Idiomdrottning’s homepage

How to become OK with woke

A practical guide

I’m writing this to people who are a little bit turned off by woke culture (or as it was called ten years ago, “SJW”, or in the eighties and nineties, “PC”) but who are curious enough to read a guide about it.

90% of everything is bad

Back in the day, people were saying that science fiction was bad just because there was so much bad science fiction. Editor Theodore Sturgeon defended science fiction, saying that 90% of science fiction is bad, but that goes for everything, there’s bad stuff in every field, but there are also gems there.

I always got to keep this in mind when scrolling through the high-tempered social media postings of people who are just struggling to figure themselves out in an absurd world. There is a lot of un-thought-through, self-contradictory stuff out there being touted as absolutely shoe-hammering gospel. “How dare you say (or not say) such-and-such” admonishments that if followed to the letter would make some other just as vulnerable group just as messed up. It’s easy to get sick of the whole thing.

There is a saying: “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”: don’t lose the good for the bad.

Intersectional social justice

The pillars of modern woke ideology is the radical thought that people belong to more than one group. Everyone is different. The way some white hetero women were doing feminism in the seventies were pretty messed up to black women or lesbian women. As a nerd it’s easy to sometimes get the idea that “no-one has it worse than me” but there are people out there who are just as nerdy and alienated while simultaneously juggling other oppressive structures.

The bad take-away from this would be to create some sort of oppression olympics, a reverse ladder where being in as many of these groups as possible is seen as “better” or “nobler” or more “the good team”. Where “cishet” becomes the new punching bag.

Instead, a full and aware understanding of the world as a complex mess, a multi-variate vector space of so many different ways we’re hurting each other and we can do better.

The heck’s an oppressive structure

One of the core ideas here is that there might be patterns to how people are hurting each other, patterns that go beyond individual instances. That’s not to say that it’s the only way things can go down, that a homeless man freezing to death under a bridge is oppressing the Queen of England or whatever. But the core idea is that since the world is such a tangled mess, maybe one way to start addressing some of the problems is to look for problems that are reoccurring and whether or not we can find reusable solutions to those problems.

This is a change that can be hard to wrap your head around for people growing up in the “colorblind 1980s”, a world that seemed great on the surface but where a lot of problems were being swept under the rug.

Woke means “awake” in some African-American grammars, waking up to some of the structures that folks might’ve been taken for granted like fish don’t have a word for water. (To the point that it’s sometimes been pointed out how it’s a li’l iffy for white people to call themselves woke (let alone claiming to have written a “guide” to it), and most don’t; I’m only using the word “woke” in this li’l guide for clarity for people on the fence. The word “woke” spread like wild-fire on the right-wing that opposed intersectional social justice similarly to how “SJW” and “PC” did earlier because saying “we oppose justice” was never gonna fly. Woke is one of those words that people don’t call themselves. I’m doing it here since I’m trying to talk across the aisle.)

Heuristics, shorthands and other problems

The map is not the territory and it’s easy to get caught up in overapplying a shorthand explanation to situations where that shorthand doesn’t really apply well. This is not an exclusively “woke” problem; it’s a universal issue with the human mind. We need shorthands to be able to even live in the world. Every breath we take can’t be a deliberate decision. We need to be able to group things together and be like “OK this thing is kind of like this other thing. This apple is sort of similar to that other apple so I can eat it similarly.” But the challenge then becomes to stay aware enough to recognize when a shorthand doesn’t apply.

To think and make decisions using a variety of factors, and when we learn of a new concept like “cultural appropriation” we’re like “OK, I’m gonna try to factor that in to what I say and do” using that as one of several aspects when making a decision rather than throwing all thought and care out the window.

A little goes a long way

It’s easy to get overwhelmed and think that “woke culture” is asking too much of you, but small changes and gradual improvement will make a lot of difference. The first small steps are much more important and then there’s diminishing returns after that.

Stay humble, don’t try to set yourself up as a woke prophet, just try to be chill & kind. (I get that that’s ironic coming from someone trying to write a self-proclaimed “guide”.🤦🏻‍♀️)

Anti-woke is worse than woke

If 90% of everything is bad, isn’t then anti-woke and woke equally viable options? 10% of anti-woke is good, right? Well, no. I’m not as impressed by anti-woke because it was founded as a antidote to people basically just trying for a kinder world, so the core of it is often founded on a granite marble of cruelty. Not my jam.

Edgy anti-woke and anti-SJW can be so much more embarrassing than even the most facepalm-worthy of wokeness.

