Popaganda’s HEAT season is back this week—and as burnt out as ever. In the third episode, host Carmen Rios talks to feminist activists and academics about the challenges of building a sustainable movement for gender equality. Along the way, she challenges listeners to envision a feminism beyond burnout—and commit to making it possible.
Carmen is no stranger to the fizzling out that too often comes after a bout of fiery feminism. In 2015, she was so wiped out that she packed up her life into bankers’ boxes and moved across the country to seek refuge from her inbox and her to-do lists. Back then, though, she thought she was the only one. In the years since, she’s been disturbed—and frustrated—to find out that burnout is putting everyone in the movement at risk.
On the heels of viral thinkpieces about burnout and the World Health Organization’s reluctant confession that it is, indeed, a real phenomena, Carmen talked to rabble rousers from around the world about how feminists can avoid becoming toast. Feminist writers Feminista Jones and Tiana Clark open up about their own experiences burning out, and the lessons they’ve learned along the way about preserving themselves in movement spaces. Feminist organizer Ledys Sanjuan, from the FRIDA Young Feminist Fund, breaks down the strategies that can sustain the movement; Crystal Paradis, founder of Feminist Oasis, shares her own model for disrupting the marytr complex and replacing it with feminist resilience on an organizational level; and Rosemary Clark-Parsons, who studied DIY feminist movements as a doctoral candidate, rattles off some best practices that could transform the feminist future.
Along the way, Carmen looks back on the literature about burnout and sustainability in feminist spaces—and realizes that we’re closer than ever to building a movement where activists thrive instead of strive. After this episode, you’ll have the resources and strategies to become a part of it—but please do take a deep breath and maybe a nap before diving in. You deserve it.
- Can’t stop thinking about self-care? There’s a Popaganda episode for that! (Bonus: It features our now-EIC, Evette Dionne!)
- Don’t know where to begin your own journey out of burnout and back to balance? Start with the literature. Light a candle and curl up with a copy of Urgent Action Fund’s “What’s the Point of the Revolution if We Can’t Dance.” Then turn the lights on and hang pages from the FRIDA Happiness Manifestx all over your bedroom.
- Speaking of reading: Click here to buy Reclaiming Our Space: How Black Feminists Are Changing the World from the Tweets to the Streets, and click here to read Tiana Clark’s essay on Black burnout.
- If you’re in New Hampshire, check out the Feminist Oasis events happening near you. If you’re not, then you can still become a member to get some resources in your inbox every once in a while.
Image via Naomi August/Unsplash
Subscribe to Bitch’s podcasts through our audio RSS feed.
CARMEN RIOS: Hi again! Carmen Rios here—feminist writer, editor and digital media superstar—and the host of Bitch’s Popaganda podcast! Welcome to the third episode in our Heat season, which has so far taken us from Spice World to the bedroom and will soon lead us into the kitchen and the blazed trail. This week though, we’re digging into what happens when fiery feminists burn out and how we can build a movement for gender equality where we do more thriving and less striving.
FEMINISTA JONES: I was a social worker and became a social work administrator, and over the years, I transitioned because for that, because the direct service work was definitely draining. It’s an emotional toll every day. Whether you’re dealing with somebody who’s experienced domestic violence or homelessness or psychiatric disabilities, you absorb all of that every day, and you take it home with you, right? And it starts to spill over into your life. And so, I moved into administration because I could still do the work but at higher levels and have more of an impact on how the work was being done by frontline people. And eventually, when I was in New York, I dealt with enough threats and attacks and had to get a restraining order against someone, and I was like, you know what? I can’t do this anymore. And I’d been doing it for well over a decade, and that was when I decided to move to Philly and kind of leave that part behind.
And then when I came to Philly and started doing some policy-type work and more strategic planning and things like that, but still, I got to a place where I was like, as much as I love being an advocate and working in communities and working with people that are struggling, the toll that it’s taken on me over the years was just too much. And so, I kind of burned out. And I left. I retired from social work December of last year.
As far as the other type of activism and stuff like that, I’ve definitely shifted. I can’t say that I’m burned out because I don’t think that I’ll ever reach a point where I’m just throwing my hands up and I’m like, I can’t do this anymore. But I definitely have learned how to shift from having to do the direct actions and organize protests and things like that to doing more planning and project work and supporting people behind the scenes and mentoring and educating. And I’m joining boards of organizations to kind of have that kind of influence and impact. And I think it’s somewhat of a natural progression as you get older, as you get further along in your career, you’ve been doing it for a while, you have to find something that works better for you, or you’ll just completely give it up.
CARMEN: Totally. And do you sort of remember viscerally what burnout felt like for you?
FEMINISTA: It felt like going to work every day— Well, first of all, waking up and dreading that I had to go to work. Not wanting to be around people I was working with, not wanting to interact with the people that I was serving or working for, finding myself just snapping at things, just completely frustrated, not being able to sleep, my eating patterns were off, not taking care of myself physically, bringing it to my kid who doesn’t deserve it, kind of snapping at him, or just dealing with depression, kind of isolating a lot, those kinds of things, definitely.
CARMEN: That’s award-winning feminist blogger, author, and activist Feminista Jones, who also sits on the board of the Wayfinder Foundation, re-entry program FREE, and The Hope Center, and cofounded the Women’s Freedom Conference and launched the 2014 global anti-street harassment campaign #YouOKSis as well as #NMOS14, a National Moment of Silence protesting police brutality on social media.
CRYSTAL PARADIS: I was working at a digital marketing agency a couple of years ago, and that’s a very workaholic-centric industry for sure. So, I was, you know, pulling 60-, 70-hour weeks working there and really just not connecting values-wise with the work that I was doing there. And ended up working actually most of my time through a very big new client that we got. It was a gun manufacturer named Sig Sauer that was based locally here in New Hampshire. And so, it was a combination of burning out just physically and mentally from working all the time and also being, having my brain—I’m a writer, so I was, I was having my brain—really marinate in all this negative language and gun sales language for months, for probably about six or seven or eight months leading up into the Orlando shooting, which was June 12 in 2016. And I walked in the next morning, and I quit that job.
And about a month after that, I started working in 2016 for the New Hampshire Democrats to elect Hillary Clinton here in New Hampshire and Democrats all the way down the ticket. So, very different but very, also very high stakes, a lot of long hours, not a lot of eating and sleeping. So, I’d say that working at a campaign job is also, I worry when I meet campaign organizers now. I’m like, “Are you sleeping? Are you eating?” It’s such, it’s such a burnout-heavy job.
