*applause* It’s a fundamentally capitalist discourse, in a way, that we as activists have this responsibility to make ourselves productive, our worth is determined by our productivity, and any impedances to this productivity must be dealt with, and on our own time/with our own energy/with our own resources.
What gets me is that so many of the people I know who are really into, like… I’ve started calling it “self care evangelism” because I’m a bitch - defend their positions by being like “well self care is important because it’s CAPITALISTIC to not make room for self-care, because THE STATE and CAPITALISM are what push people to work themselves to exhaustion with no time for themselves!”
I mean yes capitalism and the state do that! It is a problem, though, when peoples’ response to that is, “WELL THEN MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF ANYWAY BECAUSE THAT’S GOOD SELF CARE!”
Just… okay, fine, I’ll do that when you do all my housework, homework, when you make sure my rent is paid, oh and my phone bills, they’re pretty high because of all the long-distance calls back home to where I’m supporting my family (sometimes financially) through crisis, you should probably also take that on, too.
THEN I will gladly buy myself some fucking bubble bath.
OR you could acknowledge that we as a “community” (and I use the term loosely because I have issues with that term too but w/e that’s another post) are responsible to some degree for one another and that we contribute to each other’s mental state and not just… fucking dismiss anyone who is having legit issues as “needing to do self-care” or “not doing enough self-care”, or protect abusers in the name of their “self-care”. Because my problems with self-care discourse go beyond the consumeristic nature of it - the “oh just go buy yourself some nice tea and take some time off work” - and have a lot to do with the collective disengagement inherent in expecting people to deal with things like being arrested, beaten, etc, etc on your own and if you don’t then you are a bad activist
It really puts the lie to the myth of the “activist community” when people thing of activist self-care in individualistic terms like that, is what I’m saying. I MEAN: NOT TO SAY THAT PEOPLE AREN’T ULTIMATELY RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR OWN SHIT. BECAUSE WE ARE. But when someone withdraws from a group or particular campaign or whatever because of “burnout” - it’s because the group or campaign has failed them, in a way, too. We NEED to be able to keep each other going, as activists.
A term I am exploring is “community care” - I’d really like to start up some kind of community care group or collective, of folks who can help other folks in our vague “community” with stuff like running errands, doing chores, or just idk, hanging out so people don’t feel isolated or whatever.
*SO* glad this discussion is happening.
[TW: sexual harassment, rape culture]
I remember when I was 16 I used to volunteer at this nonprofit where sexual harassment of teenage girls was rampant—like, happening every other shift if not every shift—and common knowledge. And while everyone agreed that it was “bad,” the attitude was very much that NO structural changes needed to be made in response to it and that any stress caused by the harassment should just be dealt with through the victim’s “self-care.”
Looking back I’m completely floored. Like, why didn’t anyone make it so that I could opt out of working with older men (who were 99.99% of the perps but only ~40% of the people you were expected to interact with)?? Why didn’t the adults and teenage boys get taught how to support a co-worker who was dealing with a sexual harassment? Why were so many of them allowed to victim-blame or yell at us for our “complicity?” Why didn’t someone tell me how to recognize red flags or that I was allowed to assert boundaries? Why was it a rule that you were being “rude” to someone who crossed small boundaries and that you had to wait for something “big” (like an assault) to happen before the administration would support your decision to disengage? Why was an institutional violence being passed off as my individual problem?
I’m sure there are organizations that use the phrase “self-care” in ways that are legitimate. But mostly—at least on an institutional level—I think that the “self-care paradigm” is about—exactly—it’s about shirking collective responsibility, de-centering issues of oppression, and then putting the onus on the oppressed person to clean up the mess made by the organization as a whole.
All of this.