sei não essa coisa da #maternidade ser tão polêmica é porque nos mostra simplesmente que todos saímos de uma xoxota arregaçada (ou de uma barriga cortada), depois de meses de um estado nada racional (que se extende à infância claro) em que tudo o que tínhamos era água pura, calor e o ritmo do batimento cardíaco, dos gases, dos movimentos dos corpos de nossas mães e daqueles que as rodeavam. o contraste do mundo da barriga com o mundo ‘de fora’ mostra que somos nem tanto humanos, mas que somos muito mais animais do que gostaríamos, e por tanto controlamos tanto, ou tentamos controlar isso que é assim mistério de multiplicação da vida. quanta prepotência há no duelo sobre a maternidade. é o seguimento do heterocapitalismo, do qual muitas mulheres também se iludem, de uma incompreensão em larga escala de que algo se perdeu. não falo de uma maternidade arcaica, nem só de mulheres, falo de maternagens, de jeitos de cuidar, e de sair desse controle absurdo sobre aquilo que expressamos e sentimos com o duelo que vivemos entre reprodução social e cuidado reprodutivo. é complicado porque nesse tema se separa muito a percepção da mãe-nova-mulher (na onda das novas maternidades super empoderadas) e a criança (e seus mundos sensíveis em construção, e por outro lado as infâncias idealizadas, etc etc). quem sabe uma pequena viagem à nossa própria vida quando embarrigados poderia mudar um pouco a perspectiva.
Enquanto nossas crianças dormem se armam trampas. Trampas de adultos. Adultos se enamoram, se perdem em planos, criam lios, e planejam viagens, gozam, riem, estão bêbados. Adultos trocam de gênero, maquiagens, corpos nus, se fazem grandes e pequenos, se inmiscuem uns nos outros, sofrem e desejam, piamente, mais do que podem. Sonham que entram e entram um no corpo do outro. E sonham políticas, e sonham que a passagem dum plano a outro é mais possível, que os militares cairão, e planejam ataques, armas, bandeiras negras. Entre boleros e dramas, cervejas ruins e análises inacabadas ralam os corpos nas ruas, paredes sujas, e fumam o que lhes queima.
Enquanto nossas crianças dormem voamos longe, fazemos atropelos, brigamos. Quando nossas crianças despertam, acordam nossos olhos secos, e começa uma jornada. Na manhã fresca a revolução da verdade, libidinal de outra era. Diante dos olhos nostálgicos daqueles sonhos e gozos, diante do corpo demolido da noite anterior, pequenos corpos, sutis, e leves. Cheios de planos. E nos tornamos para eles – absolutamente – agigantados na manhã. Vem aí outras provas para as trampas que nos afligiam. Corpos sutis e leves que pedem cuidado, mais pequenos que os nossos, e nos provam, talvez, menos capazes para nossos planos. Os desafios que trazem são doutra escala. Nosso olhar de ressacas é atento, contudo, à sua dimensão maravilhosa, fantasiosa, energética. Nosso olhar carrega um pouco de temor, alimentado pela pequena-grande impressão de que não daremos conta da dimensão escalonada, às avessas, das semióticas infantis. Criança pequena, igual a: presente inventivo. No corpo do adulto, por outro lado, um pouco de morte, álcool flotando, questões de ordem, gozo que não cessa, ganância de uma noite mais longa.
Acordamos num outro plano.
Titubeiam os planos de ataque da noite anterior. O mundo das trampas adultas se perde na porosidade da manhã. Olhos verídicos e doces, a usurpar. Usurpar os planos de passagem, de travessia, a fazer tardar para a noite seguinte aquele mundo de dramas, de delírios, de errôneas sacanagens, aquele mundo de paixões. Trampas de adultos. Se atropelam muito mais e pior que nas batalhas infantis. Claro. Gladiadores da noite. Corpos de desejo. Mas os outros, gladiadores pequenos das manhãs, fazem de nós pura retaguarda. Corpos pequenos, não menos de transformação.
Quando nossas crianças acordam estamos rendidos. Deixando a cama dos lagos e gozos, saímos na selvageria da casa, atravessando obstáculos reais, materiais, coloridos, montáveis, falantes, quebráveis, ameaçadores. O rumo das paixões adultas é dragado no toque e no olhar. É que quando nossos filhos despertam nos damos conta de que viajamos longe, a um mundo de gozos e medos, nosso apequenamento, e temos agora, diante de nós ternura e calidez de sobra, risco e pura passagem.
