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BREAKING: The Left Doesn’t Think We Can Define “WOKE.” So What Is It?



Lately lefties and mainstream media have accused conservatives of hating “woke” culture but not being able to define what “woke” even means. Unlike the left which cannot even define basic words representing certain science such as “woman” conservatives actually do know what the words they use mean. 

“Woke” has an interesting history because it’s actually an appropriation of a leftist term used by elder generation z or younger millennials several years ago. The word is derived from “awoke” or “awaken” and is used comparably to the Christian phraseology “reborn.” Though it has been used since the 1960s, it came back into popularity in 2008 through the Erykah Badu song and then really came back with gusto around 2016/2017. The idea in the early leftist iterations of the word was that those who were “woke” subscribe to allowable progressive values which they hold as objective truths. They often used the phrase “get woke” to encourage epiphany-like changes of mind toward the subscription of their collective progressive beliefs. At the time, “woke” was heavily, but not exclusively, utilized in the context of racial politics. In fact, in 2020 there was a series on Hulu starring the wonderful Keith Knight (New Girl) called Woke which was about an animator and comedian who “wakes up” (gets woke) to realize that everyone really is racist and he should be mad about it (I swear that was the plot I actually did watch the first episode). 

Conservatives began appropriating “woke” as an insult shortly after its popularity reached a peak with the left, sometime around 2020. The meaning remains essentially the same. Someone or something that is accused of being “woke” by a conservative is someone or something that blindly and illogically subscribes to allowable progressive values which they hold as objective truths. Conservative weaponized the phrase to point out the illogical, ever changing nature of the set of values progressives deem as objective truths which are required by all to subscribe in order to be considered an acceptable member of society. They also added the barbed edge to the word that indicates it represents blind, cultish behavior. 

Examples of “woke” values are ever changing but pretty easy to spot. It would be something progressives are blindly and aggressively championing where any divergence from their belief system, even without action,  is considered not only socially improper but often “dangerous” or “violent” or other than clean and safe. The examples of 2020 are not the same as examples in 2023 which is at the core of conservative criticism. In 2020, the belief that we must “defund the police” or that police were inherently a tool of oppression for black people was the only belief that was considered “woke” and any divergence from that belief was considered racist. Since that time the progressive pack has moved on quite a bit from that issue and though it lingers some the focus has been on the restriction of carbon emissions and the promotion of the gay community and specifically transgendered individuals in all situations and in all circumstances and definitely at all costs no matter who must sacrifice. 

“Woke” is one of the more popular and effective criticisms from the right for two reasons. Firstly, it shortens an otherwise fairly complex concept as described above. It’s difficult to combat groupthink, censorship, and thought control when one has to rely on lengthy ideological recriminations. “Woke” is easy to understand, easy to say, and easy to use in a short-form tweet. Secondly, it is stolen from the left’s own vernacular. Conservatives did not invent the word “woke” and they did not change its meaning. The left knows exactly what we mean when we call them and their ideas “woke” because they invented the term and popularized it sometime around 2017 (the dictionary actually added it as a word at this point in time and the definition is as woke as the true meaning). 

Ultimately, the left is currently pretending that conservatives do not know what “woke” means because they’re either embarrassed at how easily their word was taken from them and weaponized or they have forgotten that they invented and defined the word themselves many years ago. And while it is not absurd to be able to on-the-spot clearly define a word which is based in undeniable science and has only one clear meaning (such as the word “woman”) it is a little absurd to demand on-the-spot definitions of a word that encapsulates a relatively complex ideological concept. Comparing “woman” to “woke” is like comparing “apple” to “libertarian.” 

But certainly, those wielding the word as an insult know exactly what it means and exactly what it looks like.