MA students' blog posts
Feminist care during a time of lockdown - Maggie O'Sullivan
Maggie reflects on the issue of care and self-care during the pandemic
Thursday, March 12th, 2020 started off as a normal day. I got up, went to work for a few hours, and had an appointment with my supervisor to discuss my literature review essay. At this time, talk of a Covid 19 breakout was just chitchat and there was a sence of uncertainty, but there was an air that everything would be fine and go on as normal. By the time I finished my meeting the situation with the virus had begun to change rapidly. When I arrived back at my office in the Enterprise centre in UCC, the Taoiseach had announced that Ireland was heading for lockdown from 5pm that evening. My feelings were and are straight out of George Orwell's book 1984, and that we were now living in this dystopian society determined by this virus.
From here, I became increasingly aware that I would be working and doing my masters from home. The idea that these two major elements of my life would be so intertwined really freaked me out. So I thought to myself, what would a feminist do, and thus I began to research the area of feminist care. This was an area that I was also looking at with regard to my literature review essay, and I found it to be transferable to my own life at this time of uncertainty, anxiety and isolation. From my research, it became apparent that I could fall down the rabbit hole of over-commitment to a cause, which could lead to eventual burnout. Audre Lorde’s reflection on the importance of feminist care really interested me: she states that “caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” I knew what I had to do to succeed in life in isolation: I began to seek advice from lecturers, friends, and family. Reaching out to like-minded people who care for you is extremely important. Nijsten (2011) states that “Feminist activists have the responsibility to look after each other and make sure we don’t get discouraged”.
I knew that I also had to be aware of mental health issues in regard to this global pandemic, as I have been diagnosed with anxiety for many years. From the care and advice that I received I knew that diet, exercise and a bit of “me time” was going to be very important. I began with online classes in yoga and mindfulness, began cooking and baking for what seemed like an army, and “me time” included art and music. My reflexive journaling has also been a great form of feminist self-care for me. I feel like when I have a bad day, it always helps to get my feeling onto a page. It is a form of therapy for me, when I cannot see my therapist. This really helped me a lot, but as Ahmed (1988) states “selfcare is warfare” and I caught myself sliding into feelings of being overwhelmed with anxiety and self-doubt when it came to academic work for this masters.
The moral of this journal is that this was going to happen anyway, it’s just the way it is. But when it’s in the middle of a global pandemic, it’s strange. I miss the tangibility of my family and friends. I need to continue with feminist self-care and realise that self-care is a battlefield. I strive to not place too much pressure on myself but also to do my very best during this time of lockdown, work and study.