The opposite of “woke” can be understood in different contexts. In its original meaning, which refers to being aware of social injustices and racial inequalities, the opposite could be considered as being unaware, inattentive, or oblivious to these issues.
In the context of the slang term “based,” which is used to describe people who reject politically progressive ideas, the opposite of “woke” would be someone who holds right-wing, mainstream, or independent views. It is important to note that the term “woke” has been co-opted and used in various ways, often as a pejorative by some political groups.
Woke is used to refer to politically-progressive ideas like identity politics & social justice, such as white privilege & slavery reparations. The opposite of this are people who reject such ideas, who could be called right-wing, mainstream, or independent. In slang terms, the anti-woke are “based”.
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What Is The Opposite Of Woke?
Table of Contents:
- Origins and Evolution of “Woke”
- Backlash Against Woke Culture
- Proposed Terms for the Opposite of Woke
- Values and Beliefs: Woke vs. Anti-Woke
- Political Landscape: Woke Liberals and Anti-Woke Conservatives
- Generational Differences in Views on Wokeness
- Social Media Wars: Woke vs. Anti-Woke Online Forces
- Key Thinkers on Each Side of the Debate
- Celebrity Backlash for Anti-Woke Stances
- International Perspectives on Wokeness
- Research and Data on Impacts of Wokeness/Anti-Wokeness
- Predictions for the Future of the Woke Divide
Origins and Evolution of “Woke”
The word “woke” originated in 1940s African American Vernacular English, initially with a more literal meaning of “awake.” By the 1960s, woke gained connotations of political awareness and activism within Black communities. Being “stay woke” meant having one's eyes open to racial injustice.
Woke went more mainstream in the early 2010s, propagated by Black Lives Matter and growing with social media. It became associated with broader awareness around intersecting issues like gender, sexuality, climate and immigration. Big brands like Nike and Gillette aligned themselves with woke values.
Critics emerged too, seeing wokeness as performative, paternalistic or stifling dissent. By the late 2010s, woke had become a polarizing cultural divide. Still, wokeness remains a dominant force in popular and intellectual discourse.
Backlash Against Woke Culture
High-profile examples demonstrating the expanding backlash against wokeness include:
- Donald Trump's 1776 Commission Report directly blaming wokeness for attacks on national unity and identity.
- Bestselling books like Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay’s “Cynical Theories” critiquing woke academia.
- Elite universities like U. Chicago and Princeton pushing back against cancel culture and ideological conformity.
- Dave Chappelle defiantly rejecting accusations of transphobia after woke criticism of his comedy specials.
- Florida legislation restricting classroom discussions implicating white privilege or inherent racism.
- Moderate Democrats and liberals like Bill Maher warning the party against embracing woke orthodoxies.
- Stoking of anti-woke sentiments by right-wing media figures like Tucker Carlson.
- Viral videos of ordinary citizens condemning or satirizing wokeness.
This examples demonstrate the momentum of anti-woke pushback across politics, academia, comedy and culture.
Proposed Terms for the Opposite of Woke
Some key terms suggested as capturing the opposite ethos of woke:
Anti-Woke – This directly labels the oppositional nature of the movement. However, some see negatives like “anti” as reactive rather than positive.
Unwoke – This implies neutral unawareness rather than active antagonism towards wokeness. But some may see it as dismissive.
Awake – Framing opponents as awake to realities the woke miss is appealing. But it arrogantly implies wokeness is sleeping.
Grounded – With connotations of level-headedness and pragmatic realism, this term contrasts perceived wokeness fanaticism.
Fair-minded – This positively presents anti-woke voices as rational, judicious and committed to debate.
Silent Majority – This taps into conceptions of anti-wokeness as the more pervasive but less vocal viewpoint.
Commonsensical – The emphasis on common sense contrasts the perceived absurdities of wokeness. But somewhat dismissive.
Traditional – Sets up positive associations with heritage, history and old-fashioned values. Risks seeming regressive.
Independent-minded – Paints anti-wokeness as free-thinking non-conformity, which has appeal but can seem egotistical.
Nuanced – Implies anti-woke views thoughtfully balance complexities rather than adhering to simplified narratives.
Values and Beliefs: Woke vs. Anti-Woke
Fundamentally, woke folks see systemic racism, sexism and inequity as pressing issues, and believe activism and radical reforms are needed to address injustice. They are intensely concerned with representation and marginalization of minority groups and identities. They see speech and policies that ignore or worsen inequities as dangerous, and are quick to condemn perceived oppression. Woke voices typically align with broadly progressive politics on issues from climate change to immigration.
