In Response to Shivani Seth

On 20 September 2018, Shivani Seth’s “What’s Next in the Culture of Care” appeared on Rest for Resistance. In her article, Seth makes the case that self-care, rather than being the commercialized small respite it is often presented as being, is a mindful practice emerging from the recognition both of need and of the fact that having need is not wrong. She moves through a thought experiment into a proposal for a cultural shift into a greater valuation of individual happiness and mutual support, looking for examples at how elder- and child-care might be shifted to help address such valuation. She usefully notes that enacting such a shift will be no easy task, given personal demands, and acknowledges her own privilege in making the kinds of assertions she has made. Seth then moves on to note that collaborative care is necessary, that current self-care practices tend to be stop-gaps that do not address underlying problems, and that building greater, deeper communities enables us to be our better selves.

How much this is the kind of thing discussed…
Image from

I have had the immense pleasure of working with Seth in other online communities I participate in; getting to do so has been gratifying, and her writing is a pleasure to read. I was therefore happy to hear that she had had a piece come out, and, even though there’s been some time since it has, I read it as soon as I could. And I think her core messages–self-care as typically depicted is a commercialized stopgap and there is nothing wrong with acknowledging and addressing need–are correct. Seth’s note that many prescriptions of self-care come from positions of privilege is one that resonates with me; I am one of the multiple-job workers she remarks upon, and I am not doing the work I do for my own health so much as to ensure that my wife and daughter have what they need. Extra sleep and time away and soothing baths are not things I can often afford, either in the money I’d need to spend on them or the time away from being a father, a husband, or a worker. And I fall victim to the socially ingrained push to deny that I have needs that I cannot meet through working harder and being more ascetic than I am (which, I will readily admit, is not terribly much). Too, I am aware of my own position of privilege; I know that things are easier for me than for many others because my skin color is what it is, my surname is what it is, my gender expression is what it is, my orientation is what it is, my accent is what it is, etc. I know many others have it far worse than I do. So Seth’s words resonate with me.

I do what I can, of course, to foster a community of care. I can hardly not, working the jobs I do. But there is far more to be done, and it won’t be accomplished by sweet-smelling soaps alone…

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