Quando nossas crianças despertam ardemos de saudades das trampas que arrumamos, como se delas fosse mais fácil desvelar-se, como se as traições noturnas fossem o jogo limpo, aquele em que estamos em pé de igualdade, aqueles em que batalhas não vencidas acendem mais luta. Adultos criam trampas como desvio, brincam consigo mesmos, embebedam-se de seus gozos, aliviam-se por puro ensejo de coisa maior.
Acordam em terra arrasada (arrasados em si). Mas não, é outro plano. Consistência por carícia, consistência por quebra daquela aparente soberania. Adultices. Trampas de adultos se perdem na manhã. Corpos pequenos desafiam e lideram a retaguarda. Rendidos, corpos de adultos abandonam os projetos e as trampas. Navegam por afeto sedoso, pois os pequenos (gladiadores, líderes, revolucionários) nos solicitam da maneira mais suave. Ainda assim nos convocam. Eles não sabem dos nossos corpos meio morto-vivos, de gélidos arrepios, dos sofrimentos da política, dos atravessamentos do afeto. Não sabem que acordamos de súbito, e de delírio.
Nos olham, a postos:
– Estamos prontos, estamos?
– Ou ainda estamos atrapados?
Versão em inglês [aqui]
An essay from a displaced mother attempting to dialogue with those who don’t have children, and more…
This text aims for opening conversations with those who are not parents and those who are not involved in the direct care of young children. But of course, aims at talking to who are as well. As a mother of a 4 year old girl, I find it extremely difficult sometimes to address the issue of care of children to people who are not parents, willing or not to have children. Maybe its because of the way I talk? Probably because I have to withdraw talking from the place of a mother, so there is something about maternity itself to unravel? This text departs from the conflictual or productive space in which reproductive care and social reproduction meet and opens a few questions from what I take as a feminist perspective, following certain struggles and practices around the politicisation of reproductive care. I see that the conflictual or productive space between reproductive care and social reproduction is not always visible, as reproductive care tends to be dealt as an isolated fact, alienated from society. Privatised perhaps? Politicising the care of children and making it visible is very much the issue of the feminist movements that arise in Italy, North America and elsewhere in the 70s, in which the demand for wages for house work appears, exposing the site of profiting of capital itself – the precarised or non payed reproductive care made mostly by women. This is discussed in a problematic way in the referential text Wages against housework, by Silvia Federici (1). If labour in the Fordist era was heteronormative, it needed to guarantee that the home would be an extension of the productive system, and women (apart from them being workers themselves!) would be not just involved in the labour of care of their husbands, but also of reproduction and care of the little ones – the ‘future workers’.
Times have changed, drastically. The post-fordist era spreads out precarisation and the welfare state falls apart, drastically or little by little, cut by cut. This is the European context, at least in most of the cities. In Brazil, where I come from and where I had my child, things are much different. In Brazil one can say that precarity is the underlying condition, and the appearance of a welfare state is still rising on the horizon, at least the recent possibility of a minimum welfare as an urgent measure to those under misery. (2) The rapid engulfing into a neoliberal society in the 80s and 90s, which happens together with the re setting of a democratic state after dictatorship, led to a general privatisation in several sectors, from public goods, communication, education, electricity, housing, whatever … Under a neoliberal system the precarisation of public services induces the growth private health companies and the private schools. This increases differences of class, of course, that are endorsed in historical structures of the Brazilian society such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ruling the futures, the access to education, the future job one might get, the participation in politics, leisure or participation in cultural production etc. The Brazilian context around maternity and reproductive care varies as much as there are cultural and economic differences in the country, for sure, and it is impossible to bring them all to analysis. I write this text from a condition of militancy, which means investigating and creating possibilities, from my low middle class perception, looking at other levels, planes and strategies, without desiring to produce any ideal, but to open up problematics that multiply the voices addressing reproductive care and social reproduction from a feminist perspective.
