Some of us in the Profeminist Men's group work with children in various capacities already and we all share the conviction that profeminist men doing child care is a great idea. It’s one way we can support mothers and other carers (usually also women) and to facilitate feminist organising by giving parents and carers some free time to attend workshops, planning meetings etc. It also shows that men can provide loving child care and that raising kids isn’t “women’s work”. It's also something that men's groups in the 70s and 80s used to do to support the Women's Liberation movement and childcare at political events continues to be under provided today. Those of us that do work with kids also love it, and have really enjoyed doing childcare in a political context.
For example, one member of the group recently helped run a kidspace on Raven’s Ait (an island in the Thames near Surbiton) during the G20 protests. A few of us ran the crèche/playroom thing at the Gender, Race and Class conference at SOAS in February and a couple of us also ran a smaller crèche during a feminist planning meeting back in the summer. We’re planning to continue this work in various forms (Feminism in London Conference next year for one) and aim to work closely with the CRAP! Collective (Child Rearing Against Patriarchy) to develop further links with parents and carers who want to make sure that they and their kids are not excluded from political events.
Below is a report about the recent kidspace on the island, written by one of the organisers.
The kidspace and childcare cooperative was organised by the CRAP! Collective (Child Rearers Against Petriarchy), London Pro-feminist Mens Group, the Global Mutiny Network and the community of Ravens Ait island.
Raven's Ait is a squatted island on the River Thames near Surbiton, South London. This artificially made island, which is actually still common land, is steeped in political history, although more recently has been used for weddings and corporate events. The present occupants are creating an amazing peaceful space for community, an eco-conference centre, permaculture gardens and workshops on sustainability and environmental issues.
Raven's Ait was the perfect place for the kidspace. We had a large indoor playroom with views of the river and passing boats, and a stunning grass lawn for the kids to run around on on and climb trees. We had loads of fun playing games and doing forest-school inspired crafts, such as: making dreamcatchers/ spiders webs, nature crowns, tipis, parachute games, football, twister, a mini rock concert, lots of drawing and painting, Spanish singing, picnics and even played croquet on the lawn, dahling! Being at Raven's Ait also gave the children a chance to experience communal living and working, in a safe space, away from the noise of the city and the police brutality during the G20 protests.
Many actions and demos can easily be made more welcoming for children and their carers to participate in, and we would encourage this. However in respect to this weeks G20 protests, we made the decision that it was too unpredictable and heavy for our children to attend, and looking back on it we feel we made the right decision organising the kidspace away from the action.
Mainstream society is not very welcoming to parents, carers and children, and personally I feel that often activism isnt either. Capitalism places no value, monetary or otherwise, on the work parents do, and patriarchy designates it as women's work. As activists we need to challenging these notions. We need to ensure that as much value is placed on the role of childcare, as is placed on all other aspects of organising actions, demos, meetings, workshops, etc. We also need to be challenging the sexist notion that women should be looking after the children, by ensuring that more men are given childcare roles. Paid childcare is very expensive, and most of us cant afford to pay for it to go to meetings or do actions, so if childare isnt provided, or children aren't welcome at meetings etc than we just cant go. Even if childcare cant be arranged, than we should at least think about enabling children attend with their parents/ carers.
This is an appeal for all those organising in the UK at the moment to ensure that your organising facilitates parents, carers and children attending and getting involved.
Dont leave your friends behind!
To get involved: http://www.ravensait.org.uk/, http://www.feministchildrearing.blogspot.com/, http://www.londonprofeministmensgroup.blogspot.com/, http://www.global-mutiny.webs.com/
To listen to our radio interview on dissident island from the kidspace, visit http://www.dissidentisland.org/ and listen to G20 part 1, we're about 30 minutes into the show.
FOR LOTS OF AWESOME PICTURES OF THE KIDSPACE GO TO: http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/regions/southcoast/2009/04/426666.html?c=on#c219804