From the March on Washington to Oprah's instantly iconic #TimesUp speech last Sunday, women have been leading the Resistance since Donald Trump's inauguration nearly a year ago. Among the women leading movements targeting crises like police brutality and sexual assault, Aditi Juneja has carved out an empathetic space for exploring the relationship between activism and self-care.
At just 27 years old, Juneja built the Internet's popular crowd-sourced Resistance Manual — an easy-to-understand look at the ways citizens can harness their power to influence local politics. She's also the creator of the podcast, Self-Care Sundays, which spotlights the tactics marginalized people are using to insulate themselves from the chaos of our cultural moment.
Refinery29 caught up with Juneja to learn about the story motivating her remarkable activism. Press play above to hear more about her fight, and don't miss our Q&A featured below.
My goal in leading the Resistance Manual was to make it a resource that served newly engaged citizens who were looking to learn more about policy and process. Our founding principles were to continue to advance justice and equity, including resisting the Trump administration when necessary. When I left in June, we were measuring success by the growth in the share of return users and the amount of time people were spending on the site. We wanted to be a place that people referenced again and again, as well as a resource that people felt invested in spending time to help develop. My cofounders, Stay Woke, are now running it.
What inspired you to start your podcast, Self-Care Sundays? How is self-care different in our current political climate?
I started Self-Care Sundays because I was beginning to feel exhausted and burnt out leading the Resistance Manual. I needed to find a way to take care of myself in order to do the work. I wasn't sure what that might look like so my solution was to have conversations with different people to learn how they practiced self-care. I was particularly interested in what self-care looks like for people with marginalized identities and without a lot of resources, because that's what I was struggling to find information about.
I think that there is a lot of uncertainty and unpredictability in this political climate. For some people, it is unsettling and jarring to see political leaders behave with such little decency. But for some of us, our lives seem to constantly be under attack. The disabled community has gone through tremendous turmoil any time healthcare has been threatened. Undocumented immigrants are living in constant fear. There is uncertainty about the Muslim ban. The President amplifies white supremacists. There is no reprieve, so we have to find a way to create it for ourselves. We have to find moments of joy and a way not to feel guilty about taking breaks.
What's the biggest misconception about self-care?
That you have to have a degree of resources or privilege to do self-care the "right" way. First, there is no "right" way to do self care. That is something we explored a lot on the podcast by talking to so many different types of people. Second, the main things people mentioned as necessary for self-care — boundaries and being present in what you're doing — do not require resources. With that said, privilege shapes the way we are taught to think about our right to set boundaries and our ability to be fully present in our daily activities. So, I don't want to deny that privilege and resources can make self-care easier, but I also think it's a misconception to think it's impossible to do it without privilege and resources.
What needs to change about the current relationship between labor and the importance of self-care?
I think the answer to this question is really about how we value the labor of care. Care workers (i.e. home health aides and the like) comprise the fastest growing sector of our economy, however domestic workers remain among the least protected and worst paid workers in our economy. The National Domestic Worker's Alliance has done great work organizing and raising standards for care workers. But, the way we as a society demonstrate our value for care workers, is indicative of how much we actually value care. We pay great lip service to these workers as the most important in our economy, the work that makes all other work possible, but we don't act like it. I think that's because this work is largely gendered.
I don't think we can value and emphasize self-care in relationship to labor if we don't value the workers who care for members or our society. In a patriarchal society, we're not appropriately valuing self-care in relationship to labor if care is gendered female and labor is gendered male. So, I view self-care as the fuel for any type of labor, but I also view it as radical activism that changes the way we think about and value work and care.
What's keeping you hopeful and motivated for the future of the Resistance?
What keeps me hopeful about the future of the Resistance is that I know I'm not doing it alone. Over the last year, I've developed a community of people who care about this country and are working to stay informed, engaged, and active. We've seen so many people doing things they've never done before because they want to participate and be the change. In a democracy, no one is coming to save us, we have to save ourselves. I am hopeful because I see people doing just that.
I stay motivated because I don't seen an alternative. I get discouraged and tired like everyone else, but I also know that the decisions being made today will impact us for the rest of our lives. As millennials, we will be impacted by the decisions that are made for decades to come. I'd like to always have the comfort of knowing that I did whatever I could to advance justice and equity. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "the moral arc of the universe bends towards justice," but President Obama added to that by saying, "but it does not bend on its own." I stay motivated because I want the satisfaction of knowing that I helped to bend it.