Self-Care is a Feminist Issue

March 13, 2017

Self-Care is a feminist issue.

I had this thought while watching an episode of Star Trek Voyager, the first Star Trek series to feature a female captain and a female chief engineer. Progressive as this is, the series still comes up short in some big ways from a feminist perspective, but that’s a blog for another time.

This particular episode struck a nerve with me because it was an episode about self-care, which is a subject close to my heart and central to my life, personally as well as professionally.

In the first 5 minutes, Captain Janeway is attending to her duties as captain, but she is short-tempered with one crewmember. Then she appears visibly stressed out while observing a failed holographic test in engineering. She admits she is both exhausted and overworked, not to mention stretched too thin. She hasn’t taken any time to relax in 2 months. The ships doctor uses his medical authority to order her to take 30 minutes to herself before she returns to duty.

She does, but a freaky, sociopathic, telepathic alien intervenes and outer space drama ensues.

What really gets me is that what Captain Janeway experiences is not unfamiliar.

It is likely a familiar experience of many woman and many moms worldwide. Maybe even universe-wide, but that is a little harder to prove.

Women are constantly driving themselves to the brink of exhaustion to prove that we have what it takes to be everywhere and everything all at once.

Whether you’re a starship captain or a stay-at-home mom, themes of superwoman/supermom run rampant in our cultural ideology.

Here is a sampling of the various, often conflicting, messages a woman might hear:

*Be a strong, professional woman. Don’t have kids, have a career. That is the feminist thing to do.

*Have children. That is what you, as a woman, were born to do.

*Have a career you love and have a family, too. You can do both.

*If you have a job, you need to devote yourself to your job 150%. You need to prove that you are worthy. You need to prove that not only can you do the job as well as your male counterparts; you have to be better. You can’t be distracted. If you have kids, be careful. Any deference to family life could get you demoted or fired.

*You work from home? You’re so lucky! You get to spend all day with your kids while doing the job you love! Best of both worlds!

*Oh, you’re “just” a stay-at-home mom.

*Don’t you think you should be spending more time with your kids?

*Staying at home with your kids must be pretty easy! No job to go to every day. You can sleep in, if you want. Watch TV in the middle of the day if you want. Wear yoga pants all day if you want. I wish I could do that.

*You must really miss your kids all day when you’re at work and they’re in daycare.

*Real feminists don’t like to cook or clean. It represents how the man keeps us down.

There’s also the well-documented evidence that whether or not a woman has a professional job, she still often does more housework than her husband.

And she’s often responsible for more childcare than her husband.

And she’s often responsible for carting kids to and from doctor’s appointments, school, afterschool activities, and playdates.

It’s no wonder women are still struggling to feel like we are on equal playing field with men and neglect their own self-care in the process – the most qualified person running for president last year was a women and despite that, she still wasn’t elected.

Here’s what we should agree on:

Self-care is a feminist issue. You can’t create a feminist revolution if you’re exhausted all the time and not taking care of your own needs.

Women need to take better care of themselves, period. Otherwise, we cannot trample the patriarchy.

Listen feminism looks and feels a little different for everyone.

For example, some women eschew make-up saying that the need to add color or remove features from our faces reinforces male dominance and ideals; other women say that wearing make-up is a form of personal self-expression and has nothing to do with anyone else’s standards except their own.

Self-care also looks and feels a little different for everyone.

I once asked a small group of women what one of their weekly self-care practices was and each woman had a different answer. One woman said she got a mani/pedi weekly; another talked about her weekly yoga class; still another talked about how knitting was an act of meditative self-care.

Arguing over what is or isn’t self-care doesn’t make much sense. What you do for your own self-care matters less than actually doing self-care.

What also matters is acknowledging that all women need self-care these days.

Here’s what we need:

We need to think less about trying to prove ourselves worthy and we need to think more about making ourselves stronger, more resilient, and more well cared for.

We need to begin to prioritize our own needs.

We need to recognize that our own needs are of equal value to the needs of others.

We need to establish core self-care practices that keep us grounded and sane.

We need to establish additional self-care practices that are additional personal maintenance to help keep our systems running at a high frequency.

We need to stop comparing ourselves to others and measuring our own worth based on how we stack up.

We need to begin conversations with the people we share our lives with and talk about our self-care needs. We need to listen to their needs, too. We need to come up with a plan to work together to support one another in our daily self-care.

We need to make our core self-care practices sacred. We need to ensure that there are systems in place so that we won’t bypass them or neglect them in service of “the greater good” or in service of someone else’s needs

We need to educate our children on the necessity of self-care.

We need to constantly re-evaluate what makes us thrive and what makes us suffer.

We need to remember that when we take better care of ourselves, we are able to take better care of others. A rising tide lifts all boats.

We need to remember that self-care is an act of self-preservation. If we do not take exceptional care of ourselves, we will not survive.

Let’s stop reinforcing the myth that moms run on coffee and wine and cannot function without either.

Let’s stop reinforcing the idea that one type of woman or one type of feminist is the best kind.

Let’s support one another by making sure that we each pay closer attention to our own needs on a daily basis.

If you need more guidance and inspiration in finding the self-care practices that best support you, please join my upcoming SPRING INTO SELF-CARE program, which offers you 3 weeks of self-care suggestions plus 3 online yoga classes with me to help you uncover the best and simplest ways you can build your self-care tool box. Self-care is no longer an optional luxury in these revolutionary times; self-care is a necessary act of survival. Make sure you have everything you need to not only help you survive, but thrive.

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