Emma's Summer Contemplations - August 18th

This week’s Crip Camp was about spirituality and your own worth and humanity. Among else, focus lay on the need of recreation and taking care of yourself. To talk trendy: it was all about self-care.

Self-care has not been a major thing for all that long. It is mainly Millennials that talk about celebrating oneself and all the things needed to do exactly this. It might be everything from a scented candle and sheet masks, cozy loungewear and a bottle of wine, to a great hike in the mountains. Self-care has turned into an aesthetic which is often tweeted and instagrammed.

Of course, there has been a lot of criticism aimed at this trend. To discuss self-care from the perspective of class and capitalism is both interesting and relevant, but that goes for the ideas of femininity contra productivity as well. My intention is to do neither in this blog post. I can willingly admit being a fan of (very commercial) self-care. I love to put on a sheet mask for 15-20 minutes (K-beauty – what else!) while sipping pink champagne and petting my cat – of course to the sound of a relaxing mindfulness podcast. (Search for #selfcare on any social media platform if this does not feel familiar.) It is a perfect thing to do after a long week of work and it feels – just as promised by the hashtag – as if I am celebrating myself. Self-care is something simple, nice, and relaxing. Something you do only for your own enjoyment.

Let us return to my evening of home spa with a bubbly beverage and a cat. Let us simplify it as far as we are can and make a budget version in order to make sure that it is truly accessible. The mask can easily be exchanged to steaming, the bubbly beverage can turn into tea, how to practice mindfulness is all over YouTube, free of charge. Economically this type of self-care hence feels rather doable no matter what. The thing that cannot be compromised here (if we go all in for a home spa experience) is the physical aspect. In my case this means that someone must put the mask on my face or lean me forward above of the steaming water. This someone must also brew my tea/pour the champagne. Possibly also move the cat, who is probably poking at the mask. In my case this someone is a personal assistant and their job is to do exactly these kinds of things – physical stuff I cannot do on my own. Suddenly self-care is no longer just a matter of economic privileges, but also abilities.

According to the Swedish Social Insurance Agency’s latest assistance inquiry, personal assistance is only supposed to be available for very basic needs, defined as  ”intimate regarding integrity” [my translation]. Among these, personal hygiene is defined as something that only entails keeping the body free from dirt. If I was facing a new assistance assessment today, my hours of self-care would therefore not have been approved as basic.

According to the Swedish Social Insurance Agency, my life – as well as all lives with assistance – is purely focused on survival, not living. They do not care about trends on Instagram. Whether you can pet your cat or go hiking does not matter to them. Because of that, I am thinking that my Korean sheet mask is not only a celebration of myself as a person, it is also a hell of a big exclamation mark towards ableism and everything it entails. And what would that be – if not self-care!

Emma Åstrand

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