“Women and femmes are rarely seen as belonging to ourselves first. So I think that reclamation is important.”
Self-care is a fluid concept. It is vital and it looks different from person to person. Essentially, self-care means doing something kind for yourself, for your mental well-being, for your physical well-being. Self-care is revolutionary for women of color and, as Audre Lorde said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
I hold that sentence so close to my heart. When black women, especially queer or trans black women, nurture and love themselves, it is most definitely revolutionary.
I write so much about self-care in regard to race because of my own experiences as a multiracial, queer woman. I have come to understand the importance of decolonizing vulnerability and self-care because of our own internalized martyrdom when it is specific to non-white cultures.
I still battle this idea in my mind that I should feel guilty about my “guilty pleasures” and that prioritizing myself is somehow selfish or damaging. In reality, those harmful ideas are a part of us because we have internalized systems of oppression. Patriarchy, white supremacy and capitalism rely on us valuing paid and unpaid labor over ourselves and our happiness.
Every week, Wear Your Voice will be featuring an interview with a woman of color on what self-care means to her. Our hope is to provide our readers with a better look at what self-care looks like for different people so that we can help decolonize self-care for better resistance. This week, I interviewed writer and sex educator Cameron for her thoughts on self-care.
Wear Your Voice: What does self-care mean to you?
Cameron: The definition for self-care has changed so much for me in the past few months. Before, I did view it through a commercialism lens, but the long-term sustainability of that (and the disconnect that it had from other issues that I face and try to bring awareness to as a marginalized person) all hit me pretty heavy. Now, I see self-care being summed up best as “balance.”
Audre Lorde was right in how she said self-care is a political act, and how the personal itself is political. But self-care is this unique mix of exploring external and internal ways to center oneself. Some days my self-care does look like taking a bubble bath or blasting riot grrl music or doing yoga with a candle burning. But most of the time, it’s subtler; self-care looks like checking in with my friends, or doing the necessary and vastly unsexy everyday work of household chores and paying bills. Self-care is a balance between the fun and the necessary.
WYV: What are some of the things that you do for self-care?
C: I’ve been trying to focus on how everyday activities can be self-care for me. So lately, unplugging and spending time offline has been a huge part of that practice. I’ve been reading more books — sometimes they’re for “research” on topics I’m interested in writing, but they also help me to just learn new things about the topics I’m fascinated by.
I’ve also been getting more into just centering and taking care of myself; cooking and spring cleaning have, oddly enough, been things that help me to feel refreshed and rejuvenated. Ultimately, I gravitate towards things that help me to create this sense of intentional mindfulness to connect me back to my body and my self.
WYV: What advice would you give to women who are just learning to put themselves first?
C: Women and femmes are seen as hypervisible and commodifiable properties, largely, in our society. I think that the first step we can take to empowering and reclaiming ourselves can be in centering ourselves first. There’s this push for us to cater to others — whether it’s taking care of them or providing labor of some kind on demand, women and femmes are rarely seen as belonging to ourselves first. So I think that reclamation is important — and it doesn’t really matter how we do it as long as it works for us individually.
I know some femmes that find that empowerment through having a morning routine where they beat their faces and do their hair and it’s almost like a meditative practice for them. But then I know other women and femme folks that do that by laying boundaries and saying, “Hey, this is how I want to give labor to the world and how I want to be treated for it.” But I think it all starts with the self, and understanding what we want and how we can refill our own cups before giving to others. And also, understanding that there’s NOTHING wrong or selfish about putting ourselves and our needs first is something I wish I learned way earlier.