The term “self-care” became popular around the 1960s, when physicians described self-care as a way for the patient to take care of himself and maintain healthy habits, preferably under the guidance of a health professional. Prior to the late 1960s and early 1970s, these patients were usually mentally ill and elderly who required long-term care and otherwise had little autonomy over their bodies. It wasn’t until the women’s and civil rights movement that “self-care” became political and women and people of color began to see self-care as the more individualistic corrective restoration of their bodies and dignity. Working for self-preservation and fighting a corrupt, racist and sexist medical system became the pillars on which self-care metamorphosed into a radical political act.
The fourth wave of feminism gained strength around 2012, mainly as a response to contemporary issues that women were subject to, encapsulating broad concepts such as body shaming, rape culture, sexual harassment and bodily autonomy, among others. A counterculture movement by design, the fourth wave sought to free women from patriarchal ideals and, by extension, unworkable beauty norms. The internet has proven to be a platform for mobilizing people around the world towards this goal. The springboard provided by social media allowed for the free exchange of ideas, effectively shaping how fourth-wave feminism developed online, which in turn influenced the interactions that took place on the internet between people, creating a social feedback loop. Self-care, according to the World Health Organization, can be described as “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a professional of health “. The most basic definitions of self-care fail to encapsulate what the term really means in the age of late-stage capitalism. Self-care in and of itself should be a means for women to reclaim their bodies and find agency within themselves, freed from the needs of others.