Naomi Osaka, Simone Biles, & The Importance of Rest

Desk with journal, eyeglasses, plant, and candle

This summer, Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles both said “no” to competing in order to prioritize their mental health. They are titans in their respective sports, with Biles being among the most accomplished athletes in history. (Her moniker of the GOAT, the greatest of all time, is much deserved.) However, even titans need rest and Osaka and Biles both took it. In a world where Black women have been historically exploited and overworked, to say “no” and instead rest is an act of resistance.

For hundreds of years, Black women have had their labor extracted to the point of exhaustion. In this history marred by chattel slavery, sharecropping, and persisting inequities, Black women have been and continue to be intimately familiar with work. Rest is always a wonderful thing. Against this history, rest becomes better than wonderful, it becomes glorious. Osaka and Biles took a glorious rest, despite a standard that dictated their continued labor.

Osaka and Biles have a certain privilege to be able to press pause on work. They can afford to take a break. Many Black women cannot afford to make a similar decision. Many women would be unable to take a break outside of financial demands. For instance, women are disproportionately responsible for caretaking. What does a break look like when also navigating familial demands such as childcare commitments and more? In that situation, a break looks different than just taking time off from paid work. We can of course locate more barriers to rest, but it needs to be acknowledged that rest should have no barriers. Osaka’s and Biles’ privilege may have enabled their rest, but rest should not be a privilege.

Everybody, especially Black women, should take a moment to rest. To enjoy a chapter of a book, to sink into a bubble bath, to nap in the middle of the day, to luxuriate in soft pajamas, and on and on. Everybody, every once in a while, should say “no” to work when that work starts to encroach on their well-being.

Take Action! Rest for a little while.