“I just want a woke bae,” any single, self-identified millennial feminist will say. Her friends—sorry, her squad—in their non-ironic tortoiseshell frames and Lemonade T-shirts will nod in wistful agreement. An online story about Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau championing LGBT rights, giving Syrian refugees a new place to call home, or speaking out against bullying in a vibrant pink shirt will almost always be shared by a woman with the caption: #wokebae *heart-eyed emoji*, which will then reap dozens of Likes from fellow woke-bae-seekers.
Even the Duchess of Cambridge herself, though already married to a relatively woke bae who just so happens to be a prince, couldn’t help but be smitten in the presence of one of the wokest baes in the galaxy.
But first things first: WTF is a woke bae, and do people really say and write it like that, grammatical inaccuracy and atrocious spelling notwithstanding?
We’re pretty sure you already know what a “bae” is. To be called one, whether you’re male or female, whether relational (as in you’re someone’s bae and vice versa) or adjectival (as in you’re so bae, meaning you’re so attractive) is this generation’s highest honor, a compliment bestowed only on the truly worthy.
But “woke” is new territory, and even more perplexing. Urban Dictionary defines it as being aware of the world and keeping abreast of what’s going on in society. The term can be traced to the African-American community’s campaign against racial violence, with a documentary starring Jesse Williams called Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement making its television debut earlier this year. People were urged to “stay woke,” to be vigilant against problematic systems and examine their own privilege. Eventually, to “stay woke” or “be woke” came to require not just being aware of racism or class issues, but being sensitive and evolved enough to question the prevailing culture, including your own upbringing.
In the local context, “woke-ness” is often equated to sexism, or your lack thereof. It means you understand and respect strong, independent women; it means you won’t respond to the question “So do you consider yourself a feminist?” with a petulant “Hindi ako bakla, ah!” It means you don’t propagate rape culture; it means you’ll call out your drinking buddies when they say women in short skirts are “asking for it.” It means you won’t support the clamor for a sex video screening in the Senate, even if it’s backed by the most powerful man in the land.
TL;DR? In short, to be woke is to be the complete opposite of a dumb chauvinist. And women find that pretty damn hot—hotter than a hyper-sharp jawline, massive traps, a cushy job, and the ability to pull off a leather jacket in a tropical country. Maybe even hotter than an ace sense of humor.
So what does a guy have to do to be a woke bae? The Wokeness Trifecta of awareness, sensitivity, and security in your manhood is tricky to master, and probably will not get you a smokin’ feminist girlfriend in time for that Halloween party. But taking a page out of these bros’ books would be a good start:
Why he’s a woke bae: He knows that the concept of friend zoning is basically a load of crap. “The idea of it is a terrible male thing,” he says. “Have you ever heard a girl say they’re in the friend zone? I definitely think the idea of the friend zone is just men going, ‘this woman won’t have sex with me.’”
Why he’s a woke bae: Well, duh. “Michelle and I have raised our daughters to speak up when they see a double standard or feel unfairly judged based on their gender or race—or when they notice that happening to someone else,” he writes in an essay for Glamour. “It’s important for them to see role models out in the world who climb to the highest levels of whatever field they choose. And yes, it’s important that their dad is a feminist, because now that’s what they expect of all men.” And if you think it’s just #ThirstyTitas who find the POTUS so attractive, think again.
Why he’s a woke bae: Mr. Mañileno obviously believes that men and women should have equal opportunities—just look at how he’s so cool and supportive about his gorgeous wife, the stunning Miss Jones, flying all over the world and doing her own thing. He’s also put up a website that celebrates Filipino creativity and homegrown talent, proving that there’s more to the Filipino man than unfounded machismo. And when asked how short is too short when it comes to women’s clothing, he deftly answers, “I surf a lot so I’m used to seeing girls in super short shorts. As long as it’s appropriate for the location, it’s all good.”
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