being a mothering worker is about negotiating the spaces of self, family and work, and understanding their interconnection and the way they impact each other. i write about the three because each of these parts of my life shape how i live the other, the time and energy i have and the priorities that i create for each.
a diary became important because i wanted to reflect on the ways that my personal realities and my public responsibilities overlapped and competed and had to be made sense of. Being a feminist was intertwined with both, and i wanted to understand more about being a woman, a worker, a feminist, a mother – with all the multiplicity these differing identities and roles bring. this interconnection needs more negotiating that i realised, and it doesn’t always play out how i anticipate or like.
someone called my office to ask if a view i expressed in one of my entries was the official position of my department. they didn’t ask me, they asked someone else. i don’t know who they are or what their concern was or for that matter why they think that a ‘diary’ would be the platform for an institutional view to be publicly aired. i took it as implicit that a diary is a personal, individual reflection on one’s life. i’m now to write a disclaimer saying that the views expressed here do not speak for those of my department or university.
i hear the concern, but emotionally, i also feel sadenned. this enables someone anonymous to reduce me to one identity, as a lecturer in my department, and as not having any personal space or voice that i can call my own. and as in the private sphere of family, in the public sphere of work, i see how much you have to make space for self real and legitimate and autonomous and yours.
i work in a feminist department and write about, among other things, teaching feminist theory because of my wider commitment to feminist movement building, theorizing, reflection and action – praxis. i do what i do or say what i say because i’m a feminist. because i am a woman. because i am a person – one who loves words. where i work is part of that, but not the root, cause or centre. i comment on my work as well as my life as part of my feminism, to reflect on my experiences as a woman in both public and private spheres.
now, made suddenly self-conscious, i’m wondering if i’m allowed to comment on my work at all. was i wrong to even start doing so? what if my place of work tells me they don’t want me to anymore, what do i do? what are my rights to my own space and voice in the public sphere? what is a feminist position on this? technology creates new openings for women, feminists and Caribbean thinkers. its ironic that the complexities of these multiple locations are precisely what my diary attempts to work through, from my own experience.
i’ve worked hard to contribute to my department’s public profile and in many ways, i am associated directly with it so i need to be careful about what i say and how i present myself. i’ve certainly been made more conscious of the perils of speaking publicly, forging ahead in the smurfy somewhat de-sensitized manner as i do.
i think the multiplicity of my identities and voice should be defended, not regulated. a university should be the one place where people agree that you should not be told what to write. But as with everything i keep learning about what things i take for granted and really shouldn’t.
this perhaps is part of the deal of being a mothering worker, that even when i’m trying to create a ‘private’ space in the public sphere, the public sphere is claiming a bigger share. this fighting for the legitimacy of the private is similar to the struggle to create valid time for Zi that’s not taken from ‘work time’ on the weekends, or to have priorities beyond the desk that are legitimate or to be a woman in ways beyond what is ideologically allowed. this is a legitimacy that has to be struggled for and defended.
against a shadow of second-guessing i now feel, i nonetheless hope to continue writing with full ownership of this space simply to enable all my selves, in all their locations, with all their politics, and all their voices to continue to kaleidoscopically shine. intellectual autonomy is at the heart of the words i put to paper whether they are about family, motherhood, love, marriage, politics, activism, teaching, writing or self. in all their negotiated multiplicities, the realities are mine and so are the words – and so is this space. all mine.
the disclaimer: the voice i write with is only my own and in no way reflects the feminist department or caribbean university where i work. if you read one of my entries and you are wondering if it’s my view or some official position, it’s mine alone. please don’t call people in my office, just write or call me directly in the spirit of open dialogue if you have something to ask or say.