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Created by: Team English - Examples.com, Last Updated: June 10, 2024


Woke” is a term that originally emerged from African American Vernacular English (AAVE) meaning ‘alert to racial prejudice and discrimination.’ Today, it broadly signifies awareness of social injustices and inequalities across various domains, including gender and sexual orientation. While initially a call to social justice, the term has also become politicized and controversial, often used in debates surrounding identity politics and cultural sensitivity.

What Does Woke Mean?

Woke” refers to being aware of social injustices, particularly regarding race, gender, and sexuality. Originating from African American Vernacular English, it emphasizes recognizing and combating discrimination. The term has gained both supportive and critical attention in public discourse.

Usage of Woke

Usage of Woke

The term “woke” has been widely adopted in various context, reflecting its evolution from a specific cultural reference to a broad, often politicized concept. Here’s how “woke” is used in different scenarios:

Social Media and Digital Communication

  • Hashtags and Campaigns: Used in hashtags on social media platforms to promote awareness about social and racial justice issues.
  • Online Discourse: Commonly appears in discussions about politics, culture, and identity on forums and comment sections.

Political and Social Commentary

  • Political Rhetoric: Politicians and activists use “woke” to either champion progressive causes or criticize what they see as excessive political correctness.
  • Media Analysis: Journalists and commentators often discuss the impact of ‘wokeness’ on entertainment, policies, and public life.

Education and Workplaces

  • Diversity Training: In corporate and educational settings, “woke” principles may influence diversity and inclusion training programs.
  • Policy Development: Institutions may integrate ‘woke’ concepts into their policies to address systemic inequalities and promote inclusivity.

Everyday Conversations

  • Cultural Discussions: People might use “woke” in personal discussions about books, movies, or events that tackle themes of social justice.
  • Personal Identity: Individuals may identify as “woke” to express their commitment to understanding and addressing various forms of oppression.

Woke Ideology

Woke ideology refers to a cultural and political understanding that emphasizes awareness and responsiveness to social inequalities and injustices, particularly those related to race, gender, and sexuality. Originating from the African American Vernacular English expression “stay woke,” the term has expanded to encapsulate a broader commitment to social justice. Here’s a breakdown of the key components of woke ideology:

Core Principles

  • Social Awareness: Advocates are highly attuned to the dynamics of oppression, discrimination, and privilege in society.
  • Inclusivity: There is a strong focus on promoting inclusivity across various social dimensions including race, gender, sexuality, and disability.
  • Activism: Engagement in direct action and advocacy to address and rectify social injustices is central.

Applications in Society

  • Education: Woke ideology often influences curricula to include more comprehensive histories and discussions about marginalized groups.
  • Corporate Policies: Many companies adopt diversity and inclusion initiatives to align with woke principles, seeking to create equitable workplaces.
  • Media Representation: There is a push for more diverse and accurate representation in media and entertainment, reflecting the real-world diversity of communities.

Criticism and Controversy

  • Overreach: Critics argue that woke ideology can lead to over-policing of speech and behavior, sometimes referred to as “cancel culture.”
  • Polarization: The term itself has become a flashpoint in cultural and political debates, often used pejoratively by opponents to suggest an excess of political correctness.

Impact on Culture

Woke ideology has undeniably shaped public discourse, influencing everything from political campaigns to everyday conversations. It challenges traditional narratives and norms, advocating for a society where equity and empathy guide social and political policies.

Woke Movement

The Woke Movement is a dynamic and evolving social movement rooted in activism that focuses on combating racial injustice and promoting awareness of various social inequalities. Emerging from African American communities, the term “woke” has broadened to encompass a global call for social justice, affecting numerous spheres of life.

Historical Context

  • Origins: The term “woke” gained prominence in the 20th century within African American communities as a call to be alert to racial oppression.
  • Evolution: It surged in usage during major civil rights campaigns and gained further momentum from the Black Lives Matter movement.