In contrast, critics see wokeness as exaggerating or fabricating systemic biases that no longer exist to meaningful degrees. They believe woke fixation on group identity and representation undermines individualism and meritocracy. They defend dissenting speech from censorship, even if offensive. They tend to advocate caution and restraint in reform rather than radical changes to long-standing institutions. Rather than activist disruptors, they see themselves as defenders of pragmatic status quo. They often favour moderate or conservative policies aimed at stability and expanding opportunities over woke conceptions of equity.
These different premises lead to divergent choices on issues from history curriculum to comedy to HR policies in organizations. Behind them are philosophical divides between fundamentally progressive versus conservative mindsets.
Political Landscape: Woke Liberals and Anti-Woke Conservatives
Politically, wokeness is associated with the activist left, while wariness of wokeness is seen on the right.
- Progressive Democrats like AOC and Bernie Sanders align with woke values on issues from pronoun use to reparations. Moderates like Biden tread carefully to embrace diversity while avoiding extremes.
- Conservative Republicans like Ted Cruz and Ron DeSantisblast wokeness to rally their base. Even moderates like Romney join in anti-woke messaging.
- In 2020, Republicans explicitly ran against cancel culture and wokeness, tying Democrats to violent protests and accusing Biden of promoting critical race theory.
- 2022 midterm results showed worrying weakness for Democrats among working class, rural and minority voters, partly tied to woke issues.
- Some see wokeness as a key factor pushing previously Democratic-leaning groups like Hispanics to drift rightward.
- Left-wing media outlets unequivocally boost woke narratives, while right-wing media attacks them relentlessly.
These dynamics illustrate how wokeness has become enthroned in liberal ideology, while conservatism defines itself in opposition to perceived excesses of wokeness.
Generational Differences in Views on Wokeness
Younger Americans tend to be much more supportive of core woke ideas around systemic racism, need for diversity, embracing fluid gender identities, decolonization, etc.
- According to Pew Research in 2019, 59% of Gen Z believe increasing racial diversity is good for society, vs. just 29% of Silent Generation.
- A 2020 poll showed 18-34 year-olds were twice as worried about violence against transgender people compared to those 35 and up.
- 75% of Gen Z in a 2021 Vice youth survey rated climate change as a critical issue, aligning with woke environmental activism.
However, young people are not unanimously woke. Many chafe against political correctness norms, cancel culture and ideological conformity pressures. Dissatisfaction with how woke ideas manifest in practice, especially on college campuses, empowers anti-woke sentiments among youth.
Social Media Wars: Woke vs. Anti-Woke Online Forces
Social media has enabled both unprecedented spread of woke narratives, and backlash against them.
On one side, woke content dominates on mainstream platforms:
- Twitter frequently hosts viral threads on race, gender identity or canceling problematic public figures, often driving wider media coverage.
- Instagram is filled with infographics on intersectionality, privilege and allyship from activists and influencers.
- Facebook groups allow niche woke communities to flourish through shared experiences.
- YouTube creators, especially younger ones, embrace provocative woke politics in videos.
- Woke concepts like microaggressions spread rapidity on TikTok.
Countering this, anti-woke spaces thrive on alternative platforms like Substack, Rumble and Reddit:
- Substack newsletters rejecting wokeness reach huge audiences, some making millions of dollars.
- YouTube channels rebutting woke dogma are popular. However, algorithms make it harder to find them.
-Figures like Joe Rogan command massive anti-woke audiences on their podcasts.
- On forums like Reddit, anti-woke sentiments flourish away from the scrutiny of major platforms.
This online divide mirrors the broader cultural conflicts. Both sides feel their perspectives are being unfairly suppressed.
Key Thinkers on Each Side of the Debate
Although wokeness and anti-wokeness now span the political and cultural spectrum, certain thought leaders underpin each side's intellectual foundations.
Guiding woke ideology are thinkers like:
- Ta-Nehisi Coates, who eloquently examines the enduring impacts of racism on Black Americans.
- Judith Butler, pioneer of queer theory and views on gender as societal construct.
- Leading critical race theorists like Kimberlé Crenshaw and Ibram X. Kendi.
- Intersectional feminist scholars such as Bell Hooks.
- Activist writers like Roxane Gay defining modern social justice outlooks.