Social reproduction from the perspective of finance capitalism reproduces life under deep social inequality in regimes of scarcity, precarisation, austerity, environmental destruction, alienation and consumption (!!!). To respond to that, and to increase the energies of those invested in micropolitical practices around care, this text is is very much moved by a call made by Silvia Federici when she says in the article Precarious Labour – A feminist viewpoint that “we need to build a movement that puts on its agenda its own reproduction” (3). It would be necessary to work on definitions of both “we” and “movement”, which I do throughout the text. Federici calls for bringing to subject several dynamics that don’t destroy a notion of community, of struggle itself, not to place apart maternity and reproductive care, and reproductive care and social reproduction. This means taking the issue of social reproduction as a site of struggle (4). This calls for a scrutiny of several definitions that include reproductive labour, economy of care, care work, reproduction of itself as a movement, and several others.
In order to continue, my text calls the reader for a temporary imagination of a dynamic placing of such definitions, concepts, sites of struggle. Instructions are simple: imagine yourself in a space inhabited by concepts, definitions, sites of struggle that are being mentioned here. Now from your own body, and by placing yourself in this dynamic terrain, move towards what you have more intimacy with, towards what is closer to you, to your experiences, memories and sites of struggle. Then also move to what is more unknown, to what is more artificial to you and or difficult, to what is strange. Move towards what you desire and what is not created yet. You can write down or make a small diagram of how you move and what you desire… Lets see through the following text if our diagrams meet.
One of the first motivations in writing this text came from the desire of investigating what is common in maternity, thinking maternity as something common, ordinary, that is more or less politicised, visibilised, repressed, tried out, etc, and thinking from maternity and paternity as sites of commoning. This would be my first attempt to “transversalise” maternity and paternity, but later I saw I was wrong. As I said in the introduction, it is from an investigation of this “mother-in-me” that I allow myself to become “less-a-mother” in the way of opening new connections, new transversals, that could respond to that conflictual space I live in the everyday life: – how do reproductive care and social reproduction meet? A political response could start from a feminist perspective. What I mean by this becoming “less-a-mother” is an attempt of opening to an understanding that is not enough to become biologically a mother in order to politicise care and reproduction. But at the same time in this path of politicising care, the moving forward (towards struggle) should happen without abandoning a certain “biology of maternity” for it possibly holds the very transformative, mutational aspects that we feel in the body when we are pregnant, and that might be coextensive to the addressing of a feminist perspective in itself. A certain hyper sensibility, a certain strength, a certain assertive intuition.
When attempting at opening a space to hold a conversation I cannot talk if not from a very personal and intimate experience, which could demand a space for narratives far too long, for there are major and minor differences between the Brazilian and the European contexts. The incapacity of exhausting theses differences can challenge the public situation of this text, which means, to whom and how it will talk. And this narrative is not at all one of an experience of success, but an experience full of intuition, fear, shifts, crying, error, and much laugh. As a white mother, that brought up a child in a heterosexual relationship, kilometers away from a my nuclear family, I wonder what do I have to say for non-brazilians or non-southerns about that problematic or productive space in which reproductive care and social reproduction meet. But this goes much beyond a determination of geography, class, race, relationship. Making visible maternity and reproductive care is a struggle in itself. No, not to essencialise maternity. Making it visible, outside the isolation of the private spaces that capitalism insists we have to create for our children (family as the first one), holds a series of problems that need to be looked at. It depends on the sustaining of spaces for narratives, essays, experiments, emotions, and the actual collectivisation of care – which is not the care of our children solely, but of our own care – nothing new.
I have the impression it is from the singularity of lives around me that I first saw maternity possible (and not as I dealt with for many years – maternity as something to be avoided, irreconcilable with the life of a ‘productive’ and militant woman). So to situate this more, my contribution departs from the experience of working as an artist, often as a teacher in the university, and in self organised projects, from academic work, from being trained as a yoga teacher, from militancy and from a good dose of testing of structures, and also, of course, many times falling on the trap of the norm.
