Woke in the Water: Shark Advocates Call for an End to the Word 'Attacks' in Favor of 'Interactions'

I remember it like it was yesterday — there I shuddered, on the edge of our plaid couch, barely able to remain in the room.

Terror reigned on the TV. The sea was a soulless sanctuary for waiting whale-sized wickedry.


I was but a child, enthralled by NBC’s airing of that gruesome 1975 hit, Stephen Spielberg’s Interaction.

In 1978’s Interaction 2, the furious, fanged foe was even more immense.

And who can forget 1983’s Interaction 3-D?

According to lore, Interaction 4: The Revenge star Michael Caine once remarked, “I have never seen [the film], but by all accounts, it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.”

Sorry — I seem to have confused the titles. I’ve been reading The Sydney Morning Herald.

As relayed by the outlet, advocates and experts are calling for an end to the word “attack” when referencing run-ins with sharks.

They say it’s an unfair stigmatization.

Christopher Pepin-Neff — language researcher at the University of Sydney — insists the phrase “shark attack” is “a lie.”

And why the concern? Perhaps because only good things can come from people being less afraid of meat-eating predators in the abyss?

Either way, leaders are listening: At a shark symposium in May, a senior Queensland official disclosed the state’s new preference in communications will be “bites” rather than “attacks.”

In New South Wales, the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has been migrating from “attacks” as well.


Per the Herald, the department’s “worked closely with Bite Club, a support group for survivors to inform its language.”

Do “survivors” of “interactions” normally need support groups?

Regardless, NSW DPI now prefers “interactions” or “incidents.”

Christopher Pepin-Neff contends the term “attacks” wasn’t used until the 1930’s, when a prominent surgeon began employing it.

And words matter:

The choice of words can be potent since public fears about beach safety can be inflamed by alarmist language by politicians and the media, said Leonardo Guida, a shark researcher at the Australian Marine Conservation Society, who attended the May gathering hosted by the Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation.

Dr. Guida is lobbying for language to “dispel inherent assumptions that sharks are ravenous, mindless man-eating monsters.”

As for the announcement at Noosa, Humane Society International marine campaigner Lawrence Chlebeck was psyched.

“I congratulated them for their change of terminology.”

“More than a third of encounters with sharks,” he points out, don’t result in injury.

That includes, to be clear, any kind of shark — including shallow-water “carpet sharks”, which sleep during the day and feed on crustaceans.


And, of course, the other one-third of encounters sometimes involves limb-lopping.

Not that such a colossal clench is needed for tragic results — as reported by the New York Post, a 51-year-old waded waist-deep at Brazil’s Piedade Beach Saturday to pee.

Before he was done, a shark had bitten off his hand and chomped into his thigh.

Horrifically, the man didn’t make it.

Still, as it turns out, maybe even Jaws was just being curious:

“Sharks don’t have hands so, if they want to explore something, they mouth it,” Nathan Hart, an associate professor at Macquarie University, said. “Very rarely are humans consumed by sharks.”

Nathan waxes on the worst thing:

“The worst thing we want is people killing a lot of sharks.”

As for Ballina surfer (and shark victim) Cooper Allen, he’s doing his part in the realm of more civilized syllables.

He thusly describes suffering deep leg wounds as a teen:

“I had a bit of run-in with a man in a grey suit.”

Good for Cooper.

Fairness and equity are all the rage these days, and I’m sure there all sorts of swimming species who’d appreciate being less marginalized and “othered” by the violence of our language they can’t understand.

We’re on our way:


It’s time to take the fight for dignity to the deep.

To quote Kamala Harris, “We’ve got to do the work.”

Roll up your sleeves, fellow revolutionaries — most of Earth is covered by water.

Like they said in the movie, “We’re gonna need a bigger woke.”



See more pieces from me:

Professor Decries the Racism of Enforced High School Rules and the ‘Overvaluation of White Feelings’

College Offers ‘#AbolishThePolice’ Course, Claims America Has the World’s ‘Highest Rate’ of Police Misconduct

Booksellers Association CEO Apologizes for the ‘Violence’ of Accidentally Promoting a Conservative Book

Find all my RedState work here.

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