"We are not a machine": Personal support workers' (ante)narratives of labour, leisure, and hope amidst politics of genderacialised care in long-term care homes
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Systemic processes rooted in and reinforcing neoliberalism and capitalist production work to racialise, gender, and class bodies engaged in caring. Engaging in caring through labouring bodies, racialised women working in long-term care (LTC) homes as personal support workers (PSWs) are over represented in labours of care when compared to other sectors of the workforce. In this critical narrative inquiry, individuals through their labouring bodies tell corporeal stories of invisibility and marginalisation, as a result of intricate, complex, intersectional oppressions of racialising, gendering, and classing in settings of care. To best learn through stories told by women’s bodies engaged in caring, intersecting lenses of critical race and feminist inquiry frame how we might hear and see marginalising processes and oppressive practices that shape caring. Unpacking the caring literature revealed several politics occurring in Canada, which reinforce socio-political and economic structures that work to structure who is engaged and how caring happens. I identify eight processes related to caring work that shape the politics of genderacialised care. New language of genderacialisation was needed to inform understandings of the intricate systemic processes that weave together gendering, classing, and racialising in narratives about caring work. Genderacialisation in a care context manifests as systematic deficiencies and points of tension negotiated by individuals who work in stratified care environments. Genderacialisation also acknowledges processes working to render individuals powerless through the imposition of singular categories of race, gender, and class. How genderacialisation is embodied describes, then, experiences of genderace - the various ways gender, race, and class are attributed to, lived, and storied by individuals. The purpose of this study was to reveal genderacialisation and to: (1) understand how it works to structure narratives of PSW care in Canada and (2) create hopeful change-spaces with PSWs. More specifically this activist, critical narrative research has objectives to: (1) deepen knowings of genderacialisation and story how genderacialisation occurs for PSWs working in LTC homes (to inform impacts of racialising, gendering, and classing in care work); (2) story genderace as it is navigated by PSWs in settings of caring (to inform manifestations of genderacialisation); (3) map racialised women’s stories of current practices in care, leisure, and labours of care as PSWs working in a LTC home (to inform how care work is structured); (4) reveal how ideals of self-care, leisure, and care work are storied by PSWs working in LTC homes (to inform alternative realities of care labour inclusive of what the labouring body seeks); and (5) discuss implications of stories with PSWs and act to change structuring of care work (to inform sustainable labours of PSW care in LTC homes, self-care, and leisure). This critical narrative inquiry takes a closer look at antenarrative (cf. Boje, 2007, 2011), grand narratives, and counter narratives appearing in women’s stories about the labours of caring. To see possibilities beyond systemic politics and depart from oppressive structures, women looked to the body. First, body mapping was used as a method to hear stories of five PSWs who self-identified as racialised women. In response to guiding questions we mapped stories onto two paper “shadows” of the body. The first body maps told stories of current practices of the labouring body while caring and the second body map told stories of how one cares for the labouring body followed by reflective discussion of each map and then, the juxtaposition of both body maps. In a second meeting, women created storyboards for the creation of a digital story by selecting segments from their transcribed texts and photos of their body maps. Five digital stories were then created, one by each woman, from the storyboards women assembled. In the third and final workshop, women who participated in the study viewed the digital stories and engaged in reflective discussion. In the final step, I illuminated an antenarrative of caring by hearing into how women of colour were (un)able to wield agency in caring roles within larger socio-economic and political structures. Specifically, by pulling together the politics of genderacialised care, body maps by racialised women engaged in labours of PSW care, and reflective discussions that followed re-listening to stories of care, I saw how the narrative of labour gave way to an antenarrative (a pre-emergent body story) of worth. Worth was revealed as the antenarrative of the labouring body seeking worth: worth within the system, reclaiming self-worth, and self-worth as interdependent and unamenable. Snapshots of hope (for change in caring practices) were also held in the labouring body. Hope facilitated the antenarrative of worth within caring systems (and society more broadly) to come through women’s body maps of labour. Findings from this inquiry propagate a need for further research in the areas of the labouring body, caring, and worth and hope. Of particular interest to leisure scholars is the positioning of leisure within this conversation. Theoretically, this research contributes understandings of genderacialisation and genderace in different areas of caring labour with possibilities of application to other sectors where marginalisation creates disparities in access to care for self, worth, and hope. Methodologically, pairing narrative inquiry with the method of body mapping and a focus on antenarrative presents a new and exciting way of knowing individuals’ stories through their bodies and the potential for hope. Specifically, findings of this work with the politics of genderacialised care are important for further supporting PSWs in their ongoing negotiations for fairness in pay, time for reprieve and reflection, and access to resources (like leisure) to care for their labouring bodies. I plan for future work to include: the creation of resources to assist individuals in understanding and supporting PSW roles in caring; making available online the digital stories that women in this study agreed to share broadly for community engagement and labour practice change, integrating being with through caring into care policy towards sustainable, rejuvenating, and relational care practice; and deepening understandings of worth and hope as antecedents to meaningful labour and socially justice in caring, leisure, and labour practices.
Cite this work
Kimberly Lopez (2018). "We are not a machine": Personal support workers' (ante)narratives of labour, leisure, and hope amidst politics of genderacialised care in long-term care homes. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/12850