What is Self-Care?

Audre Lord on self-care

In many ways we must start a conversation on self-care with Audre Lorde, the “black, lesbian, feminist, socialist, mother, warrior, poet” who wrote this while living with breast cancer: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare”.

Self-Care as Liberation

The current popular dialogue on self-care tends to focus on the self portion of self-care, as well as on the belief that “if I just find and purchase the next new skincare product, or buy another tarot deck, or take a bath in rose petals imported from overseas in rare salt and gold leaf, then I will be caring for myself”, and we ignore the political warfare portion. We also ignore that self-care IS community care and that liberation for all (yourself included) is revolutionary. Care, health, and wellness can be connected to broader efforts to dismantle current systems of harm rather than sacrificed to the neoliberal, capitalistic push to hustle and do more, buy more, try to fill the void within with more things rather than connecting into the soil, into yourself, or into community.

Self-care as it is sold today furthers system of harm because it is steeped in the binaries created by capitalism: civilized/uncivilized, masculine/feminine, normative/queer, beautiful/ugly, valuable/worthless, white/black, wealthy/poor, etc.

How is capitalism related to self-care?

The typical communication that self-care is buying yourself flowers, or that new product is deeply entwined with capitalism. Lets define and discuss capitalism:

Capitalism is not the same as commerce (and money is not the same as capitalism). Capitalism is the expectation of endless growth, the exploitation of people and resources, the hoarding of capital. Capitalism is at its root the separation of us (humans) from everything else (nature, the world). Capitalism says that we are separate and better than the rest of the world/nature, so we can exploit and use natural resources. The next step was/is to further this othering through more binary systems: the rich are better than the poor, white people are better than black people and other POC (this is the savage or uncivilized narrative), men are better than women, healthy (well) people are better than not healthy (unwell) people, skinny/beautiful people are better than fat/ugly people. Through the enshrinement of these binaries, the exploitation of people and enclosing/stealing of land is justified, so to return to a reciprocal relationship with the land and the natural world is to divest from capitalism and other systems of harm.

“The predatory patriarchal division of labor is based, from the outset, on a structural separation and subordination of human beings: men are separated from women, whom they have subordinated their ‘own’ people are separated from the ‘foreigners’ or ‘heathens’” 
-Marxist feminist scholar Maria Mies Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale

Divesting from the binary

This creation of binary is a foundational narrative in our collective consciousness, and shows up everywhere from work, to home, to even our own sense of self (identifying narrative and learning new ways to shift themes is the focus of my work at Mae Mind Body). Based on the binary systems of capitalism and derivative systems of harm, we have violently enforced these ideas, and created the worldwide disaster that we are currently experiencing.

Intersectional Feminism and Self-Care

The “civilizing” of women through enforcement of hygiene, wellness, diet, dressing, medicine, and behavior was an important part of European womens’ feminine colonial agenda. Don’t forget the ways that European men kept European women subjugated through economic, religious, civil, and psychological institutions. Remember the fight for pockets, property ownership, and the things that second wave feminism fought for (and remember that we are here for intersectional feminism). The current ways that Self-Care and Wellness are discussed are in many ways furthering these systems of harm and enforcing normative (white) beauty standards. We are sold the idea that self-care or wellness is just buying more things in order to conform to binary expectations of beauty, and it only furthers capitalistic goals of subjugation. (Read more on how white supremacy is entwined with beauty standards.)

Self-care at Mae Botanicals

Here at Mae Botanicals we believe self-care is to reconnect with ourselves, our skin, our bodies. I am here to gently massage oils into my skin with gratitude, care, and love. I am here to reconnect with the land and the plants, to notice the subtle smell that comes from the whole plant infusions, to connect with the plants that are grown with love and care on land that is well tended. I believe that self-care is an act of Liberation.

Self-care is to stand against capitalism, settler colonialism, white supremacy, fatphobia, healthism, and all forms of oppression by facilitating connection and relationship. Because caring for yourself is an act of political warfare.

Find Your Ritual. 

Love you, Dr Kari