25 Woke Examples: What Counts as Woke?

woke examples and definition, explained below

A woke person is someone who is alert to racial or gendered prejudice in society.

For example, a white person who speaks up against white privilege might be considered woke.

On the political left, it is a positive term. A person who is “awake” (or aware) of systemic identity-based hierarchies is seen as a good ally for the oppressed.

On the political right, it is a pejorative term. It is used to criticize people for seeing injustice where it doesn’t exist.

Woke Examples – Left vs Right Perspectives

1. The Left’s Perspective

  • Black Lives Matter – Supporting the Black Lives Matter movement because you believe that it’s important to highlight the fact that black people continue to be mistreated in society.
  • Women in Power – A man who believes that more women in positions of power can help create a better society for everyone.
  • Pride Flags – A coffee shop that has a rebooted pride flag on the front door to show that LGBTQI people are welcome in their shop.
  • Safe Spaces – Companies with designated safe spaces for vulnerable populations where they can feel comfortable and discuss issues affecting them.
  • Gender Neutral Bathrooms – Libraries that have gender-neutral bathrooms so people who are gender non-conforming can use the bathroom comfortably.
  • Pronoun Badges – A company that forces its employees to wear pronoun badges (he/him, they/them, she/her) in order to be inclusive of trans people.
  • Affirmative ActionA company that chooses to promote upcoming job openings to people of color and women in order to make sure their workforce more accurately reflects broader society.
  • Me Too Movement – Women take a stand against poor behaviors of men in workplaces by sharing their stories of intimidation.
  • Taking a Knee (By Choice) – A person who chooses to take a knee during the anthem to protest against racial injustice.
  • Acknowledging Privilege – A person who acknowledges that they’re in a position in privilege and therefore chooses to listen carefully to the stories of the less privileged who don’t have as much of a voice.

2. The Right’s Perspective

  • Race-Based Silencing – Telling a white person they don’t have the right to speak because they’re an oppressor.
  • Cancel CultureCanceling a college speaker because they have controversial views on power and race.
  • Affirmative Action – An under-qualified woman gets a job ahead of an over-qualified man because a company wants to meet a 50% female employee quota.
  • Digging up Old Tweets – A company digs up tweets and photos from 1995 to play “gotcha” and sink a political candidate’s campaign.
  • Critical Race Theory – A school’s history curriculum teaches a ‘white oppressor’ narrative in their classrooms, which makes young white children feel like they’ve done something wrong.
  • Canada’s Bill C-16 – A bill that forces people to use trans people’s preferred pronouns, and if they don’t, then they’re in violation of the human rights code.
  • Banning Comedians – TV networks and entertainment venues blacklist a comedian for making edgy jokes that would have been perfectly fine 10 years ago.
  • Day of Absence – A college asks white students to stay home for one day per year to discuss and think about their privilege.
  • Puberty Blockers – Children who feel like their gender identity doesn’t match their sex being given puberty blockers to prevent them from going through puberty.
  • Social Media Shadow Banning – Social media networks that (supposedly) ban people for not having socially progressive viewpoints.
  • Taking a Knee (By Social Pressure) – A school or sports organization pressuring you to take a knee during the anthem to send a message about racial inequality.
  • Pride Jerseys – Conservative Christian football players are asked to wear pink pride jerseys on the football field in support of LGBT values, against their religious views.
  • Virtue SignallingBrands use pro-LGBT, pro-BLM imagery to appear inclusive. But this marginalizes half of their potential user base.
  • Gender Pluralism – People saying there are over 70 genders and that if you disagree, you’re a horrible person.

Woke Capitalism Examples

There is also a concept called ‘woke capitalism’. This term refers to companies that use wokeness in their marketing campaigns in order to sell their products.

It is an example of corporate interest convergence, meaning they tend to do it because it’s in both their own best interests and the interests of the minority group.

Famous Examples are shown below.

Nike and Colin Kaepernick

In 2016, Colin Kaepernick started sitting, then kneeling, during the national anthem at football games. He did it to protest against racial injustice. For several years, the football world turned against Kaepernick. He was not signed the next year, and lost his job.

But in 2018, as the tide turned and his protest spread around the world, Nike jumped on the bandwagon. They released an advert that read: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Pepsi and Kylie Jenner

Shortly after the Black Lives Matter protests, Pepsi released an advertisement showing Kylie Jenner at a protest movement giving a pepsi to a police officer as an offer of peace. Pepsi, it seems, is on the side of the protesters, but wants to make peace.

