Refuse. Resist. Rebuild.
I always find myself in this reflective, pondering space in between years. It’s a space of wondering what the new year will bring- which people will I meet? How will they shape and change my teaching? Who will they be? Who will I be? I love this space of unknowing. And within this unknowing space, I start thinking about what sort of educator I am and want to be and my plans for the year.
This year, I want to start making more of an effort to listen to those who are outside of the early childhood education and care sphere. Too often, my interest in research and people’s ideas are shaped by the very narrow parameter of ‘are they in early childhood?’. If not, I too often discard what could have been offered based on the presumption that it’s ‘not relevant’ to me or to early childhood education and care. I do this way too much. I really noticed it when I went to a conference at the end of last year that included presenters from all levels of education. I don’t normally go to conferences like that. I always stick to what’s been designated as ‘early childhood’ only. The many listenings and conversations from those few days really made me realise that I have a lot to learn (and maybe offer?) from those who are not in early childhood education.
But I don’t want to limit this to just listenings and conversations with other educators. Discussing what early childhood education and care is like with those who are not educators and have little to do with the profession is often amazingly illuminating. So many conversations like this have made me reconsider my own professional truths, understandings and thinkings. They change how I work, how I educate and how I think and write about all of this.
I wonder what happens if we only listen to that (people, research, lives, experiences, etc) which has been designated as being ‘early childhood’ relevant. What don’t we or can’t we know if we limit our interest to that small parameter of knowledge? A timely example would be transgender perspectives and equity. There is nothing (well, very very little) written on this in early childhood and thus if we limit ourselves, our thinking and our teaching to what is talked about in early childhood in official ways (courses, research books, seminars, conferences, the EYLF) then trans* equity is not part of this. It becomes silenced (although, there is hope and promise with the Social Justice in Early Childhood conference this year featuring trans* speakers and a promised chapter in the 3rd edition of the anti-bias book about trans* inclusion- but this means that someone (a very special someone who I admire greatly) has said, hey, this exclusion is not cool, trans* perspectives must be included in ECEC and I’ve got the means to put it there). Sometime ago now, we had a brilliant guest pirate piece on inclusion for queer and poly educators and families- I’ve not read anything anywhere about the inclusion of poly families before this. What have I silenced from my own knowledge by only relying on what early childhood has to say about this? At some point in time, there would have been nothing about feminism in early childhood until educators, writers, thinkers, researchers, activists started saying- we need feminism here, we need feminism for our work and education of young people.
I find myself, sometimes, thinking that something I’m about to read is not interesting to me. I’ve started to wonder, why do I think this? What assumptions am I making to say this would be irrelevant to me, to my teaching, to my understandings of the world?
My personal thinkings for this year is to wonder how neoliberal feminism works. At this conference I was at, there was the discussion about the movie ‘I Am A Girl’ and a speaker said ‘but is this an example of where neoliberalism and liberal feminism meet to suggest that you can do anything if you are a girl?’. I am pretty familiar with both neoliberal theories and feminist theories, but never considered how the two work together. I need to know. I need to think about this. Neoliberal theories suggest that you are responsible for everything in your life- if something is wrong, you should fix it. If you can’t fix it, the problem lies within yourself, not within anything else (like structural inequality, for example). Combining this with feminist theories would bring in the positioning of gender and thus now, neoliberal feminist theory could suggest that you- as a woman- are responsible for everything in your life and if something is wrong, you should fix it and if you can’t fix it, it’s your own fault for not being good, or rational, or smart, or loving, or caring enough. It’s a bit like Julie Bishop saying that you shouldn’t whinge about things that restrict women, you should just get on with proving everyone (probably meaning, males) wrong.
I don’t know much about this neoliberal feminism yet, but it’s my plan to find out. I suspect that neoliberal feminism actually supports societal structures that are unequal and patriarchal. Because if the problem is within the individual woman, and not within the unequal societal expectations and structures and laws, then the problem isn’t with the patriarchy, right? An example that keeps coming to mind as I’ve been thinking about this is with domestic violence and the common call that ‘women should just leave abusive relationships’. Neoliberal feminism could suggest that women should be smart enough, strong enough, financially stable enough to leave and if they don’t, it’s their own problem, not the problem of a society that laughs at, dismisses and sometimes condones domestic violence and doesn’t offer enough support to make the leaving happen or for the abuse to never begin occurring to start with. Hmm.
So that’s my plan for 2015. Listen to and converse with people and research and ideas and thinkings well outside my normal sphere. Find out more about neoliberal feminism (any tips on where to start?). Enjoy the SJIEC conference. What are your plans?
© Awilda Longstocking, 2015
Refuse. Resist. Rebuild.