I consider that my mothering experience didn’t happen solely with having one child, but also with not being able to assume more children for several reasons and deciding making abortions. When I got pregnant for the third time, I gave birth to Hannah, her father living in the UK, where we moved to when she was one year old. The city of Rio de Janeiro, where I lived pregnancy and the first year of Hannah, had an amazing emerging context of queer and transgender performance, making me realise my pregnancy as a queering experience amid others, even if it was not seen like this by many – apart from me. And no, I didn’t transform the delivery of Hannah into any sort of artistic performance, even if I felt that it potentially was one of the most embodied experiences in my life so far. My daughter growing inside me was changing not just my body, but my rhythms and the perception of the immediate and larger world around me-becoming-us. In the context of arts production and queer performance there was not much space for women with big bellies and or small babies crying. At the same time, there was a growing community of midwives, doulas, doctors and mothers (and some fathers) that was setting the conditions for the spread of birth encouraging women to re empower themselves on the labour of birth itself – home or hospitalised ones – moving against the scary majority of c-section that dominates the private sector (95% of delivery). This would mean letting ourselves feeling doped with oxytocin. (5) “Humanised delivery” is the expression that transversalises low, middle and high class birth, producing different spaces between public hospitals, private clinics, health institutions, and prices, of course. Other expression used is “natural birth”. Both are approximate translations of “parto natural” or “parto humanizado”. In Rio de Janeiro, where I lived, as well as in other cities, the number of meetings of mothers around home or humanised labor was growing fast. Conversations were around concerns with the immediate care of our babies, free flow and long term breastfeeding, against vaccination, tying up our children to us in all sorts of slings (to set arms and domestic labour free) etc. At the time we didn’t envisage collectives of care of children, that emerged later on (6), and very slowly discussions about feminist perspectives, different family configurations, care work, unemployment, self managed entrepreneurship and precarisation would appear, breaking up the initial leading currency which could be seen very much as an attempt to reach a quite essentialist perspective on the feminine and maternity. (7)
Adopting silence, breaking silence
Arriving in the UK with my daughter and partner I felt deterritorialised, displaced, and lived through other adjectives that qualify an excess of estrangeness, for sure. Things that took me to a even more domestic life, divided between domestic and work life. The necessity of working immediately in my PhD and the arrival in a new place in which many things were to be adapted kind of took us to the incapacity of drawing situations in which me and my partner could share the care of our daughter outside the traditional scheme. I feel now this drove us to the normal: expensive nursery fees and the crash into another logics, the logics of “adaptation” through separation and crying. “She will get over it.” (I don’t think I did.) I felt I was silenced for what I was maybe fighting against. The normalisation of the separation of our children from us, this swallowing into a productive mode that “should be just as before having a child” took me as a lullaby. I did enjoy gaining time for myself, grasping whatever identity from the subjective displacement that having a baby is in itself means. We started slowly, twice a week, but later on one day more, trying to balance home care with nursery care. The nursery was extremely caring, but this sort of separation and alienated time from my daughter was not separated from re/entering into another alienated mode – the university as a space that segregates! Me in my studio, researching researching. Our closer friends in the UK where just about giving birth to their children, so Hannah was more or less the first child from her generation that was already there, moving around in gatherings as a little device attempting to make friends change their discursive positions to literally a more “grounded one”, ie. on the level of the ground. Later on Mae, Nina, Francis, Joana, Pip, Teo were born.
Thinking from the silences I allowed myself to inhabit, two events became very important to make me shift position from “the-mother-in-me”, displacing maternity to a space that could host other subjects (or processes of subjectivation). The first fact is that the friends Z. and B. who tried to have babies with insemination didn’t had success. Amid the things that “don’t happen” we could not address that difficult moment with them, a pain that somehow we felt was also transmitted by them avoiding seeing us, cause we “successfully” had Hannah. The second event that helped me get out of a supremacy about maternity was an abortion I did after having my child. Conception happen by chance in a over fertile period, and I did (un)consciously desired another child (my mind used to repeat to me, looking at the house “the house that has one child, is ready to have another one”). It was not the first abortion I did (I had two ten more then years ago), but since I am a mother, this time I would realise it from a different perception (and sense of loss). Talking to a Brazilian friend who lives in London for longer then me, E., I was indulging legal, free and safe abortion in the UK – which is the absolute opposite situation in Brazil, where abortion is prohibited and those who can afford a safe abortion can survive the statistics of death of women in worse conditions. My friend E. quickly replied that the “right to abortion” came with birth control (specially of migrants), which is no more then truth. From this moment on I could see myself as an ordinary woman fitting into biopolitics and social control, less victimized and oversensitive to the denial of a second child.
