Excerpt from “This Thing Of Caring” written by Ailie Rutherford, Artistic Director of Feminist Exchange Network
For the full article visit https://antipodeonline.org/2021/04/01/this-thing-of-caring/
A lot has been written about care this last year. As multiple crises unfold and we work out how to reorganise our lives, both online and off, to meet our needs, the ways we connect to and care for each other have shifted into new territory.
There was an interesting moment when people previously engulfed in competitive and profit driven modes of operation were newly tuned into ideas of community care and cooperation. As privileged folk were forced to take time out of their careers and started to notice and become active in their local communities, a lot was written about mutual aid and community care as if this had never existed before. Meanwhile, so many vital services and grassroots care networks have been utterly stripped of their resources. The crisis of care we are seeing lays bare the structural inequality of our economy, such as the injustices faced by BAME and migrant communities when hostile state policies prevent people from accessing the care they need, while new forms of abuse are springing up all over. Women in particular remain marginalised and over-burdened through gig work and online care platforms with algorithms trained on misogynist systems. While the patriarchal imperialism of economics continues to code domestic and emotional labour as feminine work, keeping this invisible labour under-valued and largely unpaid.
As we muddle through the ongoing Covid crisis, a great deal of profit making work has been deemed essential while the work of activists, artists, and community organisers is considered a danger to public health. We are stripped of our means of production, left with this feeling of impotence in the face of economic, social, environmental, and health crises. And so many questions: How do we organise socially distant collective action? What radical new care networks of interdependence can we build while staying socially distant but reaching beyond our family, friendship, or romantic bubbles? How can we ensure the platforms we use and build are non-profit, community owned, and designed by those who need to use them?
We need new ways to connect to and care for each other, but trying to build a new inclusive system of care on platforms owned by rich white venture capitalist men just feels counter-intuitive. The much celebrated new definition of mutual aid facilitated by WhatsApp groups, Zoom, and Google Docs looks like a sticking plaster on scarred and dismantled public services in a state that only cares about care when it damages profit, while enabling the surveillance capitalism nightmare to advance at a rapid pace.
It’s really important that we learn how to care better, look out for each other in times of crisis, and incorporate that care, love, and attention into every aspect of our lives and our activism. To keep making space for pleasure & joy and work out how to really love each other in the face of a world driven by individualism and competition. The care network is there to support us all and keep us collectively strong, to make our networks accessible and inclusive, to help us stay passionate about building the futures we need, articulate and raise our collective voice. But it is not a substitute for revolutionary work. We still need radical systemic change.