Initially, this piece was supposed to be a follow-up to a blog post called ‘Response to “An end to self care”: how about an end to the activist martyr complex’ by Afro feminist writer and activist Spectra . Spectra’s piece was a direct response to an article called “An end to self-care” published on Organizing Upgrade by B. Loewe, an activist who “proposed bringing an end to the individualism behind “self-care” and, instead, called for community care”.
I opted to do a follow-up to Spectra’s piece rather than a direct response to the article by B. Loewe because I only really read things written by women of colour, on some rare occasions men of colour and on even rarer occasions white, usually queer/feminists women (throughout my education I was constantly fed the lie that women of colour do not write hence why they were not on the course syllabus/reading lists; since I found out this was a lie I stopped reading male/white authors to make up for lost time) and since the original article, “An end to Self-care”, was written by (I’m assuming) a white man I did not want to invest time in reading it.
But, in my attempt to write a meaningful, amazing, non-boring follow-up piece to Spectra’s blog post, I ended up procrastinating (writer’s block is not a joke) and I eventually read B Lowe’s article – well, just the opening paragraph (men’s writing is so boring!), and it pissed me off so much that I thought a direct response was needed.
Here’s the opening paragraph to B Lowe’s “An end to self-care”:
“I’m going to say it. I want to see an end to “self-care.” Can we put a nail in self-care’s coffin and instead birth a newer discussion of community care?
As I most often hear it, self-care stands as an importation of middle-class values of leisure that’s blind to the dynamics of working class (or even family) life, inherently rejects collective responsibility for each other’s well-being, misses power dynamics in our lives, and attempts to serve as a replacement for a politics and practice of desire that could actually ignite our hearts with a fuel to work endlessly.”
So, first thoughts: I always switch off when people (by people I mean mostly white men and women) start talking about class in relation to oppression – I went to a hippy uni where I was surrounded by white middle-classed-pretending-to-be-working class-heteronormative-privileged folk who really had nothing to complain about so they constantly preached about how great Marx was and how evil the government and corporations were and how we should all get along because being a white working class person is exactly the same as being black/queer/disabled [insert oppression here] and ultimately we all share the same ‘struggle’; these times I couldn’t even pay my rent let alone have the luxury of reading theory in my spare time – ok, rant over! My point is that seeing the overused ‘evil middle class vs good working class’ rhetoric used by white middle-classed activists was an immediate turn off and reconfirmed exactly why I stay away from such authors.
My decision to read only women of colour is actually part of my self-care practice; for me and my community (by community I mean other queer people of colour/women of colour I hang out with) self-care is a method of survival. I’ve come to realise that if I am not careful racism/misogyny/homophobia will eventually kill me. Reading Alice Walker; Buchi Emecheta; Ifi Amadiume; and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is essential for the well being of my mental health. I need to read books where people of colour are not being used as just a backdrop to a story about some white person who goes to Africa or Asia (or some place where the native people are not white but have been, at some point, colonised by white people) and saves the natives and/or they find the secret to joy. I need to read books where feminism does not just mean the liberation of white women; books, in which the only time women of colour are mentioned is in relation to FGM (female genital mutilation: white feminists love to talk about this topic so much they gave it an abbreviation). I need to read books where the word ‘woman’ does not automatically mean white woman; I need to read books where the word ‘people’ does not automatically mean white people.
Self-care is about survival; it is about healing. I read and listen to Stacy Anne Chin because the wounds and scars of sexual abuse in my childhood and adulthood continue to haunt me. I read and listen to Stacy Anne Chin because I know I am not the only one who still suffers from these wounds but I am afraid that speaking to others will open up wounds that they thought they had recovered from. I read and listen to Stacy Anne Chin because, thanks to patriarchy, we still do not have the mechanisms, the words, the space, and the time to talk about and deal with sexual abuse even with our closest friends.
Self-care means that I will not go to feminists/LGBT spaces where the needs and contributions of people of colour are actively ignored because the white organisers do not think it is always necessary to talk about race.
Self-care means staying away from spaces where white people think it is ok for me to educate them because they simply “do not know” about race and racism so it is ok for me to give up my time and energy to give them the racism 101 time after time.
Self-care means staying away from spaces where I have to begin every sentence with “as a woman of colour” in order to validate my opinions and experiences.
Self-care is the reason I watch Nollywood; because despite its problematic, Western-obsessed-heteronormative narratives, I need to be reminded that people of colour exist.
Self-care means spending more time with women of colour because, frankly, I am tired of constantly having to speak eloquently with little or no emotions because that is the only way men will hear my voice and opinions; even though they can talk as much shit about nothing and everything and have the whole room listen and then applaud, simply because they are men. I should have the freedom to disagree without being called ’emotional’
Self-care means spending more time with women of colour because I am tried of being demonized every time I tell a man (of colour) that he is being misogynist; because, apparently, reading bell hooks means that they automatically become the liberators of women and therefore can not possibly be misogynistic ever again.
Self-care means spending more time with queer people of colour because, again, I am tired of being silenced and shunned every time I talk about sexuality and homophobia with straight people of colour; I am tired of being told that it is not appropriate to talk about sexuality and that homosexuality is not a ‘real’ issue for people of colour.
Self-care means that it is okay to say no; and it is okay to be tired. I am tired of having to uphold the notion that women of colour are strong, unbreakable, super-human beings who have to make sure that the whole family is fed before feeding themselves. I am not ‘Nanny’; nor am I Neyo, Drake or Lil Wayne’s misogynistic fantasy of the ‘independent’ woman who cooks, cleans, fucks, and still looks flawless whilst doing so.
Self-care is about the preservation and betterment of my physical and mental well being. It is the reason I drink more water, sleep more, smoke less and stay away from processed foods.
Self-care is the reason I stay the hell away from spaces/people who think that educating them on racism/misogyny/homophobia/disability has to take priority over my well being. I should have the freedom to choose who I educate/engage with.
Self-care is about “living my life like it’s golden” (yes, I just quoted Jill Scott) because if I don’t, I will actually go insane.