Critiquing wokeness from various angles are thinkers like:
- Jonathan Haidt, who warns of harms from ideological orthodoxy and lack of viewpoint diversity.
- Steven Pinker and John McWhorter, linguists documenting problems with campus protest culture and academic jargon inflation.
- Cultural conservatives like Roger Scruton defending tradition and gradual change.
- Centrists like Andrew Sullivan criticizing excesses of “woke capitalism.”
- Liberals like Bill Maher speaking against censorial aspects of woke culture.
- Evolutionary biologists arguing against blank slate views of human nature.
Understanding these thought leaders provides insights into the origins of this divide.
Celebrity Backlash for Anti-Woke Stances
Entertainers or public figures seen as insufficiently woke often face intense cultural scrutiny and calls for cancellation.
Controversies have involved:
- JK Rowling for comments deemed transphobic, leading to public shaming by fans and actors from her franchise.
- Joe Rogan's hugely popular podcast leaving Spotify after outrage over his anti-woke views and hosting controversial guests.
- Comedians like Dave Chappelle, Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher refusing to adhere to woke standards for comedy.
- Actors like Chris Pratt mocked on social media for not voicing woke political views or for his Christian faith.
- Musicians like Morrissey blasted for right-wing opinions.
- Authors like Don Winslow pressured for narrating audiobook by Mike Pence.
- Athletes like tennis star Martina Navratilova critiquing aspects of transgender participation in women's sports.
The severity of these controversies demonstrates the intense pressures in entertainment and culture to vocally embrace woke values, and punishment for deviating.
International Perspectives on Wokeness
While wokeness emerged from the American context, it has spread globally unevenly:
- Woke values are largely confined to educated Westernized elites in developing countries who studied in the West, without deeper roots.
- European countries are conflicted — woke ideals around diversity and progressivism align with their politics, but concerns about stifling speech are taken more seriously given their histories.
- China actively resists wokeness as a dangerous Western ideology eroding traditional social cohesion, instead tightening party controls and nationalism.
- Leaders like Hungary's Viktor Orban exploit anti-woke sentiments, presenting wokeness as a foreign imposition threatening Christian identity.
- Regions like Latin America with severe inequality seem unreceptive to some woke concepts like privilege or microaggressions.
- The smaller scale and differing demographics of other countries changes how race-focused woke discourse translates.
Globalization continues to spread woke and anti-woke thought across borders. Their ultimate reception is shaped by diverse social contexts.
Research and Data on Impacts of Wokeness/Anti-Wokeness
Studies provide mixed evidence on benefits versus harms of woke/anti-woke positions:
- Research shows concepts like white privilege and systemic racism did meaningfully shift attitudes, especially among white liberals.
- Studies find emphasizing oppressor guilt rather than enlightening unaware perpetrators often entrenches resistance to woke arguments.
- Evidence suggests woke tactics like public shaming frequently backfire, hardening opposition rather than changing minds.
- Studies show woke anti-racist trainings successfully change behaviors if designed non-confrontationally. More adversarial methods risk provoking defiance.
- Data indicates woke classroom practices like weighted grading based on privilege may negatively impact minority student performance, contradicting goals.
- Surveys show backlash against political correctness associated with wokeness was a key factor in Donald Trump’s 2016 win.
Overall the research underscores the complexity of how woke and anti-woke camps affect beliefs, conduct and polarization. Smarter communication of insights from wokeness shows promise.
Predictions for the Future of the Woke Divide
What comes next in the conflict between woke progressivism and its opponents? Here are some possibilities:
- Continued geographic sorting may accelerate, as liberal woke voters cluster in cities while anti-woke sentiments grow in rural areas. This risks tribalism and political conflict.
- Generational demographic shifts likely sustain woke cultural dominance, but anti-woke minority will find ways to thrive through alternative institutions.
- To win elections, Democrats may distance themselves from the most militant woke fringes while still embracing diversity.
- Social media platforms will exploit woke vs. anti-woke conflicts for engagement, while trying to placate advertisers with content moderation.
- Woke icons will persist in pop culture, but some newxsi-woke themes may emerge in backlash. More figures will avoid politics.
- Anti-woke backlash could thrive in developing world as Western wokeness is seen as neocolonialism.
- With woke capitalism established, companies may shift to appeal to anti-woke sentiments among consumers too.
- Academia will balance pressures for diversity with concerns about ideological conformity and free speech.
The path depends on whether society finds ways to heal divisions, or descends into mutual contempt between tribes. There are reasons for hope and concern. The stakes are profound.