Looking back, from this complex emotional assemblages and the practicalities of everyday life, I could not manage to feed so far more organic collectivisations of mothering and collective care. I feel that the care I have been sharing with friends with children is much more based in a dynamics of the everyday life, of when we are available to each other squeezed from the working times and distances we face in big cities. There is care in this moments, and there is care when we are apart. Relies there a question about translation of context(s), of culture(s), of how long does it take to identify situations one is intimately connected to and how they actually depend on networks of affection, on possibilities and chance, on engaging moments – to say, on the rhythms that networks rely on. Guattari brings closer the definition of affection to that of duration from Bergson:
“affect does not arise from categories that are extensional, susceptible of being numbered, but from intensive and intentional categories, corresponding to an existential auto-positioning. (…) Affect is the process of existential appropriation by the continuous creation of heterogoneous durations of being.” (8)
The biology of maternity against the supermother generation
In this section I want to think through a complex and delicate issue… the becoming mother. I understand that the ways by which we build maternity in our lives is different. The trajectories we have, and how the event of a child is differential in the course of a life, for each one is different. So when I talk about it, the becoming a mother is very much reflected in my own experience. Becoming a mother can’t be seen as automatically submitting to a form of living, to a normotic way of being. Maternity is not a class, is not an immediate collectivisation, is not an identity. Sometimes is not a choice. The ‘biology of maternity’ is the way I found of provisionally calling the changes that happen in the perception of ones identity and body, which includes a large amount of discoveries, a huge change in the body’s perception, form, consistency and activity, and a certain openness to scatology. The micropolitics of maternity opens the possibility of seeing from very close very intimate aspects of the trajectory in each ones lives in the event of pregnancy, doubling, coupling, reproduction. The biology of maternity is not only the common condition of creating a child in a womb, which connects to that known sentence “a mother’s womb is the only starting point of all routes in the world”. This is a true biological condition, but still might play in an essentialist level or add to that supremacy of maternity connected to new waves of a supermother generation we see appearing today – because it isolates the mother as a generative being. The former sentence can’t be seen if not from an extreme pagan understanding of maternity, and one that considers the complexity of the life of a woman in relationship to other lives, to other bodies, realities and a reproductive society (or a society in constant reproduction!).
I remember the very good conversations we used to have in the home labour group in Rio de Janeiro which could vary around the perception of the baby moving inside your belly and the loss of control of your body, of your perceptions; the overflow of sexuality that nobody in your family would ever mention; stopping seeing certain bones in your body for everything is taken by flesh, blood, fat, or when you stop seeing your pubic hair; the role of sex in delivery; the ejection of breast milk and the smell of breast milk all over the house; and the loss of memory and incapacity of thinking certain subjects could have any importance! Some trivial, some intensive. The biological condition of maternity is a challenge for women, for maternity can be a terrifying state for many women may feel literally out of control for nine months. No doubt. Perceiving oneself as the very site of reproduction bounces between whatever magic, the power of making life and the existence of death. All stages that we pass by. But not non important. “The baby is a rebel organ inside you”, said B. But how to rebel against the stamps constantly imprinted into our mutating subjectivities, such as the forces that say we should hide away the breasts, the desire for breastfeeding, our sexuality, that we should not mention children we aborted, that we should work out our bellies to erase the marks of pregnancy, … ? Those more invested in the messy energy that a biology of maternity brings could find in a sort of scatology a good escape valve to live with singularity these conflicts. But this could not be a model to all.
