loving ourselves in a world on fire
I have been thinking a lot lately about feminist approaches to self-care. There are stereotypes of feminists as serious, frazzled and angry, but isn't there reason to be? Many of us spend our time thinking over heavy problems and solutions, participating in challenging and sometimes heartbreaking work, and then expect ourselves to still be sane and alive in this society by the end of the day.
Contemporary support networks to foster well-being often are not the focus of organizing and come as an afterthought if at all. We may work together as sisters but still leave each other with the nastiness of the day stuck to us when we part the classroom or office. Even worse, we leave our loved ones, comrades, as well as our own selves in the hands of the very powers some are killing themselves to go against. Doctors, the medical/pharmaceutical industry, psychologists can put to practice other oppressive systems (classism, ableism, racism, etc) through what is posited as the person's best interest. We have people locked up, drugged up, exiled all around us (or maybe ourselves included) and why? Because they are criminal? Ask too many questions? Pushed the boundaries of all of our comfortable confines by acknowledging power and difference? Other mental diversity issues, such as depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts, can be a symptom of our exploitative and numbing culture as opposed to a defect of the self. Feminist communities are a great place to address these issues as well.
Often when I am in crisis of some sort it is because I am feeling too much in that moment and become unsure where to go from that stricken place. Feeling, and especially feeling which leads to change is best controlled by folks who don't want to see change occur.
In addition to the forced passivity some treatments induce, there is also a larger silencing and erasure of feeling that occurs in daily life. Feminists, many whom tend to approach things with open eyes, expose themselves to a variety of things that we are not supposed to if capitalism and culture are to be successful. In a way, this gives us some "exposed nerves" that become even more noticeable the more you acknowledge them. Dominant culture mandates that we forget these nerves, forget other people, forget the land, forget ourselves and our dreams, and then replaces all of them with unfeeling things- consumerism, noise, growth, indifference. We are taught as "Americans" that feelings are messy, painful, to be avoided, quite unlike the sleek, shiny optimism we are supposed to latch onto as a shared dream. How can we hope to build connections and see movements through if we all are silenced, driven crazy, doped up and delegitimized by those in power JUST FOR CALLING THEM OUT?
What I propose is a world where everyone's needs are met, including emotional needs. There is much talk in feminism on the idea of community building, and I think central to those conversations should be how we care for each other in activist/feminist communities, and ways that we can support people through difficult internal and external struggles. I believe self-care and care of others is of vital importance to the continued success of any movement and we should all have conversations as to how to better care for one another and prioritize our well-being above constructs which are said to hold more value. Love can change the world! I love you, I love myself. Do you love me? Do you love yourself?