We have all heard about the modern “woke mind virus” that is infecting the souls of young people. A disease that radicalizes folks into believing all sorts of preposterous things, like the existence of racial, gender and sexuality-based oppression. Well, dear reader, I must confess, I have a tragic case of wokeness, and I do not think I want to be cured.
I have had this affliction for a long time— as long as I could create my own opinions about the world around me. Indeed, as young as 12 years old, my peers would tell me I was no fun because I could not take a joke. After all, I find everything offensive (the jokes in question were lazy constructions of women belonging in the kitchen and other such nonsense, but I digress). Transitioning into high school, I denounced my social justice warrior past and tried to learn how to have fun with everyone else. To laugh at the jokes that everyone seems to find funny. The ones you hear not just from your peers but on social media and TV, the ones that are seemingly everywhere. The ones that have marginalized groups as the punchline. I just could not do it.
So now I write to you as someone proud to say that I am an intersectional feminist. I do struggle to laugh at jokes that rely on systems of patriarchy, homophobia, racism, or transphobia as a form of comedy. I continue to be informed that this is a flaw, one that people who spend time with me have to overlook to enjoy my presence. This trait, that should be suppressed in the face of comments that use oppression as a punchline unless the offence is grossly bigoted and not in good nature. Why?
What the hell is the difference between Quagmire from Family Guy using a plethora of tricks (including drugs) to lie, manipulate, and coerce women into his bed and Harvey Weinstein, the ex-Hollywood producer who is now serving time for sex crimes? The answer is: I am supposed to laugh at one but denounce the other. Few would argue that Weinstein is a disgusting, terrible person who has received his just desserts from the justice system. Still, if I try to criticize Quagmire, one of the most beloved characters in the Family Guy series, I am met with backlash. This is the standard that society created. You can be sexist. You can be a racist. You can be a homophobe. You can be a transphobe. You can be a rapist, for Christ’s sake! Just as long as it is a joke.
Standing against these jokes is not easy. Society comes up with different ways to demonize those who call out the dangerous forms of humour, such as feminazi, social justice warrior, woke, etc. It is because the current systems of oppression are critical to maintaining our current civil society. It becomes imperative for the system to find ways to maintain its unequal nature, so it puts the onus on the average person. If someone is busy laughing at inequality, they do not have time to complain or question how it can be different. It legitimates and maintains the oppressive power structure to make the system seem natural.
My message is this: continue to watch and listen to things that make you laugh. Enjoy them! We work too hard to give up laughter. But, if someone complains that a joke is offensive, or if you notice an underlying message to a punchline, sit with it. Do not brush it away, afraid that your laughter complicates you in oppression. Just take a second to reflect on it…maybe you, too, will soon suffer from wokeness.