I linger in talking about maternity for it will open to the collectives of care. The isolation of mothers is one of the determinant factors of depression and immobility. Arguing against an idealisation of maternity in a heterosexual normative society (and economy) should mean not only giving visibility to maternity (and paternity, and…). This produces very ideal spaces, and on the contrary, giving space to our children, with their very own expressions and mess, is very necessary. The subject of maternity is, in itself, a subject of reproductive care, of networks of care, of social reproduction in a feminist perspective. This means denying the capitalistic refrain that a new generation of super mothers is possible, for this super mothers rely on the work of other precarised women who take care of their children and do the house cleaning work – and mostly – women of colour who are alienated from their own children. By making play the child as a privatised being, the super mother effect might feed into an economy of maternity and childhood based in overconsumption (ps. which includes the larger economic system of ready food and waste disposal!). To work against this refrain means to break the commodities, hierarchies and norms that appear at all times in the care of children. This might seem to be possible by adopting a feminist perspective that is able to include sensitive analysis of life processes on the border of a general biopolitics of life, resisting the controls on life from the immediacy of its appearance (pre or after birth). To work against this refrain means working against that centrality of maternity, and therefore this means the opening of a community of those involved in the labor of care – friends, fathers, grandmas, grandpas, neighbors, carers, among others. Bringing focus to the act of care of babies and children itself and its powerful intempestive temporalities and how that conflicts with other temporalities seems a powerful place not just to take care of mothers but specially to actually re think social reproduction. From my experience, simple conversations were (and still are) the very site by which I could investigate and either displace or replace myself, encountering space to discuss that friction between the commonality of something but also the absolute ordinarity of it – of reproductive care. The presence of men, for example, in networks of conversation held mainly by women, is super important to de essentialise reproductive care from women, in the same way gay couples and poli amor defy the norm of heterosexual couples. The raising of co-children in non couple couplings, which defies the oedipal configuration, is also powerful to break the determinacy of the familial surrounding as the first immediate structure of care. All structures add, for sure. But the family becomes a profiting site, a basic productive unit, enclosed in itself.
How to open spaces for care amid the many situations of uncertainty, vulnerability, precarity gathering strength to confront the majority of the discourses that are spread out, that also block out maternity, reproductive care and care work from feminist perspectives? Maybe a response could start from the nurturing of this sort of biology of maternity as an attention to life itself, to an dynamic of affects, of what Guattari calls an ‘energetic semiotics’, inseparable from that conflictual border with the biopolitics of control (based not in the maintenance of life, but submitted to the interests of neoliberalism, heterosexism and westernalisation of the world, quoting Judith Butler). The subject of care is a subject for social reproduction as a site of struggle, in which children, women and mother (in its mutational identities and becomings), partners, fathers, carers aim for creating situations in which we can address our very personal perspectives and problems in their transversal with our continuing lives, work and militancy.
Tiqqun narrates the ‘human strike’ thought from the Italian feminist movement, in the 70s, which can be thought as an action coming out of forms of organisation that unprivileged the placement of the mum in the struggle in order to transversalise it:
“ ‘No more mothers, wives or daughters. Let’s destroy the family!’ Was an invitation to make the gesture of breaking the predictable chains of events, of liberating compressed possibilities. It targeted shitty affective exchanges, everyday prostitution. It was a call to get beyond the couple, the elementary unit of the management of alienation. (…) The women’s strike implicitly called for a strike by men and children, called to empty the factories, schools, offices and prisons, to reinvent for each situation under another way of being-another how.” (10)
“We are children, not commodity”
Years later I recover a sentence from the feminist movement in Latin America fighting hetero capitalism who say “We are women, not commodity”. It is possible to say the same about our children, and we are willing them to say it: “We are children, not commodity”. This transduction is an attempt of resisting the affirmation that children will be the future workers, unavoidable truth – perhaps. The replication of institutions of care for children and the types of institution is not separated from the discussion around reproductive care and social reproduction, for sure. If on the one hand I address my most intimate desires to the very small scale of networks of care, on the other hand, these circuits cannot be separated from the creation of spaces for children for their own invention of worlds, of relationships, of other networks of care.
