The World Can Wait

30 Jan
Members of the CFC smiling for a picture.
Cis and trans* women of color do a lot of work that they don’t get paid for. Work at home, work at work, work in our communities, everywhere really. And a lot of it is done out of love. Love for our communities, love for our lovers, and things/people we believe in.There’s a saying, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and it has always missed the mark for me because it assumes that we would and do treat ourselves well. Women of color don’t always do that. We have a well documented history of doing for others before we do for ourselves. This self-sacrificing martyrdom has its consequences but I’m really interested in the impact it has on each of us.

It seems like we expend so much energy helping and saving others, we have nothing left for ourselves. I see too many of us feed everyone else and forget to eat. In the case of this blog, I’ve seen us use a lot of energy dealing with negative comments and backlash, finding and becoming resources for those who ask, then end up with little time or reserves left to support each other.

I take inventory from time to time of what posts get the most attention on the blog. Pop culture posts and even more specifically, moments in pop culture when white women do racist things or black men do sexist things get folks all atwitter. To me, this speaks to the gendered racism and racialized sexism that impact many of the cis women of color bloggers here. These posts that rise from our particular stand point are often the ones where we have to do the most work, reminding folks that no, this is not a post racial world and gender, race, and sex are always at work in complex ways. And we want so badly for folks to get it, that we neglect each other and ourselves in the process.

I think because we are so used to an embattled position with folks who wield power over us, we cut corners and are sometimes less patient/more careless with each other. As of late the CFC has taken some hits from other women of color, some deserved, some not, about what and how we write here. I’ve seen moments of real opportunity for engagement squelched by reactionary stances. I look for models of fierce and loving critique between women of color and I’m saddened by how rare it seems to be.

As I check my own willingness to hear the hard truths about myself, I see another connection to  my thoughts about women of color’s labor in the world. Why is it that my self-care to do list is the shortest and the last one I get to? Why do I expend more energy trying to make people understand rather than giving that time to the people who show up for me? Why do I lay claim to allyship when I’m too busy to be present in the ways people ask me to? Honestly, I think I find it easier to deal with someone else’s stuff than my own.

Racism, sexism, queer hate? I know how to handle those. I’ve got my arsenal of feminists theory and lived experience to take them down. By dealing with the world, I can avoid my own places of privilege or the stickiness of issues that don’t have such clear power differentials in my life. In an age where internet courage can allow you to rail at any deemed threat through a screen, we still have trouble saying the hard things to the people who are closest to us.

But I want to do better. For me that means not using the continued assaults on marginalized people writ large to shirk my own accountability to myself and fellow marginalized folks who I claim to love. It also means not expending inordinate amounts of energy on people who have no interest in my well-being because it impacts my ability to be there for the folks who love me.So, I’m adopting a new (for me) and modified mantra:

Me and mine first.

The self-care list gets checked first. The work I need to do for myself is next. Then comes the family/friends/loved ones.

The world can wait.
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15 Responses to “The World Can Wait”

  1. Hotdogfish January 30, 2012 at 5:41 AM #

    Sorry, but I thought that there was just one color in all ladies; thats beautiful! I got no more to say about that!

    • Hiran February 8, 2012 at 2:25 AM #

      That’s a great way to neglect the fact that all women are not positioned equally in society. And that’s the point of this work! Thanks for catching up.

  2. theone January 30, 2012 at 9:25 AM #

    Fiercely your style Mo! I see the connection between doing less battling against individual white people online and being present to challenges from cis and trans people of color whose oppression and survival is linked to mine. Love how these fit into the equation of self love. So queerly, and awesomely. I love this post but I love you more.

  3. Asha January 30, 2012 at 9:37 AM #

    I love you Moya. And I love this article and the important truths about the types of violence we experience in cyberspace, especially in this “community” that is supposed to be a safe space. And I love your attention to selfcare– it is indeed harder than recognizing and attending to the needs of others. Thank you!!!!!!

  4. Xeginy January 30, 2012 at 9:38 AM #

    I know for me, self care is something I have to force myself to do, rather than something I look forward to. I’ve always been grateful that the DV and SA crisis line I work at has been so proactive and good about reminding everyone to practice self care as often as we need. At the end of our shifts, when we turn in our log pages, we’re supposed to write down our self care activities for the rest of the day. It’s a good way to keep ourselves accountable, and it’s a good reminder that self care is important.

  5. ashoncrawley January 30, 2012 at 11:36 AM #

    i feel this. it’s one of the reasons i don’t respond to, nor post a lot of, stuff that i find evacuative and exhausting. it’s like…why expend all this energy on ish that ain’t gonna change your world? i love this.

  6. TheOne (@nosugacoatingit) January 30, 2012 at 11:38 AM #

    We can not continue to take care of the world if we dont take care of us first. Easier said than done! Maybe we should take the time to remind our women friends/family of this. Great post and much needed. About CFC/ Internet gives people the freedom to say whatever is on their mind and its a shame that opportunities for growth are ignored. Both sides (blogger and visitors) take this platform to exhibit defensive tendencies instead of considering what the other is saying. Its a shame but so true. thanks for bringing it up.

  7. Daniel de Culla January 30, 2012 at 2:11 PM #

    Lovely¡

  8. rcj January 30, 2012 at 4:24 PM #

    Thank you so much..I was discussing something closely related to this the other day about arguing with people from opposing political worlds on fb…and my friend was trying to express a very similar message to the essay and the comments for this essay. It’s a waste of time to argue with people who aren’t willing to interrogate their thought process…in the end you find yourself acquiescing to their politics for the sake cordiality, which gradually dumbs you down. Wasted energy for that could’ve been used to build within your community. One of my resolutions this year was to avoid weapons of mass distraction and I’m already slipping..I’m going to do better. Moya, you’re ALWAYS a blessing.

