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Woke glossary

Who, what, woke?

It seems like everyone is using the term «woke». But what exactly does it mean? Below you'll find our glossary of many of the expressions used in this context.

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Marlies Seifert, Deborah Bischof, Dario Aeberli
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A

Ableism

This describes the devaluation or unequal treatment of people with a physical or mental disability. The key element here is «able». which is seen as the opposite of «disabled». The IntegrART networking project of the Migros Culture Percentage has been promoting inclusive theatre since 2007. It is committed to the self-determined involvement of people with disabilities in art and culture as the basis for representation and social justice.

Activist

A person who fights for something that they consider right and important. On the one hand, they are vocal and visible, for instance when taking part in demonstrations or talking to the media. On the other, they work silently in the background, for instance organising action or events.

Ally

This is someone with whom you are associated in some way. Allies combat oppression even though it doesn‘t affect them personally. «If, for example, a heterosexual person supports gay marriage, that person is an ally,» says feminist writer and LGBTQ expert Anna Rosenwasser from the Migros Culture Percentage.


B

Bias

Prejudice about or against someone. «We all have biases, no matter how enlightened we may be. The important thing is that we are aware of them,» says Nadine Adler Spiegel from the Migros Culture Percentage. All applications to the Story Lab for financial assistance for audiovisual projects are handled completely anonymously. As a result, neither the applicant‘s age, their gender nor their name can unconsciously affect the jury‘s decision. «In the end, the best ideas win, no matter who suggested them,» Adler Spiegel says.

Body neutrality

In contrast to body positivity, which asserts that all bodies are beautiful, body neutrality doesn‘t make any judgements. A body is neither beautiful nor ugly, neither good nor bad. You needn‘t even like it. «The body is simply what it is and fulfils a purpose,» says Sarah Stidwill from the nutrition initiative Kebab+. As a consequence, legs are neither fat nor skinny, but rather serve primarily to move someone from one place to another.

Bropriating

This is an amalgam of the terms «brother» and «to appropriate». It is used mainly in a business context if a woman has an idea that a man subsequently sells as his own. Or she suggests the idea, but it is ignored until a man later makes the same suggestion, whereupon it is warmly welcomed. The term is closely related to mansplaining (see below).

Bropropriation often happens in a work context, with men claiming the ideas of women as their own.

C / D / E

Cancel culture

This is when people or organisations are excluded from the public sphere because of claims that they have acted in a discriminatory or slanderous manner. The term is used in a negative sense in reference to waves of media outrage.

Cultural appropriation

This is when members of a majority adopt the cultural heritage or assets of a minority group. In other words, when identifying elements of a minority are adopted without consultation. «In so doing, people forget that the affected social groups are often discriminated against precisely on the basis of these elements,» says Angela Zumbrunn. As a consequence, a certain style is adopted without the associated discrimination. «This is unfair and should therefore at the very least be done consciously,» Zumbrunn adds.

Deadname

Using a «dead» name, that is, a name people no longer use to refer to themselves. «Trans or non-binary people often change their name because their given name suggests a gender with which they don‘t identify,» explains Dunja Kalbermatter from the LGBTIQ helpline. In this context in particular, «deadnaming» - i.e. consciously or unconsciously using the old name - can be extremely hurtful for the relevant individual.

Empowerment

The act of granting someone or oneself power. Empowerment can give structurally disadvantaged people greater opportunities for co-determination, autonomy and room to manoeuvre. «For example, by giving young creative artists access to resources or networks, like we do,» says Lilli Megerle from the Migros Culture Percentage Sparx programme.

Everyday racism

This is used to label racist discrimination that those affected are confronted with on a daily basis. «Often enough, this takes the form of thoughtless minor gestures or actions,» says Angela Zumbrunn, who heads the integration project «Ici. Gemeinsam Hier.». One example of everyday racism is immediately speaking to dark-skinned people in German rather than Swiss German. «It isn‘t meant to be nasty. However, for the recipient it is a constant reminder that they are seen as different and implies that and not from here,» Zumbrunn adds. (cf. Othering)


F / G / H

Feminism

An umbrella term for movements that promote self-determination and freedom for women and possibly also other genders, depending on the type of feminism.

