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Care about Trump’s Presidency? Care about yourself first.
By Vidya Ramesh
This week is National Self-Care Week in the UK and with many students here still lamenting the election of Donald Trump, Vidya Ramesh explores the importance of looking after ourselves as we face the political shockwaves from across the pond.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” These are the words of Audre Lorde, the self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” of the mid-twentieth century.
The first two clauses of this sentence alone hold universal appeal, and resonate particularly with a perennially-stressed out, avowedly over-worked university student like myself.
Taking time to make three hearty meals a day, call my retired father at least once a week to make sure that he’s doing okay, taking a walk in the morning to get some fresh air before I confine myself to my room with a pile of dusty old tomes: in this hectic day and age, self-care seems to have reduced to the most elementary practices of food and water, breathing and sleeping.
Yet, as Lorde correctly states, there are times when self-care needs to be marshalled as a political act, when a change that affects our lives and psychology on the most intimate level is seen to be initiated by a wholly removed and inaccessible deliberative sphere.
On Tuesday 8 November 2016, it was the American electorate who occupied this sphere, electing Donald John Trump as the 45th President of the United States.
Why should students in the United Kingdom care about this on an emotional level, as opposed to simply a political one? Why should we care beyond the implications of Trump’s Presidency on the United Kingdom’s foreign policy, or on our international students on campus who come from the United States? How can this affect us so deeply, emotionally and personally? I went to the CUSU (Cambridge University Students’ Union) Women’s Campaign Forum on Self-Care to find out.
There are two answers to this question: a positive and a negative. One is solidarity, and the other is alienation.
Lola Olufemi, BME Rep for the Women’s Campaign, raised the point that while 53 per cent of white women voted for Trump, nearly 95 per cent of women of colour voted for Hillary Clinton.
This was in spite of Clinton’s support for her husband’s decision to pass a $30 billion crime bill in 1994 which created a swathe of new capital crimes; a year before Bill Clinton left office, incarceration for drug for African Americans were more than 26 times the level in 1983.
In her support of the bill, she made a bestial characterisation of black children “They are not just gangs of kids anymore…. they are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators”. Yet voting for Clinton as the ‘lesser evil’ in this context ultimately did not pay off. Anger and alienation from the political sphere is the result.
Solidarity also ramps up our concerns. The future of Planned Parenthood and persons with disabilities now hangs in the balance. How can we deal with the emotional turmoil, anger, and sense of hopelessness we feel over Trump’s victory, while also attempting to channel these energies into a productive operation on campus?
The first step, to return once more to Lorde, is self-care. Switch off your social media for a couple of days to escape the barrage of Trump memes. Meet the friends who you haven’t seen since the start of term, and reconnect over a coffee. Enjoy life sans the habitual reappearance of Trump in the internet discourse. Then, and only then, do what little you can.
In a true democracy, the election of one man cannot be a harbinger for the end of the world, no matter how incomprehensible his views might seem to many.
At the Women’s Campaign, we are planning on holding a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood at our end of term Christmas party. As indebted, sleep-deprived students, we might not be able to offer a comprehensive framework of support to those who live on the other side of the world. However, we can show that our thoughts remain with them, in the same way that our mental well-being remains secure within ourselves.
Care for others in contingent on care for the self.
For more information about National Self-Care Week, which takes place between Monday 14 and Sunday 20 November, please visit www.nhs.uk/selfcare.
Hi there, my name is Vidya and I’m an undergraduate student reading History at the University of Cambridge. I grew up in Manchester, the birthplace of the Guardian and Suffragette movement; it was impossible not be continually aware of the power of activism, solidarity, and liberal politics. On campus I try to channel these incredibly charged ideas into practical action, particularly in regards to the welfare of students who identify as women. As a director for a student-run think-tank, The Wilberforce Society, I have overseen events on raising the participation of women in public policy, while also co-authoring a policy paper on sexual assault policies within higher education institutions. As a campaign manager for my University’s Women’s Campaign I am also organising a programme of activities to help female students tackle anxiety. In my spare time I enjoy powerlifting (still at a novice level, sadly), as well as living ethically to the best of my ability, such as by following a vegan lifestyle (#vegangainz). As an NUS Journalist I hope to raise awareness of the events taking place on campus that centre around the three concepts I mentioned before: activism, solidarity, and liberal politics. Whether in the form of an intersectional feminist reading group, to a disabilities rally outside the students’ union, you will be sure to hear it hot-off-the-press from me!