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What are your thoughts on ‘woke culture’?

I was contemplating this the other day, following something my other half said about an advertisement for an upcoming TV programme

Diane Hall


Canceled - red neon light word on brick wall background

I was contemplating this the other day, following something my other half said about an advertisement for an upcoming TV programme.

The gist of the blurb for said show, displayed above an image of the male lead, said something along the lines of: ‘Detective McDetectiveFace returns to his hometown with his husband for the case of his career…’

My husband wondered why the programme-makers were making a point of the male detective’s husband coming with him when he (fictionally) relocated. Not that he thought their fictional relationship was wrong, he was making the point that, had the detective been (fictionally) married to a woman, the blurb wouldn’t have mentioned her. It would have just said, ‘Detective McDetectiveFace returns to his hometown for the case of his career’.

The commitment from commercial brands and the media to be diverse is sometimes palpable. Whereas a few generations ago we wouldn’t have seen people of different races on our screens, that’s definitely not the case today. Minorities are also better represented—and quite rightly too. However, wouldn’t it be better if these things happened without a fanfare? So what if there are gay character in a TV detective show, why is this newsworthy or something that has to be pointed out—doesn’t that defeat the object of inclusivity?

My parents recently described a paint colour that would definitely be deemed offensive today. They were puzzled at my shock, as it was a term they’d grown up with and which was commonly used when they were younger. We live in a different world today, however, and I wonder if the people who are pulled up on their terminology today are simply of a different time. The younger generation may not be any more woke than I was when my parents innocently used that outdated term; what is acceptable to do/say/see in 2021 may not be so in the next generation. 

It’s not a case of being professionally offended or a snowflake, it’s more about the younger generation not accepting attitudes and terms that don’t fit in with the world as it stands now. It’s highly likely that, when these youngsters are middle-aged, their children will object to things they think are perfectly acceptable.

Rose Ayling-Ellis

Let’s take the example of Strictly Come Dancing. This year, their line-up includes someone who is deaf. The response that Rose Ayling-Ellis has received has been phenomenal. Whilst Strictly has featured celebrities with disabilities before, Rose is the first from the deaf community. Understanding how she learns her dance routines when she can’t hear the music is both heart-warming and educational, and I’m always in awe of what she delivers each week. According to statistics, around 11 million people are deaf or hard of hearing; Rose is an absolutely fantastic ambassador but there’s no wonder this ‘minority’ (if you can call 11 million people a minority) feels under-represented if she’s the only deaf person on mainstream TV. By my maths, the deaf and the hard of the hearing make up 16% of the population, so why are 16% of all the actors and actresses on TV not from this community, rather than just the token one or two?

I realise that I’m probably simplifying the issue here. Using that example, however, is Strictly being woke to include Rose, or are they finally becoming aware of an issue that affects a significant portion of the UK?

Woke culture is seen as a negative by older generations, but I don’t see that what it achieves is any different to previous generations, who would have also been shown how society adapts, updates and changes over time.

Tick box made out of wood with a green tick

Tick box made out of wood with a green tick

Being more accepting and inclusive is something we should all try and do every day in society. It shouldn’t need announcing (Detective McDetectiveFace, I’m looking at you). And if some people want to educate others on why something is today deemed as offensive when it wouldn’t have been a generation ago, this should be celebrated rather than scorned.

On the flipside, we shouldn’t use ignorance as an excuse to go on a witch hunt—the so-called ‘cancel culture’. No one would have laughed at you when you were a young child learning your alphabet, they would have simply accepted that you had something to learn. This common-sense approach should be applied when a company or individual slips up—it could be that they don’t know any better. And even if they do, if it wasn’t said with malicious intent, forgive them their mistake rather than set out to destroy their lives.

The overarching point is, whether young, old, gay or straight, disabled or able-bodied, we’re all human, and humans can make mistakes. We also learn from the moment we’re born until the day we die—age does not alone define the extent of someone’s knowledge.

Just as older generations educate the young, the reverse can also be true. And, therefore, we’ve probably all been ‘woke’ at one time or another in someone’s eyes.

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