: “[The word’s] use harms and triggers disabled people, which can make it a source of mass psychological harm for an already marginalized group.”
I have been disabled all of my life – sometimes very mildly, sometimes quite severely. I never experienced any psychological harm, let alone mass amounts, from the word “stupid” until I stumbled upon articles like this one. It was only when I found such articles that I started to be annoyed, and then offended, and then infuriated by this word.
What did my fury accomplish? Well, it distracted me from perceiving people as full human beings. It led me to form a lot of negative opinions about others, it created a lot of resentment, and it led me to spend a lot of time moping about what a terrible world I was living in. Yay me.
The rest of the article goes on to explain that disabled people are “marginalized” (I don’t even know what that word means anymore), that there has been institutionalized discrimination against disabled people, that people with intellectual disabilities have faced particularly atrocious violence and abuse, etc. I agree with all of this, but notice how the entire history of disabled people has now been wrapped up in one word, and that I haven’t even considered the intention of the person who said it.
The author concludes with a call to action, imploring the reader to use words other than “stupid:” “You’ll be in solidarity with the disability community if you do.”
Wow. That’s a sweeping generalization. She just assumed that disabled people, the world’s largest minority, all think this way and have the exact same feelings about the word “stupid,” and that by this logic, the reader can either not say “stupid” and be with the disabled or say “stupid” and be against the disabled. But this isn’t actually logic. For one thing, most people don’t speak English, and to translate this article, you’d need to take into account the entire linguistic and historical context of other terms. In doing so, you might inadvertently impose your own assumptions about society’s assumptions about disability onto another society, which sounds like a headache, to say the least. To bring it back to the main point, though: who said this author gets to speak for every single disabled person? Who gave her that right?
The answer to this question is “Everyday Feminism and no one else, to my knowledge.” Disabled people say “stupid.” I know this for a fact. This does not make them/us (I struggle with narrative voice here) traitors to the community. I don’t even know if there’s one disabled community. This article sells itself as your one-stop shop for making sure you never do anything wrong by disabled people, and yet, it addresses one of the most superficial disability challenges possible (anyone ever heard of eugenics?) in the most self-righteous way imaginable. Thus, we arrive at the core of Wokeness: all of this is branded as social justice, but that’s not really what it’s about. It’s about feeling like you’re promoting justice, being a part of something greater, making sense of the world. It’s about marking in-group/out-group through rituals like declaring your pronouns and asserting your oppressions and making up words like “folx” and “minoritized.”
Superficially, this article’s goal would appear to be the eradication of some form of oppression (a very micro form), but I’d say that it actually serves two purposes. Purpose #1: It makes the writer feel good, effective, and righteous. Purpose #2: It delineates the moral dimensions of Wokeness for the reader, so that they can do the right things and join the in-group if they want to, or write a snarky blog post about it if they don’t.
But all of this critical thinking comes afterwards, because here’s the fun thing: by Everyday Feminism logic, there is no logic – or at least, there shouldn’t be – because – I kid you not, these are direct quotes – “being rational has no inherent value,” “rationalism is a tool made to hurt us [for more on the meaning of us, see above re: in-group],” and “rationalism is subjective.”
WHAT. NO. NO NO NO. THAT’S LIKE SAYING THAT TOMATOES ARE CARNIVOROUS.
Oh, sorry. I just said something logical, and that’s bad. The illogical thing to do would be to apologize and check my thinkingfulness privilege. Great. Mission accomplished.
Moving on to the next source of entertainment: an article titled, “15 Comments Polyamorous People Are Tired of Getting.” I’m sorry, but I’m just really struggling to understand the contexts in which these comments are coming up. And why this particular website is the best forum to address it. Well, I guess the theme is complaining about anything that fits into social justice wokespeak, so it fits. But seriously, some of these are hilarious. We all need to take a step back and stop saying the following things to polyamorous people:
- “You must have a lot of sex.”
- “You just want to have your cake and eat it, too.”
- “Why do you have to talk about polyamory all the time?”
I mean, I can understand the last one…
In all seriousness, though I know that these kinds of comments are staples of my everyday vocabulary, so I really do need to take a step back and put some conscious effort into directing them only at monogamous individuals. Then there’s the issue of asexual people, and obviously we can’t just treat everyone with respect regardless of their identity, because then Everyday Feminism would have nothing to write about. Thank goodness they have an article about this, too: “8 Things You Should Never Say to an Asexual Person,” which includes comments like, “How do you know if you’ve never tried it?” and “It’s just a phase!” Maybe the world would be less oppressive if none of us never talked at all.
Alas, people do talk, and it is oh so hurtful…especially when you’re committed to problematizing every situation. In case you feel like your life is too peaceful and pleasant, here are some sources of misery you could adopt:
- Toxic monogamy, because apparently that’s a thing. And polyamory is a privilege.
- You might think it’s sweet to say your partner is your “everything,” but it’s actually toxic, so stop being happy.
- Something about bisexual people being “erased” in the polyamorous community, which obviously is everyone’s problem.
- The word “divisive” is a racist dogwhistle.
- If you thought heteronormativity was bad, wait till you meet homonormativity.
- You might think that asking an atheist if they’ve had a bad experience in church is an innocuous question, but it’s actually a microaggression. Get with the program.
- And don’t you dare enjoy a wedding.
With all this injustice in the world, you might need some self-care tips. Well, here they are. In case you were wondering, just because you’re committed to equality doesn’t mean you can’t lord your moral superiority over everyone else. Specifically, the article is geared toward people who…
- Say things like, “I can’t handle racist friends anymore” and “I can’t watch a movie anymore without seeing stereotypes.”
- “Get into it” with family, friends, and even strangers on Facebook.
- Work 25/8 to tell folks why that episode of The Mindy Project was fat-shaming, but you still love that she’s a woman of color.
I would agree that self-care is particularly merited in these situations. Specifically, I would recommend reconsidering your use of the word “racist,” thinking about whether your moral beliefs might be getting in the way of your personal relationships and sanity, getting off Facebook, and entertaining the notion that you can enjoy a TV show without making it about a character’s race or size. But the author of the article has other suggestions and anecdotes from her personal life. My impression is that she gets in a ton of fights on Facebook, deliberately antagonizes her family members with various stickers and signs, and goes to parties where 80% of the conversation is about microaggressions. Oh, and something about capitalist guilt. Again, I can see the importance of self-care in this situation.
I want to conclude with some quotes that I think will help you appreciate why I find so much comedic solace in this site. I probably spend too much time being mad about things. I believe that’s a natural human tendency, and the Internet makes it far too easy to seek out sources of outrage. Not using the Internet is one of the strategies that keeps me sane, but so is finding humor in the ideas that might otherwise drive me crazy. So please sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride, unless you’re a man, in which case, you should probably make sure that your legs are aligned in a socially just fashion, because manspreading is truly the most egregious form of sexism the world has ever seen and thank goodness people are designing chairs to stop it.
- “There’s nothing more feminist than taking a space traditionally dominated by oppression and throwing your middle finger at it.”
- “We use the phrase ‘content warning’ instead of ‘trigger warning,’ as the word ‘trigger’ relies on and evokes violent weaponry imagery. This could be re-traumatizing for folks who have suffered military, police, and other forms of violence.”
- “Feminism is a verb.”
- “Check out this article to see how extroverts benefit from their social privileges on a regular basis.”
- “This woman just crushed society’s sexist expectations in one awesome poem.” [Then why do they keep publishing articles complaining about sexist expectations?]
- “Why I delete comments (and why it isn’t ‘censorship’)…”
- And finally…
Well, there go all my plans for the future.