Care is Revolutionary by Tim Min Jie
A first look into Making Kin: Ecofeminist Essays from Singapore
This is an edited extract from Making Kin: Ecofeminist Essays from Singapore edited by Esther Vincent and Angelia Poon.
Making Kin: Ecofeminist Essays from Singapore contemplates and re-centres Singapore women in the overlapping discourses of family, home, ecology and nation. For the first time, this collection of ecofeminist essays focuses on the crafts, minds, bodies and subjectivities of a diverse group of women making kin with the human and non-human world as they navigate their lives.
In a climate-changed world where vital connections are lost, Making Kin is an essential collection that blurs boundaries between the personal and the political. It is a revolutionary approach towards intersectional environmentalism.
I often dream about how it might look for movement work to feel deeply joyful. To feel deeply invigorating. Work that makes you feel like you are grounded in your power. Work that taps into your desire, not the desire of others. Work that actually gives you a taste of what liberation and freedom feel like, and gives you a certainty about this path you are on even as the future is uncertain. I think about how much faster our movements would grow if they are this enticing.
I think about how wonderful it would be for care work to be central to our movements. It should not just be a good-to-have-when-we-have-time kind of thing. Neither should it be this little-thing-on-the-side and ‘not real activism’ work. It is work that is goddamn essential for our movements to thrive and win. It is work that is recognised as skilled labour because it takes a lot of learning to be able to give and receive care in appropriate ways. As I quote Kyle Powys Whyte and Chris Cuomo in “Ethics of Caring in Environmental Ethics: Indigenous and Feminist Philosophies”, revolutionary and anti-oppressive caretaking requires “mutually beneficial caring relationships that do not exploit caregivers, that enable and encourage responsible and healthy caring and caregiving, that highly value the input and autonomy of the cared-for, and that are promising as correctives to moral, political, and philosophical systems that neglect the significance of context, caring, and dependence in moral life.”
Beyond that, I long for the day where care work is something that is shared by everyone. Everyone gives care, and receives care, whenever their capacities and circumstances allow. Where this labour is no longer feminised. Where we step in when we can, so that other people can step back.
We realise that we are all reliant beings one way or another, disabled or not-currently-disabled, and those dependencies show up differently for all of us. So we care for one another, in solidarity, not out of charity, sympathy or paternalism. I love this quote by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, who calls on us to think of care in a way that is radical, mutual and equitable for everyone involved, and transform discourses around care “from an individual chore, an unfortunate cost of having an unfortunate body, to a collective responsibility that is maybe even deeply joyful.”
I desire for our movements to embrace mess. Where we do not have to pretend that we know our stuff all the time or know all the right things to say or do. Where we are attentive to the beautiful reality of how diverse our bodyminds are, and we allow ourselves to bring our full selves to the work. Where we are not pressured to ignore our bodily and mental health needs, to disconnect with a part of ourselves, so as to maintain a veneer of ‘productivity’. The bottom line: we move at the speed of our capacities and trust, and are not pressured to ‘sacrifice’ ourselves for a warped sense of collective good.
I want to breathe together more with my movement communities. To realise together that no matter what is happening ‘out there’, the world right here is just as real and important. I dream of how much more manageable everything will be if we are deeply rooted and humbled by the fact that the struggle is generational. We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors before us and so will future generations on us. We are not the start or end point.