Dear Teen Vogue: Stop sexualizing our children
A Teen Vogue article from October has re-surfaced online in the last couple of days.
The headline “10 Best Vibrators for Beginners: How to Pick Your First” has made jaws drop—including mine.
The word “woke” has been bandied around in progressive circles since the early 2010s. Ironically, “woke” has become a pejorative term used to denigrate those who signal their virtue without doing much to advance any progressive cause. Woke individuals are, as the rule (that I just invented) goes, more concerned with making themselves look good and using their platform (or building a platform) to abuse others under the guise of combating social injustice.
None of this has, of course, gone unnoticed by the woke progressives who use the term without any sense of irony whatsoever. In an op-ed for the Guardian, writer Steve Rose opines that the word “woke” has been “weaponized by the right.” But whose fault is that, exactly? It’s certainly not the fault of those tired of being moralized and lectured to that they might repurpose the term to mock those who engage in cancel campaigns against any celebrity or public figure guilty of perceived unwokeness.
Citing the Merriam-Webster, Rose says that the term “woke” refers to anyone “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).” And much like the term “political correctness,” the term has come to mean the opposite of what it means—or so he claims.
But is that truly the case? Those who elevate themselves through wokeness have little interest in combating social injustices and simply use it as a shield for their own bigotry, and to shut down dissenting opinions. Their wokeness, if it exists at all, is performative.
This isn’t to say that one can simply go about spouting racist, anti-Semitic, or otherwise bigoted remarks without pushback from any decent and reasonable person. Decent and reasonable people don’t care about being “woke.” “Woke” individuals, as it were, cultivate their entire personalities around the fight for social justice without much to show for it besides preening at everyone else on Twitter.
Wokeness has become a social status symbol more than anything else, and the “Right,” or the “unwoke,” or whatever you want to call us continue to be reasonable people while rubbing our lack of wokeness in the face of those who rally around the hollow symbol.
Case in point: Guardian writer, Steve Rose, attacks actor Laurence Fox for—you guessed it, unwokeness. He writes:
“Laurence Fox nailed his colours to the latter mast this weekend, doubling down on his defence of the privileged white male on last week’s Question Time to a Sunday Times article under the banner ‘Why I won’t date ‘woke’ women’. Toby Young piled in, applauding how Fox was ‘terrorising the Wokerati’, while the Sun last weekend branded Harry and Meghan ‘the oppressive King and Queen of Woke’.”
Rose argues that rather than simply rejecting the concept of wokeness, detractors of the term, like Fox, only criticize wokeness as “way of claiming victim status for yourself rather than acknowledging that more deserving others hold that status. It has gone from a virtue signal to dog whistle.”
On the contrary, any individual who makes claims to wokeness isn’t so much of a victim as they are a participant in the race for social status. Being unwoke doesn’t give you an entry pass into a separate league of oppression.
Laurence Fox has been outspoken in his lack of wokeness, simply speaking his mind and saying it like it is with no regard for how supposedly offensive it is to not be mindful to those who hold wokeness up as a virtue in and of itself. He isn’t claiming to be a victim—like any decent and reasonable person, he’s rejecting victimhood entirely. And it’s working.
We live in a politically correct, “woke” time and it doesn’t seem like anyone will let us forget it—not even for a split second, not even for just enough time for us to enjoy our morning cup of coffee.
Douwe Egberts Belgium is a coffee company who just joined the Team Woke.
More and more, companies don’t try to sell us their brand, quality or even their product, but instead they sell us on their “wokeness.”
A recent ad for the coffee shows two young teenagers, one clearly a girl and the other in a hoodie so you can’t discern their gender, kissing on the couch who then get interrupted by the girl’s dad. They run upstairs but the daughter stops to give her father a dirty look.
An obvious, “I hate you. You’ve ruined my life,” teenage-girl look.
Then the dad makes coffee and the two teenagers come down to share a cup. The hooded teen is revealed to be a girl. They all sit around smiling and laughing—with tones of acceptance and growth, which is exactly what you want from your coffee.
The ad ends with the father putting his daughter’s glasses back on her face and smiling. The glasses that the girlfriend took off her earlier while making out on the couch.
Yes, a very wholesome moment, and don’t get me wrong, I’m glad this hypothetical dad accepts his hypothetical daughter. That’s the way it should be.
Belgium was even ranked the second-best country in Europe to live for LGBT people, according to Rainbow Europe poll. Belgians already seem to be plenty accepting.
This ad has already been seen over 12 million times on Twitter and has some users in tears.
