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Navigating the Woke Waters: A Cultural Look into Wokeism and Implicit Bias


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Just the other day, I found myself engrossed in an article about the 90-year-old actor Michael Caine. A fan for years, I’ve admired his roles in films like "The Italian Job" and "The Dark Knight." Yet, it wasn't his acting charm that caught my attention this time. It was his recent remarks disapproving of the role of intimacy coordinators in Hollywood. An intimacy coordinator is someone who is a consultant who protects the confines of a sex scene. It is a role that arose after the #MeToo movement as a way to ensure safe work environments and protect actors who could fall prey to sexual assault on set. A part of me understood where he was coming from, especially given the length of time he has gone through creating many projects and the vast cultural changes that have swept the entertainment industry. Yet, his sentiment left me pondering over a concept that Caine has explicitly expressed disgust towards—wokeism. In fact, Caine is not the only person that has shared his repulse. Brian Cox, another one of my favorite actors has also called being woke as “truly awful.” Both of their reaction has me thinking about wokeism. It is a good thing, or bad? Specifically, how wokeism plays a role in addressing issues of inequality and inequity. Could it be that the people who believe society is going overboard with wokeism are influenced by implicit biases?


What is Wokeism?

Wokeism has its roots in African American Vernacular English (AAVE), where "woke" means being aware, particularly in relation to social and racial injustice. Today, wokeism refers to a broader awareness and acknowledgment of social inequalities and a commitment to action. It aims to tackle issues around gender, race, economic status, and other forms of social disparity.


Wokeism in Action: Real-Life Examples

In Favor

  1. Black Lives Matter Movement: An example of wokeism, the BLM movement sheds light on systemic racism and advocates for the dignity, justice, and equality of Black individuals.

  2. Gender Pay Gap Awareness: Companies are now being forced to be more transparent about pay, and corrective actions are being taken to ensure equal pay for equal work.

Against

  1. Cancel Culture: One could argue that wokeism has led to the rise of cancel culture, where people are boycotted or ostracized based on an action or a statement that is deemed socially or politically incorrect.

  2. Corporate Woke Washing: Brands superficially using woke slogans or ideas to seem socially responsible but without any real commitment to change.


Just like many things in life, there is truly no right or wrong when it comes to wokeism. Personally, I strongly support wokeism as it empowers those who are in positions that normally would not be able to fight for themselves, like the many women who have been sexually assaulted and silenced in Hollywood. On the other hand, I disagree with those who may have weaponized wokeism for political gain or those who use disparity to justify a lack of hard work.


Implicit Bias and Wokeism

However, it is important to recognize the everyday impact of implicit bias in our world. According to social psychology, implicit bias refers to the subconscious attitudes or stereotypes that affect our decisions and actions. These biases are often activated involuntarily, without the individual's awareness or intentional control. One can argue that the critique against wokeism may arise from implicit biases. For those who have never been on the receiving end of inequality, the aggressive awareness, and corrective actions that wokeism demands may seem overboard. But this perspective could be a product of a bias that it's easier to maintain the status quo when you're part of the demographic that the status quo serves.


Wokeism: Similarity and Difference between U.S. vs. China

While thousands of miles apart, the Eastern culture is also being pushed forward by progressive ideas to increase societal equality, although it may be against the backdrop of political ideology.


United States

In the U.S., wokeism is often centered around freedom of speech and individual liberties. People have the space to criticize, to rally, and to voice their opinions freely, even if they are unpopular.


China

Contrarily, in China, wokeism exists but within the confines of what the government deems acceptable. Feminist movements and LGBTQ+ rights are topics that are slowly gaining attention but are still tightly regulated. Here, wokeism isn’t so much about individual liberties as it is about collective responsibility.


Finally, Wokeism is not a one-size-fits-all concept; it’s fluid, complicated, and multi-faceted. Although some may be allergic to the term, the essence behind wokeism is about increasing awareness and creating a world that is equal and equitable. While Michael Caine’s views prompted me to dive deeper into this topic, it has also illuminated that wokeism, when viewed through a lens free from implicit biases, is a necessary driving force for societal change. In a world marked by glaring disparities, it’s a step towards leveling the playing field. But like any other concept, it's not without its pitfalls and must be engaged with thoughtfully.

So, the next time we find ourselves questioning the necessity of wokeism, it is prudent also to question the biases that may be influencing that skepticism. After all, the first step to solving a problem is recognizing that there is one.


A Cultural Look into Wokeism.

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