I am ordinary and I AM thinking

The generation before me said "I am woman, hear me roar".

I've been reflecting today on Zizek as explained by John Bernstein on the Liberation Blog. Specifically this part:

Žižek’s critique of liberal multiculturalist presents a serious challenge to
those of us who want to act to change things. He presents a powerful
argument that to politically act within the parameters acceptable to the
liberal establishment, ‘…inevitably ends in a cul-de-sac of debilitating
impossibility: "what can one do against global capital?" (Žižek, 2001).’
Therefore, Žižek’s importance lays in his questioning of the dominant
liberal hegemony. His argument is that before we act, we need to begin thinking again:
One is therefore tempted to turn round Marx's eleventh thesis. The first task today is precisely not to succumb to the temptation to act, to directly intervene and
change things…Rather, the task is to question the hegemonic ideological
coordinates, or, as Brecht put it in his Me Ti, "Thought is something which
precedes action and follows experience." If, today, one follows a direct
call to act, this act will not be performed in an empty space; it will be an
act within the hegemonic ideological coordinates (Žižek, 2001).
The thing I like most about blogging is that it breaks down many traditional boundaries of writing styles and reading spaces. For example, bloggers and blog readers can share their thoughts on topics such as politics and history which previously were confined to academic writing (whether through the particular rules and styles of academic journals or through the more 'accessible' but still style-bound newspaper article). I have enjoyed the opportunity to write and read about people whose jobs involve motherhood and running households. The voices of these women simply were not heard much at all in public written spaces before the internet.

After yesterday's rant, I've been acutely aware of the elitism in some of what I've been reading lately. Clearly, I may have many things out of context as I've not been spending all of my working days reading Zizek and other political philosophers. But let's put that aside until someone can articulate any contextual misunderstandings for me. Zizek appears to be saying that us little people are just neo-liberal minions who, no matter what we do, are merely supporting the current status quo. We should stop acting and start thinking.

Really? Like no one has been thinking lately? No one? How very fashionable. Fashionable as in if you say that then thought begins with you. I think this is emperors' clothes stuff and I think we should say so. Well I will; I do understand that perhaps I am the only person who thinks no one has been thinking.

Let's take the example of childcare, ground it in some specifics. I have raged against the idea that women have opted out of feminist struggle against oppression because they no longer demand 24 hour childcare. In reality many women in shift working industries have had to give up their careers when they found themselves solo parenting as the child care is just incredibly difficult, and in the absence of close family support, impossible. Many women tread a heart-breaking path between having no money to feed their children if they don't work shifts and the vulnerability of their children if they do. Amanda Cropp's article on truancy here gives voice to that dilemma. As ever, the struggle remains, and mothers alone are particularly vulnerable to childcare nightmares.

So, what's that got to do with a grumpy 38 year old who appears to have everything she wants? I am annoyed at the flippant dismissal of almost all people as retreating, counter-productive, because they are not dreaming about a radical new society. My favourite practical example of someone who boths does right now and articulates strategies for a new future is Sharon Astyk.

This is childcare in action here in the messiest house in Wetville. Friends of ours have no childcare after school on Fridays and attempts to rearrange work hours have not succeeded. Could we help? Of course. Love to. Payment? Absolutely not. It is a gift to both our son who will enjoy playing with his classmate and to our friends who juggle extended family responsibilities in the US and the Phillipines with the needs of paying the rent and of raising their own children. Another friend has asked me to look after her boy next week for the day, my non-paid work day. Love to. I offered when I first found out that she really wanted to attend her daughter's school camp. I've since realised that there is a clash with a community meeting. I can't see myself properly contributing and listening with two small, inquisitive and advernturous children and I must email and work out how to be useful without being there. Then I worked out that I do have a work meeting after school that day. I'm part way through arranging for my extra child to go with my children to my childminders that day. And how to slot in my older child's sports practise at the same time. I think that one will work out. Today I stayed home as it turned out I have two sick children. Given that their father is in Auckland burying his Nana today, there was no choice about who stayed home. I have begun tentative arrangements for tomorrow pending the health of my children. My childminder has a baby granddaughter in her household with a cold and that impacts on whether I can send both children there if they are still a bit poorly. My childminder works part time outside of her home, outside of her mothering and paid childcare roles. I work my hours in with hers in order to have my children where I consider they are wonderfully, carefully, loved. This year as I have upped my work hours and as my childminder has become a grandmother, I pay her daughter to look after my daughter two mornings per week. She has been part of my childcare web for a long time as an evening babysitter and is now a wonderful mother.

Bewildered? Bored? I write it down not because it is scintillating but to demonstrate why I am annoyed with statements suggesting that women have retreated away from radical demands for 24 hour childcare as though they are lesser for doing so. A lot of women are damn busy organising childcare all the time! Many of us work carefully to support each other and provide a web of nurture which allows for flexible motherhood. A radical vision of 24 hour childcare - who would provide it? Robots? errr ummmm err well


Low paid women who wouldn't get to see their own children much at all? Oh, how much cleverer - better paid women who would work shit hours? That would make it all alright then.

Utopian vision my wobbly bottom.


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