The XX Factor

Channing Tatum and Jesse Williams Are the Wokest Baes du Jour

Channing Tatum at the 66th Berlinale Film Festival in Berlin on February 11, 2016.

Photo by JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images

Channing Tatum hath bathed, he hath fasted, and he is ready to be ritually anointed into that highest of earthly orders: the brotherhood of the woke bae.

Tatum—of Magic Mike XXL fame, a.k.a. “the most important feminist movie of 2015”—clinched his initiation in a Facebook Live interview with Cosmopolitan Editor-in-Chief Joanna Coles, in which he railed against the lenient sentencing of former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner.

“This is like if you killed someone, if you got caught red-handed murdering someone, and then just because you went to a nice school and you were a good swimmer, you somehow get a lesser sentence than what you would’ve for cold-blooded murder,” Tatum said, adding: “If you start doing that, where do you end? Where does that stop? Where does that line actually quit? I don’t think it’s right. I think he should’ve been punished, personally.”

Tatum also made a heartfelt appeal for consent education and sex-positive parenting:

Look, I’m uncomfortable talking about [sex] and I’m saying we should be comfortable talking about it. … How do we actually come up with a plan to be able to communicate about sex and what do we need from each other, and what are the lines, and how do you even know where the lines are if you’re not strong enough to say, “Okay, I’m not comfortable with this anymore…” People want from both directions, and the only way to get to what you want is communication.

The resplendence of wokeness and baeatitude shone this weekend, not only in Tatum’s Cosmo interview, but also at the BET Awards, where Jesse Williams accepted the Humanitarian Award with a gorgeous, no-holds-barred speech on racism and Black Lives Matter. Williams dedicated his award to “the black women, in particular, who have spent their lifetimes dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves. We can and will do better for you.” This is in no way the first time that the Grey’s Anatomy star has exemplified intersectional thinking—last year he published a widely-read, 24-part Twitter essay on the death of Sandra Bland.

It’s refreshing to see these stars weigh in—and, in Williams’ case, tirelessly write and advocate—on pressing, current events. Though ripped and preternaturally symmetrical cismen like themselves may be valuable messengers of the feminist cause, most of the time their contributions appear to be graded on a curve. Their female counterparts are subject to the incessant scrutiny of the “Is [blank] a feminist” genre of thinkpiece. Meanwhile, leading men need only a pinch of fame and a drop of compassion for women’s plight and, voilà, a woke bae is made. Take Mark Ruffalo, who frequently appears on laudatory listicles despite being an alleged 9/11 truther; or Ryan Gosling, who, as Broadly has pointed out, “ascended to the status of feminist hero by merely looking handsome in a pair of glasses and being nice about his female co-stars.” Even Matt McGorry, perhaps the most conspicuously woke bae of 2015, had only to pen an earnest essay about his feminist conversion to secure his seat at the table for life.

Channing Tatum is no philosopher—and no Jesse Williams—but at least he’s clearly given the issues some thought. “Rape culture is a very real thing,” he told Cosmo. Wouldn’t it be great if more dead-lifting, occasional-goatee-growing bros like himself agreed.