Key Focus Areas

  • Racial Justice: Addressing systemic racism and advocating for policies that ensure racial equality.
  • Gender Equality: Promoting equal rights and opportunities for all genders, challenging traditional gender roles and discrimination.
  • LGBTQ+ Rights: Supporting the rights and acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals, advocating for legal and societal recognition.
  • Economic Inequality: Tackling disparities in income and opportunities, advocating for fair economic practices.

Methods of Activism

  • Public Protests: Organizing marches and demonstrations to highlight issues and demand change.
  • Educational Campaigns: Spreading awareness through workshops, seminars, and social media to educate the public on various injustices.
  • Political Engagement: Influencing policy through lobbying, voter mobilization, and direct dialogue with policymakers.

Criticisms and Challenges

  • Polarization: The movement has been a point of contention, perceived by some as overly politically correct or intolerant of differing viewpoints.
  • Misinterpretation: The original intent of “woke” as a term of awareness has sometimes been overshadowed by its use in derogatory contexts.

Cultural Impact

  • Language: “Woke” has entered mainstream discourse, reflecting broader societal recognition of social justice issues.
  • Arts and Media: The movement has influenced the art, leading to more inclusive representation in movies, music, literature, and television.

Left vs. Right Take On Woke

AspectLeft Wing PerspectiveRight Wing Perspective
DefinitionEmphasizes awareness and proactive stance on social justice.Often views as an overreach of political correctness.
Social JusticeAdvocates for active engagement in social change.Views as potentially disruptive to traditional values.
Economic IssuesSupports systemic changes to promote economic equity.Concerned about potential impacts on free market principles.
Cultural ImpactCelebrates increased diversity and inclusivity in media and education.Often criticizes as eroding cultural norms and fostering division.
Freedom of SpeechSees woke culture as enhancing dialogue about marginalized communities.Argues that it imposes restrictions on free speech through social pressure.
Policy InfluenceSupports policies that enforce social equity.Views such policies as overregulation or favoritism.
Educational InfluenceAdvocates for curricula that reflect diverse histories and experiences.Sometimes perceives as indoctrination or neglect of traditional educational content.
Perception of ActivismViews activism as necessary for societal progress.Often sees activism as confrontational or unnecessarily provocative.

Examples of Woke Capitalism

Woke capitalism refers to when companies attempt to align themselves with progressive social values, often to enhance their branding and appeal to socially conscious consumers. Here are ten examples that illustrate this trend:

1. Diversity and Inclusion Training

  • Companies: Google, Starbucks
  • Actions: Implement comprehensive D&I training programs to foster an inclusive workplace environment.

2. Support for LGBTQ+ Rights

  • Companies: Nike, Target
  • Actions: Release pride-themed products and marketing campaigns, and publicly support LGBTQ+ rights.

3. Sustainable Products

  • Companies: Patagonia, IKEA
  • Actions: Develop and market products made from recycled materials or designed for minimal environmental impact.

4. Social Justice Pledges

  • Companies: Pepsi, Ben & Jerry’s
  • Actions: Make public commitments to various social justice initiatives and support community programs.

5. Ethical Sourcing

  • Companies: Starbucks, H&M
  • Actions: Implement policies to ensure ethically sourced materials and fair labor practices.

6. Corporate Activism

  • Companies: Ben & Jerry’s, Nike
  • Actions: Take stands on political issues such as racial justice and climate change through campaigns and spokesperson endorsements.

7. Environmentally Conscious Operations

  • Companies: Apple, Microsoft
  • Actions: Pledge to become carbon neutral and invest in renewable energy sources.

8. Inclusive Advertising

  • Companies: Dove, Gillette
  • Actions: Create ad campaigns that challenge traditional beauty standards and promote body positivity.

9. Employee Wellness Programs

  • Companies: Google, Zappos
  • Actions: Offer extensive employee wellness and mental health programs.

10. Charitable Contributions and Matching

  • Companies: Salesforce, Facebook
  • Actions: Match employee donations to charities and fund initiatives for social causes.

Examples of Woke in Politics

The term “woke” in politics is often used to describe progressive attitudes and policies that emphasize social justice and inclusivity. Here are several examples illustrating how “woke” influences political discourse and action:

1. Diversity in Political Representation

  • Political parties and movements pushing for more diverse candidates to reflect the demographics of the electorate, including more women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals in office.

