Self-care, Women, and a Conversation with Ms. Ikeni

Google images

Google images

Cydney Mumford, Senior, Staff Writer

Self-care. It is a popular and common practice among people in general, but while everyone does it, perceptions surrounding this topic among different categories of people have always differed and more than likely will continue to.

Self-care: A blanket term

What is the first thing that you think of when you think of self-care? Many people would say putting on a face mask, taking themselves on a shopping spree, or running themselves a bubble bath when they get home from a long day. That is what I would like to refer to as surface-level self-care. The things that everyone does as a form of self-care and that bring a person material satisfaction are just a mere subcategory of self-care and do not give a proper representation of what self-care is. Not to make it seem as though these things are not important, but for something to be as multifaceted as self-care is for a large variety of people, only one piece of it is widely endorsed. According to Martha Tesema for “Slate Magazine”,  the term “self-care” itself was coined by civil rights parties in the 1950s by the Black Panther party, but as time has gone on, the meaning of it has inevitably changed or, in some people’s eyes, been “lost”.

Women like me, Women like you

 Although the term “Self-care” was coined by the radical and progressive civil rights party “The Black Panthers”, that did not free the women that practiced it from the societal stigmas and roles that continue to follow women, not just black women and women of color, to this day. Any practices of self-care for women were still geared towards motherhood, being a wife, taking care of your husband and kids, but were never geared towards the woman in question. It was always an extension of the roles women back then (usually) had no choice but to fulfill. Now in the 21st century, women have a wider range of self-care but even then that never touches more than necessary practices such as setting boundaries, saying “No” as a woman, and just overall protection and putting up a defense for oneself. For black women and girls, those things have even more layers and are almost never as easy as “Just do it”. 

 A conversation with Ms. Taylor Ikeni on self-care

On October 5th, 2021 I had the pleasure of speaking with Wagner High Schools African American Studies teacher, Ms Taylor Ikeni. For this article, I felt it would be fitting to have a black woman join me in conversation about this topic, and felt as though she would be a good fit. At the end of the last paragraph, I began to touch on setting boundaries and how going about doing so is not as easy for black women and girls as it is for our counterparts. A quote given to me by Ikeni that she received from her mother was “We teach people how to treat us.” The meaning behind that phrase is setting an example for how you want to be treated. This is why learning to set boundaries as a black woman not only in America but in the world is so important. As black women, if we can not set an example for how we want to be treated and make space to essentially stand up for ourselves, “people will see that and take advantage of it.” Women as a whole deserve to be given the space to set boundaries but women of color and black women need to be included in that conversation as well. Holding space for black women in these conversations is a key factor in overall progression, and much can not continue until this is fully realized.