Hence, yes this also refers to an institutionalised society, in which institutions for children, such as schools, as known, will make children adopt manners that will increase their working capacity in the future – an issue to address in another text – or conversation. To say, institutions that will work certain ways of reproducing society. (10) In an institutionalised society and in a society in which profiles of consumption should fit certain products, there is an apparent opposition of sites appropriate to children and those which are not, as well as institutions and or working sites where the appearance of a child is a disturbing factor, such as in offices building, university library, art symposiums, train wagons, and even certain political meetings (!!!). After having Hannah I understood that social spaces are not always ready to receive children, and on the same way I understood “the life of the adults” which became a very boring and normalising reality, for very clearly after having a child, working and meeting spaces became “adult spaces”. I could only see the absence of children from certain spaces as another normalisation of society: the fact, for example, that the ‘best productive feature’ is only reachable when we are separated from our children. This doesn’t mean I want to bond with my child in a 24/7 scale – this refers to a more delicate issue, to what again Silvia Federici raises with a powerful inversion:
“It was important for feminists to see, for example, that much housework and child rearing is work of policing our children, so that they will conform to a particular work discipline. We thus began to see that by refusing broad areas of work, we not only could liberate ourselves but could also liberate our children. We saw that our struggle was not at the expense of the people we cared for, though we may skip preparing some meals or cleaning the floor. Actually our refusal opened the way for their refusal and the process of their liberation.” (11)
The inversion I identify is the including of the children in the shifting of our perception which can be shared when opening up conversations, situations, creating networks, discussing politics. This should work towards feeding up the process of liberation of those involved in the actions of reproductive care, and being critical to class struggle, working against reproduction of privilege. The including of our children is possible when bringing into practice a feminist perspective that can foresee what sort of structures of care are necessary, working towards the emergency of a sensibility able to engage the new rhythms that the care of children brings. I have the strong perception that the arrival of my child brought up an interruption of the ways I used to work and a much more complex interception in the notion of time (already fragmented by precarious work and an over technological life) (12). In the precarious life of a self-employed, for example, an idea of productive time actually drives us into an never ending productivity. How is this time interrupted by the care of children? How to balance contradictions, possibilities, facilities? Fighting for the signification of time in reproductive care is a site of struggle as well. But no, not the assumption of the ever increasing precarisation while we ‘decide’ to spend more time with our children. This is still a site of struggle. Going back to the issue of how a certain ‘biology’ encompasses the composition of care (which is, again, not an essencialistic one) now I see how the ‘atomised time’ of bringing up a child can merge with a feminist perspective, for it encompasses a biology that acts by molecules, by an attention to productive affects, by the encountering of different couplings, symbiosis, choices. The ‘intempestive’ or atomised time breaks apart the capture of time, never linear but controlled. Intempestive time assembles and disassembles the complexities of a ever composing and de composing world. It is part of the ‘processes of liberation’ the allowance for the perception of the atomised times of reproductive care. They connect, with and within the networks of care with “heterogeneous durations of beings” (Guattari) (13).
A letter sent me, from A., a father living in the south of Spain:
“Loss of interest in love, in drinking, in adventures, in big plans, in the future. Wanting to be away, withdrawn, in the world of letters and thoughts, allow thinking without interlocutors to spring or come to realization that without exterior nothing can be found there. Content with slowness, with small routines, with little P’s laughs, cries, ideas and demands. Not more not less. Not interested much at the moment in life as it was lived, truly lived, or projections of live as it could be truly lived. Now is a concrete truth. Concrete life. And no comparisons or measures necessary. Intensity of non-intensity can be as much, or even more, intense than what we normally understand as intensity’s exceptionality.”
What has happened? With the everyday? How is the struggle here expressed? And the active connection with the times of an intempestive care, intempestive and intense, everyday care? The feminist perspective will fight for the care of life, that holds onto a perspective of life itself (Amaya Perez Orozco) (14). There relies the politicisation of the care of our children that extends itself to the everyday of care, relies on other modes of attention, participation and co creation of the lives that we build together with our children – and those are very much aesthetic processes that build up with our subjectivities. However, the politicisation of the lives of our children and our own cannot be one that jumps into the defence of an ideal way of living in terms of privileges and of over protected lives, those that survive by the “inevitable production of death for the others” (Silvia Federici), as does destructive capitalism. The reproduction of those who have conditions to reproduce is definitely a subject of scrutiny, for “better conditions” to reproduce demand reproducing modes of live, values, currency – the medicalisation and the privatisation of social reproduction, for example (Amaya Perez Orozco).
Speaking from a transversal feminist perspective that departs from maternity and non maternity, paternity, co-children, from direct care of children (professionalised or not), care work, or from the desire of taking care of children we should build comfortable spaces enough to make us estrange ourselves, by analysing the ways by which we reproduce. Maternity, reproductive care and care work as a site of militancy should be then a site in which we can bring together tensions that exist between individuation and collectivisation, subjectivation and politics, as in other social spaces and militant groups, from where we can address subjective transformations. In this sense, there could be an encounter of a differentiation potential that is inherent to life itself (maybe what I call the ‘biology of maternity’) and the differentiation potential that relies on reproductive care. Maybe maternity, paternity, co-children and reproductive care can work as said by Yvonne Rainer about a play that it “might lead you to homosexuality, trans, lesbian love, etc”. This changes for sure social reproduction from its minor scales, from the micropolitical work of our molecules to the modes by which we organise ourselves. Michel Odent, a men who is very important for the setting of the context of empowering women in Brazil in home labour and non hospitalisation – whose knowledge is spread mainly through Heloisa Lessa, who was my midwife – said that “to change the world is necessary to change the way we are born”. This means for sure a change in the structures and infrastructures of reproduction, and many of them are available already, to nurture very biologised and affective, not forgetting the scatological maternities, and feed into new configurations of reproductive care.
