Getting Dirty With the Institutions; The Family, Reproduction & Gender

Many of us who are parents or are considering it, feel desperately constrained by the notion of living and organising our lives in ‘genetically coherent’ nuclear units.  Our discomfort comes from the knowledge that we need more than lifestyle changes to escape the soul crushing grind of the institution of the family. In this workshop we ask what thinking and acting do we need to do around the family as it is currently organised under neoliberalism?

We understand that the state ensures that our lives are more socially and sometimes economically manageable when they are organised around one parent going to work (and that person preferably being ‘the man’ because there should always be one of those) and the other parent staying at home, or at least working part time and losing money to childcare costs just to go to work. Middle class people are told that losing money to go to work is an ‘investment in their future career’- and the only way to mitigate the gender pay gap’, i.e. just keep on working like you never gave birth and then you might get that promotion. Working class women are expected to be happy enough spending all day everyday with their children (or looking after other people’s children) with no break because that’s their ‘choice’. In contrast to nightmare version of gender and reproduction, we are interested in developing sites of counter-power that make it possible for everyone to have a chance to spend time with children and also try to have some space for themselves and other relationships?

In thinking through current critiques of the couple form, in what ways is polyamory a good intervention into critiquing the family? How can we support relationships and loyalties that society attempts to silence and sanction? However, we need to also ask when is polyamory an additional stress on the lives that capital forces us to live? What about people who want to be part of the on-going lives of supposedly ‘other people’s children?’ We don’t want ‘lodgers’ we want different ways of organising our lives. How can we create families that are more than heteronormative two parent units, with communities that really care about our kids, not because they feel obliged as part of their relationship with the parents, but because they see developing relationships with children as a central political act, an act that improves everyone’s lives. Not just in terms of developing skills like ‘patience’ and ‘care’ but because they see kids as part of the community that can change the world?

We want to collaborate with people who live their lives in, against and beyond the nuclear family and find a way to share spaces and children’s birthday parties, and grazed knees and equally, moments of silence, with them.


This post is one of a series announcing all the plenaries, workshops and entertainment at Plan C’s Fast Forward Festival this year. On Facebook? Join the event and follow the page for the latest.

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  • Paul Harnett

    I know this is a bit late but….Would you be interested in a Workshop by World Basic Income – framed as directional demand? We can send examples of other presentations we have done / papers etc. We even have a game that can be played at a workshop