“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare” wrote Audre Lorde in her 1988 book ‘A Burst of Light'. Lorde’s framing of the notion of self-care is rooted in the defence against a hostile culture beyond mainstream depictions and understanding. Care for yourself and others in a world that is exploitative and hostile to a number of identities is essential in preserving wellbeing, preventing burn-out and dismantling systems of oppression. In many ways, engaging in acts of care is saying that you matter, despite being told otherwise.
Over the past year, amid a world-wide pandemic, with existing inequalities being exposed and heightened, activist spaces and grassroots groups have continued to deliver vital work. Many in Manchester alone, have shared feelings of sadness and helplessness when organising the radical work, they wish to deliver. These feelings have a resounding theme of a ‘delay’ in their abilities to deliver the most radical version of their work possible: spreading anti-capitalist, anti-oppressive and radical feminist messages, just to name a few. These spaces instead have become that of venting frustrations, sharing hardships and commonalities, likely over a meal or hot drink. Activists who have expressed their worries of stagnation are not to be invalidated, as feeling as though you aren’t ‘achieving enough’ in such turbulent times is all too common. However, it is important to recognise that the space for people to just simply be in connection with others, to laugh and cry and reflect on the world is radical enough. These spaces have become a lifeline for some, and their very existence offers care in a time when marginalised groups have bore the brunt of challenging systems and hostile environments. This is a radical act.
Care for yourself and others, particularly currently, is not an act of indulgence. From the burden of activist spaces to the every-day burn out of oppressed identities, care is about reclaiming time, space and energy as a means of survival. The concept of kindness is often viewed as the ‘bare-minimum’ by which all of us should operate, but to sincerely care for others takes strength. Our collective understanding of care, particularly for yourself can be deemed selfish, especially for women and even more so women of colour, but we need to recognise that this feeling is a result of the heteropatriarchal, white-supremacist and classist systems we seek to address.
Care is personal and political, and an integral part of activism, it is a movement beyond ‘me time’ hashtags on social media and should be remembered for its roots in radical feminist and political roots.