Putting Ourselves First As Black Women/Femmes Is Like Returning to Our First Loves
By Gender Bent
April 18, 2017
By Femme Feministe / WearYourVoiceMag*, AFROPUNK Contributor
Self-care is a fluid concept. It is vital and it looks different from person to person. Essentially, self-care means doing something kind for yourself, for your mental well-being, for your physical well-being. Self-care is revolutionary for women of color and, as Audre Lorde said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
I hold that sentence so close to my heart. When black women, especially queer or trans black women, nurture and love themselves, it is most definitely revolutionary.
I write so much about self-care in regard to race because of my own experiences as a multiracial, queer woman. I have come to understand the importance of decolonizing vulnerability and self-care because of our own internalized martyrdom when it is specific to non-white cultures.
I still battle this idea in my mind that I should feel guilty about my “guilty pleasures” and that prioritizing myself is somehow selfish or damaging. In reality, those harmful ideas are a part of us because we have internalized systems of oppression. Patriarchy, white supremacy and capitalism rely on us valuing paid and unpaid labor over ourselves and our happiness.
Every week, Wear Your Voice will be featuring an interview with a woman of color on what self-care means to her. Our hope is to provide our readers with a better look at what self-care looks like for different people so that we can help decolonize self-care for better resistance. This week, I interviewed writer Rachael Edwards for her thoughts on self-care.
Wear Your Voice: What does self-care mean to you?
Rachael Edwards: Self-care, to me, means finding that which brings you closer to knowing yourself. I believe knowing yourself is the greatest discovery ever. In order to take care of yourself, you have to know yourself. It means doing what you have to do in order to be your best self.
I often ask, “What can I do that is going to be beneficial to me in the long run? What is going to make Rachael happy but closer to knowing herself?” That doesn’t always look like having a drink and mingling, that might mean sitting in my room and taking a moment to breathe. Society doesn’t really give us moments to breathe. We have to be intentional in carving out time to do this.
WYV: What are some of the things that you do for self-care?
RE: I love to shop! But recently, I’ve been going to therapy. In the beginning, it was a joke that I was the girl that requested a Black woman therapist, but that is what I need right now. It’s been great. Weekly I go to therapy, which is naturally self-care. I also like to write self-affirmations in the morning and speak them over myself. Self-affirmations that are Black as fuck. For example, “You are fine. You are brilliant. You are Black.”
I’m learning to love myself — sometimes loving myself looks like walking out of the house without applying edge control. Of course, I love my edges laid, but it isn’t necessary. The coarseness of my hair is beautiful. My belief in decolonizing fuels the affirmations I speak over myself. As Black women, we cannot rely on the validation of the world — the world has been clear: it will not validate us. We must put ourselves first. This week Bill O’Slimey made an awful comment about Rep. Maxine Waters’ hair. The world does not love us; we must put ourselves first.
WYV: What advice would you give to women who are just learning to put themselves first?
RE: Putting ourselves first as Black women/femmes is like returning to our first love. I’m still learning this myself. The world will tell us that putting ourselves first is selfish because we are supposed to be the mules and carry the weight of the world on our backs. I’d say, for me, putting ourselves first looks like being our truest selves without the worry of what someone thinks of us. Putting ourselves first is decolonizing. Think about it. Black women have always had to take care of others before considering themselves — this dates back to American slavery.
To declare that we will put ourselves first (that does not mean we lose the capacity to care for others, but to remember ourselves) is revolutionary and is a part of this decolonizing work. Remember the story when a group of Black women were kicked off the train for being themselves? The beautiful thing about this story is that they fought back and won, and they were unapologetic about being themselves. This is the work of decolonizing. It’s being honest and embracing every facet of who you are – that means your skin, your hair, your voice, your sexuality, how you walk, how you communicate, how you feel, everything and being unapologetic.
*This post was originally published on www.wearyourvoicemag.com