Fletcher Reflections – Rohini Roy
On Wednesdays, We Nap
Celebrating rest as resistance
So much of the narrative that surrounds International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month is centered around dreaming of a better future. This collective visioning exercise we are called upon to participate in once a year fails to take into consideration that in order to dream, one must sleep.
The cis-hetero white supremacist capitalistic patriarchy in which we live, not only creates conditions that disproportionately exhaust women, but also actively makes accessing sleep and rest more difficult.
Tricia Hershey of Nap Ministry rightfully notes that sleep and rest deprivation is a social justice issue. Those who usually sleep less or sleep worse are the usual suspects. In the United States for instance, while women are believed to get between five and 28 minutes of more sleep than men daily, they “experience more sleep fragmentation and lower quality sleep.” The picture gets drearier as one would expect, for those whose existence lies at the intersection of multiple vulnerability factors such as race, caste, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability, sex, gender, and others.
International Women’s Day, as it is currently celebrated, is representative of this exploitative system and not the struggles against it. In a way that feels so familiar to all of us who are part of this global grind culture, IWD serves as an excellent opportunity to celebrate the contributions of individual women. This celebration of the ever-elusive ‘Girl Boss,’ or ‘Boss Lady,’ is a lazy attempt to hide the fact that on every day of the year female labor is exploited, undervalued, and made invisible. Stories of women breaking glass ceilings, smashing barriers, and blazing trails are highlighted to promote capitalistic individualism and selfishness. They are highlighted so that those women who do not see themselves represented in this archetype of the woman that’s celebrated on Women’s Day, are told that it is not hard to succeed, so the ones who are struggling, must not be working hard enough. They are highlighted to discourage us from acknowledging the constant drain of energy involved in smashing, breaking and blazing systems, so that we abandon all hope of embracing a soft life. And most importantly, they are highlighted to isolate individual women from the collective resistance against systems of oppression—the very same community in which many of us tend to and attend to one another, and find rest.
Like a mutating virus, the celebration of women’s day has in recent years adapted itself to stay relevant. To appear to address the feminization of exhaustion, the capitalist machinery has put forth the self-care industrial complex as a reward for our struggles. This brand of self-care is store bought. It seeks to strengthen the foundations of a world where pleasure exists only as a reward, and not as fuel. A world where busy is a badge of honor, and exhaustion a sign of excellence. This self-care that often comes packaged as sheet masks, seeks to distract from the self-care that is an act of political warfare, the one that Audre Lorde and innumerable Black Women have championed for decades. This is a self-care that is devoid of community care, and instead of offering rest, becomes a trend that we exhaust ourselves trying to keep up with.
So, excuse me for this year, I want to unsubscribe from Women’s Day. March 8, 2023 is a Wednesday, and on Wednesdays, we nap.
Rohini Roy is a 2023 MALD candidate at the Fletcher School with a focus on gender and intersectional analysis as well as Human Security. Currently, Rohini’s research focuses on urban poverty in the “two-thirds world,” specifically on experiences of gender and sexual minorities within this landscape. She also works with an early-stage local non-profit in the Boston area as the Strategy Development Associate. Rohini holds a B.A. in War Studies and History from King’s College London.