The 2019 Brussels Pride Parade had around 100,000 marchers. It’s clear Belgians—and most sane people—aren’t homophobic today, so why are these types of commercials pretending we are?
The ad also reminds me of a recent Sprite ad that you needed to watch twice before noticing the Spite logo. The ad showed LGBT members getting ready for the Pride Parade and their family members smiling and accepting them.
Because again, that’s what you need from your drink choice.
Movies, television and branding have become a competition of who is more woke rather than convincing us to consume their products. Everything out there has to have a political message or statement.
The quality of the product doesn’t matter anymore as long as you’re scoring points with the woke crowd.
Pandering to a rather small portion of the population may not seem like the most business-savvy but they may also overlap with another crowd. The cancel culture crowd.
So even though, Dali Research finds that only about 6 percent of people identify as LGBT in all of Europe, companies choose to target a rather small demographic.
Why go after such a small group? Possibly the fear of the backlash of the outrage culture.
It’s possible companies and business think their public relations will go more smoothly if they go with the trends—even if that means ignoring the larger population.
They’re taking the easy way through—pandering and bending the knee for a small but very loud and demanding group. Woke people are hard to please. You can never be woke enough.
For regular people who don’t discriminate based on sexual orientation, it gets tiring for them to be constantly lectured about something they already agree with.
You see, us unwoke people, who want our ads to be about the products and our commercials to be selling us something without a moral lesson or a guilt trip attached—we see right through the cynical pandering.
A miracle is happening. 2020 might go down as the year that woke culture died. Numerous celebrities emerged in the final inning of 2019 to fly the flag of common sense. Ricky Gervais, Dave Chappelle, Louis CK, Sarah Silverman, and JK Rowling found support among the masses, and now we can add the great novelist Stephen King to that list.
Explaining his Oscar-nomination votes, King tweeted: “As a writer, I am allowed to nominate in just 3 categories: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Screenplay. For me, the diversity issue—as it applies to individual actors and directors, anyway—did not come up. That said, I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.”
A powerful figure like Stephen King expressing this universal truth about art and artists is a game-changer. King’s statement is in direct contrast to comedian Issa Rae, who quipped “congratulations to those men,” after announcing the all-male noms in the best director category.
Art matters more than the artists: it places beauty over identity. We ended up in this mess because identity politics has been grafted over everything we do. We began to regress as a culture when we rejected the notion of separating the art from the artist. We lost our way when we placed platitudes above originality and competence. We came to believe that it doesn’t matter if a song, painting, or film is great, but whether the work of art was produced by a non-binary, latinx, disabled activist.
The idea was that diversity itself was its own reward, overshadowing objective considerations like merit, technical skill, or quality. In order to elevate diversity over other considerations, objectivity was relabeled as prejudiced in and of itself. Through the perpetuation of the concept of unconscious bias, there was no way a person could make an objective judgement about a piece of art without first questioning whether their view was inherently racist, ableist, homophobic, misogynistic, or bias.
This left us afraid of our own judgements, not only to express them, but to make them at all. Replies to King’s comment called his view “white supremacist,” because that’s where we have landed: a white man’s objective view is considered racist if he chooses the work of white men over women’s work, or the work of other races and ethnicities. The assumption is that, whether intentionally or not, he’s racist.
We started rewarding artists for what they are instead of what they do, and artists responded by creating boring work about identity instead of work truly from their heart. That’s how we ended up with so much truly mediocre content and artists who place more value in their identity and diversity virtue than truth, beauty, and honesty. There is no magic answer that will a) eliminate all prejudice and b) ensure that the objective best always comes out on top. We have to be open-minded when making judgements, consider multiple perspectives, and make a decision given all the factors.
A tragic irony of identity politics is how it has led to instant dehumanization and erasure of those who are perceived to be the wrong kind of people. Yesterday, actor Vince Vaughn suffered a potentially major blow to his career simply because he was spotted talking to the American president. That’s all. We have no idea what he said. Just a Twitter clip of a smile, some banter and a handshake, and his career is in jeopardy. Maybe the wokesters would have preferred if Vaughn was rude, or punched him or something.
Perhaps King has taken note of how the woke world treats people like shit while claiming to be empathetic and forward-thinking, or has noticed that great art and decent people have been consistently smeared as “hateful” or “white supremacist” in the name of progress.
The recent fake controversy over the movie Joker exemplifies this. For months, media fretted over the film’s perceived message of “white supremacy,” worried that movie theatres across the nation would be shot up by crazed incels. It didn’t happen, and Joker leads all movies with Oscar eleven nominations– unless all Oscar voters are white supremacists.