At least at that point, I was feeling completely and fully invested in the work that I was doing, and at least there was an end point. There was election day that I was working towards. I only worked on the campaign for about the last, final six months. But that final six months was just, it really wreaked havoc on my body. It took me months after the election to just physically recover, never mind mentally. Even if we had won, I think it would have taken me quite a bit to recover. So, those were really the two job experiences leading up to this break I had after the election where I found myself, you know, homeless and jobless and trying to figure out what my next steps were, just knowing that I wanted to make the choice to do work in a more sustainable way, particularly with the election work, just knowing, you basically, your body gets trained to run on adrenaline. And so, I just, you know, I forgot what hunger felt like and what being tired felt like’ cause I was just constantly, constantly working towards these goals of, have to elect the first woman president. Can’t let Trump win. And just that mantra over and over and over for months, so that’s kinda my burnout story.
CARMEN: That’s Crystal Paradis, founder and Executive Director of Feminist Oasis, an experimental pop-up series in New Hampshire organized to cultivate feminist community and explore feminist values in action.
TIANA CLARK: I think the first story that comes to mind, I’ve dealt with a really sexist editor, and I was asked by a publishing journal, Vita, which does a lot with kind of women’s voices and especially women’s voices at the margin and dealing with kind of sexist situations in the publishing industry. And they had just sent me an email asking if I had dealt with any misogynistic editors and was I willing need to write a piece. And at first, reading this email, I was like, oh my gosh, have I got a story for you. But as I was writing the email, all of those fears kind of came over my body, and I got really tense in thinking about the implications and the power dynamics and how I would be kind of positioning myself in a way that would cause possibly a lot of damage to not only my professional life, but just my own personal sense of terror in dealing with this person. And I stopped myself. And I might write that piece one day, but I think about the ways in which the stories that haven’t been told and the people that are afraid to tell them because you’re worried kind of about the blowback that might happen. And a part of that for me, the burnout for me is just managing my own self-care and not wanting to meter out that type of fight. Like sometimes I’m just too tired to fight all the fights, you know?
TIANA: And this particular person, I didn’t feel like they deserved my anger.
CARMEN: That’s Tiana Clark, Pushcart Prize-winning poet and author and the writer of a BuzzFeed essay called “This is What Black Burnout Feels Like.” My own personal burnout story—which we’ll get to later, trust—echoes way too much of what these feminists shared with me. All of our experiences are proof: Burnout is a feminist epidemic, and it poses a major threat to the future of this movement.
[Julia Nunes’s “Don’t Feel” plays]
♪ “I’ve been frozen/
Fragile and afraid/
But still easy to manipulate/
Like I’m watching from outer space/
And I don’t feel anything
I don’t feel anything
I don’t feel anything
I don’t….” ♪
CARMEN: The World Health Organization brought the buzz over burnout to a fever pitch this May when they included it in their 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases, calling burnout an “occupational phenomenon” and defining it as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress.” They identified three major dimensions of burnout: depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from a job, and growing feelings of cynicism at work, as well as reduced professional effectiveness.
Months earlier, Anne Helen Peterson set that buzz into motion with her viral BuzzFeed essay on millennial burnout, coming to a different conclusion than the WHO, which cautioned that burnout shouldn’t be used to apply to conditions outside of work. “Burnout and the behaviors and weight that accompany it,” she asserted, “aren’t, in fact, something we can cure by going on vacation. It’s not limited to workers in acutely high-stress environments. And it’s not a temporary affliction.” According to Anne, it’s the “millennial condition…our base temperature… our background music… the way things are… our lives.”
But for feminists around the world, these conditions are hardly new, and there are no neat lines around them. To be a feminist is to constantly be inundated with passion and anger, with urgency and with exhaustion. To be a feminist, in too many ways, is to get fired up until you fizzle out.
ROSEMARY CLARK-PARSONS: I think burnout right now is something that we’re seeing across left-leaning movements, but I think there is something particular to feminist organizing that makes it especially vulnerable to burnout. One issue is just how personal feminist politics are. In U.S. feminism, we have that longstanding slogan that the personal is political, and for many people who are involved in feminist movements, they got involved because they experienced personally the types of injustice that feminist movements are, organized to combat, right? So, we have activists who have dealt with sexual violence, activists who have dealt with gender-based discrimination in their personal and professional lives. And organizing around issues that are so deeply personal can be exhausting and requires lots of time for self-care.
I think another issue that might be specific to feminist organizing in this particular moment is that we’re currently trying to build movements that really deeply reflect contemporary feminist values. I think this current generation of feminist activists, the sort of golden value is intersectionality, and that’s so important and emerges in part in response to the shortcomings of previous generations of feminists in terms of organizing intersectional movements, organizing movements that were inclusive of women standing at various intersections of difference. Building that kind of inclusive, equitable space takes a lot of work. A lot of the movements that I have observed, a lot of the grassroots collectives I have observed have chosen specifically to build a project from the ground up, to not start in a structured organization like a nonprofit or one of the longer-lasting feminist organizations like NOW, for example. To start completely from scratch to make sure the thing we were building really reflected what we wanted to see within feminist organizing. And that again, is exhausting work. You know, starting with almost nothing and having to build something up requires so much time and so much energy and is typically not an activist’s day job. You know, this is something they’re doing in addition to all of their other personal and professional responsibilities.
CARMEN: That’s Rosemary Clark-Parsons, the Associate Director of the Center on Digital Culture and Society and a postdoctoral fellow at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. Rosemary, who also received her PhD from U Penn in 2018, focused her doctoral research on DIY feminism, and she learned a lot about burnout in the process.
ROSEMARY: Yeah, burnout was a huge issue at all scales of feminist activism that I’ve studied, including local grassroots initiatives and also more global, digitally-mediated initiatives. At both levels, we were seeing a type of organizing style that I think is specific to our current moment that involved some exciting things like using digital media to launch a whole global movement just from one social media post. And felt very exciting. But what that also meant was that we weren’t necessarily slowing down to build the kind of organizational structures and capacities that would help sustain long-term organizing.
I think for feminist movements in particular and other social justice movements organized around questions related to identity and culture, we’re trying to create long-term changes, and that requires sustained long-term difficult organizing. And the major challenge for these movements has been creating the kind of structures that would power that long-term organizing. Without those structures, without those capacities, we didn’t have the resources to stay involved for the long-term to keep people energized, keep people focused, and to bring people back in when they felt that they were sort of falling away or being alienated for whatever reason.
CARMEN: That’s also echoed in the literature. Rosemary’s research builds on the work of feminists and human rights defenders from around the world that dates back way further than BuzzFeed’s archives and even the WHO’s reticent acknowledgement of the condition. Feminists have long known that burnout is real and that figuring out how to manage it was a pivotal part of forging a feminist future.