2. Policies Supporting Racial Equality

  • Legislators advocating for police reform, criminal justice reform, and reparations as part of a broader agenda to address systemic racial injustices.

3. Gender and LGBTQ+ Rights

  • The introduction and support of legislation that protects LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination in the workplace, housing, and public accommodations.

4. Immigration Reform

  • Progressive politicians working on policies that aim for more humane treatment of immigrants and refugees, advocating for pathways to citizenship and opposing strict border policies.

5. Climate Change Activism

  • Political figures and parties that prioritize environmental issues, advocating for Green New Deals and other initiatives to combat climate change and promote sustainability.

6. Educational Curricula

  • Efforts to include more comprehensive historical perspectives in school curricula, such as the inclusion of Critical Race Theory or expanded civil rights education.

7. Healthcare Reform

  • Advocating for universal healthcare access, focusing on reducing disparities in health outcomes among different demographic groups.

8. Economic Equity

  • Policies aimed at reducing economic inequality, such as higher minimum wage laws, improved labor rights, and progressive taxation.

9. Corporate Accountability

  • Proposals for regulations that hold corporations accountable for environmental damage, labor violations, and monopolistic practices.

10. Voting Rights Expansion

  • Measures to make voting more accessible, such as automatic voter registration, mail-in voting, and extended early voting periods to ensure broader participation in the democratic process.

Examples of Woke Cancel Culture

“Woke cancel culture” refers to the practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures, companies, or products after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive by social justice advocates. Here are several instances that illustrate this phenomenon:

1. Celebrity Social Media Incidents

  • A celebrity might face backlash and calls for boycotts after making insensitive comments on social media. Fans and sponsors might withdraw their support, leading to lost endorsements or roles in projects.

2. Controversial Academic Statements

  • Professors or public speakers who make controversial statements about race, gender, or politics may face calls for their dismissal from positions or disinvitations from speaking engagements.

3. Brands and Advertising Campaigns

  • Companies that release advertisements perceived as culturally insensitive or inappropriate often face swift backlash on social media, leading to public apologies and retraction of the ads.

4. Politicians and Public Figures

  • Political figures who are found to have made past racist, sexist, or otherwise offensive remarks might face severe criticism, calls for resignation, and loss of voter support.

5. Books and Creative Works

  • Authors or creators who are criticized for their portrayal of certain groups or for including content considered offensive might see their works pulled from shelves, events canceled, or publications halted.

6. Historical Figures and Statues

  • Statues and memorials of historical figures associated with oppressive practices, such as colonialism or slavery, have been targeted for removal, often after intense public and political campaigns.

7. Television and Film

  • TV shows or movies may be boycotted or removed from platforms if they are found to contain racially insensitive content, or if actors involved are discovered to have made offensive comments.

8. Music and Performances

  • Musicians and performers might be dropped from record labels or lose concert bookings if they engage in behavior that is deemed contrary to woke values.

9. Social Media Influencers

  • Influencers can rapidly lose followers and sponsorships if they share content that offends these sensibilities, whether through inappropriate jokes, cultural appropriation, or misinformation.

10. Corporate Executives

  • Executives who fail to adequately address or who mishandle issues of workplace diversity and inclusivity may face pressure to resign or be fired by their boards.

Examples of Woke in Advertising

The incorporation of “woke” themes in advertising reflects a shift towards embracing and promoting social justice, diversity, and environmental responsibility. Here are ten examples that showcase how brands have utilized woke themes in their advertising campaigns:

1. Nike – Equality Campaign

  • Nike’s “Equality” campaign leveraged celebrity athletes to address racial inequality and encouraged viewers to take the fairness and respect they see in sports into their communities.

2. Dove – Real Beauty

  • Dove’s long-running “Real Beauty” campaign challenges traditional beauty standards by featuring women of all shapes, sizes, colors, and ages, promoting body positivity and self-confidence.

