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Why we need to change our thinking about personal care for community care

In 2022, it’s nearly impossible to be a woman online and not come across at least one article or ad about the importance of #self-care.

Even more powerful in the midst of a global pandemic, the wellness industry has, over time, merchandise and whitewashed self-care to such an extent that it wouldn’t be surprising if you assumed the concept was invented by a savvy marketing executive.

The notion of self-care, however, has feminist roots in the the women’s rights movement and the American civil rights movement. It was poet and activist Audre Lorde who said, “Caring for me is not an indulgence, it is self-preservation, and it is an act of political warfare.

For women and people of color, self-care has historically been a way to rebel against racist, sexist, discriminatory, and inequality-reinforcing institutions and systems.

The self-care movement was strengthened by black women to dismantle the hierarchies of race, gender, class and sexual orientation through the emergence of free community health care clinics and service programs social.

In the bell hooks book, all about loveshe writes: “Self-love cannot flourish in isolation.

Commercialized personal care, however, is encouraged in isolation, with a strong emphasis on individualized “indulge yourself”.

But when Audre Lorde was talking about self-care, she was suggesting that we consider the self as the community – and shift our attention to community care by questioning the systems that serve the individual rather than the common good: this is the philosophy on which trade union action is based.

What does actual “personal care” look like for workers?

Personal care was originally intended for those who worked in emotionally taxing roles, such as trauma therapists and social workers. Commercially, it is heavily targeted at women.

But with a cost of living crisis, a global pandemic and smart devices making work unavoidable, burnout has become an insidious contemporary phenomenon, and Australia workers spend more money on mental health services and “take care of yourself” than ever.

It’s easy for bosses to signal the virtue of self-care without providing the means to prevent burnout and other dangers in the first place. But to truly take care of themselves, workers need the time and financial security to do so.

They must be able to completely disconnect from work; they need real flexible working arrangements to balance family responsibilities with work obligations, and they need days off to focus on their mental health.

The ability to truly care for herself is particularly important for women who do most of the care work and are more likely to suffer from stress caused by ‘mental load‘. It is not surprising that it is the women of the majority who are on strike in the Health care, education and babysitting manufacturers to demand better working conditions to fight against burnout.

True well-being is when the whole community is supported, regardless of socio-economic status.

This is why the unions have advocated for a worker right to disconnectfor paid mental health daysand for real flexibility At work.

Joining your union is one of the most tangible ways to ensure that no one is left behind in the quest for a world where workers are rested and healthy – that’s what makes a society really healthy.

You’re never alone when you’re unionized