Wellness is Political
The moment that we go deep into women’s wellness — politics, policies, and inequities enter the conversation.
I originally posted “Wellness is Political” January 21, 2021 on my personal IG feed. It was four months after I’d launched Working Mom Wellness (now Stories Within Us).
The podcast was part of my personal quest to determine how a mother could maintain her career while remaining mentally and physically well. On a personal level, I was struggling, struggling hard, to achieve all three.
And yet, I desperately wanted these things. I wanted a career, a family, physical and mental health. It seemed simple enough. After all, cisgendered, straight, white, Christian men have been doing a decent job of this for generations. How difficult could it be?
Determined to find the answer (and to provide support to others who were struggling) I launched the podcast. I spoke with academics, researchers, writers, entrepreneurs, and medical practitioners on motherhood.
Early in the podcast I recognized a pattern. Wellness — especially women’s wellness — is political. Full stop.
The podcast took a sudden turn. I reached out to individuals like Alberta MLA Rakhi Pancholi to discuss affordable accessible childcare. I spoke with Alberta MLA Janis Irwin on the need for loud and vocal advocacy in our province. I discussed with Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek barriers that women running in politics face.
After the overturning of Roe vs. Wade on Friday, many are grappling with the reality that politics can take hold of something as intimately personal as our uterus. And could potentially controll our intimate sexual relations, access to contraception, and marriage.
While I can think of little else that would have such a devastatingly large impact on our lives than access to basic reproductive healthcare, the reach of public policy stretches into multiple aspects of women’s day-to-day lives.
I wrote in the original January 2021 post:
“We can’t talk about, ‘making time for ourselves’ without acknowledging that women, on average, do 17.5 additional hours of unpaid work than their male counterparts EVERY WEEK.
We can’t talk about, ‘getting rid of mom guilt’ without discussing a society that tells women (directly and indirectly) to be small, agreeable, quiet, selfless, and giving.
We can’t talk about women’s careers and wellness without acknowledging a steep pay discrepancy based on gender and race (Based on 2018 US census bureau data, for every 1 USD a white male earns, white females earn 79 cents. Black females earn 62 cents. Indigenous females earn 57 cents. Latina women earn 54 cents).
These are just a few examples — there are so many more areas — where wellness and politics intersect.
The moment that we go deep into women’s wellness — politics, policies, and inequities enter the conversation.”
Access to quality free health care, paid maternity leave, affordable child care, early childhood education, affordable housing, living wages, quality and inclusive public schools systems, mental health supports, green spaces, clean air, safe drinking water, the ability to walk down the street without being the target of a hate crime — to name a few — all directly impact a mother’s ability to thrive. And they all are largely controlled by public policy.
Here’s what our capitalist patriarchal society wants us, as women, to believe: We are in complete control of our own wellbeing. If we are positive enough, work hard enough, anything — anything at all — is possible.
We’re told if we feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and burned out we should treat ourselves to a day at the spa or a weekend getaway. (Despite the fact that this isn’t economically viable for the majority of us) Or we could take a girls’ night out at a restaurant with a good bottle of wine to wash down our despondency. Both of which happily fuel the economy and do nothing for our long term wellbeing.
In the June 22 episode on the Motherhood Tax cultural critic, researcher, writer, and educator Dr. Maki Motapanyane states,
“We’re encouraged to think this way. This is the kind of popular discourse and girl power stuff and all of that. You just have to imagine it for yourself and push hard and in this day and age you can do it.”
Here’s what our capitalist patriarchal society doesn’t say: The most personal aspects of our wellness is directly tied to the policies that are being made and the politicians that are creating them.
If we want change, we need to find a comfortable pair of walking shoes, a candidate that supports women, and start knocking on doors. Start making phone calls. Gather our people. Start going to the protests. Start creating protests. Support the women that are already doing the work.
We must make ourselves as visible and vocal as possible. Being politically engaged has the potential to make changes that hopefully we will see in our lifetime. Or at least in our children’s lifetime.
Like many women, I’m still processing the news from Friday. Usually when this happens, I internalise it. I stay quiet. However, over the weekend, poet Maggie Smith posted,
“A question I find myself asking in countells contexts — personal, professional, political (as if those are separate contexts):
Who does silence serve?
“Who does silence serve?” I ask myself, and the question almost always encourages me to run my mouth.”
Now, I know that Maggie Smith did not sit down and write this personally for me. But it felt like a personal call to action. And I accepted it as such.
So, to those reading this who support women, I ask you to join me with running your mouth. With being incessantly loud. Find a way of advocacy that works for you. And stick with it.
For my deeply introverted nature, writing and podcasting continues to work best. I’ll post even when I’m uncertain as to how it will be received. Or second guessing my own articulateness on the topic. I’ll show my imperfect thoughts to whoever will receive them. I’ll be persistently loud.
Now isn’t the time for silence. If we value our own mental and physical health, we must be loud. We must be unapologetically political.
Lisa Bush is the author of City Hall: A Dr. Ada Logan Mystery and Teaching Well: How healthy, empowered teachers lead to thriving, successful classrooms. She is the creator of Stories Within Us.