Refuse. Resist. Rebuild.
A reintroduction of neoliberal feminism
So in my last Pirate Piece, I had begun to grapple with this idea of neoliberal feminism- what is it, what does it mean, how does it operate within our worlds to construct how we think and act?
To introduce this idea of neoliberal feminism, I had written in my last piece:
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 want to try and understand how this works to silence and constrict women while continuing to holding inequitable systems/practices/thinking in place.
Behind every good woman
A friend on Facebook had reposted this picture with the comment ‘and community!’
I looked at this picture and thought- is this an example of neoliberal feminism? If behind every successful woman is herself, then it implies that to be successful you must rely on yourself alone. If you’re not a successful woman then does this mean that the fault is yours alone and not possibly the fault of a patriarchal, inequitable, unfair society? I see this as an example of this neoliberal feminism I am trying to understand, to locate, to discover- that your successes (and therefore, your failures) are your responsibility alone.
I started thinking- who can really achieve anything by themselves alone? I started thinking about the intersections of gender, ableism, class, race, geographical locations and how these can contribute (or not) to one’s success in life. Maybe it’s easier for me as a white, abled, urban, middle class woman to position that I can be successful ‘independently’- society is structured to make ‘success’ a whole lot easier for someone like me.
How does this link to the EYLF?
Then I started thinking, how does this link to the EYLF? I think it links a lot to how we work as educators and also how we learn as educators. If I want professional development to help me implement the EYLF, living in a major metropolitan city makes this easy to access. Being abled makes it easy to access. Being middle class and able to pay for my own PD (even if I don’t actually like doing this) makes it easy to access. If I want to ‘know’ and ‘learn’ and ‘do’ the EYLF and be ‘successful’ at this- it’s pretty easy for me. If I want to formally further my education, living in a city with numerous universities, having a complete high school education, having money I can spend on course fees and text books, being fluent in English, and not having a learning difficulty makes this an easy option for me. Considering my own privileges when thinking about how ‘success’ as an educator works for me is pretty sobering- because there has been no systematic discrimination against me or inequitable systems that make studying and working harder for me, this ‘success’ feels normal to me, it feels like I haven’t had to do anything but study and work hard. I find myself in this position of extreme privilege where it feels like this success is the product of working and studying hard, and therefore, anyone can just study and work hard and be successful. Right? (Well, that’s what neoliberal thinkers- like our current government- would want you to think).
Some time ago, we published a Guest Pirate piece about awards in early childhood- it was critiquing the concept of having a system that ‘awards’ good educators and how this is decided and what it means for other educators (Bonnie, 2014). A lot of social media commentary on this questioned whether the writer wasn’t just upset about not being chosen. I wonder if in this idea of awarding individuals it presents that success is individual, that behind every successful educator is themselves? I wonder how success can be owned, how it can be shared and I wonder if my success as an educator is largely dependent on the successes of other educators- educators who I work with, converse with, whose work I read and use to shape my own practice… is the success really ever just mine alone? Am I the only person standing behind me? And where does gender even come into all this?
I feel like I am grappling in this unknown theory, trying to reunderstand things I thought I knew. Stark lights are shone upon old knowledge, throwing shadows out in different directions, confusing me. I can see that there is something here, between this neoliberal feminism, this female-dominated workforce, these ideas of success, and the privileges we may or may not have in terms of learning and I can’t quite get this into words. I can’t quite fit my tongue around these ideas. I write and publish these pieces because I want to talk about these ideas with others- I love the subsequent conversations on social media after we put up a new blog. How does all of this fit into the image, the construction, the understanding of a successful (or not successful) and probably female educator?
Agency in learning the EYLF, the choice is yours!
The Guest Pirate piece from the other week (Teuta, 2015) on agency made me start wondering- how much agency do educators really have when they want to be ‘successful’. Is it really just a matter of choosing our own success? I thought back to a Pirate Piece I wrote last year on how ‘best practice’ comes into being, how research and professional development is censored through the many subjective filters of ‘quality’ (Longstocking, 2014). And I take these ideas of subjective quality and I think about what’s available to educators to choose for their professional development and growing/sustaining their knowledge of the EYLF and I wonder whether there’s really ‘agency’ in choosing what they want to know, or whether it’s just a choice of what has subjectively become available to them. And when these ideas are already based on subjective ideas of quality then how does this align to people’s own desires for what they want to know or what will help them in their work. In other words- where is the agency in choosing your PD if you only have a narrow choice to choose from. And then how does this affect these ideas of being a ‘successful’ educator? Queen of Teuta’s writing reminds me of a thesis I read recently where the writer states “anarchist theories recognise that people are positioned as self-aware and autonomous while actually living within a manufactured system that tightly controls the available ‘choices’” (Simpson-Dal Santo, 2014, p.68)- and I think, ooo, how can anarchist theories deepen this neolibfem interrogation of our EYLF-world?
Do we have real choices in how we learn and understand the EYLF?
Do we have agency in our own learning of the EYLF?
Who is the most privileged when it comes to choosing, undertaking and understanding professional development? Is this even understood as a site of privilege?
What of neoliberal feminism and our female dominated workforce?
(And what is success anyway?)
© Awilda Longstocking 2015
Anarchy & the EYLF Pirates
Refuse, Resist, Rebuild.
Bonnie, B. (2014). The reward of awards [Blog post]. Retrieved from: https://eylfpirates.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/the-reward-of-awards/
Longstocking, A. (2014). Can you rate ‘quality’ objectively? [Blog post]. Retrieved from: https://eylfpirates.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/can-you-rate-quality-objectively/
Simpson-Dal Santo, R. (2014). Thinking about ‘identity’ in the Early Years Learning Framework. (Unpublished Master’s thesis). University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia. Retrieved from: https://minerva-access.unimelb.edu.au/handle/11343/40979
Teuta, Q. (2015). Agency [Blog post]. Retrieved from: https://eylfpirates.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/agency/