This quest to be the best ‘woke’ human the planet has ever seen is quite frankly becoming exhausting.
As a white middle-class female who has lead a relatively easy life, a life where doors have been opened for me because of connections and ‘who I know’ I feel I have a responsibility to learn and do so much more than I am currently doing. Yet I honestly don’t know how I can cram any more into the limited capacity my frazzled brain has left and I know I am definitely not the first person to cover this matter on such forums.
Growing up, navigating through my twenties I never felt the pressure to have that ‘perfect’ body etc which previous generations set as the benchmark for perfect. Although, that said I would probably attribute this indifferent attitude to my eating disorder I had rather than being unaware of the misgivings of the media’s quest to make us hate ourselves. I would say I was almost disgusted by my skinny frame more than pretending I was oblivious to the messages which were boomed around by magazines and their influence over women’s lives. I have my hang-ups and insecurities about my looks for sure, but in my opinion I was dealt a rather ok card in the genetics, lifestyle, socioeconomic lottery and whilst of course there are many things I would change if a genie was thrown my way, I know to be careful about how much I worry about my wonky nose and bad chin. I am sure there are so many others out there, who would leap to swap my issues with theirs.
Yet as we have lobbied, protested and fought for our rights, pushed and pushed until being a feminist started to be seen for what it is and less as a vegan, tree hugger who didn’t want to shave her armpits amongst changes in other social injustices, the need to look perfect has almost been replaced by this unachievable goal that we must now be the perfect, fully formed, articulate, opinion sharer who is fully ‘woke’ and I for one cannot keep up.
By dictionary definition woke is said to represent a person who is alert to injustice in society, especially racism. If there was ever a goal to push people towards, living in a world where all members of society tried to strive to be woke, to be aware of social justice/ injustices would be the dream right? So why does it keep me up at night? Why am I waking early to fit in new books, podcasts, tv, documentaries, youtube videos, Ted talks… the list goes on. Morning, noon and night. It reached a point where I was using every spare second I had. I had podcasts playing whilst at work, I read whilst I walked to the office and on my lunch break, I watched tv, whilst scrolling the news and keeping up with social media and social changes.
Millennials have been said to be the generation who are more likely to take a more fulfilling job which gives purpose and substance to our lives over a higher salary (I would back this up with the right article if I was a real writer and could remember where I read it, so just take my word it is apparently true). We want change, we want to make sure we are getting what we need from life and enhancing it for others instead of being stuck in the rat race are parents found themselves in during the ’80s and ’90s. It is a lifestyle which I have seen myself cultivate, but it is so hard to feel as though it is enough. I want a work-life balance but I am also trying to define what success would mean to me in this new ‘woke’ world.
The problem I have with it all is the need to have the perfect opinion on every matter brought to the table, and if you don’t you are instantly struck off this make believe woke list. In my personal opinion, there does not seem to be room for learning. It feels so black and white. To someone who has felt the effects of social injustice, I get it, I really do. I would not want to listen to an opposing argument of someone who cannot relate to how it truly feels and it must be exhausting trying to make the same argument to the same demographics of people over and over again, but we cannot move forward with this attitude. Sometimes to me it feels as though trying to understand or trying to gain an insight into seeing things from a variety of perspectives is worse than not trying at all.
As someone who is not as articulate as wish I was, I often find the hostile consequences to a wrong comment, or in my case, very bad phrasing leaves me afraid to even try to learn and adapt or approach subjects from different angles. At the end of the day we are all only human, and as much as my anxiety issues wishes I was, I am not, and nor are you, perfect.
To me, I believe that it is better for anyone to try to begin to be a little more conscious in any given area. Whether this is trying to tackle racism and gaining a better understanding on how minorities feel, fighting your feminist corner, making more active changes to help reduce your impact on climate change, eating less meat to make animals suffer less or drive down mass farming, doing your bit to increase opportunities for underprivileged families or making sure the place you live in or work at has the right views on LGBTQ+ and is inclusive of all. It is much better to feel as though you are chipping away at a section of these concerns than feeling you are not good enough to make any change.
I don’t ever try and provoke an argument, I am not provocative with my opinions, in my ideal world everyone would be born with the same start in life and opportunities to live the life they want to lead, yet somehow it doesn’t matter how we try to make these approaches you can end up feeling as though you have pissed off or offended someone and suddenly I feel like Piers Morgan on a Monday morning making a twatty comment I instantly regret. I know I take things to heart more than perhaps others who can be more brazen with their thoughts and logic, I don’t know, this is just my stance on such matters.
In the much better article by Emma Gannon which discuss this topic in much greater and more sophisticated detail, she states that you are not born woke, you ‘wake up’ and become more aware of the injustices which surround you but I struggle with this statement. From an early age, we adapt to an environment which surrounds us and thoughts and opinions of those closest to us are a massive influence. It takes years to come away from these. It is our responsibility to educate better for the future. I live in a small rural town where the population is I’d say 99% (this is not an official figure) white, middle class, conservative, where farming is a massive part of the local community. To begin to change peoples opinions on why I don’t think hunting and shooting for entertainment or sports is ok, or why I don’t think any racist, discriminative, sexist, prejudice, anti-feminist joke are even remotely funny whether in banter or not is hard. I was afraid for so long about telling my family I no longer wanted to eat meat, saying out loud that I no longer wanted animals to suffer for me to have a nice dinner (not that my family want animals to suffer either) felt as monumental as admitting I was changing my whole lifestyle to one they couldn’t understand. Many could not see why I would do that when they had grown up on the premise that a good healthy meal needed to be made up of meat, meat, meat some vegetables and potatoes.
In true style, I always struggle to draw conclusions to my often unnecessary rants. I have probably put down a few 100 words of waffle which made no more sense than my drunk chat but I just want anyone who feels like they cannot get through this new backlog of media reading, listening to and watching list we are thrown, or for anyone who feels they are a bit behind with changes, who don’t know the new pc terms for everything these days or know the right thing to say or do all the time its ok. In my experience a lot of people don’t and if someone cannot understand why you don’t feel the same way as them give them the chance to learn and listen to their reasons too. The only way to move forward is to teach each other instead of making people feel inferior for not knowing.
Learn to be understanding, no one is going to meet every view you have. There are generations above us who perhaps just don’t understand the need for such changes and generations below me who are doing more and know more than I could have ever dreamed to have been tackling at their age. To them, I am sure I look so ignorant. However, I will always believe many making little changes will always be more beneficial than one or two making big changes alone.
Lastly, I really hate the word woke.