Discover more from Richard Hanania's Newsletter
Anti-Woke as Autism
Kate Upton is still high status, despite "fat studies"
The other day, my friend Rob Henderson tweeted something that I believe reflects some mistakes in the way many anti-wokes see their political opponents.
I come from a family of immigrants, and grew up around people whose parents didn’t go to college. I had no idea what wokeness was until I started spending time around university campuses, which I’ve done for most of my adult life.
One thing I’ve always been struck by is how little congruence there is between what educated Americans say and what they do on matters of race, sex, class, and other sensitive topics. I’m not talking about the normal conservative critique of “oh, you believe in racial equality but live in an all-white neighborhood and send your kids to private school.” That’s an old argument, and it’s true. But I’m talking about personal interactions, sources of self-esteem, and how individuals understand their social roles.
Next time you’re around a highly educated young woman who has views and attitudes typical of her social class, imply that something about her is stereotypically masculine. It could be her gait, her jawline, her voice, whatever. If your understanding of humanity is based on how people answer survey questions, you might expect her to shrug it off. But trust me, unless she’s a fully committed pronoun person, she will not. You can try the same thing with the typical cis-hetero male of the same educational background, and call him effeminate. I admit to having conducted versions of these experiments, and people generally react with anger or distress, since they still desire to be perceived as someone representing traits associated with their biological sex.
Or picture a male academic, who would pay lip service to the ideas that gender is a spectrum, beauty is socially constructed, that you shouldn’t judge women by their looks, and everything else that goes into the PC package of things you’re supposed to believe about human sexuality. He meets young undergrads for office hours. One who looks like a young Kate Upton is going to get treated a lot better than a young Lizzo. Depending on which one he is talking to, the professor will adjust his tone, generosity with his time, interest in the student’s personal life, and sensitivity to her concerns about the class, all to the benefit of the attractive student. In my experience, this is true for all academics except those who most deeply internalize woke ideology, but they are a minority and usually miserable due to how much cognitive dissonance it takes to act so contrary to human nature.
Now extrapolate the Kate Upton or Lizzo office hours experience across every human interaction in each woman’s life, and only then can you begin to comprehend the cruelty of nature. Kate Upton gets treated like the most important person of everyone else’s day, while Lizzo (not the real Lizzo, just the non-famous woman who looks like Lizzo) is an eyesore and at best a distraction from the rest of life.
Society gives Lizzo a consolation prize. She gets her own academic departments that praise her race and sex, and maybe can even take fat studies classes. The university administration will hire dozens of bureaucrats to affirm various facets of her identity throughout her college experience. The wider culture will affirm “black is beautiful,” while nobody but the most anti-social lunatics will dare proclaim that “blond hair and blue eyes are beautiful.”
Does this mean Lizzos have higher status than Kate Uptons? I could see how a ChatGPT whose understanding of our society was developed through text alone can come to that conclusion. But for individuals who gain their understanding of human society by being embedded in it as active participants, the idea is absurd.
A lot of anti-wokeness strikes me as a kind of autism, mistaking social desirability bias for underlying reality. The most committed wokes are angry because they’re more directly perceiving that reality, which is stacked personally against them or the groups they feel sorry for.
You see anti-wokeness as autism in the genre of Matt Walsh videos where he DESTROYS transwomen with FACTS and LOGIC. Walsh may be right in these videos, and maybe he’s doing good in the world because direct confrontation is actually the best way to make people snap out of their delusions. But I don’t think this stuff is that convincing to third parties, who don’t see trans as bullies, but very disturbed people they should feel sorry for.
This is why anti-LGBT activism isn’t necessarily a winning issue for Republicans, even when it targets the most obnoxious behavior. At most, the issue seems to be a wash. LGBT is the new goth, or emo, and most people don’t want to be part of a political movement of bullies. The conservative will respond “But they’re the bullies! Look at cancel culture, or girls who can’t swim as fast as Lia Thomas!” That doesn’t work as well as you might think — no one truly feels a pretty athletic college girl who has to settle for second place in a swim meet is more of a victim than a trans athlete, who inspires open disgust among half the population, and whose “status” in the form of support from the other half is derived from that disgust and little more than a form of overcompensation.
One entertaining piece of anecdata:
A year after Caitlyn Jenner announced her new name and gender, the popularity of the name Caitlyn plummeted more than any other baby name, according to Social Security’s annual list of the most popular baby names.
In fact, the four names that dropped the most were all variations of the same name: Caitlin, Caitlyn, Katelynn and Kaitlynn.
See also the OkCupid race statistics, which they don’t release anymore because they hurt too much to look at. HR taking your side in personnel disputes and nice statements from the dean of diversity aren’t going to get you a desirable partner. Height, symmetrical facial features, money, and yes, whiteness (or Asian girlness), still will, no matter what the political climate is like.
Anti-wokeness as a kind of autism helps explain why women are more woke than men. The male brain is better at analytic reasoning and worse at social intuition. You might ask how I can see all this, given that I myself am the world’s biggest autist? Well, it seems that while your run-of-the-mill autist is worse at understanding social interactions, go far enough down the spectrum you end up so distant from the rest of humanity that you’re able to analyze it with scientific detachment.
None of this is to downplay the negative impacts of wokeness or the problems it causes. Something can be motivated by trivial or even honorable instincts and still harm society. I don’t believe the consolation prizes we give to less attractive and successful categories of people actually make them better off, instead of simply adding further insult to injury when we’re not actually cultivating more mental illness and self-destructive behavior. But anti-wokes misunderstand what they’re up against when they take their opponents too literally, and forget that underneath all the lies, human nature still finds a way.
Richard Hanania's Newsletter is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.