In 1982, Christina Maslach identified the “burnout trinity”—depersonalization or cynicism, emotional exhaustion and a reduced sense of personal accomplishment—in her book Burnout: The Cost of Caring. She said that anyone suffering from all three symptoms was toast. In 2002, John Ehrenreich’s “Guide for Humanitarian, Health Care and Human Rights Workers: Caring for Others, Caring for Yourself” offered up a longer list of symptoms, including “loss of spirit,” “grandiose beliefs about one’s importance,” “mistrust,” “sleep difficulties” and even self-medication with alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine.
In 2007, the Urgent Action Fund published a book, What’s The Point of Revolution if We Can’t Dance?, by Jane Barry, with Jelena Dordevic, to synthesize stories from the field that brought those clinical findings to life and to seek out models of sustainable activism that could save our movements from ourselves. “Sustainability,” Jane concluded, “is about having it all,” which for her meant activists feeling safe, connected, recognized, valued, and financially secure. In order to make that happen, she said we have to, “put the soul back into our life and work.”
This may sound like a fantasy, but it’s also the only practical way forward. Jane comes to a terrifying conclusion in What’s The Point, one that anyone enmeshed in this work is acutely aware of: that the culture of sacrifice that serves as the foundation of feminism, the culture shaped by gendered notions of women as selfless and subservient, means that, in Jane’s word, “real activists die for the cause.”
LEDYS SANJUAN: So in that book, like you can see how the movement starts to reflect upon practices that are detrimental to our well-being. Because of a specific set of economic, emotional, cultural rules and structures that made us believe also that people who work in NGOs or social justice, that we needed to be always working and always sacrificing ourselves and our wellbeing for a greater good, quote-unquote.
CARMEN: That’s Ledys Sanjuan, Senior Advocacy and Communications Officer at the FRIDA Young Feminist Fund, which provides young leaders with the resources they need to amplify their voices and bring attention to their work and the support, flexibility, and network they need to keep their vision and influence alive.
LEDYS: And so, in this book you can see how testimonies that are actually really common in the movement about people being like, “I haven’t seen my children in six months because I’ve been traveling to” like whatever and whatever. There’s [inaudible] space. And things like not being there for other aspects of your life. And also you know, a lot of sickness and illness and mental health issues that come from that as well.
CARMEN: The work Ledys and other feminists at FRIDA are doing centers on finding a way for activists to have it all. That builds, in many ways, on the models that were put forward in the Urgent Action Fund’s landmark book: dismantling the power structures shaping the feminist movement, fostering a version of “holistic security” that puts self-care practices into the larger matrix of strategies for keeping activists safe, and figuring out how to separate activism from a martyr complex.
In a 2017 article by Deepa Ranganathan and Maria Diaz Ezquerro, two FRIDA fund staffers, they lay out what that looks at their FRIDA HQ. Their employees work all over the world. They gather only a few times a year in person, and they spend that time catching up on what happened outside of work, doing some yoga together, and sharing affirmations and hugs before they get down to business. To be in this fight, Maria and Deepa observe, is to risk our physical and psychological well-being. Self-care isn’t an indulgence when you see that risk. It becomes a strategy and a necessity. Young feminists everywhere are driven to figure out how to make it feasible.
LEDYS: So, for us in particular, our perspective as young feminists, what we have seen is not only that young feminists are sacrificing a lot of their time or whatever, but actually we see an attitude shift that is intergenerational. So, what we actually see with young feminists is not that they are burning out specifically, but that they are actually seeking to heal and to practice care practices and to use their collective organizing to sort of bring music and art and beauty and other aspects of activist work that weren’t considered so important before, you know, or a priority. So, a big part of our work is also to highlight how young feminists are practicing this across the world and in their specific contexts.
CARMEN: What Ledys, Rosemary, and even Jane have learned in this work is that even in the midst of burnout culture, there is hope for a sustainable feminist future. Activists around the world are committed to taking care of themselves and each other, now more than ever, and building a feminism beyond burnout.
[theme music break]
Feminista Jones is taking a sabbatical, and she wants you to take some time off too.
FEMINISTA: One of the things that I decided to do was to take this summer off a bit. I decided to give myself three months to not do pretty much anything. I’m doing some writing or whatever, but I love writing; it’s my passion. I’m always gonna do that. But like, people asking me to do stuff, I’ve had to say no. I’ve made it very clear that I’m kind of on a personal sabbatical of sorts, really employing the use of the word “no” for my own self-care. And trying to not overexplain to people why. I don’t feel like I should have to. It’s risky because you don’t want people feeling like you’re alienating them or that you’re not interested in anything in the future, but at the same time, I shouldn’t have to defend myself for wanting to take the time off. And so, I think that that’s really important, that we take breaks and that we pull back, and we learn how to say no with the understanding that when we’re ready, we’ll come back to it, and then we’ll be stronger and we’ll be better for it.
CARMEN: What would your advice be—as someone with your experience and also coming from that praxis—what would your advice be to folks out there who feel like they’re burning out and folks who are looking to support someone they think is really burning out in that movement space?
FEMINISTA: I think there’s something to be said about our willingness to show up and what showing up looks like. A lot of times we think that we’re not doing enough for the people that we care about because we’re not there physically making them soup or holding their hand or hugging them or what have you. Sometimes it’s about just affirming them, right? So, if you see somebody tweet something you just saying, “I agree with this. I support you. I’m here for you,” is really important. You see someone under attack, kind of helping them, asking them, “How can I help you in this moment? What is it that you need?” is so powerful. I think I would tell someone approaching burnout to step back because the world is not going to end because you stopped today, right? And I had to tell myself that. So, sometimes we can get into this space and feel like there’s so few people doing it’s. ’Cause I have to remind people, especially when it comes to feminism, feminists are still a small minority of people, okay?! [Chuckles.]
Despite what it seems like on social media, there’s not that many of us, and it’s not a whole lot of us that are doing this kind of work. You can feel like if I don’t do it, no one else well. Sometimes, that’s actually true, but it’s not your responsibility. You’re not responsible for picking up the pieces that other people dropped. You’re not responsible for filling in the gaps because other people won’t bother to show up or be present and do anything. You have the right to walk away and understand that the house will not burn down tomorrow just because you decided to take a nap. You know what I’m saying?
And that’s a really tough thing, especially for Black women who have been socialized and indoctrinated to believe that we are the mules of the world. It is our job to work. When we don’t— I’m telling you. Listen: when I started telling people that I wasn’t going to be working this summer, people were looking at me weird, like what? Well, how is that possible? Would you be questioning me if I had blonde hair and white skin and blue eyes, and I said, “You know what? I’m gonna take the summer off. I may do some traveling, you know, kind of hang out with my friend,” you wouldn’t bat your eye at that. It wouldn’t seem weird. I could be a white woman who goes to eat, pray, and love and it be fine. But when a Black woman says, “I’m not gonna work,” they’re like, “Well, what’s your problem?” Or, “You need to be doing this for us.”
