Carework and Caregiving: Theory and Practice

Two abstracts were accepted for the upcoming Carework and Caregiving: Theory and Practice Conference at York.

This one's at 9am on May 6th, a Saturday morning:

Caregiving and Evolutionary Ethics: The guardians who undergird culture.

"For a moment, during their conversation, feeling the desperations they spoke of, the difficulties, she felt connected to millions of women over the globe who struggle with poverty, grief, racism, violence, but who keep going. Women who are the emotional centres for their families, who are anchors, who place food on the table miraculously out of almost nothing, who somehow dress their children, their spouses, themselves, who clean and maintain their homes, who work for menial wages, where they are essentially labourers, who never allow themselves to succumb to madness, or drugs, or a furious destruction of the world around them, who keep loving their families in profound ways. They grieve, yes, there is sadness, but they have hearts of compassion. It was here that she felt a bond with the strength of women throughout the ages. She knew she was alive, living in her generation, carrying the flame of continuous love through the marathon that history is, only because her foremothers had also carried it and passed it on. If mothering is a stable, conservative force, if that's what happens to women as they take on the responsibility and role of motherhood, then she was grateful for it. This was where there was meaning, the staying-with-it through everything, the power to endure, to continue." Brenda Clews, The Move.

Caregiving is a core ethical value. Unfortunately care of others, especially the most vulnerable and important for the future of 'the race,' children, often falls to women who are mothers, and who, one might say, because of this role, become the keepers of the continuous flame of evolution. Such processes as "natural selection" could not, I would argue, produce a highly complex species without the continuous care provided by women who take on the caregiving role, and so become, not just metaphorically but in a very real sense, 'guardians' who undergird the enterprise of culture. In this talk I will align caregiving with a discussion of evolutionary ethics and read a short selection from my unfinished novel, The Move.

Bio: Brenda Clews is a writer, artist, dancer and single mother living in Toronto. She has degrees in Fine Arts and English Literature from York, and an unfinished Interdisciplinary Studies thesis on the maternal body. She is currently writing an autobiographical novel about living in uncertainty, and about existing outside the dominant discourses, entitled, The Move.

This one's at 2:30 that afternoon:

The creative writing piece:

Towels hung on the door, an accidental spectrum

In these photopoems, I explore my daughter's relationship to her body. As a feminist and as a woman who struggled with bulimia many years ago as I came to terms with my own female body, it is hard to witness my daughter undergoing the same struggles. At 15 she is radiant as the sun who cannot see its own beauty. These prose poems explore the difficulties girls face with media and peer pressure to sculpt themselves into more perfect images of what is considered beautiful by the general culture.

I wrote to her... "Please use the same bio I sent with the other abstract. Am I aiming for 10-15 minutes of reading here?"

I've barely written anything. The first talk is 15-20 min, that's easy. The second panel seems to consist of only two of us, which means an hour and 15 minutes each! I had thought of writing 4 pieces, taking up 12 -15 minutes, so this is going to require some planning. I'll probably take a disc of my photopoesis pieces, or dig up some old work... though, oh dear, I can't. Lost in storage...

There are so many writers and poets and artists out there, how come this panel is so under-represented? The last time I joined a creative writing panel at one of these conferences, it was packed, with writers and audience, and we each got 10 minutes to read... some of those pieces were incredibly moving and became the highlight of the entire weekend.

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