Its ironic that just yesterday I was committing to a realistic sense of my capacity. Today, I’m rushing to get home from work by 7pm, watching the oncoming dark brush the clouds’ pink blush with grey, and thinking about how I wish I could have it all. Not love, money and power, but family, work and activism.
I’ve been working in feminist academia fulltime since 2005 and, in the last years, did my best to combine teaching, research and feminist movement-building. Looking back now, I’m not sure my choices were the right ones.
I gave immense energy and passion to my courses. As a demobilised activist, teaching became that space where I could do consciousness-raising, strategy-sharing and solidarity-building. When I inherited my Introduction to Women’s Studies class in 2006, I aimed to use it to build a cadre, a vanguard, an army…whatever you want to call it…women and men I could call on and work with, who would go out there, with a thorough analysis, and be part of the feminist movement. I pulled direct culture jamming into my assignments, and taught with an evangelical fervour that I wish I could still summon. I’m still friends with the amazing students from that year and remain inspired by the campus actions they chose to do. I love my students and I love teaching.
I kept up an out of office life that enabled me to feel like I was still part of Caribbean feminism, if even in a small way. I attended as many women’s events as I could, partly out of the joy of going, partly to know what was happening on the ground, and partly because these events marked a community within which I felt political comfort, affection and belonging. I loved knowing the women who, with all their brilliance and flaws, were doing what they could to right gender injustice. These women also inspired me. A desire to also ‘represent’ drove me to speak publicly, invent workshops, write poetry, make videos, paint T-shirts and other super fun stuff. Notice, the word publishing only comes in here at number 402.
Alas. Those choices don’t help me in academia, where you really gotta count your publications, because they are all that really count. And though I have some, I’m behind. In a department that has currently produced the highest number of professors in the university. Pressure.
I wonder now if I shouldn’t have been running about going to events and doing media and writing letters to the editor buffing the Prime Minister, if I should have been smarter about my career. I’d never have created my Steppin Up game nor my Ketch Dis video, but I might have had my book out and my act together.
The next couple of years are about publishing and baby Zi (so say my bosses), and I feel guilty that the movement I feel so passionate about has to take a back seat from lack of sheer time and energy. I’ve stopped going to lots of events just to come home and spend family time with Stone and Zi. I’ve made time to read in the mornings at work instead of answering even important emails. But I miss attending, supporting, learning from and being a part of organising. There is still so much about ordinary women’s lives that needs to change.
Another mentor and grandmother of Caribbean feminism, Peggy Antrobus, tells me that women have life stages, and that that is okay. Other mothers tell me expect things to slip (avalanche, I think) and only focus on what you most need to get done. Still, I feel like I should be doing better. Publishing for me is about a lot of alone time with my computer and focusing on one’s career can seem so selfish. Surely, like other women out there, I should be making more of a difference. Is there a way to have it all?
Tomorrow I’m skipping the YWCA’s workshop on sexual harassment. I’ve already composed the email with my apologies in my head. I’ll miss being out where I feel I should be. Between family and work, is there time for activism? New choices are now upon me.