'I Was Asked to Define Woke. My Humiliation Went Viral'

It's a delicate balancing act, promoting a book with six kids at home full-time. My book Stolen Youth—about how I believe woke ideology is upending American childhood—was released a week ago. To give me the time and space I needed to do various television shows and appearances, I arranged childcare for three of my kids.

On Tuesday, March 14, my husband was working from home while my 7-year-old and 9-year-old children worked through their homeschool checklists. I put my newborn down for a nap while I logged on for an appearance on The Hill's YouTube show, Rising.

Right before we went on air, I heard one of the hosts speaking about parents in what I perceived to be a negative way. I panicked. Over my career as a loud and proud "breeder", I have often felt attacked by the left, and braced myself to be ambushed on air about my own life choices as a mother of six children.

Bethany Mandel
Bethany Mandel is a columnist, political commentator and author. A clip of her on The Hill's web series Rising went viral this week after she struggled to define the word "woke" during the appearance. Bethany Mandel

Throughout the entire interview I felt a panic attack growing, but just tried to get through the duration of the appearance without an incident. As we talked, I was stammering and trying not to set traps for myself. I did not want to open up questions about my own personal life.

Finally, I was left speechless at one question—the basic definition of the word "woke."

It was a fair question; after all, it's the centerpiece of my book's premise. But by that point, the panic attack had arrived and I was rendered speechless. Eventually, I sputtered out what I thought was a decent definition of the word, but by then it was too late.

I knew the momentary brain freeze would go viral, and I was right. The clip has been viewed millions of times, and a dozen articles have been written about the most humiliating seconds of my life.

As soon as we hung up, I broke into a sob. My husband and kids immediately surrounded me. I'm not usually a crier. In fact, the last time I got a bit tearful was two months ago towards the end of my home birth, during the worst stage of labor called transition.

Watching me cry and panic was not a sight my kids were used to seeing, yet for the next day, they saw it a few more times. For the next day, I visibly struggled emotionally. But I also kept plugging on with more appearances on radio and podcasts, albeit without the confidence I normally exhibit and enjoy.

Though I've become more self-conscious of my pauses, I haven't stopped working to promote a book I spent a year and a half researching, writing, and editing. I'm proud of that work and our final product, and won't let a short period of anxiety detract from it or define it, or me.

My kids are all home with me on a regular basis and have had a front row seat for this show, my lowest and most frustrating professional experience to date. But I'm glad they were.

On Wednesday morning, as the clip was going increasingly viral, I felt compelled to sit my older kids down and be honest with them. I told them I was on edge, and that daddy was working from home in order to help me juggle, but also to be emotionally supportive.

I told them a lot of people were sending me unkind messages and comments, and that I would do my best to not let my feelings affect my mood, but that it might, and if it did, that I'm sorry. Saying this out loud made me more conscious of trying to keep that promise.

I wouldn't have planned this experience, but it was a valuable one for my older children. They saw their mother fail, and they saw her get back on the horse. They saw their mother humiliated, but they also saw my confidence in myself remain intact.

They are also watching me try to win back my confidence on camera, working hard not to let one moment give me permanent stage fright. They saw what an emotionally healthy marriage is: My husband silently taking on the tasks that I usually do to give me a break. They saw him give me pep talks and hugs when I needed them, and they saw him joke with me as I moved on enough to be able to laugh at my own misfortune.

We homeschool our kids, and a lot of the time that looks like math or phonics lessons. But sometimes it looks like this; real life lessons in resilience, humility, and perseverance.

Bethany Mandel is a columnist, political commentator and co-author of Stolen Youth: How Radicals Are Erasing Innocence and Indoctrinating a Generation. You can follow her on Twitter at @bethanyshondark.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

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