The anti-woke movement calls for nap time

by Jan 16, 2024

Nap time says the anti-woke movement



I have been involved in DEI before it was a thing and even called that.

It was about anti-discrimination, bullying, and harassment to give equal opportunity. We are supposed to have legally protected demographics in the E.U. but these are sometimes less than effective.

The US movements following #METOO and the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 accelerated the momentum and initiatives became mainstream globally. We saw an uptick in activities as DE & I became a central topic.

But predictably like any major cultural and organisational shifts where the processes are cyclical, we are seeing pushback from previously privileged groups who feel potentially excluded.


The Angry White Male

At 3Plus we started keeping an eye on this from 2015. Recent economic trends, globalisation, technological advancements, and shifts in the job market have led to economic uncertainty. Layoffs, wage stagnation, and a sense of insecurity about the future have fuelled frustration and resentment.

Some white males feel a sense of loss or displacement as their lives are subjected to changes they can’t control. Some like this gentleman wear T-shirts readily available online with the words East, Sleep, Rape, Repeat on his chest.

Donald Trump tapped into this angst and mobilised this demographic in the 2016 and 2020 U.S. presidential campaigns. Other populist movements also gathered momentum throughout Europe and we saw the rise of other figureheads such as Andrew Tate whose misogynistic videos have over 11 BILLION hits.

The anti-woke movement even has billionaires Elon Musk and Mark Cuban wading into these polarised discussions. Some might say the anti-woke movement are calling for a nap.

He could be a nice guy

It’s crucial to recognise that the term “angry white male” oversimplifies a diverse group of individuals who may share some demographic characteristics. It ignores the intersectionality of the group which differs significantly in their experiences, beliefs, and perspectives.

He is not always an offensive t-shirt wearer. In our organisations he may be very different and part of the establishment. The angry white male is not obviously angry and the anti-woke movement is not exclusively white.  This man doesn’t rant and rave and could be highly educated, very often a senior and successful executive. He is a nice, reasonable man, funny, charming and considerate. Frequently he is a father, son, colleague, husband, and boss. Perhaps, he sits next to you in the office or across from you in meetings. You pass him in the corridor. He will smile and say good morning. He could be your neighbour or relative.


anti-woke movement

But he is starting to feel that future opportunities may be limited and the once golden linear career trajectory does not belong exclusively to him anymore. He feels threatened and the anti-work movement speaks to him.

Closed minds but not mouths

He can be defensive and obstructive about proposed changes involving diversity, either passively or openly.  His mind is closed, but not always his mouth. He may see key positions going to men and women of colour. Sometimes he openly is critical because he believes that DE & I is about quotas, not competence. He is scathing about what he perceives to be excessive political correctness and expresses concern about not hiring on merit.

In any survey, he will say he believes in diversity, but it’s his colleagues who don’t. He maintains that he has never seen discrimination or sexist behaviour in his career or organisation oftentimes quoting his wife as an example. In training sessions on diversity and inclusion, he becomes impatient and might refuse to engage, ask questions sharply, and cut off other speakers. He avoids hiring women aged 30-38 because of potential disruption to his department. In hiring situations, he uses the old chestnut “cultural fit” to cut women candidates. He might write the odd snippy comment on a LinkedIn post.

Business case

The business case for gender balance and diversity is irrefutable. Yet resistance is remarkably high from the very group that is running our organisations.  Leaders may tick off the D & I checklist but don’t ensure the policy is implemented. Their companies still ask women illegal interview questions. Employees make sexist jokes.

Read: The main reasons diversity initiatives fail. 


Angry white male

Image Mckinsey Why Diversity Matters


Men benefit

But when men support diversity everyone benefits. Men who support women at work outperform their peers. Diverse teams produce better results. Families with involved fathers are happier, healthier, and more successful. Couples who share responsibilities have stronger marriages and even more sex.

Neil Morrison wrote a post “Angry white males” where he says:

But the thing about angry white males is, you don’t beat them by trying to be more like them. You beat them by ignoring them, by marginalizing them, by going on regardless. You beat them by remaining true to yourself, to your thoughts, to your beliefs and to your dreams.

The answer is not to beat him. It is certainly not trying to be like them. But when the angry white male is in a position of authority he is hard to ignore. Somehow we have to persuade him to see the benefits, for not just for his career and the benefit to his company, but for his well-being and prosperity.

Read: 5 easy ways men can support women in the workplace  

Research from Catalyst says: ….”men who are seen as champions of diversity have a strong sense of fairness. Men who were committed to the ideal of fairness were found to have more personal concerns about issues of equality in general and were more aware of gender bias in the workplace and likely to take action.”

Warren Buffet famously said “listen to your dissenters” but it’s also important to draw the line between polarised views and incitement to abusive behaviour with a considered response. They want you to throw oil on the fire.

Many US trends like McDonald’s cross the Atlantic.

Will a more active anti-woke movement be one of them?

Will we be impacted by demands to dial back and weaken our initiatives? I hope there will be no calls for naptime from the anti-woke movement here in Europe, but I am not going to be complacent.


If your company needs Unconscious Bias Training  – contact 3Plus now



Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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