Being an advocate, or being a human, is no easy task. It can be demoralizing, anxiety-ridden, truly taxing work. As I set out on my journey/shimmy into self-care earlier this year, I was unclear as to what it looked like for me, or how incredibly vital it was to our work as feminists, and our sense of mind as living, breathing REAL people. As promised, I reached out to a couple of our Women and Gender Studies faculty (and my grandma), asking a few self-care centered questions. Below are some nuggets of wisdom/best practices/seriously raw knowledge I pulled from their illuminating responses. Perhaps try some of these ideas out. Repeat a few mantras in your mind. Or ask the questions yourself. Like feminism, self-care looks different for everyone. Here’s to fighting the patriarchy, while being your best self!
Best practices/what self-care looks like for you:
- Have/build/find a supportive Feminist community (shout out to my Shout Out! pals for providing me this) “Hold your feminist-y friends close, close, close.” – M.T.
- Find and understand what brings you happiness
- Creative outlets- things that ground you- art, writing haikus, compulsive journaling when you feel alllll the feels, reading, being silly (a personal favorite of mine)
- Physical outlets- learn to check into your body, doing yoga, getting outside, having hands in the dirt, some pink in your cheeks -A.B.
- Therapy, if you can afford it, helps monitor self-progress/stagnation
- 60-minute vacations!
- Headspace, a meditation app that “clarifies shit” for A.B. asking Qs: what can I control? What am i resisting? Who keeps coming to mind?
As R.H.M. reminds us, it’s “less about the actual practice and more about carving out some space to be rather than do, because so much [of] life asks us to be reactive and being a public feminist often involves work.”
How would you encourage your students to practice self-care, especially those in advocacy roles?:
- Be you. “Which means know you- the hardest social change work is the work that feels hollow-misguided or motivated by a friend, crush, desire to be someone other than you. You learn what you’re about by learning what you’re not about-don’t be afraid of that.” – A.B.
- Working bit by bit, advocacy is about doing the small things to enact change- sending follow up emails, talking with people in lines, going to meetings
- Remind yourself that the bigger the change, the longer it will take
- Talk to those older than you…”what youth does with energy and optimism, age does with experience and cynicism- both sets of knowledges are so informative to each other.” A.B.
- Be mindfully reflective, be gentle with yourself
- Mindfully reflective, gentle with ourselves
- Routinize self-care, make it a practice YOU practice!
Take a page out of feminist icon, Audre Lorde’s book: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation; and that is an act of political warfare.”
What gives you the extra push, keeps you going in the fight against the patriarchy? :
“Self-care is essential to the doing of resistance and advocacy.” M.E.
- Finding your *feminist spark*
- “The knowledge that although things are bad (really bad), nothing about patriarchy is natural or inevitable. It is but one way that we can organize social life. A different world is possible, and the work that we do today is what will set the stage for the world that will be.” M.E.
- Humor- “The contradictions and fallacies of patriarchal ideology are great fodder for irony and satire.” – M.T.
- “I absolutely love when misogyny or blatant sexism just hands me a beautiful setup for a punchline.” – A.B.
- “Laughing is huge for me–a defense mechanism, and a general life disposition–it reminds me that feelings are fleeting and that laughter when done well is carbonated holiness.” – A.B.
- Pick your battles
- “Recognize which audience is worth going after: that is, you don’t need to preach to the converted and don’t waste your energy on the people who made up their minds long before you opened your mouth; however, DO find those people who have questions, are curious, want to know more, want to tell their stories–those are potential new allies.” -M.T.
“Realize we must care for ourselves so we are healthy enough both physically and emotionally to help others.” – My Grandma, Ruby Ann
Note: All of these wonderful ideas came from the following JMU professors, even if not directly quoted.
Name Key: M.T. = Mary Thompson, A.B. = Alison Bodkin, R.H.M. = Rebecca Howes-Mischel, M.E. = Matthew Ezzell
Picture credit to Robin Massowd, editing by me.