We think a lot about the notion of “self-care,” because we want our lives to be sustainable and because everyone else is thinking and worrying about how to do it too. Yet in all of our love of massages, therapy, and the right amount of dark chocolate and white wine (or red or rosé, whatever floats our boats ‘cause we’re all about ‘diversity’), we wondered whether “self-care” placed too much responsibility for collective well-being on the shoulders of individuals. In that vein, we recently read two pieces that we think do a nice job of analyzing the notion of “self-care” as being part of an individualistic neoliberal framework. The first piece argues that, in order to have lives less focused on work, we shouldn’t focus our individual effort to achieve the ever elusive work-life balance but, rather, we need to engage in a collective effort to change the culture of our workplaces, through unions. As Peter Fleming concludes,
The trouble with much work-life balance advice is that it’s been captured by the self-help movement. It all centres on the individual. If you want to rekindle your wellbeing and discover your inner potential, then take control of your choices, find a job that better fits your temperament, erect firm boundaries between work and leisure and learn to say no…The trick is to see the ritual of overwork as a societal pressure, not an individual fault. And much of this pressure stems from the disempowerment of the workforce that has occurred over the last 20 years…We need to come together as a group to voice these concerns if progressive policy and legislation are to be forged. Otherwise little will change. Want a healthier work-life balance? Join a union.
While we appreciated this author’s focus on collective organizing and pushing back against impossible demands and expectations, the second piece we want to highlight focuses more specifically about the experiences of women of color in academia. Karen Hanna offers suggestions for “survival” and what we really appreciated about her suggestions was her focus on building healing community spaces with other women of color. We’ve certainly relied on individual women of color friends as well as communities of women of color to support us through everyday and extraordinary experiences of marginalization during our graduate school days and throughout our years of being faculty members. We also appreciated her call for fighting for funding for healing spaces and for identifying allies in our institutions “who have access to funds and understand the needs of women and queer people of color.”
We hope that you find the two articles as inspiring as we did. Here’s to collective organizing, dreaming, and healing!