Sex is going out of fashion. Down at Victoria's secret the lingerie most successful brand to date is taming its sexy look. Opting to more subdued tones for its bras, diversity amongst its leggy tenuous models, and heaven forbid; allowing the waifs on its catwalks to put on some curves. The beauty ideal as we know it is changing forced to roll with the times. Sexualised marketing from the likes of American GQ, Playboy and Abercombie & Fitch amongst others are more woke and inclusive. Self-love, self-respect and self-worth towards a more liberal outlook that is gaining pace; the woke culture is upon us. Outlooks, whether socially progressive, politically vigilant, or aware of all forms of injustice, prejudice, racism and care for the environment all fall under the woke umbrella. Wake up to Woke.
It all started from the concept "to take the knee" by Colin Kaepernick, an American athlete rather than standing up at the American national anthem. Overnight he became an outcast. Nike, footwear manufacturing company, launched "Just do it", an advertising campaign in support of its prized personality "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything." they said. Boycott Nike campaign followed, and Nike shares took a tumble. But, America soon realised racial justice was the backbone of the constitution and Nike shares spiked. From a protest by an activist over police killings of African Americans and other injustices, anger became amplified by Black Lives Matter Movement - "Stay Woke". It transgressed from social media to the streets across America, becoming viral - a worldwide rallying cry.
ad featuring the American footballer Colin Kaepernick helped boost the company's profits to $6bn. Photograph: Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images
To gain such momentum, especially among the young meant change in behaviour of how they live and to accept liberal values which at times mean sacrifice. Woke, is making a statement of our political and social attitude. To show we care, to be alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice, socially progressive, take on social responsibility and ethically compliant. Marketing campaigns must now show duties to the planet, environment-friendly and conscious of caring for the eco-systems. So far as to say that some companies are taking on the role of stewards of nature setting standards for a company's operation that socially conscious investors use to screen potential investments. The Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) set of criteria help to manage relationships with employees, suppliers, customer and the communities where it operates. These include energy use, waste, pollution, natural resources conservation and treatment of animals. Young investors advocating such concerns are increasingly acting out the company approvals by putting their money where their values are, avoiding companies with known exposure to coal mining or weapon manufacturing, for instance. Eventually and in all likely hood for a company to operate it must acquire and ESG certificate as a social license so people would buy from it and for people to work for it hoping to attract the best and the brightest.
In 1989 following the fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama, a political theorist announced that history has come to an end. Liberal Democracies and free-market Capitalism of the West and its lifestyle has triumphed. Globalisation and the widening gap of inequality by prioritising freedom then followed, and with it, the scaffolding of morality holding Capitalism was demolished. Public anger that ensued, however, was rooted towards governments. Ideals had to change, corporates whos only values was to make a profit for its shareholders compelled to vault face or at least willing to compromise or mask the activities with a human face acquiring profits. To tame the hell-bent drive for profit meant leaning on the liberal socially conscious side of the spectrum is dubbed woke Capitalism. Get woke or go broke gradually was becoming a reality. From now on, Milton Friedman's argument "Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself." no longer so configures by the Millenials.
Masks come in all shapes and size real and artificial, and Capitalism can exhibit all. Those companies with ideas and pledges that profit-making can be socially progressive often build a deceptive picture. Not solely working for its self-interest but in tandem with a culture of feeling is too romantic and, in the long run, merely woke-washing. As we all know, pledges, especially New Years ones as sincere as they may be, are hardly kept. Moral ideals and socially conscious Capitalism sounds all very hunky-dory in theory, but greed and all-out profit-making are hard to let go. The mask more than likely is nothing more than gossamer-thin veneer dressed up as a social concern. Politically, most of these companies would still support the Republican parties since Woke, for their liking, is too leftist. A wokeness index makes interesting revelations. While maintaining a woke front, companies will be hard-pressed to keep all three: economic efficiency, social justice and individual freedom. Profit with a progressive social purpose is an artificial concept of modern Capitalism.
For instance, appealing to consumers by clever PR work instead of paying taxes. Fertiliser companies show social concerns by appealing to farmers new chemicals that can save the planet. A large retail organisation in the US claim to support the anti-gun lobby, so they stop selling arms in one state. An Airline ended discounts for members of the National Rifle Association following a mass shooting. To have under their payroll, a transgender employee. Advertising veganism as opposed to beef burgers. Commitment to renewable energy. Cosying up to the 'Fair Trade Movement'. Ousting chief executives for age-old claims of sexual harassment by some employee who suddenly saw the light in the #Me too movement can be on top of a tree of wokeness. Why even Civil-Rights hating Saudi Arabia is virtue signalling; allowing women to drive while jailing their empowered compatriots for political dissent and silencing the media. On the other hand, abuse, not eating vegetables and not turning vegan, advocating coal and steel production and even travelling by plane runs bad with the eco-system and terribly un-Woke.
It must be said, however, one light that truly shines among the crowd is Starbucks. Starbucks boasts one of the most popular corporate Facebook fan-pages, with 4m "friends", and 300,000 followers on Twitter. The often dubbed Fourbucks due to its high prices. Its friendly approach and its show of concern for the welfare of its African Coffee growers is fortifying its balance sheet and levelling out its competitive edge with likes of McDonald's who incidentally went Green a couple of years ago. But in general, for CEO's to become social activists coming on the side of cultural injustice must show real commitment. Politically active and patriotic to the new woke generation who make up their consumers and workers.
The social scene, however, is blighted by radicalism that goes the distance in hurting the cause. And, any institution that volunteers to stem such activities is opting for the Woke Cup. A holier than thou approach is springing up on the back of the Politically correct movement we hoped we saw the back-off - 'This is Woke'. Have a look at this Woke approach by a Woke Muslim group, critical of those inhibiting free speech, also noting the composition to give you an idea of how they define themselves and how they think society defines them. This is one way the Home Office encourages people to participate in combatting extremism.
The increasing number of Millenials ask well-intentioned searching questions, but often their reasoning falls on extreme of the liberal spectrum bordering on the ridiculous. Lately, the ubiquity of woke culture as a social concept is present in social media, in the workplace and elsewhere. In an effort to politically identify, often use an aggressive approach to establishing moral superiority ending up contradicting the liberal democracy they try to develop. Pushing the liberal cause too far employing and asserting dominance is akin to weaponising their so call-virtuous standpoint. On the margins, thy breed vigilante groups by collective media sharing to name and shame. Before long, it will become the thing it is trying to replace.
Such attempts at social outcasting were bound at some stage come face to face with the inevitable backlash. However, the social harm that many believe globalisation generated had continued the anger that demolished the Berlin Wall but took different forms to translate itself on society. Rebelling with a cause is not a new phenomenon but a generational thing. Human nature is not static but develops on all sides. Riots, protests, marches and social media all have their time to capacitate movements for social restructuring and woke is no different. This time unlike its predecessors, the cause is not confined to one group or to one purpose.
Liberal democratic ideology to correct injustice whether to humans, to animals or to the planet is for the benefit of all concerned. Free speech is excellent so long as it carries responsibility; not judgmental but compromising. Casting stones does not bring about change and an inflated power attitude of if you are not with me; you are against me, would not go very far disguised as woke or otherwise. The other side of the coin headline-grabbing stunts on social media where attention-grabbing is the ultimate prize can have only limited value.
The rest of us better woke up and smell the coffee.