During the summer of 2020, amid the flurry of news coverage and debates surrounding the pandemic, lockdowns and race relations, both on home soil and internationally, a new term for a rising dating trend was brought to the fore. “What is wokefishing?” read headline after headline, as the newest buzzword on the block began to spill over onto our favourite digital platforms and news outlets.
This isn’t to be confused with “woke-washing”, which Owen Jones described for The Guardian as “profit-driven companies cynically cashing in on people’s idealism and using progressive-orientated marketing campaigns to deflect questions about their own ethical records” – think Kendall Jenner’s controversial 2017 Pepsi advert. In contrast, wokefishing is typically used to describe what happens when a person dishonestly purports to be politically progressive for the benefit of their intimate relationships. This could be the guy who brags about his extensive collection of feminist theory which he doesn’t actually own, or the girl who effusively praises the LGBT community knowing that her sentiments are insincere.
Look beyond romance though, and there’s another space in which wokefishing is rife, yet largely goes unchallenged: the workplace. But this isn’t about organisations shelling out astronomical sums of money to fund questionable video ads for mass audience consumption. Instead it’s employers who promote a culture and set of values to their staff, stakeholders and prospective employees which they fail to live up to, whether consciously or unconsciously. Think about companies that ‘prioritise’ racial diversity though zero non-white employees are represented within their c-suites, or those that ‘champion’ disabled employees but only go as far as installing ramps for wheelchair users.