Once you’re woke, you can’t go back to sleep

This is an open letter of sorts for everyone wondering why I’ve changed; “everyone” including my friends from various churches, bible studies, and small groups. You don’t “get” me anymore. You think I’ve “backslidden.” I get it. Not too long ago, I’d have thought the exact same thing.

But I must digress.

In many ways, my awakening as a feminist has parallels to my spiritual awakening as a Christian. I remember, as a sophomore in college, when dorm neighbors would ask me to go bar-hopping with them, and I had no interest (which had more to do with being introverted and preferring to stay home and read on Saturday nights than any faith-related objections, but I pretended otherwise).

I remember shaking my head in disgust when October was turned into “Sextober” on campus, and flyers about events featuring sex-positive speakers were everywhere, making my commitment to abstinence feel weirder than it needed to be.

My interests, attitudes, and beliefs were changing, and everywhere I went, it seemed there was something or someone eager to mock or challenge them. And yet this new frame of mind was something I couldn’t just take off because it was inconvenient and kept me from having a good time.

Becoming a feminist feels the same way: opposition and small annoyances are everywhere from beer ads to song lyrics, but there are bigger challenges too, like “locker room talk” and newspaper headlines that refer to Brock Turner as “Stanford Swimmer” rather than “Accused Rapist.” Things I can’t un-see or un-hear now that I know better.

There’s a popular Onion article called “Feminist Takes Day Off to Enjoy New Episode of The Bachelor,” but I can’t take “days off” anymore; I can only ignore. And I can only do that for so long.

“Once you’re woke,” said my Women’s Studies professor on the last day of class, “you can’t go back to sleep.” And it’s true. There’s just too much to be done.


Awakenings aren’t convenient. I’m not nearly as much fun anymore. I can’t enjoy songs for their melodies and catchiness anymore without commenting on problematic lyrics (I’m looking at you, Shawn Mendes). I’m annoying to watch TV and movies with because I can’t turn my brain off from “Does she have any purpose other than being a sex symbol?” or “Why do these characters have to talk about women that way?”

“Angry feminist killjoy” is not an undeserved or untrue stereotype. There is plenty to be angry about in this world. Anger, in my case, is the fuel that motivates me to march, protest, or call my senators. As for being a “killjoy,” well, I hope that things I advocate “killing” deserve to die anyway: things like love scenes on TV in which the consent of one partner is sketchy at best; the myth that alcohol is responsible for rape on college campuses; or the automatic assumption that women who accuse powerful men of rape must be after their money.

I don’t know how to keep quiet about these things anymore – believe me, my life would be easier if I could. But you can’t really choose to “be woke” any more than you can choose what happens to you. Life often hands us narratives we never dreamed of, so I’m making the most of mine.

I hope you can understand, even if you disagree. I can’t be the same as I was before, even if I wanted to, because I can’t stay asleep any longer.



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7 thoughts on “Once you’re woke, you can’t go back to sleep

  1. Are you familiar with the song Milck sang at the Women’s March in DC? It’s called “I can’t keep quiet”. Your very well written, passionate blog reminds me of it. You can google it and check it out.


  2. Perhaps the hardest thing about being awoken to the truth is that everyone else around you can still be asleep and just not see what you see and just not know what you know and completely accept everything as totally fine. As a Christian, I find a lot of women are okay with a number of teachings today that really bother me and they view me as a heretic or simply mistaken at best. I know that Christianity has a lot of women who are anti-feminists who truly believe that they have got it good and everything’s golden. But however good they have it, they tend to not know what its like when the worst case scenario has played out and those who were meant to protect turned out to be wolves who preyed on them.
    One song that bother’s me is ”Breakeven’ (falling to pieces). Probably because It sort of glorifies this guy who refuses to let know of his love as if she were a possession that he can’t stand having taken away. I always imagined it being sung by an abusive guy behind bars whose obsession with his love has destroyed her life and he thinks that without her he’s falling to pieces.


  3. I think these big ideological tripping points are some of our most legitimate struggles, because they swallow the whole of our existence and put our identities into constant doubt. I can’t really understand feminism, I have the privilege to contemplate the problem as a tangential issue to my own existence. But I know about these existential black holes that never let you go. I got swallowed by the religion one, and I’ve come to understand that I can never find peace. Maybe finding peace with our own existence isn’t necessarily the most important thing.


  4. Those things we (however it happens) learn to see and hear, and see through and hear through, have a lot to do with my lifetime mostly avoidance of “Pop” music. I remember the time, back when it was new, I found “Thriller” on M-TV. I got through at most half of it and was done with Michael Jackson, completely. Of course, at the time, I was reading Alice Miller’s book on abusive child rearing, “For Your Own Good,” which may have had something to do with my reaction. And, I came of ge musically listening to real Blues and the likes of Joni Mitchel.

    And, sometimes, somebody does a cover of a classic song that completely pulls its covers and exposes its dark innards:


  5. I have found myself listening to song lyrics and responding the same way. About how women, the love of their life, are view by the singer. And many of the songs I grew up with(Love the one you’re with) are the same way. Free love never was.


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