Pinterest

Pinterest has gone hard at framing their platform as a space that’s woke and inclusive of people who are gender non-conforming, and people of color. This is evident in the above advert.

History of Wokeism

Wokeism can be seen as coming from multiple sources:

  1. African-American Culture – The term “woke” originated from African American Vernacular English and has evolved to encompass a social and political concept.
  2. Youth Culture – Wokeness was part of a movement of people who supported protests against racial inequality. It became a force in 2016 through music videos and twitter hashtags.
  3. Post Structuralism – Many of the woke values today are informed by the cultural studies approach called post-structuralism / post-modernism. This approach critiques the subtle ways language (in post-structural jargon, called ‘discourse’), oppresses marginalized cultural groups. Thus, the cultural focus is on changing our language, messages in advertising, and so forth.

Arguments For and Against Wokeism

ProsCriticisms
It promotes social justice and equality and is changing gender stereotypes for the better.It actively attempts to silence views that are considered by the cultural elite to be outdated or inappropriate.
It makes people who are minorities feel more comfortable and noticed.It sees everyone not as individuals but simply a sum of their “intersectional identities” (primarily: race and gender).
It can lead to fairer power distribution across the races and genders.It doesn’t aim for equal treatment to all individuals (e.g. in job interviews). Rather, it focuses on balanced power relations on a society-wide level.
Historically, there has been more cancel culture on the political right than the left (e.g. canceling LGBT people in TV for decades), but the minute the cultural left speaks up for themselves, the right loses their minds.The public sphere should allow right-wing cultural values to allow everyone to make up their own mind. Wokeness tries to silence the right.

Conclusion

Examples of being woke include supporting affirmative action, gender-neutral bathrooms, and taking a knee during the national anthem. While on the left it’s seen as a virtue (where you are able to see how power oppresses), on the right it’s criticized as being a dangerous attempt at cultural engineering and a denial of reality. Hopefully, this outline has been balanced and looked at it from both sides. If you can’t tell which side I’m on, then I’ve done my job of trying to be objective and give everyone a voice in this article.

Chris
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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

13 thoughts on “25 Woke Examples: What Counts as Woke?”

    1. What would be more interesting (to me at least) would be show the left and right views on each of the above topics…to see how they are different.

  1. Chris – Thanks for your list and examples. However, I expand the concept of “woke” to encompass being aware and concerned about anything in our society that is amiss. This list would include global warming, lack of health care for many, and to the danger of dishonest populist rhetoric.
    For me being “woke” encompasses more than just injustice regarding race or gender since there is much in this country that needs fixing.
    Best regards, Bill

  2. Nice balanced article. However, you missed an important detail about Colin Kaepernick. You write: “He was not signed the next year, and lost his job.”

    He was under contract with the 49ers but chose to opt out of his contract, becoming a free agent. Not being hired is a very different thing from “losing a job”. He HAD a job and chose to test the waters of free agency for a bigger paycheck.

  3. Not only was this balanced, it was, in fact, the ONLY explanation I’ve seen that fairly represents both sides. “Woke” has been co-opted to mean just about anything certain people disagree with, but even when it was better understood to be simply caring about people’s rights and experiences, I never used the term to describe myself (the best I could hope for was “awakening”). For the same reason, I also wouldn’t call myself “enlightened” and I rarely claim to speak “truth,” since that’s often a relative term and certainly not a binary determination.

  4. Thanks for everyone’s comments – I’ve not been able to approve them all as there have been hundreds but I’ve read them and worked on improving the balance of this article based on the well-intentioned feedback I’ve received from people across the political spectrum.

    1. I appreciate the clarity you have brought to a challenging subject. You have framed and phrased it in a clear and no controversial way where two people of different perspectives might talk through this is a non combative way.

  5. Thank you for the explanation of an extremely misunderstood word and concept. While the idea of becoming awakened to, thus WOKE, or seeking more knowledge and understanding of very serious issues is completely repugnant to some, others of us are pleased to have an answer we can recall should the subject of WOKE come up.

  6. Rather intriguing to be be quite honest. To someone who has actually ‘awakened’ themselves to all of the defined concepts depicted therein..I find myself deeply saddened albeit disheartened that life in and of itself has become so complex; socially detractive where common ground is lost..no longer provides for amicable mitigation nor conciliation.
    An ultimate social patheticism that will be our undoing..

  7. I would find it interesting to see examples of woke from the two main political parties in the uk … personally I feel that the detractors of woke are more to be found in the Tory party 👍😉

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