But I did try to read it thoughtfully, so as not to over-simplify the valid concerns and arguments of people on the left. A caricature shouldn’t be taken as the real thing, and there are thoughtful individuals on both sides willing to engage across the aisle.
I have been anxiously awaiting the release of Titiana McGrath’s new book Woke. I stumbled upon McGrath’s Twitter account when someone happened to like or retweet something so outrageous, I knew it had to be complete satire. The funny thing is, on a fairly regular basis someone will take her completely seriously and try to argue back with amusing results. I have been following her ever since.
Titiana’s Twitter profile identifies her as an Activist. Healer. Radical intersectionalist poet. Selfless and brave. Her book is punctuated with examples of her feminist slam poetry, with titles like How to Prod a Shepherd, A Vegan’s Lament, and Brexit: A Haiku. She advocates for everything for the complete abolishment of marriage to ecosexuality (having sex with trees) to the genocide of all men. She tries to explain that one away (citing the fact that her publisher wouldn’t accept the manuscript if she literally called for it), but she doesn’t completely side-step the idea:
I am not a fan of murder. In many cases it is considered illegal, and personally speaking, on balance, I think it is generally a bad thing. It’s right up there with mansplaining and the government’s tax on tampons. So when I suggest that we should “kill all men”, I am not talking about murdering as such. I am talking about modifying our society such that, over a period of time, the very existence of males will be consigned to the history books.
And while some of her ideas sound beyond far-fetched, the real scary thing is that there are actually people out there that share some of these views. She peppers her book with quotes from real-live activists and social justice warriors. The genocide of all man had it own hashtag (#KillAllMen), and the chapter (titled Androcaust) begins with a quote from the feminist activist Sally Miller Gearhart:
The proportion of men must be reduced to and maintained at approximately 10% of the human race.
A different kind of Left
An interesting theme throughout the book is Titiana’s outright repudiation of facts. She directly flips the famed quote from Ben Shapiro on its head:
The conservative braodcaster Ben Shapiro (whose opinions are always wrong) bases much of what he believes on facts, which just goes to show how useless they are. ‘Facts don’t care about your feelings,’ he is known to say. The opposite is true. Feelings don’t care about your facts. This is how social justice works. If you feel something is true, then it is true.
One she doesn’t touch on, but could easily fit in right here, is Jordan Peterson’s accusations against post-modernists. Titiana does give a brief summary of the theory behind post-modern thought as:
Language is the basis of reality. Nothing is authentically true beyond the discourse through which it is conveyed. This is why there were no homosexuals before the word was coined in 1868, no alcoholics before the first diagnosis in 1849, no Galapogos tortoises before they were discovered in 1535, and no electricity before it was invented in 1879.
This new unshaky ground feels like an entirely new creature of the left. Traditional liberalism founded on Enlightenment principles challenged existing institutions, the progress of science slowly tearing away society’s underlying assumptions, used to be what I thought constituted a “liberal” in the American use of the word. But this new brand of the Left is decidedly illiberal and does not cite science as evidence of its ideology at all.
A new kind of original sin
This new Left is decidedly moralistic in tone. The title of her book, Woke, invokes a new kind of awakening with religious overtones, a call to action from an awakened conscience. It has its own form of original sin that can be tidily contained to straight white cis males:
Males are intrinsically aggressive creatures; in any difficult situation, their first instinct is to resort to violence. How many times have you seen a man kick a garden gnome in frustration or throw boulders at a passing owl?… Even those males who resist their base compulsions and manage to stay within the law are merely thugs in waiting.
While victims are pure and free from any wrong-doing. This is decidedly different from the traditional Rousseauian conception of human nature, that humans are inherently good if you only throw of the chains that tradition and society have imposed.
The world portrayed by Titiana is frightening, but Titiana doesn’t think so. In one passage, she references dystopian novels, and how they’re not atually that bad:
As you try to change the world, you must prepare yourself for the predictable sneering from the ignorant and unwoke… They will brand your views as ‘Orwellian.’ For this reason, it’s a good idea to prepare yourself by studying George Orwell’s most famous novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. I recently read it for the first time, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the society depicted therein isn’t quite the terrifying dystopia that everyone claims. There are some very sensible ideas in there, actually.
It reminded me of an experience where I was discussing the major plot points of Brave New World with a group of friends, and I was surprised when many couldn’t understand why the world so portrayed was actually that bad. Satire is no longer satire.
I wanted to be cautious when reading this book. Titiana’s book is one massive exaggeration, and I didn’t want to unfairly dismiss other people’s views based solely on a straw man argument like this one. We need to be willing to engage with people fairly, and this book isn’t the tool to do that. But still, I would hope this book would allow us to laugh a little bit– and make us think a little bit too.