3. Ben & Jerry’s – Justice Remix’d

  • Ben & Jerry’s introduced a flavor called “Justice Remix’d” to highlight criminal justice reform, with part of the proceeds going towards related advocacy efforts.

4. Gillette – The Best Men Can Be

  • Gillette’s ad took on toxic masculinity, urging men to hold each other accountable and promote a new, modern standard for male behavior, sparking significant dialogue and controversy.

5. Patagonia – Environmental Activism

  • Patagonia’s focus on environmental conservation is evident in their ads, which often include calls to action to save protected lands and combat climate change, aligning with their corporate ethos.

6. Starbucks – Everyone Is Welcome

  • Following a racial profiling incident in one of their stores, Starbucks launched an ad campaign focused on inclusivity, emphasizing that “Everyone is welcome” at their locations.

7. Absolut – #LoveIsLove

  • Absolut Vodka celebrated LGBTQ+ rights with their #LoveIsLove campaign, featuring bright, rainbow-colored ads and special edition bottles to mark Pride month.

8. Airbnb – We Accept

  • Airbnb responded to rising xenophobia with their “We Accept” campaign, promoting acceptance and inclusivity across cultures and communities, reinforcing their policy against discrimination.

9. Microsoft – Inclusive Technology

  • Microsoft’s ads often highlight their commitment to accessibility, showcasing technology designed to empower people with disabilities, such as the adaptive controller for gaming.

10. Unilever – United We Stand

  • Unilever launched a campaign to combat domestic violence and promote gender equality, aligning with their broader goals for social responsibility.

Examples of Woke in Movies

The term “woke” in movies refers to films that address or embody progressive themes, such as social justice, diversity, inclusion, and advocacy for marginalized groups. Here are several examples of movies that exemplify these woke themes:

1. Get Out (2017)

  • Directed by Jordan Peele, this film combines horror with sharp social commentary on race relations in America, exploring themes of racial exploitation and systemic oppression.

2. Black Panther (2018)

  • A Marvel superhero film that celebrates African culture and features a predominantly Black cast and crew, “Black Panther” addresses themes of diaspora, heritage, and the responsibilities of power.

3. Moonlight (2016)

  • This Oscar-winning film tells the tender story of a young African-American man grappling with his identity and sexuality, set against the backdrop of a tough Miami neighborhood.

4. The Hate U Give (2018)

  • Adapted from a YA novel, this film tackles issues of police brutality and racial injustice through the eyes of a teenage girl who becomes an activist after witnessing the police shooting of her best friend.

5. Hidden Figures (2016)

  • This historical drama highlights the vital contributions of three African-American women mathematicians at NASA during the Space Race, showcasing their struggle against both racial and gender discrimination.

6. Sorry to Bother You (2018)

  • A dark comedy that critiques corporate exploitation and racial dynamics, this film uses surreal and bizarre elements to deliver its message about capitalism and race.

7. Parasite (2019)

  • This South Korean film by Bong Joon-ho blends black comedy and social thriller, dissecting class divide and social inequality in a tale that resonates globally.

8. Booksmart (2019)

  • This comedy challenges stereotypes about youth and gender, portraying two academically focused girls who decide to break the rules and party before graduation, exploring themes of friendship and identity.

9. Jojo Rabbit (2019)

  • A satirical take on World War II, this film tackles the absurdity of racism and extremism through the eyes of a young German boy whose worldview is challenged when he discovers his mother is hiding a Jewish girl.

10. Wonder Woman (2017)

  • One of the first superhero films to feature a female lead and director, “Wonder Woman” emphasizes themes of empowerment, peace, and the impact of war, promoting a strong feminist message.

Comedy Examples of Woke

In the realm of comedy, “woke” often refers to humor that is conscious of social justice issues, promoting inclusivity and challenging traditional norms without resorting to offensive stereotypes. Here are several examples of comedy that embody woke themes:

1. Brooklyn Nine-Nine

  • This TV series is celebrated for its diverse cast and thoughtful handling of issues like police brutality, LGBTQ+ rights, and racial profiling, all while maintaining a humorous and light-hearted tone.

