GOOD news for us wokies. The president of that well-known pit of leftiness, the Girls’ School Association, has said in a speech to her fellow heidies that they should actively challenge those who “dismiss this generation as woke, being part of a cancel culture or snowflakes.”

Hallelujah! Praise be! (and all other exaltations to all the gods out there). Huge thanks to Samantha Price, who is head teacher at Benenden School in Kent, for this useful, long overdue and important intervention. She says that she’s tired of older people sighing about not being able to say “anything anymore”.

“Being woke” she says, “just means being awake to social justice” and that woke simply means “those who care about things: about the planet, about people. It ultimately comes down to something very simple: being kind.”

Call it what you like, but what is called “wokeism” has been a brilliant opportunity for dialogues that have never happened before at a society-wide level, to take place and for people, who were previously unheard, to be heard.

Conversations around race, gender, sex, consent – vital conversations that have seen criminals jailed and victims finally listened to and given justice – have been facilitated and encouraged by wokeism, and every single one of us should be encouraging those conversations. Not mocking, proscribing, or editing them.

Waking up to being woke encouraged me to have a conversation I would never have thought to have with a group of eight women I found myself with one evening when the Me Too movement was taking off in the US: “How many of you have been sexually assaulted?”

All had had multiple experiences right across the spectrum of sexual assault and, because it was being talked about in the wider community, we felt comfortable to share stories that had been buried deep down, from groping to much worse.

It was simultaneously emotional and liberating to be able to vocalise awful things and seek support from one another. That was wokeism in action.

It was the same after the murder of George Floyd, when Black colleagues and friends told me that for the first time, they felt that their bosses at their workplaces were really listening to their concerns around discrimination and racism, and actively making changes to make workplaces more inclusive.

“Taking the knee” is dismissed as woke, but has become a recognisable symbol for change. Similarly, Ms Price points out that wokeism had encouraged the “Everyone’s Welcome” campaign which uncovered the horrifying scale of sexual harassment that young women and girls have had to encounter in their lives both in and out of school. Again wokeism in action.

These are the conversations which make enduring societal change happen. Legislation has been enacted, curriculums have changed, once revered historical figures have been reconsidered, and pay differentials have been changed. Like “political correctness gone mad” before it, you may fear the change to your stable equilibriums, so you give it a label, denigrate it and mock it in the hope it will disappear. But wokeism is another name for societal change, and it is unstoppable.

Wokeism is contagious too, and many countries have experienced their own Me Too moments or, at the very least, a tiny spark has been ignited. Brazil, India and China have had their moments where shared experiences have created nascent movements for change, and even in Pakistan where minority rights are not always top of the list, there has been legislation protecting the rights of transgender people as a result of the global movement for change. It’s slow change, but there is progress.

Whilst wokeism is a positive force, it can swing the other way. Sadly, in my own house the roles are reversed. I’m the 50-something who gets the eye rolls from the young people. They have become tired of coming home and seeing me busily making social justice placards after they’ve had “a hard day” at school or university.

Some young people have rebelled against what they see as the increasingly authoritarian nature of some elements of woke or cancel culture. This has become the antithesis of what wokeism is supposed to stand for.

I know, for one of my kids, extreme wokeism encourages division in society, and every so often when those who have a useful and interesting take on a particular issue are cancelled or not allowed a public platform, I can see why they feel aggrieved. A bit like our family’s very combative dinner times, we need to give each other the space and respect to say our piece.

So, whilst I don’t agree with Ms Price that being woke is a characteristic of the young only, I think we have to acknowledge that it’s no bad thing for our young people to care about social justice and to think beyond the individual and towards the collective.

Like her, I feel we should be encouraging new ideas, and an openness to debate because whether it’s sustainability, gender identity or critical race theory the ability to formulate arguments and to critically think is beneficial across the generations. The more we mock our young people the less they will engage with the conversations which have already brought about so much change.

These movements for change are irresistible and that’s why, those called “snowflakes” and “wokeists” actually wear those descriptions as a badge of pride. We know that wokeism rests on the soundest of foundations – equality – and that is hard to argue with, we just need a bit more listening to those with opposing views, and we’ll be there.

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