FLINTA

A German abbreviation combining the words for women, lesbian, intersex, non-binary, trans and genderless people. It therefore describes identities that are particularly impacted by patriarchal oppression.

Gender-sensitive language

Gender-sensitive language makes women, men and non-binary people linguistically visible. Initially, this was about confronting generic masculine vocabulary in languages which differentiate between male and female subjects. New forms of expression, such as the use of the gender star or colon in German, also include non-binary people. Gender-sensitive language is important because studies have shown that people who are not given a voice are excluded from the thoughts of others.

Hate speech

A statement is considered to be hate speech if it insults, denigrates or discriminates against a person or group on the basis of specific identifying features. «If a comment doesn‘t specifically refer to certain identifying features of a person or group, but is insulting, threatening or vulgar nonetheless, it is described as toxic,» says Sasha Rosenstein of the Pioneer Fund-project Stop Hate Speech.

Demonstration in Barcelona on International Women's Day (2019).

M / O

Mansplaining

This is an amalgam of the words «man» and «explaining» and corresponds to the German expression «Herrklärung». What is meant is that a man explains something to a woman in a condescending way. In so doing, he assumes that he has greater expertise than the woman and must therefore «instruct» her. Often enough, this happens unbidden, and the man‘s statement is not always correct.

Old white men

This describes people who enjoy privileged status in society on account of their gender, age and skin colour, even though they won‘t admit it. «Their attitude hinders change and progress, partly because they don‘t want to lose their powerful position,» explains gender expert Rahel Fenini («Gender im Grüene»).

Othering

This means thinking in two categories: us and them. Stressing the differences - for instance, by referring to «people with an immigrant background» - leads to marginalisation and prevents successful inclusion.


P / Q / S

PoC/BPoC/BIPoC

Three different abbreviations used to refer to non-whites: respectively «person of colour,» «black people and people of colour,» and «black, indigenous and people of colour». The differences take account of the fact that not all non-whites consider themselves to be people of colour.

Privilege

An innate advantage. The term refers to a prerogative or preferential right. The idea is that some people have certain social advantages (e.g. a particular skin colour or a name) over others. Awareness of privilege helps develop a society that gives everyone equal opportunities wherever possible. However, this doesn‘t mean that you automatically have an easy life simply on account of your privileges.

Queer-baiting

The act of antagonising queer people. This is a marketing ploy that appeals to queer people while at the same time trying not to alienate conservative audiences. «This happens in books or films, for example, when it is suggested that people are queer without ever explicitly saying so,» says Anna Rosenwasser.

Safer space

This is an inclusive environment with an awareness for differing needs and in which discrimination is broken down. Many safer spaces are reserved for members of marginalised groups so that they can communicate with one another without fear of prejudice.

«People of colour» refers to everyone who does not have white skin.

T / W

Transphobia

This term refers to a dislike of or even hostility (and thus also animosity) towards a person who is trans. This dislike is expressed through e.g. bullying, discrimination or violence directed at the individual.

Triggers

These are stimuli that can reignite unprocessed trauma. For instance, specific images or smells can remind people about painful memories. For this reason, trigger warnings are issued before certain videos or at the start of some performances (e.g. at the Schauspielhaus in Zurich) which could be considered particularly sensitive. This is done to warn people that the content may be experienced as painful or disturbing.

Whataboutism

This term is used when someone avoids debate by pointing to another fault that has nothing to do with the original topic of conversation. This mostly happens in the form of a counterquestion. The term also derives from this counterquestion «What about ...?» when used as an attempted counterargument.

Woke

This term comes from «woken up». Nowadays it refers to increased awareness of discrimination and social injustice. However, it is also used in a derogatory manner or as an insult.

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