IMF in DC begins

colist-admin at colist-admin at
Tue Apr 18 09:57:30 CDT 2000

[ed:  Amy's reflection strikes a chord with me, more below.  Other thoughts 

We just said good-bye to a wonderful group of 25 or so college students
(mostly from Boston University) who came down for the protests in DC.
My husband, Mark, and I are fortunate to have a lot of extra space (not
so common in this expensive city)in our living situation in DC this
year  so when a former student of Mark's contacted him about places for
her affinity group to stay, we took most of them in.  We were able to
feed them, give them places to shower and hang out, even had a number of
futons for some to sleep on.  In the evening after the demonstrations,
we watched their camcorder videos of it on our vcr.  We had the pleasure
of watching as a bunch of young people -- many of whom were new to this
kind of activism -- bonded together with each other and had a weekend
they will never forget.  (And we won't forget it either.  They were

Anyway, this made us both think again about movement "housework."  (As
you know this is something I've thought about before with regard to
movement work.)  We had both really enjoyed hosting these young people
but at the same time we had felt that it wasn't really the "important"
work that needed to be done.  Mark enjoyed it but felt that he was doing
it because he couldn't afford the time (kid and career, you know how
that goes) to be out actively organizing for a16.  I enjoyed it but also
felt that it was because I was influenced by powerful gender role
socialization -- as a woman, it's easier to take care of other people's
needs rather than my own -- plus I am facing the same problems as Mark
-- kid and career and lack of time for heavy duty organizing.

Then we realized, just after the students left, that our hosting of this
large group and all that involved (shopping, cleaning, anticipating
needs, etc.) probably helped strengthen the connections these students
made with each other.  Given that it's the end of the year, they may not
go on to do much as a group but on the other hand they might do a great
many other good things together in fighting the good fight.  If they do,
then we were part of that.  They could have stayed 3-5 to a household
and still had a good experience being all split up -- but staying
together in one place where they felt at home may strengthen and build
their core group.

Anyway, the main reason I'm writing this is to underscore how yet again,
even in the movement, "housework" doesn't seem like real work.  We
dismiss it as not being the real work of social change.  But as they
say, "an army moves on its stomach."  Well, so do people protesting the
World Bank.  Building community (and stronger social networks) relies
probably just as much on housework as it does on careful strategizing
about direct action.  Click! (as they used to say in Ms. Magazine)  Why
do we always forget this?

At any rate, the events here were not as large and momentous as those in
Seattle but the protesters succeeded in forcing the police to shut down
a large section of the city.  The struggle monopolized the local news in
a way I've never seen before.  And, I'm very pleased to say, that I had
the honor and pleasure of meeting a new generation of activists.  If the
other folks at a16 were anything like these young people, I'm very
optimistic about the future!

Amy Hubbard
Randolph-Macon College
ahubbard at


[You can find one of Amy's articles at  . Amy's work, and Verta Taylor's 
work which is very similar, has always seemed important to me.  What Amy 
calls "movement housework" I called "social reproduction" in a 1992 
Perspectives on Social Problems article.  Especially when activists are far 
away from home, and are getting pepper-sprayed, gassed, and beaten, basic 
life needs take on central importance.  Coordinating the care of thousands 
of activists is no small feat.  We see the action on the streets, but that 
is only possible because of the coordinated movement housework that occurs 
behind the scenes.  During the Civil Rights Movement it was African 
American families who fed and housed SNCC activists and then white student 
activists during Freedom Summer.  During "the 60s" it was hippie 
neighborhoods in cities around the country which became nurturing 
communities for the sustenance of activism.  And there are countless other 
lesser known examples.  The story has yet to be told of how movement 
housework was managed in Seattle.  You don't just feed and house 50,000 
people on the spur of the movement with a couple volunteers.  Who did 
it?  Why did they do it? How were they recruited?  How were they organized?

Let's tell these stories along with the stories from the street.  Because 
when we fully understand how to house, feed, keep safe, and nurture 10,000 
and 50,000 people for a weekend action we can then move on to do it with 
100,000 and more anytime and anywhere we want.]

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