Ricky Gervais was threatened with being banned from hosting The Golden Globes, after being deemed hateful and transphobic for Twitter comments. The Globes didn’t cave, valuing ratings over woke points, and the result was perhaps the most hilarious hosting gig of all time. This is what happens when you don’t capitulate. You win. Everyone wins.
Stephen King’s vital endorsement of art for art’s sake will make waves and change minds. Like Gervais and JK Rowling, he’s too big to fail. We should be grateful that he spoke up, and let it give others courage to speak their mind, too. Woke culture has a stranglehold on our media, culture, and corporations, but as the revenues plummet, the boring work goes unrewarded, and the public begins to wake from wokeness, things are beginning to change. Woke culture is losing. Let’s finish it off.
Terry Gilliam has a new movie coming out. But he doesn’t want to talk about art in his latest interview with Alexandra Pollard in The Independent, he wants to talk about how crazy culture has become. The fact that Gilliam’s film is about Cervantes’ Don Quixote, a man who believes in his own rightness, despite the entirety of society telling him he is wrong, is pretty timely. In his later career, with heaps of successes and failures at his feet, Gilliam has a breadth of understanding about how a culture that used to skewer itself for laughs has landed in a place where nothing is funny, and ambition is mocked.
“I understand that men have had more power longer, but I’m tired, as a white male, of being blamed for everything that is wrong with the world,” Gilliam told Pollard. “I didn’t do it!” Pollard tried to school him on the idea of white privilege, that while he might not be to blame personally, the historically racist underpinnings of society mean that he should bear an awareness and responsibility for the unfairness of his success.
Of course, Gilliam has failed, countless times. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote has been in the works since 2000. It has hit snag after snag. That it was made at all speaks to Gilliam’s refusal to let the project die. And not all of his films have been big hits. A few have even flopped. But he keeps picking himself up and giving it another go.
If Gilliam were asked to take a step back, to curb his ambition and artistic drive simply so someone else could have a chance in his stead, he would guffaw. For Gilliam, that’s just not how things work, and it shouldn’t be.
Gilliam tells Pollard “We’re living in a time where there’s always somebody responsible for your failures, and I don’t like this. I want people to take responsibility and not just constantly point a finger at somebody else, saying, ‘You’ve ruined my life.’” On Weinstein, he says that “when you have power, you don’t take responsibility for abusing others. You enjoy the power. That’s the way it works in reality.” Weinstein wasn’t a monster on his own, he was able to use his power to get what he wanted because people wanted access to that power.
There were plenty of others who got caught up in the mob’s wrath and need for vengeance. “Yeah, I said #MeToo is a witch hunt,” Gilliam replied when Pollard brought it up. “I really feel there were a lot of people, decent people, or mildly irritating people, who were getting hammered. That’s wrong. I don’t like mob mentality. These were ambitious adults.”
As a culture, we might want the objective best to win out, or for each sex, every race, ethnicity, creed, gender identity, and sexual orientation to be represented equally in every field at all times, but Gilliam posits that ambition doesn’t work that way and that it shouldn’t. In the push for inclusivity, we have dispensed with the idea of “objective good,” in favour of something more about moral rightness based upon inclusion of identity factors.
Attitudes like those from U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team captain Megan Rapinoe are what Gilliam is speaking against. As she prepared to be honoured as the Sports Illustrated person of the year, she was asked about the 2018 stats that showed 21% of men are afraid to hire women in the current climate, she called bullsh*t.
“Well, women are afraid to be raped, sexually assaulted, sexually harassed, kept out of jobs, fired from jobs, moved laterally their entire career,” she said. “If you have some sort of platform you can support that way… You don’t have to get involved in a million charities. You can literally just re-tweet stuff. You can speak up and show support that way.”
Of course, we know that social media activism is hollow, as President Obama told us, something of a meaningless gesture that reflects more on the intent to show virtue than on securing meaningful change. While #MeToo has raised some awareness about workplace harassment, it has also destroyed men’s careers. #MeToo is not strictly an altruistic movement– and why would it be? Hardly anything is. It has been used to restructure power hierarchies. Only instead of the traditionally capitalistic power tools like money and profit, it uses emotional manipulation and the valour of victimhood to achieve its aims.
A man whose career was founded on pushing the envelope as part of Monty Python, the 79-year-old filmmaker cannot abide our incessant outrage culture and the demise of personal responsibility. He blames only himself for his failures, and while Pollard seemed consistently appalled by his remarks, Gilliam is not wrong.