Anna is a Liberal Arts student majoring in Politics
‘Dating the Trojan Horse’ is a satircle exposé on ‘wokefishing’, an unmasking of the performative ‘soft boys’, per se. After jovially dropping this newfound neologism into conversations for the past few weeks, it dawned what ‘wokefishing’ sinisterly implied – culturally and politically. This article is a product of that line of research and thought, exploring ‘wokefishing’ as a cultural product of ignorance, signifying a contemporary crisis which is threatening feminist communities and collective interest.
A lot of people find themselves in Gen Z denialism, falling victim to the ‘alt’/‘not like other girls’ trope in the dismissal of TikTok’s stronghold on popular culture. However, nothing prides me more to be a Gen Z than our innovative vocabulary.
‘Wokefishing’: another phenomenal term.
‘Wokefishing’, like catfishing or blackfishing, is the act of adopting a frontier/image (in this case a political belief) that is not your own.
While superficially the term may appear a B-road to slag snowflakes, SJW’s and progressive politics – ‘They’ve turned the fish woke TOO!’ – ‘wokefishing’ is worrying because it is more than semantic. ‘Wokefishing’ names politics and belief as an ‘aesthetic’ that can be worn as fashioned as the North-London crochet apocalypse… it embodies the commodification of social injustices and the fetishization of personal politics.
Now, I fully support the bashing of self-unaware ‘woke’ millennials sharing infographics on Instagram and thinking it ‘political activism’ – this is an issue bigger than millennials discovering there is life beyond avocados and craft beer. ‘Wokefishing’ is a case of appropriation.
So, while I initially ridiculed the obscenity and absurdity of such a term and the need for this syntax, ‘wokefishing’ became radically less funny when I read interviews of victims of ‘wokefishing’.
The question is why would someone want to ‘wokefish’: to woke or not to woke?
My hot-take on the evolution of ‘wokefishing’ stems from the emergence of ‘internet humour’ – for instance, referencing reels or quoting Twitter memes in the absence of opinion or mere personality (equivalent to in school when someone repeats someone else’s joke but louder); a lingering NPC that transcends every walk of life parasitically. I believe ‘wokefishing’ is a problematic tab further down that internet browser: where someone mimics patterns of behaviour they observe gaining popularity or social validation. As if the ‘metaverse’ has eaten the part of the brain that once had autonomy, the modern appendix…and now society resorts to producing cyclical carbon copies on shuffle.
The increasing cases of ‘wokefishing’ within the political climate are significant – in the wake of the pandemic, the ACAB movement, #MeToo and ongoing union strikes, having a political opinion is urgent and a nexus of conversation. Following recent events under the three prime ministers in the past year, awareness of the corrupt paradigms and flawed systems that govern this country has been heightened. I don’t need to mention the long list of political issues saturating public discourse, but I want to. Here are some of these events for emphatic effect:
- Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs
- Energy companies’ windfall gains rocketing simultaneously to household gas and electricity bills
- The realities of a post-Brexit Britain (increasing living costs worsened by international reliance during the on-going war in Ukraine)
- Industrial strike action with pathetic attempts at negotiation
- Missing children and the handling of UK migrant centres (… this country’s problematic policy regarding refugees…? Suella Braverman as a whole)
- The opening of a new coal mine in Cumbria
- Ongoing legal investigations of COVID-19 restrictions and many issues surrounding Boris Johnson (specifically Michelle Mone and PPE-gate, Party-gate, etc..)
- The Protest Bill and Strikes Bill
- Reports and investigation of sexual assault, abuse and rape within the Met Police following the barbaric murder of Sarah Everard
Resultantly, individual agency has become prevalent contemporarily as ‘the personal is political’ resounds. The effects extend into who we choose to associate with platonically and romantically. Justifiably, political beliefs are important when considering our relationships and evaluating a counterpart’s moral compass. Also, I am aware in the early stages of a relationship, it is normal to amplify or tone down aspects of the self that we deem compatible with a person we like, consciously and subconsciously, online and in-person relationships.
Yet, entirely pretending to have a belief you don’t is amateur dramatics gone wrong.