    • analogmojo January 31, 2012 at 4:39 AM #

      ´It’s a waste of time to argue with people who aren’t willing to interrogate their thought process…in the end you find yourself acquiescing to their politics for the sake cordiality, which gradually dumbs you down. Wasted energy for that could’ve been used to build within your community.´

      i couldn´t agree more, and i am so appreciative you were able to articulate this. i will say that though i think it is easier to rail at the rest of the world than tp really love ourselves, this is ofen made even more difficult by the trauma many of us experience due to our external circumstances. one of the characteristics of ptsd, which though largely unrecognized has had deep experiential influence on african-american culture and i´m sure on the cultures of people of color in this country, is a difficulty with intimacy and maintaining successful, positive intimate relationships (for many reasons, not the least of them being other people´s inability to meet us half-way). if you think of how serious the threat of violence is to this community i think this pattern becomes much simpler to understand and that when we start addressing our real traumas we somewhat naturally begin to take care of ourselves a little better, that we actually begin to want to.

      thanks to the general stigma surrounding mental health, and an even stronger stigma within the black community, i think its only a small surprise that many often never think to reflect upon their mental health and how this might be affecting their ability to take care others and themselves. its here the myth of the supermammy hurts us most of all. i think there´s also an element of stockholm syndrome (please google this concept if unfamiliar) that goes unrecognized in this desire/need to explain to the very ones that hurt us with their lack of understanding.

      all that being said, i heart the crunk feminist collective!

  9. Elle est noire January 30, 2012 at 11:06 PM #

    Now more than ever, Black female voices expressing something other than agreeing with /ignoring/sweeping under the rug/justifying our own oppression and fighting for every other group under the sun (While getting little to NOTHING in return) need to be heard. I say this because it seems like their is always some new and thinly-disguised way of trying to silence said voices, and sadly sometimes by people who are supposed to know better or who try to pass themselves off as fighting against such oppression of Black women & girls.

  10. Judaye January 31, 2012 at 11:00 AM #

    I truly appreciate this reminder to take care of myself and your post has me thinking about what I need to do for self care. There are so many things but I’ll just list a few.

    1. Say what I truly believe when asked what I think.
    2. Fix up my home and surroundings in a way that I think is comfortable and beautiful.
    3. Take care of my mental health. Depression can and will kill.
    4. Hang out with smart, loving, kind people like myself.
    5. Smile and be courteous when driving because it’s contagious.

  11. hb February 1, 2012 at 10:11 PM #

    Dear Moya (and the rest of the CFC),

    Thank you so much for your post ~ it spoke to me on a lot of levels and I wanted to share two stories with you.

    My girlfriend recently called out a large company for a racist ad they were running. She got them to pull the ad, which obviously was a huge victory. But when her letter was posted on various blogs and folks felt free to write the most racist hate-full shit, her victory was tainted. Recently though, she got two seperate, super-supportive emails from folks who had gotten media attention and backlash for calling out racism themselves. They affirmed how brave she was and that there were folks standing with her even though it can feel isolating to recieve the brute force of peoples’ racist backlash. The love, strength and validation she got from those emails is hard to quantify and it really made me think about spaces like this one where i learn so much, but haven’t shared my appreciation or support. I’ve been thinking: what is my responsibility to publicly support folks and spaces that i learn so much from? When is it productive to take public stands in comment sections and when should i disengage from toxic dialogue and offer private validation to folks, or do both? How do you pick what to respond to in an infinite internet? I’ve just started thinking about these questions and definitely don’t have answers, but wanted to share them.

    The second story is that i’m a week into a stress leave from the burn-out social work job i love. After four years the systemic and intimate violence, so inter-connected on so many levels became too much. So self-care is looking like crying at least once a day, cooking nourishing food for myself and loved ones (for the first time in so long) community acupuncture, swimming and spending time with kids.

    the timing of this post was perfect,and i find myself really wanting to take risks by sharing stories with spaces that have made me laugh, cry and reconsider. So thank you so much to all of the CFC for your fierce love, wisedom and risk-taking.

    • TK/UK/KM? February 2, 2012 at 5:23 PM #

      Amen Sister!!

      I totally appreciate not knowing when it is best to step forward or when to step back–both on the internet and in real-life. How can I know if the impulse to do either comes from bravery, avoidance, self-interest or, as Moya suggested, a misplaced application of energy I could be aiming at loved ones or myself?

      And I agree that the answers aren’t simple. But it feels like a good thing to sit with for me. I know what it’s like to take on problems/people and having that boost my sense of integrity and decency (or suppress feelings of powerlessness or invisibility). But when the effects of these efforts are futile and my loved ones, coursework and well-being go ignored, it really does sound like a losing and self-destructive proposition.

      I just have to keep looking to find the balance of doing the hard work without the life and relationship crushing effects that follow. Sadly, I fear that the world is rigged for me to be uncomfortable even if I take the utmost care…

      Thank you Moya and hb for planting these seeds. I read this last night but am only now really considering how much of my own behavior is implicated here.

  12. Derrick February 6, 2012 at 6:50 PM #

    So feeling this Moya! Thank you for sharing.

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