I need people who are approaching burnout to be like, I have every right to take a nap. [Chuckles.] I have every right to go to the beach. I have every right to pig out on pizza at 2:00 in the morning if that’s what I feel like doing. I have the right to spend time with my friends. And I have the right to say no. And when you are facing burnout, you have to learn the power of the word “no,” ’cause it’s a complete sentence, and you don’t owe anybody any explanation.
CARMEN: Saying no to gigs, the scarcity mindset, and social media is exactly what Tiana is trying to teach herself to do right now.
TIANA: It has always been kind of violently self-imposed. It’s like me crawling from the well and fighting that for myself. I mean, I’ve had to be very honest with my employers and with my students sometimes about just where I am and where my boundaries are. It’s always just been something that I’ve had to actively and earnestly carve out that space for myself. I’ve had to say no to certain gigs because I know my mental health just can’t handle it. And I think that’s the hardest thing, especially when we’re in, like you said, the hamster wheel, that capitalist structure that makes you feel as though the scarcity mentality: you have to hustle, you have to grind because when will another opportunity come? But you know, we’re all just kind of these frazzled, burnt-out bulbs kind of walking around just on our phones. And I’m tagging all the inspirational stuff on my phone and being like, yeah! But I’m just like, I’m still on my phone just becoming this drone, you know? So, it’s still something that I have to constantly negotiate every single day of my life.
Today, I just put up like, “Taking a social media break,” ’cause I just, I was just way too overwhelmed with looking at other people’s lives for answers instead of being honest with where I am today. ’Cause I know it’s gonna be a long fight and a long struggle for me, and I wanna be healthy, and I wanna be in this fight.
CARMEN: She’s also simultaneously investing in herself when she does take on work and building self-care into her budget.
TIANA: So often I’ve been in that survival mode of just like in my earlier days of paycheck to paycheck. And now that I’ve had a little bit more money but actually using that money in ways that I wanna invest in my body. And so therapy, we talked about cycling, we talked in the piece about a Peloton bike, which is very expensive. But I travel a lot for work, and I have really weird hours. And so, I really wanted to invest in this expensive machine because I knew my body was worth it, and my body was breaking down. I had experienced so much stress in grad school, and I just finished my first year of full-time teaching. And again, the stress levels were astronomical for me. And so, making that a part of my day to even get on the bike for 45 minutes or even if it was just 20 minutes, ’cause it was a moment where I put my body first before anyone else’s needs. I mean I feel like that’s just as important to the movement of making sure that your body is healthy first.
I think also having honest conversations with my primary-care doctor. I was popping Ibuprofen like it was Tic Tacs ’cause I was having migraines every day from all the stress. And she’s like, “You are going to burn a hole through your stomach.” [Nervous laugh.] And I kind of stayed ignorant about it because again, I was hustling, I was grinding, I was on book tour. And I was feeling like I was doing the work, you know? But I wasn’t taking care of my body. So, I also had to be honest with my health. So, I think all of these are kind of a way to survive.
CARMEN: In the meantime, Crystal is taking Saturdays off.
CRYSTAL: I’ve had this practice I’ve been doing for about a year now called horizontal days. I pick a day on my calendar, it’s usually a Saturday, but it can be flexible depending on what my week looks like, where I just give myself permission the entire day to have, I have no meetings. I have no interaction scheduled with other people, and I just give myself permission to be horizontal all day. So, if that’s reading a book, if that’s watching Netflix documentaries and then taking a bath and going back to bed, it’s just, you’re allowed to be horizontal all day. And I was talking with a co-conspirator of mine, Dr. Arya Holiday at UNH, who’s a Women’s Studies professor, and she mentioned a similar practice. But the way that she described her Friday night bath time was really inspiring to me. And she was like, I just sink get into the bath, and I don’t look at my phone for a couple of hours. And I get the lavender, and everybody knows I’m unreachable that night. And she really inspired me to up my personal bath time game. So, really getting inspired by that.
CARMEN: That’s because she holds herself accountable to her own work cycles. And by doing so, she dismantles the hero and martyr complex in movement spaces that urges feminists to fix everything and do it all alone.
CRYSTAL: I think that it’s so common in our culture to practice negative self-talk and to really. I noticed a phrase. A couple of months ago, I started noticing this phrase of like, I wasted a day or I wasted my afternoon or I didn’t get anything done today type of language. I really just started to notice that ’cause I was reading about burnout culture a little bit more. And we’ve started really calling each other out, particularly folks that come very frequently to our coworking workshops that we all have a relationship with each other now, and we’ll start sort of gently correcting like, oh, you can’t waste a day. You were supporting your body. Obviously, your body needed that. You need to listen to your body.
So, I think something that has made my personal practice a lot more resilient is I’m a visual person, so I think of it literally as a cycle. I’ve actually literally drawn out a cycle of this is my cycle of work, and I need a lot of sort of information and intake, and then I need some processing time. Then I write about it and turn it into a teaching tool. Then I go out, and I talk about it. Or if it’s an event, have the event, and then I need this sort of like breakdown processing time. So, I would say for people to know sort of where their energy ups and downs lie, and specifically, I would say turning to historic feminist leaders. Something that I get a great amount of recharging and energy from is remembering that I, we, whatever group I’m in are not the first people to try to do this, to try to make a more equitable world or to try to advance the feminist movement that has been going on for generations.
So, I get really excited at reading about other historic leaders and what they have done and just finding some sort of solidarity across generations. Even if people are no longer here physically with us in the universe, their books are, their writings are. So, I find a lot of I guess just positive reinforcement for myself in that. So, I’ve sort of built that into my personal cycle of work that I have to have a certain amount of time to read about other people, to learn about folks like Dolores Huerta, who we’ve named one of our membership levels after. I saw this great documentary that PBS aired called Dolores, and it just talked about her push in the labor rights movement. And it was so inspiring to me that I realized, wow, I really have to take documentaries, books, and research of feminist leaders that I have never heard about before and turn that into my regular practice, that when I’m feeling really burnt out, I can go and be a detective and find a feminist leader that I’ve never heard of before.
CARMEN: Something Tiana talked about in her viral BuzzFeed response to Anne’s piece was that these kinds of practices are even harder at the intersections of race, gender, class, and other lines of difference, and that burnout is compounded by lines of identity and marginalization.
