It's not a safe space because of its whiteness, per se. It's a safe space because this is the culture of yoga teachers, to surround us with unconditional love and supportiveness, to encourage self-love. It's a very feminine space. Today, there were three men present, and they all stuck together in a rear corner.
All three men were white. And all the women there were white. The teacher was white.
I live in one of the most diverse areas of the country.
So, in my lily-white safe space, two things make me uncomfortable. One is the monolithic whiteness, only rarely interrupted. And the other is the idea of self-love, of self-care. Who am I, privileged white bitch with an easy life, to give this to myself? To allow someone else to caress me with soothing words? What even is this feel-good crap?
And yet the breathing, the movements, the resting, even the chanting--about which I still feel awkward-- they do calm me. It is a conundrum.
Do I deserve more calm? After the election of a racist, misogynistic, narcissistic, xenophobic, tax-dodging billionaire and climate-change-denier, is more calm something to be desired? If this mode of increasing calm is not available to everyone, is it something of which I should avail myself?
All fair questions. As a white woman at this moment in time, I feel squeezed. I feel squeezed on one side by white male and other Trump supporters who said, at best, No, white women, it is not your time, and-- at worst-- it will never be your time, you stupid fucking cunts. I feel squeezed on another side by women of color who point out, over and over, that 53% of white women voted for Trump, that we are, as a demographic, traitorous or duplicitous-- and make it clear that this is what they always expected of us. They seem disappointed but not surprised. I feel squeezed by sadness that an eminently qualified woman lost the election, that the small progress we were making on climate change will be reversed, that we will lose progress on LGBT rights, women's rights, health care, criminal justice reform. I feel squeezed by the conviction that my sadness is selfish, an undeserved luxury, the personal stake I felt in Hillary Clinton's election insignificant compared to the stakes of others.
Sometimes it feels as though, squeezed from all these directions, there is nowhere left to inhabit. Even action, even activism, feels potentially self-serving, is regarded with suspicion from within and without. Maybe rightly so.
Under the circumstances, what do we do? Help others, is one answer. I've been trying to do more of that. Listen, obviously. Take care of ourselves? Do we do that? Should we do that? Is yoga OK? Cups of tea? Naps? How about shouting, is that OK?
One thing I've learned over the years of being a white woman: we are so self-hating. Nobody can hate us more than we hate ourselves. Many of us, if we could shrink down to the size of a pin, if we could disappear altogether, we would do that.
But that is a cop-out. When I'm mad at my husband for doing or saying something sexist, and he retreats into self-hatred, it makes me madder. By yelling at himself, he is preventing me from yelling at him. Then I have to turn around and reassure him. He means well. It is infuriating.
So maybe this answers my question. White women should engage in self-care, whether or not they think they deserve it, if only so that others-- others who may be even wearier, with even fewer fucks to give at this point-- are not forced to do the caring for them. Whatever, yoga on your own time. Go sleep on your couch, just don't tell me about it (and yes, I'm aware of the inherent irony of this piece, squeezing away). Eat avocadoes, while also bearing in mind the funniest protest sign ever. Kvetch with friends. And stop defensively flipping out every time someone points out that you are, like, the living stereotype of a liberal white woman. That is what you are, own it. And take care.