Autostraddle Stories // Self-Care is Political Warfare

Marion's Thesis

Marion's Thesis

Just over a year ago, I finished a senior undergraduate honors thesis about self-care as an anti-capitalist act. As part of my thesis, I created and released a zine version of my outlined arguments, written in first person, with stories of my own experiences with depression as an activist. Ever since then, friends and acquaintances have looked to me as some sort of self-care expert, as though I must have it all figured out—after all, I spent a year spending about 50% of my waking hours thinking about self-care, didn’t I? Unfortunately, one of the (ironic) results of releasing this zine was that I now have difficulty being as honest about my mental health as I was before.

Today I had two panic attacks.

This is my reminder, to myself and to my beloved community—which I see as all comrades in the long fight for justice—that self-care is a radical act; it is an act of “political warfare.”

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence; it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” -Audre Lorde, 1988

This Audre Lorde quote formed the backbone of my thesis. At the same time, this quote is consistently taken out of context, de-politicized, and misappropriated. A simple Google image search for this phrase will turn up countless tweaked versions. Most commonly, users truncate it just before it strays toward the much too radical term, “political warfare.”

In this political climate, it is more vital than ever to remind ourselves that self-and-community care are not just acts of self-preservation, but that they are acts of radical political resistance in and of themselves. With the daily news piling onto our already exhausted, sometimes traumatized minds, waking up every day is nothing short of revolutionary. And no, I don’t mean waking up so that you can go to a protest, do some rad work, or participate in a direct action—though these are also vital acts of resistance. Believing that self-care is a radical act means that we know and internalize the fact that our mere existence is resistance. In a system that does not value many of our lives, living can be enough. It is enough. You are enough.

Waking up, getting out of bed, taking a shower, packing a lunch. These are my daily acts of resistance. Some days I can make it to a meeting or a protest; some days I can’t. Though my instinct, a result of 23 years of socialization into capitalist expectations of productivity, among other things, is to berate myself for my “inaction,” I recognize that not participating is just as important, and resilient and resistant, as participating is or can be. Taking care of my mental, physical, and emotional health in a society that demonizes people with mental illnesses is part of the process of imagining what kind of world we want to create. Once we start living that future, we can take people along with us. In the meantime, we resist. We wake up, we get out bed, we shower. Or maybe we just wake up. We resist.


Marion Berger identifies as a queer Eastside Detroiter. An academic nerd, Marion currently works for the University of Michigan and hopes to continue her thesis research through a PhD program in the future.  She most often spends her free time hugging her housemates and trying out funky cooking and baking recipes on her fiance, Cassandra, in the hopes of someday becoming good enough to impress Mary Berry of the Great British Bake-Off. You can find her on Facebook and read her thesis zine on Tumblr.