Mommy, Look How Woke I Am: On Performative Wokeness

EQ: What does it mean to be “woke,” and how can wokeness be performative?

Guest: Amy Young, PhD, Associate Professor of Communication and Chair of the Communication and Theatre Department at Pacific Lutheran University and author of Prophets, Gurus, and Pundits: Rhetorical Styles and Public Engagement.  Guest on Nerd Farm Podcast, episode 5 “On Ignoring Calls for Civility.” Find her online: Facebook & Twitter (@Amy_Prof)

Amy brings the noise about political rhetoric and shares her insights on a variety of topics:

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  • Why she was drawn to rhetoric as a field and why it matters
  • The phenomenon of master’s theses and conference titles always including a colon
  • The fact that, when people want to talk about rhetoric (words, media, and timing), they don’t ask rhetoricians.  They ask political scientists or historians instead.
  • Donald Trump appealing only to his base using narrowly targeted rhetoric (and how some things are both authentic and unpalatable)
  • Political correctness getting a bad rap and how it actually serves to foster empathy or connection to audience.  Sometimes thinking about other people is a good idea.
  • Creepy Stephen Miller’s shark eyes and his distinctive lack of exchangeability in politics (could he work in any other administration? No).

Performing wokeness…

  • Appropriation--who gets to lay claim and perform that claim publicly--where’s the line? What’s the difference between being a fan (appreciating) and wearing a woke costume?  Using Black vernacular to construct a public identity when the target identity is marginalized or oppressed. Appropriators are afforded social capital in a way that those who constructed the culture it aren’t .
  • The tension between being clued-in and clueless.  Rachel Dolezal's calendar - 12 months of pictures of her. 

 

Greatest (and by “greatest” we mean the worst) examples…

Guilty Favesies:

  • Hope: Mangoes--manila, dried etc.  Delicious - they’re fruit, so they must be good for you.
  • Annie: cheap makeup. Crap for my skin, probably terrible for the environment. But I want a $2 e.l.f. eyeliner pencil and I won’t back down.
  • Amy: Mister, Mister

Do Your Fudging Homework:

  • Hope: Woke-check yourself.  Be reflective and authentic.
  • Annie: Go check out a list on Goodreads called “Popular Stay Woke Books.” Read all the books on the list, repeat as needed.  Notable titles include The New Jim Crow and Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire.
  • Amy: Amy’s making room in her intro classes to challenge her students by presenting rhetoric around diverse political views. Do the same in your profession (whatever it is).