“In the 1980s, as she struggled with cancer, Audre Lorde asserted that caring for herself was “an act of political warfare.” Since then, self-care has become a popular buzzword in activist circles. The rhetoric of self-care has moved from specific to universal, from defiant to prescriptive. When we talk about self-care today, are we talking about the same thing Lorde was? It’s time to reexamine this concept.”
Read FOR ALL WE CARE, Reconsidering Self-Care on CrimethInc.
“Caring for ourselves doesn’t mean pacifying ourselves. We should be suspicious of any understanding of self-care that identifies wellbeing with placidity or asks us to perform “health” for others. Can we imagine instead a form of care that would equip each of us to establish an intentional relationship to her dark side, enabling us to draw strength from the swirling chaos within? Treating ourselves gently might be an essential part of this, but we must not assume a dichotomy between healing and engaging with the challenges around and inside us. If care is only what happens when we step away from those struggles, we will be forever torn between an unsatisfactory withdrawal from conflict and its flipside, a workaholism that is never enough. Ideally, care would encompass and transcend both struggle and recovery, tearing down the boundaries that partition them.”
“If we want to identify what is worth preserving in self-care, we can start by scrutinizing care itself. To endorse care as a universal good is to miss the role care also plays in perpetuating the worst aspects of the status quo. There’s no such thing as care in its pure form—care abstracted from daily life in capitalism and the struggles against it. No, care is partisan—it is repressive or liberating. There are forms of care that reproduce the existing order and its logic, and other forms of care that enable us to fight it. We want our expressions of care to nurture liberation, not domination—to bring people together according to a different logic and values.”
“So rather than promoting self-care, we might seek to redirect and redefine care. For some of us, this means recognizing how we benefit from imbalances in the current distribution of care, and shifting from forms of care that focus on ourselves alone to support structures that benefit all participants. Who’s working so you can rest? For others, it could mean taking better care of ourselves than we’ve been taught we have a right to—though it’s unrealistic to expect anyone to undertake this individually as a sort of consumer politics of the self. Rather than creating gated communities of care, let’s pursue forms of care that are expansive, that interrupt our isolation and threaten our hierarchies.
Self-care rhetoric has been appropriated in ways that can reinforce the entitlement of the privileged, but a critique of self-care must not be used as yet another weapon against those who are already discouraged from seeking care. In short: step up, step back.
“A struggle that doesn’t understand the importance of care is doomed to fail. The fiercest collective revolts are built on a foundation of nurture. But reclaiming care doesn’t just mean giving ourselves more care, as one more item after all the others on the to-do list. It means breaking the peace treaty with our rulers, withdrawing care from the processes that reproduce the society we live in and putting it to subversive and insurrectionary purposes.”
“If self-care is just a way to ease the impact of an ever-increasing demand for productivity, rather than a transformative rejection of that demand, it’s part of the problem, not the solution. For self-care to be anti-capitalist, it has to express a different conception of health.”
“Your human frailty is not a regrettable fault to be treated by proper self-care so you can get your nose back to the grindstone. Sickness, disability, and unproductivity are not anomalies to be weeded out; they are moments that occur in every life, offering a common ground on which we might come together. If we take these challenges seriously and make space to focus on them, they could point the way beyond the logic of capitalism to a way of living in which there is no dichotomy between care and liberation.”