Being “Woke”

Recently several people got into an argument on my Facebook page. The author of an article I posted described herself using the term “she/her”. One reader immediately dismissed all the author had written and complained about it. Others jumped in scolding the poster for her reaction. No one won.

To be “woke” is to be alive to the experience of others without thrusting your own concerns first. It is to simply pause and make the effort to understand how someone else is feeling and identifying. It is no harm to the listener. To truly care about others it is essential that we put our interests and “truths” to the side at times. There is no shame in compassionate listening. This can be hard. It requires setting aside the urge to give others our Truth.

Whether it is in regard to race, gender identity, social status, education, intelligence or more, there are people who experience the benefits of privilege. This is nothing to be ashamed of.  I am not ashamed to be white. I am only ashamed if I use my race to diminish someone else or when I am blind to how my race grants me opportunities that it does not give to another.

I understand the frustration with the explicit description of gender identity. We often believe that we can “tell” what gender someone is. But we’re wrong. We can’t always tell. So for the sake of individuals who are not ‘obvious’, normalizing the use of defining language, the use of she/her, etc. helps to avoid misidentification.  I too was initially annoyed that everyone was adding this to their signature. I too thought I “could tell.” Until I found that (a) I couldn’t always tell! And (b) that people I love were being hurt by others who were using the incorrect pronoun.  I had to ask, is it really so hard to do this tiny thing that will make some people’s lives easier, less painful?  No, it is not.

I urge everyone reading this to consider whether they can rally a bit of compassion, enough to overcome their annoyance and do a kindness, indeed, a mitzvah, of putting the feelings of others first.