Wedge issues

A lot of anti-woke ideology is being pushed to drum up votes for the rich-gets-richer program. “Vote for our economic exploitation of the public good and in return we’ll protect you from those scary mexicans, muslims, gays and trans, and from all that pandering to women.”

Don’t get fooled by it.

And then in return the other party takes the other side and uses these groups as hostage, too. “Oh, we’ll protect you from those anti-woke reactionaries!” in a sick good-cop-bad-cop game while the people are starving and the climate is getting wrecked. It sucks. What can I say? Other than “political work goes beyond the ballot box”.


Maybe the “pandering” debate is a li’l bit oldmeme outside of the stodgiest of circles because most of the world by now has realized that the world didn’t end just because black guys and women got on TV and in video games.

Dislike of “pandering” was huge during gamergate, it was one of the main drivers. This fear was driven by an idea that this kind of representation is mostly counterfeit, disproportional, dishonest and malicious. I don’t think it is, but that was the narrative that was being pushed by the right-wing, anti-SJW pundits, as weird as that sounds.

Never was my jam since it makes sense to me that people wanna see people like themselves in media, it makes more sense than trying to deny other people that joy. Me and my sister, life-long Star Wars fans, it’s not that we didn’t like the older movies, we loved them, but we were so happy to see more women in the new movies (even though those movies might’ve had some other flaws). And it’s weird that Rey gets so much more “Mary Sue” flak than a character like Harry Potter who’s even more of a Mary Sue wish-fulfilment character.

“I’m not a victim”

Another thing I see sometimes which is pretty understandable is people who are part of some of the groups that they think that woke claims are oppressed and they see that claim as cementing their status as oppressed rather than as something liberating. Some people hate asking for help and are so proud of what they’ve done by their own bootstraps. I don’t have that “own bootstraps” background at all; I’ve gotten so much help from others to get to where I am. But I can still understand that perspective, I think. I don’t think that’s a strong enough reason to join anti-woke with all that that entails.

The history of sexual politics is a li’l weird.

Used to be we had a complex system of sexual morals that was hard to summarize easily and it was pretty bad for women who had a pretty limited role in life. Not good for guys, either, so don’t start putting on nostalgia glasses, fellas.

Then in the sixties we had the sexual revolution when all the rules where thrown out the window and that was a total shitshow. A pretty dangerous time to be alive; women were exploited and so were boys.

Then in the modern era we have one rule: Consenting adults. It’s a different system from the age-old traditions but it’s so much better.

“Cancel culture” and “snowflakes”

All cultures have their ways of expressing how they feel about people they don’t get along with very well. It’s easy to get hypocritical quickly if we don’t watch ourselves.

Harassment and dogpiling is bad no matter where it’s coming from.

“The left hates free speech”

The left wants to protect democracy by protecting vulnerable groups.

“Safe spaces”

A lot of the university protests were against speakers who would actually look up local students and try to doxx them from stage.

Motte and bailey

A lot of the anti-woke sentiment starts out as things that are reasonable concerns but then blooms into a hate parade that goes way beyond cruelty and into outright tyranny.

Yeah, yeah, there’s a similar problem on the left where, as stated, 90% of what’s being said is not always all thought-through. But that’s not a force driving rights-depriving legislation from the self-proclaimed “party of small-government”.

That said, the human mind and its biases and psychological complexities are beyond what just woke vs anti-woke can solve on its own. No one is asking anyone to stop thinking, just to be a li’l kinder.

Now back to your regularly scheduled blog

I’m normally writing inside a pretty woke bubble and I’m happy about that because the left wing has been my political home for the past twenty-five years. I’m hoping they’ve had patience with me writing to a different kind of audience for one day given that it’s for a good cause. Also as per ushe I made plenty of mistakes. Every essay on this li’l site is in constant draft mode.

Uh, seems like you’re pretty scared of them, Sandra

Yeah, but I’m scared of everyone. The internet is a scary place every day and not conducive to trying to think about things explorationally and not having all the correct answers. A dogpile with megaphones and pitchforks isn’t a good conversational partner.

I’m almost as scared of them I am as I am of anti-woke, which I’m even more scared of. When the nazis come I wanna be in the good graces of those who’ll try to oppose them because there’s no way in hell I’m strapping on the jackboots myself.

The core of intersectional justice and its worldview and epistemology does make a lot of sense to me. That’s where I wanna be: someone who’s decided that people should be helping each other and the planet rather than hurting each other.

Ultimately I feel that woke vs anti-woke can be a dangerous distraction from the real issue which is the climate catastrophe. I guess the number one take-away is: don’t get sucked into anti-woke rabbit holes and rhetoric. The real fight is climate change.