Thursday, September 09, 2004

Babysitting Co-op

It's not the sort of alternative structure that will ever become a basis for counter-power to challenge capitalism and the state. It's not even the sort of collective that is likely to lead to its participants politicizing one another and turning gradually towards action. Still, I'm quite excited that, two evenings ago, we hosted at our apartment the first meeting of what will become a babysitting co-operative.

It's not explicitly political, and probably most of the people who are going to be part of it would be puzzled or even uncomfortable by it being understood in this way. However, I think any opportunity to create groups of people who are meeting one another's needs through non-market, non-state mechanisms is a good thing, and any opportunity for people to practice the skills of functioning in non-hierarchical small groups (something that even many people in social movements don't recongize as being something most of us are not that good at) is a good thing. And, hey, it means that Stacey and I can go out on dates once in awhile, so what's not to like!

The dynamics of the meeting were interesting, too, for me. I'm no stranger of being in social contexts where I am the only male in a group of females, right back to the group that I hung out with in the second half of high school. But this was a bit different, because it was really my first time as the only dad in a group of moms, and that does seem to matter -- I don't really understand how, yet, but I suppose it has something to do with the gendered ways in which parenting is incorporated into identity and social practice. As well, this was not my first experience as being the only male in an activist context, but it was probably only my second -- lots of other experiences in male-dominated contexts, and some in fairly gender-balanced contexts, but I think some of my time in the Waste Reduction Working Group at OPIRG was the only other obviously female-dominated collective I've been part of. I'd have to reflect on it further to say anything about how gender shaped the work of that group, but certainly at the meeting a couple of evenings ago, gendered ways of work did seem to be playing a role in how the social and "business" portions of the get-together were conducted and integrated. (And to be clear I am not, of course, proposing some sort of essentialized difference here.)

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