Dismantling the Patriarchy, White Supremacy and the Impacts of Capitalism Through Self-Care

Do you listen to the voice in your head? The way you talk to yourself, the way you are so critical about every decision you make.  The two voices that are often present are the “critic” and the “perfectionist.”  They often work in tandem to keep us small, and hidden…afraid. These two voices are symptoms of the Patriarchy, White Supremacy and Capitalism. What would it be like if we felt good about ourselves? How do we even achieve this? Is it possible?

Self-care, self-care, self-care…..many of us are sick of hearing about this, and yet on some level we know it is so important.  But what does it really mean? Self-care was a big topic all through my education as a Social Worker, it was taught to prevent burnout in the field. Now, when I teach class at Portland State University I hear the students being annoyed anytime I bring it up, like yeah yeah, I know….self-care, self-care, self-care. I remember feeling that way. I remember not really understanding what it meant. I knew I should eat my lunch, drink my water, exercise, and I also thought of my after work happy hour discussions with coworkers as my self-care….even if it meant two bottles of wine! As I have gotten older, I have deepened my understanding of what it is and why it matters.

Of course, white supremacy and the patriarchy don’t like this idea of self-preservation or caring for self: that would be a threat to the power that these systems run off. 

“Self-care is another thing to fail at.”  A client said this to me recently in session.  Over the past few months, it has become clearer to me the pervasive infection and symptoms of the patriarchy, white supremacy and capitalism that are rampant in our country.  Statements like this one, shine a bright light on how the oppressive systems have infected us, stripping our sense of purpose and worth in the process.  What can we do and how does self-care relate?  Self-care is a term that was used by self-described, Black, lesbian, mother, warrior,  poet, Audre Lorde, as she was making the connection that self-care is part of self-preservation, particularly for marginalized and oppressed populations. 

Of course, white supremacy and the patriarchy don’t like this idea of self-preservation or caring for self: that would be a threat to the power that these systems run off. 

Fear is used in what author, Lucy Pearce refers to as the “Dark Arts of Coercion” in her book Burning Woman. White supremacy and the patriarchy are part of the dark arts of coercion.  They only thrive if they keep fear alive, keep us exhausted with lack of adequate time to rest and recover, and keep pushing unattainable standards. They also use shame, humiliation, embarrassment and discrediting difference as “madness”. So of course, this idea of Self-Care is a direct threat to the control and power of these systems, Capitalism sought to combat the concepts of self-care by monetizing them and blocking the deeper meaning with bubble bath products and the like.    

Audre Lorde stated, “When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision – then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” Sit with that a minute and think about how fear impacts you and your wellness.  Whether its fear of not being perfect, of failing, fear of not having enough, or fear of not having the right _______(fill in the Blank)_______.   How do we use self-care, truly radical self-care to move from Fear to Love? Fear keeps me down, keeps me a victim of the systems that seek to oppress us and keep us divided. 

In previous blogs I have referred to the SPICES, an acronym to help us remember our needs as spiritual beings who are in physical human bodies. Here is a worksheet that can help you reflect on your own needs and assess what might need more attention. Continually caring for Self, recognizing and moving from Fear and scarcity to Love and abundance is the work. From this place we can truly begin to dismantle the systems that are not meant to help us flourish, but designed to keep us in place, obedient and fearful. 

What sensations do I notice in my body when I am fearful? 

  • Do I feel a sense of urgency?
  • Does my heartbeat change?
  • Does my stomach hurt?
  • Do I have a wave of heat?

Tuning in to what we notice in our bodies helps us not get “hijacked” by our fear, it assists us in keeping our thinking brain online, observing and being curious about what we are noticing.  Stillness every day is an excellent place to start with a self-care practice.  Simply being is something that we have forgotten how to do, and it is so critical for us as spirit beings. The patriarchy, white supremacy and capitalism have brainwashed us to think that we must always be “productive,” i.e., producing.  I often hear clients refer to any leisure time they have as being lazy.  Those feelings of disgust with ourselves for resting are a symptom of The Dark Arts of Coercion, that pressure to be doing something and planning for every moment of our lives, that’s it too.  Fear. 

Am I enough?  Will I be accepted?  Will I have enough of what I need? Will I have enough time? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.


Are you interested in learning more about self-care? Check out my online Radical Wellness workshop (which includes 6 CEUs).

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