TIANA: In preparation for today, I was rereading. bell hooks has a Sisters Of The Yam: Black Woman and Self-Recovery book and a really great chapter on ending stress. And she talks about kind of this terrorizing tension that exists within the movement and feminism of just, you know, we’re all combating racism and homophobia and capitalism. And so, there’s all these structures that kind of become, I just like that terrorizing tension. And that I think especially for Black women and Black femmes that we’re often called upon to speak, or it’s often put on our burden or our shoulders to kind of, like you said, kind of be the loudest in the room when we’re already dealing with so much tension in day to day life. You know, it’s even proven that for Black women, often doctors don’t believe their pain levels. And I think I mentioned this in my piece as well that, you said the acceleration, but that is even happening on a cellular level too. Like the ends of our chromosomes, our telomeres are kind of shrinking at a more rapid rate than our white female counterparts. And Black women are, on average, seven years older on the inside. So, we’re dying at this rapid pace, but we’re asked to kind of keep up and also be at the frontlines of a lot of these movements. And I think for me, there has to be more safe spaces for Black women to sit down and be and not always have to fight.
I think slavery kind of had that structure of kind of like sunup to sundown kind of working. Like you’re always working. I think Black women are generally always exhausted. And in these types of movements, political movements, I think for me, it would be nice if other women stood side by side and it’s like, “It’s okay, girl, I got this fight this day. Like you take a break.”
TIANA: “I see you out there.” And I think Glennon Doyle is a great example of, I think, a white woman that’s kind of doing good work out there that’s like, hey, I need to educate myself. I need to stop asking my Black sisters all these questions. I can go to Google. I can go to other white women. Where’s that responsibility for your own work? I try to educate my white female friends all the time. I’m just like, Google exists. You don’t always have to reach out to me. And how do you mobilize other white women? Because I also feel like—and this might be controversial—I think sometimes it’s just exhausting to constantly be fighting your own fight and constantly educating at the same time.
CARMEN: But those very intersections are also the sites where some of feminism’s most powerful survival strategies have emerged.
TIANA: One thing that I think Black feminist writers have taught me is number one, how to be honest about my hurt, how to be honest about the ways that I am publicly and privately grieving. I think often, since I’m a writer, Paul Laurence Dunbar, like, “We wear the mask that grins and lies,” written during the Harlem Renaissance and kind of thinking about that Du Bois and double consciousness that Black people are always kind of hiding and having to mask. And I think the first step for me was realizing what are the masks that I wear? What are the masks that I put on and code switch to survive in professional environments or even in political environments?
I’ve been studying kind of a lot of Black women writers at the end of their lives and thinking about like Zora Neale Hurston and Phillis Wheatley and even Nina Simone. Their lives were filled with so much burnt up energy. I mean they were literally used, and at the end of their lives, they were struggling either with mental health or with poverty or with sickness. And that’s so often the narrative for Black women, and I’m trying to actively fight that in my life. I’m like, how do you do that? And so often it has to be this dogged self-determination to fight for one’s own value. No one else, from my opinion, will do it for you. So it has to come from the self, and you have to communicate with people.
But it’s awkward to center yourself. It’s awkward to be selfish, I think especially when you’re a marginalized person, especially when you grew up poor. It’s awkward for me to spend money on myself. But I think that’s something that I’ve really took from the bell hooks’ book when she talked about knowing one’s value. And I am important and I am just as valuable and my worth is not equated to my work.
CARMEN: Feminista Jones’s latest book, Reclaiming Our Space: How Black Feminists Are Changing the World from the Tweets to the Streets, touches on a lot of the same themes, and her personal praxis echoes what she writes on those pages.
I love that your book also—your book and the stuff that I’ve read about a lot of your speaking engagements around the book—and you’re positing that Black women have been creating and leading social change movements all along, which I mean I would say is absolutely true! Anecdotally and also just someone who has a deep love of exploring feminist history, that is absolutely true. And I think it’s interesting ’cause the Black feminist framework, I feel, is also a really powerful place to start thinking about burnout and self-care. It’s something that Black feminists have talked about explicitly and confronted explicitly. Does the Black feminist tradition inform your own practice as an activist? And how do you feel like it can inform on a larger platform? How can it inform other feminists about maybe how to forge a way forward where activism is sustainable for an individual and for entire structures?
FEMINISTA: Yeah. That’s a whole big question. Yes to the first part. [Chuckles.] Black feminist praxis is how I live my life. It is a guiding force. I’ve been studying it for years. I’ve been studying it at least two decades if not more and have been able to extract the parts that I’ve found completely valuable, have been able to challenge some of the questions I’ve had about some things. But for the most part, it is definitely a guiding force for not just my personal life but definitely for my activism. When you think about oppression and you think of idea that we have to think about the least of us, right, the people who are at the bottom, right? When those people are liberated, that’s when we know that we have reached a great place. And when you consider social hierarchy, whether it’s related to race and gender or even sexuality and things like that, sexual identity, gender identity, Black women are pretty far down, right? And as such, our whole existence really is about a fight of some sort. And yes, we do find joy in things because that’s how we survive, and that’s how we have always been. But there is almost this idea of a perpetual fight from the moment we wake up. Because we know that there’s so many things that we could face throughout the day that serve as pushback against our mere existence. So, we’re gonna deal with racism. We’re gonna deal with sexism. We’re gonna deal with all of these things. And we’re like almost perpetually armored for battle, which in itself if you think about carrying around armor every day, all day, it’s very heavy, and it’s very burdensome. We have to find ways to make light of it.
So, I think that what happens with Black feminism is that it helps us really understand why we’re treated this way. Because sometimes it can feel very well woe is me, like why is this always happening? Well, here’s the actual breakdown of why this happens to you and why you may experience this as a Black woman so you can have a better understanding, and you can learn how to navigate it in your own personal life. And I think Black feminism teaches a lot of empowerment. There’s a lot of messaging and a lot of things set come through with some of the greats like Patricia Hill Collins or Dorothy Roberts or Angela Davis and others, Kimberlé Crenshaw, is that there is power in being a Black woman, and there is power in the way that we think. And there’s power in the way that we create, and there’s power in the ways in which we are able to organize and move our communities forward. It’s been said that we are the backbone of the community, but that’s gendered, right? I would say that we are the leaders of our community. The only reason we don’t get leadership labels is ’cause we’re not men.