In the course of trying to feed a social ecology that has a feminist perspective in social reproduction I met a men who raises a child in a non-couple configuration. Nevertheless, I can say now I felt in love with a man for his way of reproducing himself, for the way he takes care of his son, for the way he lives his life. For the time I was lingering with the question of maternity as a sort of “commonality” – a perception that plays in the unconscious essentialisms and grinds itself with the infinite ways of mothering -, now I define an energetic semiotics of a biology of maternity, and from this, something speaks out from passion and love and ways of building care. Desire becomes a shared ethics after the shutting down into a silent displacement. In the course of a geographical and time-wise scale, from the initial states of being biologically a mother, to find again the body of a woman, to the new investigations I militantly merge myself with, I keep on asking: what do we create commonly beyond the intimacy and privacy of reproductive care? Does that respond to that desire of bringing together reproductive care and social reproduction from a feminist perspective?
*This text was written upon a presentation made in the seminar Feminist Duration in Art and Curating (Art Research and Curating Depts.), Goldsmiths College, London in 2015.
(1) Wages against Housework. Text by Silvia Federici. Published by The Power of Women Collective, 1975. A transcript of the original leaflet and a pdf can be found here https://caringlabor.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/silvia-federici-wages-against-housework/
(2) The program “Bolsa Família”, created in Lula’s government for example provides a basic income for the provision of basic needs such as food. Researchers have been analysing how the basic income provision is allowing women to be independent from her partners, and its been increasing she number of divorces, releasing women from relationships of oppression they were submitted. http://apublica.org/2013/08/severinas-novas-mulheres-sertao/
(3) Federici, Silvia. Precarious Labor: A Feminist Viewpoint. Precarious Variant 39. http://www.variant.org.uk/37_38texts/9PrecLab.html
(4) Hansen, Bue and Zechner, Manuela. Social reproduction and collective care. A horizon for struggles and practices. http://theoccupiedtimes.org/?p=14000#sthash.kTexz06c.dpuf
(5) Oxytocin: the hormone of love, of labor, of breastfeeding. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxytocin
(6) A group of parents that had children same time as me in one district of the city of Rio de Janeiro organised shared care of their children.
(7) The networks and groups of midwifes, doulas and mothers, fathers and more around home labour or humanised labour has many names and adopts many profiles in social networks. Equipe Parto Ecológico brings together some practitioners in Rio de Janeiro.[ http://equipepartoecologico.blogspot.co.uk/ ] One of the one day events created in the last few years is the “Santa Mãe” (which makes reference to the district of Santa Teresa), in which workshops happen and mother also commercialise their products or trade several possibilities. [ https://saaantamae.wordpress.com/ ]
(8) Guattari, Felix. Refrains and Existential Affects. In: Schizoanalytical Cartographies. Bloomsbury Academic: New York/London, 2013. p. 203-214.
(9) How is it to be done? Tiqqun. London: Bandit Press, 2010. (p. 32)
(10) When living in Barcelona our child went to a self organised school that is part of the “free schools” network. Definitely an experience of transversality, in which we could learn that other possibilities of care work, parenting and relationship to the educational and learning processes of our children can happen. For more information: http://educaciolliure.org/
(11) Federici. Op. cit.
(12) I have discussed this issue in a text published in Portuguese here Infraestrutura: Maternidade / Paternidade / Economia do Cuidado / Trabalho. In: Vocabulário político para processos estéticos, Ribas, Cristina (et all), Rio de Janeiro, Editora Aplicação, 2014. [http://vocabpol.cristinaribas.org/infraestrutura/]
(13) Guattari. Op. Cit. p. 204
(14) Orozco, Amaia Perez. Subversión feminista de la economia: aportes para un debate sobre el conflicto capital-vida. Madrid: Traficantes de Sueños, 2014.