2. The Good Place

  • A philosophical comedy that explores ethical questions and the concept of what it means to be a good person, set against the backdrop of an afterlife where characters must confront their past behaviors.

3. One Day at a Time

  • This reboot of a classic sitcom focuses on a Cuban-American family dealing with contemporary issues such as mental health, immigration, sexism, and LGBTQ+ identity, delivering its messages with warmth and humor.

4. Dear White People

  • A satirical series that delves into issues of race, identity, and social justice at a predominantly white Ivy League college, exploring complex themes through a comedic lens.

5. BoJack Horseman

  • While primarily a dark comedy, this animated series addresses themes of depression, addiction, and Hollywood’s cultural problems, including sexism and racism, through the lives of anthropomorphic characters.

6. Superstore

  • Set in a large retail store, this sitcom uses humor to address worker exploitation, immigration, corporate greed, and the everyday struggles of its diverse staff.

7. Master of None

  • Created by Aziz Ansari, this series explores personal and professional life with episodes that specifically tackle issues like religion, immigration, and the dating scene through the lens of a second-generation Indian American.

8. Parks and Recreation

  • Known for its quirky characters and optimistic tone, this series also touches on feminist themes, government roles, and community activism, all wrapped in humor.

9. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

  • This musical comedy-drama series breaks down mental health stigma, explores female sexuality and relationships, and challenges societal expectations with humor and heart.

10. The Big Sick

  • Based on a true story, this film humorously explores cultural clashes, interracial relationships, and life as a second-generation Pakistani in America, alongside themes of illness and family expectations.

Examples of Woke in Sentences

Here are several examples of how the term “woke” can be used in sentences, illustrating its various applications and the contexts in which it might appear:

  1. Social Awareness: “She’s really woke about environmental issues, always sharing the latest news on climate activism and sustainable practices.”
  2. Cultural Reference: “After watching the documentary, he became woke to the systemic injustices that many communities face daily.”
  3. Critique: “Critics argue that his brand of woke comedy sometimes borders on preachy rather than entertaining.”
  4. Self-Identification: “I consider myself woke because I actively educate myself on issues of social and racial inequality.”
  5. Political Discourse: “The politician’s woke rhetoric resonates with young voters who prioritize social justice in their civic engagement.”
  6. Corporate Strategy: “The company’s latest ad campaign is a bit too woke for some traditional customers, featuring bold statements on social reform.”
  7. Educational Context: “Universities are increasingly striving to create woke curricula that reflect a broader spectrum of historical perspectives and narratives.”
  8. Media Criticism: “The film has been praised for its woke approach to traditional genres, breaking stereotypes and introducing diverse characters.”
  9. Skeptical Usage: “Some people are skeptical of woke culture, viewing it as a trend that prioritizes political correctness over practical solutions.”
  10. Community Involvement: “Her woke activism includes organizing community workshops that focus on teaching local businesses about inclusivity and equity.”

What does “woke” mean?

“Woke” refers to an awareness of social injustices, especially regarding race, gender, and sexual orientation.

How did “woke” originate?

“Woke” originated from African American Vernacular English, signifying alertness to racial prejudice and discrimination.

What is woke culture?

Woke culture emphasizes social awareness and activism against inequalities and systemic injustice.

Why is “woke” controversial?

“Woke” is controversial for perceived overemphasis on political correctness and identity politics.

How is “woke” used in politics?

In politics, “woke” describes progressive stances on social justice and equality issues.

What is woke capitalism?

Woke capitalism involves companies adopting progressive social justice stances for branding and marketing.

What is the Urban Definition of Woke?

The urban definition of “woke” is being aware of and actively attentive to important societal issues, especially those related to racial and social justice.

What is Another Word for being Woke?

Another word for being “woke” is “aware.” Other synonyms include “conscious,” “alert,” “enlightened,” and “informed,” all conveying a sense of being knowledgeable about and responsive to social injustices.

What is the Slang Term Woke Mean?

The slang term “woke” means being aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues, especially regarding social justice and equality.

Can “woke” be considered pejorative?

Yes, “woke” is sometimes used pejoratively to criticize excessive political correctness or performative activism.

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