Especially in left-leaning universities, the cases of ‘wokefishing’ are hyper-accelerated to fit in, a somewhat desperate way to bridge insecurity. So, for those devoid of a genuine moral code, or nervous to assert their beliefs in fear of rejection, resorting to a superficial, ‘trendy’ ideology is sure to increase social status (and body count… AWOOOGAAAA!) hence appears lucrative, I can fathom that.
Accordingly, dating apps recently have soared with ‘wokefishers’. While ‘wokefishing’ is implicitly a means to an end, that end usually means sexual favours. This is not limited to heteronormative models, ‘wokefishing’ transcends intersects and communities (lucky us). Yet, demographically speaking, it is generally cis, heterosexual men fostering this façade at women’s expense.
If ‘wokefishing’ was the ultimate end this would be less of an issue, for instance, those wanting to be surveyed as woke and so adopting wokisms; becoming vegetarian despite not necessarily having vegetarian principles. I would even argue, in a very consequentialist way, this was (in some cases) good for the cause due to the strength of collective action groups. If someone is interested in progressive politics and dismantling power paradigms, for instance by advocating for the rights of minority groups, supporting decolonising, diversifying the curriculum, and dismantling hierarchies then this is good even if only to educate oneself. The disturbing fragment is when this political investment is used for personal gains beyond political realms.
The trend of progressive politics being ‘attractive’ is really alarming when the duped targets are vulnerable individuals, most likely young women. Moreover, the rising narratives of blaming susceptible people for being ‘wokefished’, so-called victim blaming (which has become a boring response of the centre-right, just grow up Pier Morgan), leave these young women increasingly alone and trolled. Contemporarily, with the commodification of sex, and the ability to simulate a relationship at a swipe of a finger (probably through VR soon, fingers tightly crossed…) being aware of parasitic ‘wokefishers’ is essential for the safety of our communities, online and in-person. Pretending to be a person you’re not or acclaiming political views you do not have/understand to gain social traction is not only lame, but it is an offensive appropriation of minority groups, often already the victim of systemic exploitation without cultural appropriation on top. ‘Wokefishing’ is damaging for progressive politics, through being associated with infiltrators essentially ‘borrowing’ and diluting their message and misrepresenting their cause.
I am alarmed by ‘wokefishing’ because it signals to society a warning flare and an opportunity to self-examine. Coercion has been normalised and accepted as means to fit into the mainstream. What does that say about the mainstream narrative we have created and the characters we want people to present as, why do we desire people to be this way? Worse still that society’s conception of sex and healthy relationships is so warped that said manipulation is overlooked as a significant issue – predatory behaviours have been accepted, and ‘wokefishing’ is a testament to this.
I maintain that I am not criticising those with adverse political beliefs to me, rather I am highlighting those endorsing beliefs to appease others who are in the wrong. For instance, the history student who loves the war and thinks Churchill was a ‘hero’, may be wrong for other causes, but the point being their stance is overt. People translating their opinions transparently enables the ability to avoid or gauge compatibility correctly, allowing avoidability if needs be – ‘wokefishing’ is the case of those lurking in the Machiavellian grey area.
While I do think there has been progress in recognising sexual predators and chastising derogatory behaviours publicly, legal protection and representation of young people’s rights are still deficient, especially in online sexual realms. Policy and legislation tend to react too slowly to the evolution of the online world and fail to protect people from harm, as was the case in the early 2000s when ‘revenge porn’ and leaked sex tapes drowned online platforms with no floodgates. Where regulation lapses, awareness must compensate – since there is no way to police the internet – as has been seen with Facebook’s political misinformation scandals.
Some have felt disillusioned by the whole online dating scene due to ‘wokefishing’ and have boycotted the black hole that is hinge, tinder, bumble, grindr… Further still, some have decided to reject social media altogether, sceptic of its influence.
‘Wokefishers’ are like modern trojan horses (with added sociopathic tendencies), and despite this article somewhat self-reflexively fuelling their pseudo-narratives, I emphasise there is nothing seductive about bigotry, whether covert or overt. If we find ourselves in situations of ‘wokefishing’, personally or indirectly, there is a responsibility to address and open the conversation with those ‘wokefishing’ to protect one another.