So, I think that Black feminism challenges everybody to just kind of shift the way we think about leadership and power, how we think about community, who we identify as the strongest leaders or who identify as those needing the most help. I think Black feminism pushes the envelope on that so it’s not just about womanhood, it’s not just about Blackness. It’s also about your ability, your sexual orientation, your class, right, all of these things, your size, your skin color. It’s making us think about communities in totality. And I think when you take that and spread that across everybody of any race, ethnicity, gender, whatever, that basic principle of we need to consider all of these parts of people and how these different identities are oppressed and how those intersection oppressions shape someone’s life and their worldview, when we can get everybody to think that way, I think we can make for a better world. Because Black feminism encourages empathy. It encourages understanding. It encourages people to do better by each other just in general.
CARMEN: In What’s the Point, Jane’s last recommendation for resilience-building is taking all that political stuff that got personal and making it organizational. Self-care can’t just be an individual imperative. It has to be a collective responsibility. We can’t just take care of ourselves after 6:00 p.m. and before 9:00 a.m. Our movement spaces have to integrate self-care and sustainability into their fabrics in order for this fight to continue on safely.
CRYSTAL: The first step is really integrating. I think it takes, I know, it takes so much unlearning to approach things this way because we are in this imperialist, capitalist patriarchy. It takes so much unlearning to come at it from a focus of liberation and sustainability because of particularly the capitalist messages that we’re getting all the time: This constant pressure for the glorification of busy and hustle culture and feeling like if you feel busy and stressed out, that must mean I’m doing something right that I have this really strong work ethic. So, it’s unlearning a lot of that. And then I think too, that a lot of conversation about work-life balance feels like you’re supposed to separate those things. And I know that I’ve learned as a business owner that I really have to integrate and look at myself as a whole person and not think about “I’m working.”
CARMEN: Unfortunately, too many of us are still waiting for that integration.
TIANA: I also think support groups are really vital for me and making those kind of friendships and support systems. I know recently, actually, they brought us to BuzzFeed to talk about the burnout piece. And there’s a group there with the Black people that work at BuzzFeed, and they have a Slack channel called Cocoa Butter. And so, it’s a way that they’ve kind of had an internal Slack channel and the way that they kind of survive and talk to each other within the environment at BuzzFeed. And so, I think systems like that are really important, or if it’s a group chat, what are the ways that, who are those people in your trusted inner circle that you lean on, that you can be yourself with, that you don’t have to kind of present yourself in a way where you can’t be your whole self I think are really important.
CARMEN: That’s Tiana again. When we talked, she confided that she would definitely be interested in a formal care structure. But she can’t find one.
TIANA: But I think as far as feminist structures and movements, I think we have to open the room to have honest conversations and safe spaces where we can learn about the differences from each other and safe spaces where we can really see each other. I don’t really know what that looks like, but I know that it’s something that I crave: a space where we can have honest conversations and where Black people don’t have to feel so hyper-visible when they’re there. I don’t know exactly how to do that, but if someone does figure that out, I would love to be in that space.
We have to do so much of that kind of, I don’t know what you call it [inaudible], but being kind of like a mole on the Internet kind of burrowing and trying to build up your own kind of information on your own.
CARMEN: I also love this idea of an underground [chuckles] an underground anti-burnout network. It feels like you could be the superhero of that network.
TIANA: [Laughs.] Yeah. That would be, yeah, that could be an interesting kind of like our own kind of a burnout, reimagining what Reddit would look like, but like a feminist burnout version of it.
CARMEN: And individual practices can go a long way for feminists. But when the movement is also your workplace, when social justice is also your day job, it can be hard to step away and do what you need to do to be okay without the concrete support of your peers. You can feel guilty taking a break. You can feel obligated to say yes when you wanna say no.
Rosemary saw that first-hand in her research from feminists online, local and in person, and even working at the national level.
ROSEMARY: You know, I think part of that feeling too is this guilt and this shame. Like I need to keep going. I have some time, you know, this window of time in my schedule. I need to dedicate that to this movement or this project. There is so much injustice within our current political moment that we need to be actively fighting against. But I think for feminist activists who are doing this deeply personal social movement work, there needs to be that permission to step away and to take care of yourself too.
CARMEN: It’s also something activists like Ledys and the women she works with around the world confront in their own day-to-day lives and even in trying to practice self-care.
LEDYS: And I really feel, like I’ve started feeling really bad about it, but then she said I think that it is important for me to be OK. You know, it is important for me to have this moment. And it isn’t self-indulgence, but I think that it can be read as self-indulgence, right, because you are consuming in capitalism. I don’t think it’s black and white, but I definitely think that that a women like that is recognizing, Okay, I also need to be okay. I also need a moment where it’s about me and where I need to be held, like, then that’s okay, you know?
CARMEN: All of this is why Crystal, through Feminist Oasis, and the feminists at FRIDA are trying to redefine what movement spaces look like and rewrite the operational manual for this movement.
CRYSTAL: Mm, I love that question. [Chuckles.] One of our early sort of versions of a mission statement was to envision together with our community what alternatives to white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy could look like. Because I felt like even saying “building alternatives to white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy” implies that we know what those alternatives look like, and we really don’t. I think when I think about what a feminist movement without burnout would look like, I get a lot of nature images. I think an integration and reconnection with nature is so important and is one of the top things that comes up when we ask people at our events, when have you felt the most motivated, the most inspired? A lot of it has to do with going outside and connecting to nature. This is something that I’ve seen Alice Walker bring up too when folks ask her how she takes care of herself as an activist. She always says, “Go outside and pay attention to nature. That’s how we do it.” So, I think paying attention and getting cues from nature can help answer that question.
I think it also looks equitable. Is that a look? I think the more representation that we see of really diverse representation, intersectional representation in leadership roles specifically and not just how can we create scholarships to bring these people to attend our events, but really putting particularly women of color and trans folks of color in the feminist movement following the leadership that they are doing already is going to help us get there.
Yeah. So, I think for me, there’s sort of a building crescendo of those four values. And the first is solidarity. And so, we have key sort of a flagship events for each one of the values. And so, thinking in terms of solidarity, we have pretty lighthearted, fun networking events pretty frequently, finding that it’s a lot easier to talk about not just feminist issues but also self-care issues if there’s a community built first. So, we look at a solidarity first, then we look at resilience. And that’s really defined—the way that we define it is—community supported self-care, so looking at and defining what for each of us self-care looks like, what community support we need in that self-care, whether it’s a community setting for self-care events that we do. We have our flagship event for our resilience value is called Get Cozy and Creative. And we invite folks to just come in their coziest clothes and we have a playlist prepped and we have popcorn popped and we meet at this really cute cafe with really cool, cozy furniture. And we bring the lights down a little bit and we just say, bring your own project, BYOP. So, you can show up, and if you don’t feel like talking to anyone, you can hang out in our focus zone. People bring drawing, knitting, stuff that they maybe could do at home, but it’s in a community setting, and it’s in a little bit of an oasis setting. And then we also have a chat zone. Some people like to come and just be creative and actually talk with people and interact with people. So, that’s an event that sort of models the different levels of self-care and how you might get some community support and community accountability there.
