My Growing Disapproval of the Label “Woke”

The label “woke” is everywhere I turn, and increasingly I cringe inwardly every time I hear it. “Are you woke?” “I’m woke.” “This person is so woke.” “#staywoke” And on and on. A dear friend of mine, whom I love, has been calling her new beau “woke AF”, and it was realizing how much I was making a face while reading this that made me question why I was reacting in this way (and if you are reading this, you know that I am THRILLED that you are so happy and have such an amazing person in your life and I will gladly bear the cringing while being witness to your bliss).

So why do I take issue? Why, I’m so glad you’ve asked.

  1. If you’ve spent any time with me before, you will know I hate labels of all kinds. And this has become yet another divisive label for people. People who think of themselves as “woke” frequently mock and deride the “unwoke” and rather than sharing the knowledge they have gained, they decide to write off those who are not at their level of advancement. And this separation is feeding the ego, not the spirit. If you are more woke than someone else in some ways, then you should have compassion for those that are not yet awake, not disdain. Frustration occasionally, but not disdain. Because at the end of the day, we are both individuals and a collective whole, as a species. So anything that raises you up above other peoples in your own head and makes you able to write off a large group is not really healthy. That’s like writing off your left foot because it’s numb from being in one position for too long, instead of helping to change the position of the left foot to get the blood flowing and be able to use it. Basically, many use it as smug elitism, and that isn’t doing anyone any good.
  2. So very many people, maybe especially those that consider themselves spiritual or are attempting to prey on others who are spiritual, are using the term as a tool to manipulate others to do what they want and to create power differentials. It’s incredibly hypocritical, and hypocrisy is something I abhor. I would rather spend time with an honest asshole than a hypocritical nice person. I have seen arguments that go “I get to do XYZ because I’m woke, and you only have a problem with it because you aren’t. If you were woke, you’d understand”, and what I understand is that you want the opportunity to gain something using really sleazy tactics.
  3. Not everyone is woke to the same things. Some may be spiritually woke and some physically, some may be socially woke while others are woke internally, some may have a slight inkling of what is going on behind the scenes while others may see the same thing from a different angle. I do believe that there are natural laws in the universe we are operating in, and certain fundamental truths exist, but as far as the details go, we all have a lot to learn. So keeping an open mind and not comparing “woke-ness” is a good step. Ben Folds sang that there’s always someone cooler than you, and one can apply that here. There is always someone more evolved and conscious than you.
  4. I think my biggest problem with the term “woke” and the way it is permeating into common culture is that it is in the past tense, implying that the work is done. And I get it. I had some huge leaps in spiritual and creative growth in 2014, when I finally lost my fear of myself and my power to change the world. And I had a brief moment after the tumultuous growing pains where I thought that I was done and could rest on my enlightened laurels and enjoy the fruits of my labor. But the truth is that awakening is something that should be consistently happening in your life. It is an active, present-tense verb because that is the way we should be living – in the present-tense. If you are woke, then you aren’t expanding yourself as much as you can be because you consider yourself done. Diving deep means uncovering more to learn, getting answers to questions means even more questions come up. If I were a bigger conspiracy theorist, I would say that the whole woke movement has been co-opted by figures in whose interest it is to keep people from that repetitive awakening. Life should be like a Fibonnaci spiral – we start small, we expand, then we go back and then expand again but in ever widening circles.

I don’t know. I am probably making much out of nothing. Language is more important than most people realize though. Do any of you have thoughts or feelings on the way this has permeated our culture?

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5 thoughts on “My Growing Disapproval of the Label “Woke”

  1. i am guilty of using the term i cant lie… but i NEVER looked at it this way.. or how it could be taken to others.. which is something i usually do.. thank you for sharing this.. happy to have found ya 🙂

    • Glad you found me too! Your blog is incredibly powerful, and I look forward to reading through it some more.

      It’s funny that my discomfort of the label has grown to the extent it has, because it should be such a positive thing. And when it is used sincerely, I can usually recognize it. But so many have co-opted it at this point, I can’t get the sour taste out of my mouth.

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