This is essentially a prototype – originally posted on Patreon ages ago – of WFRLL: Woke Points For What. It’s definitely a bit… spicier than that article. I fixed some spelling errors and comma placement but for the most part, this is the article posted on Patreon… whenever I posted it on Patreon.
Right about now, in fandom spaces, “fake woke” has all but replaced the GamerGator popularized “virtue signaling” when people want to get mad about the fact that some of us care about the delicate challenge posed by trying to get positive representation for marginalized people in fandom and media.
The second that I see someone call someone else “fake woke” or accuse them of being interested in talking about or unpacking social justice in order to get some sort of social credit – via “woke points” (courtesy of the Reylo fandom who keeps using that specific phrase to discredit anyone that’s even vaguely critical of their ship) or “virtue signaling” or even the good ole fashioned “ally cookie” – I know to be wary.
Because what they claim is “just” a marginalized person or an ally out to ruin their fun to get cred with their own social group tends to be… a person trying to balance their experiences and identity with the fact that fandom has probably been pretty unwelcoming for them/those identities.
What even does “fake woke” mean in this new fannish context?
Are y’all saying that they’re actually faking that they care about stuff… because they’re getting something out of it? Something tangible like… a reward? That doesn’t even make sense.
Why is it that this is fandom’s new go-to?
Instead of assuming that social justice in fandom is coming from people of that identity with experience in what they’re talking about or who are just getting into the hang of the language and might be accidentally using improper language… Y’all go for the worst possible explanation: that they must be someone talking critically about fandom or media for nefarious reasons. For financial reasons.
Why rush to that conclusion about your fellow fans?
Even if – though – I’m certain that performative wokeness (which is literally the actual term y’all wish you were using properly) is a thing in fandom, there are a couple things wrong with assuming that everyone is doing it too:
First, the majority of the people pretending to care about social issues are the very ones pretending they care about “real woke” people and straying way out of their lane to insult people of color who get critical in fandom (one example of this, I’ve seen).
Second, what’s the point of calling someone “fake woke”? What do you gain by lobbing an unsupported claim – seriously, how the heck do you even support that with any proof – willy nilly any time someone says something critical about a thing you like?
Third, do y’all realize that… calling marginalized people (i.e., black women, abuse survivors, assault survivors, mentally ill people) “fake woke” every time they disagree with what you/other similarly marginalized people think about something you like in fandom is not a good look?
One recent example of accusing folks of being “fake woke” comes courtesy of a member of the Reylo fandom who seems to think that young adult authors making comments about how Kylo Ren is a fascist and a creep are Not Allowed.
If you’ve been offline or outside of fandom for a few days, you might not know that some Reylo shippers and Kylo Ren stans have taken a worryingly… Gater-esque approach to engaging with creators that disagree with them that include swearing not to buy an (at the time) upcoming Padme Anidala book from EK Johnston, combing through her tumblr and twitter posts for ammo, and wishing for her to get fired.
While I’m going to dig into all of that nonsense around EK Johnston’s comments on Kylo in a later post, I want to look briefly at this screenshot by an incensed Reylo shipper that manages to exemplify my issues with how folks in fandom have started using “fake woke” as shorthand to deride people that don’t agree with them regardless of tone or context.
already didn’t like johnston but now we can officially add her to the list of “authors with abysmal faux woke takes on kylo ren” along with jemisin, valente and aveyard
In the above screenshot, the shipper accuses EK Johnston and several other young adult and/or fantasy authors who aren’t worshiping at the altar of Ben Solo of being “faux woke”. As far as I can tell from going through these women’s tweets, they’re all relatively impressed with Adam Driver’s acting as Kylo Ren but… not a fan of the character he plays or the potential for an unearned redemption.
How exactly is that fake woke?
How is calling a fictional fascist and murderer what he is or pointing out that he doesn’t deserve a redemption arc (something he doesn’t even want in the first place) anything other than telling the truth?
Where do you get off calling someone “fake woke” for stating facts or talking about media as it relates to their experiences as women or creators? Writing off other people – other marginalized people at that – for being “fake woke” because they’re pointing out the obvious (yes, Kylo Ren being a creepy fictional fascist is obvious) is wrong and honestly… a sign that you’re not approaching the situation in good faith.
The nerve of some people.
If you think someone’s doing social justice for woke points… what does that even mean? What are woke points getting us? Because talking about racism in fandom has so far mainly just made my anxiety worse…
At the end of the day, if your only use of social justice praxis in fandom is to be disingenuous and use it to silence people talking about their experiences or being decent allies, of course you’re going to think that other people using social justice language in fandom are faking it to get attention or to earn some social capital because again: that’s probably what you’re doing.