And then sustainability is sort of keeping that cycle going. I guess would be a little bit of a pre-end goal to all of this, sustainability from a human perspective, obviously sustaining our bodies, sustaining our mental health, sustaining ourselves as a business. Our sustainability flagship event is a coworking session that starts off with a workshop. So, we talk about our values and how we can bring them into our work and make more sustainable work lives and more sustainable businesses. And that’s all sort of needs to, we think, be preempted by this sort of personal resilience that we’ve built up in a community setting. That’s sustainability. And then the fourth value is systemic justice. And that’s sort of the overarching umbrella that we’re constantly striving for, that we know probably we’ll never get there in our generation or the next generation. But sort of that top-level goal that we’re all working for and keep in mind.
CARMEN: The folks at FRIDA knew that getting to that top-level goal meant making collective self-care part of their operational ethos. They knew encouraging individual self-care was not enough, so they did something about it.
LEDYS: You know, a lot of people reduce self-care to a consumption practice. So, if you have a massage or if you do all of these things, then you’re practicing self-care. And I think that to an extent, you are. I wouldn’t deny that because I also think that there’s a lot of guilt. That happens. A lot of human rights defenders who live off of this and whose lives and careers are based on this, have a lot of guilt about that. Not like, oh no, like I can buy. I can go to Bali, and this other person can’t. Like, oh my god. And I think that’s not useful. I think that it’s that I think that it needs to be a little bit more complicated. Like, yeah, you can have a massage, something that it is super political. And in terms of not finding a community, I do feel that that is, yeah, that is something that FRIDA wants to generate, like a responsibility of organizations to take on this collective need. If you work in this movement and if you’re part of it because of your social relationships, because of your identity or because of whatever, then you do have a community. And then maybe this community is actually not serving you in this moment. And I think that that’s actually something that that was what FRIDA’s journey into the Happiness Manifesto really was, you know. It was like, we are a young feminist organization where a lot of us have really not-good practices of care. And so, how we actually came up with the manifesto was like, okay, what is the thing that you do that is revive, you know? And then we were like, “Yeah, I come back from traveling from two weeks and go back straight to work.” And so, the commitment from that was I will take proper rest after traveling. So, one of the commitments that you actually see in the Happiness Manifest comes from really bad practices, that we had and that some of us still struggle with, you know. Because actually, we try, and we’re holding ourselves up to a standard now, but we’re definitely still not fully sort of meeting what we think is our collective care and how we should treat each other, no?
But yeah, I mean something that FRIDA concretely did was decrease our work hours. We have a self-care stipend. We also have a self-care grant for our grantee partners that they can apply for, if for example, they wanna do something as a group, like go to the beach or collective therapy, you know, so.
CARMEN: FRIDA is working with feminists on building sustainable organizing models, including a group in Colombia that used their funds to launch a collective therapy practice for their members. That kind of work echoes some of the models in What’s The Point. Jane cited the African Women’s Development Fund in the book as well as the Guatemalan Unit for Protection of Human Rights Defenders and the Movement of Human Rights, both of which were establishing organizational policies and operational practices that ranged from self-help and therapy groups to flex time, paid sabbatical leave, and wellbeing budgets for their employees. These policies and practices allow activists to do things that they too often deny themselves or are denied in this space by funders and philanthropic foundation standards: things like rest, relaxation, exhalation. It allows them to stop running from and start digging in.
LEDYS: So, holistic security is something that my colleague Maria, who’s the senior Capacity-building Officer at FRIDA has also been leading from before I came into the organization. And it’s basically an understanding that our physical security is integral, is tied to other aspects of our security. So, usually when human rights offenders sort of started reflecting upon like, OK, so what happened? Why are people suffering PTSD? Why are people leaving the movement? Why are people exhausted? And how can we respond to what is happening? And so, an aspect of that was to analyze different aspects of what it made a person, what composes a person’s wellbeing. So, it’s like a social security. You feel accepted by your community. It’s like a political conference, and you’re not persecuted for your political beliefs. And also that you can exist in different spaces safely, and that includes the Internet. So, holistic security really means to look at the different aspects of wellbeing and care that are maybe not traditionally looked at.
CARMEN: If this is, if the model of feminism that we’ve seen, if sort of the predominant image of feminism and a lot of the feminist structures that we’ve seen so far have maybe been built on burnout, I feel like through your work, you’ve probably seen this other way, this alternative way of doing the same work and having the same impact. And I just wanna know what does a feminist future beyond burnout look like? What have you seen on the ground that emerges in these spaces where self-care is a priority and time management is really built in and it’s a big focus and that that guilt and shame is confronted and navigated and maybe lessened by the folks in the space?
LEDYS: Yeah. So, actually something that is really important here is managing this cult of personality that sometimes happens with human rights defenders. What I’ve seen in spaces where people care for themselves, they become less of the charismatic personality, you know? So, they’re not essential in a job. They can come, they can go off. They can delegate effectively. They can empower others to do work and lead it autonomously. And I think yeah, it’s not necessarily a lack of hierarchy. I think in some spaces, it actually does come as that. But at FRIDA we have a hierarchy, and I think in the spaces in which we have sort of taken off this responsibility off people’s shoulders has been in really delegating this work and also really questioning this sort of hero story that we have of ourselves, of like the chosen one, you know what I mean? Like we are special. All of us are special. We are beautiful and amazing humans. I appreciate everyone. I don’t wanna diminish that. I just wanna say that this culture of raising one person to the top or a leader to the top puts these people into a lot of danger. And also because people are targeted, because people are persecuted particularly online. So, here comes that digital dimension as well. But also because these people get really tired. And of course they’re really important. Leaders are important, and they exist. But I think that they also need a break, and they also need to take a step back. And it is important to recognize that we are all good at something in the movement. There isn’t one person that’s going to be our savior or Messiah or anything. We are all going to save each other.
And so, how are we going to spread antivirals effectively so that happens in a way that isn’t killing us, you know? ’Cause it’s the biggest contradiction ever, is like we are trying to help other people and help our people live, and then we are doing it by killing ourselves in the process. It’s crazy. And it’s true: people get super sick. I’ve seen it. Like young people with just insane health issues like arthritis and anxiety and mental health problems. And I think these are really important things that a lot of people don’t talk about. You know, like the Amnesty International suicide for us was like, this is actually so real. And we need to talk about it. We need to talk about when something is too much for us. We need our organizations to give us the space to take breaks, and we need vacation and proper benefits and proper time off and things like that. And yeah.
CARMEN: I asked Rosemary what staving off burnout at the organizational level looked like in practice and whether she could point to some examples from her own research of strategic ways to build collective self-care and sustainability into activism. Turns out it’s totally possible as long as folks are willing to make the upfront investment of time and energy that it takes to build a movement structure that goes beyond burnout.
ROSEMARY: What I found that worked best were more old-school strategies for movement capacity building, things like figuring out how to structure our organization, our collective, our movement, what have you, with intentionality. Sitting down and explicitly thinking about what is our organizational structure? How do we make decisions? What are our plans in terms of delegating tasks? It sounds simple. It might even sound a little bureaucratic. But having those conversations helped people understand what their role and responsibility was within that space and how things were going to be accomplished within that space. That very simple act of creating some degree of structure with intentionality that mapped onto the group’s values helped sustain organizing for the long-term.
Also, having a certain degree of accountability built into leadership structures. Having ways to hold group members who were in positions of leadership or group members who had a certain degree of responsibility over a project, having a method for calling them in whenever a certain issue arose or whenever there was controversy within the group also helped keep the movement or the organization going for the long-term. And another very simple sort of old-school strategy were just opportunities to build community in person. This is, I think, especially key for movements that start online. I think when people have an opportunity to connect with others offline in person, there is more opportunity to do some of the very simple interpersonal reaching out to one another and making sure that we’re taking time to care for the members of our movement, members of our community so that they feel that sense of community that keeps you going for the long-term.
CARMEN: One group in particular that Rosemary studied made this all happen, and they reaped the benefits.
ROSEMARY: There is an organization in the city called Permanently Philly. It’s this incredible grassroots collective that’s all about incorporating greater diversity, especially around gender and sexuality, in the arts in Philadelphia. Their particular focus is on punk music scene in the city. This organization worked extremely hard to come together and establish an internal mission statement and internal set of values and a very explicit organizing structure. The group wanted to have an horizontal leadership structure in which everyone has an opportunity to be in a position of power over particular project. Responsibilities are shifted along a chain of delegations so that everyone gets an opportunity to shape a particular project the group is working on or a particular event. That work wound up involving many interests in meetings. There was one night where we were sitting in my living room and sketching out a very detailed mission statement, a very detailed set of internal values, thinking about dozens of different hypothetical situations. You know, what if someone disagrees with this decision that everyone else agrees with, and how will we resolve that internal conflict? Establishing that kind of internal organizing structure takes a lot of time and a lot of effort. I think people were kind of a little bit burnt out after that meeting, but investing that time and investing that energy helped stave off burnout later down the road, if that makes sense.
CARMEN: In 2015, I took a very long road trip from Washington, DC to Los Angeles. That year, I wrote endlessly about the journey: about learning to drive and then doing it, about car snacks and gas station coffee, and about how scary it was to leave everything behind, but how excited I was to see Graceland.
In that version of the story, I’m a rebel with a cause. I’m a kid with a crazy dream. I’m Thelma and Louise. But in the truest version of the story, I’m wearing the same sweatpants every day in the car. I’m waking up exhausted. I’m facing down my martyr complex after years in the non-profit sector. The story I never told about Los Angeles was how quickly I went from trying to be a freelance writer when I got here to straight-up just trying to be free.
I never told the version of the story where I wasn’t seeking a new city so much as a space where I could take a moment to breathe, to see something beautiful, to slow down all of the moving parts of my life and figure out which way of arranging them would make the most sense. I never explained that I was sleeping for more than eight hours a night, but I couldn’t stay awake without a constant stream of coffee flowing into my body. I never explained how many times I looked out at something beautiful or bewildering or incredible or weird while I was on the road and felt totally empty. Or how many times I stood in the sun on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere and thought, what if I just disappeared? What if I just left it all behind? What if I never went back to the movement again?
I never told the version of the story where I was so burned out that I spent two weeks in a moving car just to get away from my to-do list and get thousands of miles away from the people who needed things from me. I never told the version of the story where Los Angeles went from being a signifier of my own success to a city where I told myself it might be okay to give up and fail. I never told the version of the story where I was saving my own life by forcing myself to let go of everything I ever thought mattered just so I could finally breathe. I never told the version of the story where I burned a lot of bridges just to get away from the work that was piling up on top of them.
But I’m telling it now. Because back then, I felt weak and alone and like nobody else was overwhelmed. But in the years since, I’ve started feeling frustrated and determined instead. Because I’m not weak. I’m not the only one. And each and every one of us in this movement deserves better than a feminism that values our sacrifices more than our self-care and that rewards our suffering more than it respects our boundaries. “We need to start framing the idea of work,” Jane declares at the end of What’s the Point, “in a healthy, balanced, safe and sustainable way as a right. Not a favor.” And she’s right. We deserve better than burnout. And now, it’s time to get to work building a future that goes beyond it.
[“Take Care” by Beach House plays]
♪ “I’ll take care of you, take care of you/
I’ll take care of you, take care of you
I’ll take care of you, take care of you/
I’ll take care of you, take care of you/
That’s true….” ♪
CARMEN: Okay, folks. That’s all for this installment of Popaganda by Bitch Media. This episode was produced by Cher Vincent and hosted by me, feminist writer, editor and activist Carmen Rios, as part of our HEAT season. Our jingle is by Mucks & Owen Wuerker. Today’s guests were Crystal Paradis, Feminista Jones, Ledys Sanjuan, Rosemary Clark-Parsons, and Tiana Clark.
The conversation doesn’t stop here. Use the hashtag #Popaganda on social media to share your thoughts and feelings on the show. Follow Bitch @BitchMedia on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to get more feminist stuff like this in your feed (algorithm willing), and find me @carmenriosss (with three s’s) for behind-the-scenes selfies and unsolicited excerpts from my secret Tumblr.
Popaganda is produced by nonprofit, independent, Bitch Media. Our feminist response to pop culture is funded entirely by our community, so if you loved what you just heard, you can support this show directly by joining The Rage, Bitch’s monthly membership program for fed-up feminists like you, at bitchmedia.org/rage. Members get print and digital subscriptions to Bitch magazine, a members-only Filled With Rage mug, and other sweet feminist swag! If you wanna send me hate mail, you can do that at carmenfuckingrios.com. And if you wanna make sure you never miss an episode of the show, you know the drill: subscribe to Popaganda on iTunes, Spotify, or Stitcher.
And stay tuned for our next episode where some of the many women in weed will weigh in on forging a feminist future in cannabis. ’Til then, I’ll see you on the internet.
Members of The Rage get exclusive content, including Bitch magazine in print. Membership starts at just $5 a month and helps support Bitch’s critical feminist analysis.