Carolina Miranda is an Educator certified by the Ontario College of Teachers, and holds a Masters of Education from Nipissing University. She was one of the main organizers of the first Waterloo Region Women’s March, and is the creator and co-founder of Feminine Harbor. She immigrated to Canada from Brazil in 2003 and has since grown new roots in the Waterloo Region, one of the most dynamic ecosystems in Canada for culture, and technology.
As a writer, some of her most recent essays and poetry can be found in the ‘Anthology of Social Justice and Intersectional Feminisms’, organized by Dr. Katrina Sark, and which has officially launched on International Women’s Day 2018 in Victoria, BC. She is a single mother of two incredible girls who inspire her daily to become not only a better person but to leave behind a better world.
Her professional practice is unequivocally influenced by her experiences of maternal empathy, and care. Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion are not just aspects of her job, but how she authentically lives her relationships with direct family ties in four different countries: Canada, Brazil, Spain and Dominican Republic.
“I currently hold a position as an Elementary classroom teacher, teaching grades 1-2, in a Catholic district in Ontario, Canada. This is my career, and my full time job. I also, however, am deeply committed to my community through my non-profit organization, Feminine Harbor, where I try to create a space of dialogue across cultures specifically between women. Through Feminine Harbor, I organize and produce events of Storytelling, in our local art gallery (Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery) that bring together women of diverse backgrounds to share real stories of their lives, while also showcasing a local musician in between the stories.
I first read about the Ethics of Care (as it is referred to here in Ontario) during my first course at Nipissing University, for my Masters of Education back in 2010. Our core text was “Philosophy of Education” by Dr. Nel Noddings, who is actually one of the pioneer writers and minds in theorizing care ethics. That book had a huge impact on me because it dissected the notion of care in a way I had never seen before.
I come from a culture that places the value, and the action of care entirely on women, and it also takes it for granted that care will happen, it will simply, magically be there whenever it is needed (I am originally from Brazil). When I first came to this notion of care as an ethical paradigm, it was revolutionary for me because what I was seeing was someone who was willing to discuss care in a detached way, and giving it an academic level of importance. It could be researched, and understood by anyone, regardless of age or gender, and not implicitly depended upon women.
This has had a great impact on my work as an educator, and as a woman. By the time I finally finished my Masters of Education in 2017 (I had many hurdles along the way, ironically all related to care – I had two babies, and then I got divorced), I had created an entire organization based on the Ethics of Care, which is my non-profit, Feminine Harbor. At Feminine Harbor, we use stories of women (who have primarily held the responsibility to provide care throughout our human history) to illuminate the importance and the many layers of what care is, and how it changes across generations and across different cultures as well.
I think the main dilemma is the same all across the world thus far – care is still perceived as a female trait and its responsibility is often primarily attached to women. The ripple effects of that misconception are huge, and this is reflected everywhere in society, in how we organize our systems. We continue to view women as an endless source of nurturing. Taking for granted that care and nurturing are innate, intuitive traits to one sex only.
For example, Early Childhood Educators are often women, and usually they don’t make a decent living wage. I would go as far as to say that anyone involved in an industry of care – such as nurses, social workers, are often underpaid in comparison to other industries where scientific, detached academic achievement is considered more noble and given higher status.
I think once we begin to really understand care in a theoretical way, we may be able to understand its traits, and then shift the responsibility from the hands of women alone, to all members of society, demanding that men become educated on the value of care and their shared responsibility in creating caring systems.
I continued to study it during my Masters of Education, and the more I read about it, the more fascinated I became with it. Also, I saw the ethics of care as a bridge between matrilineal cultures and this current wave of feminism. For my final paper (I did a research paper for my Masters instead of a thesis) I used the ethics of care as a theoretical framework that can serve as a bridge to build dialogue between Indigenous women and women of different cultures. I have since continued to use the theory of Care Ethics in the work I do with women in our community, here in the Waterloo Region.
I think one of my favourite books on it is Matters of Care – Speculative Ethics in More Than Human Worlds by Dr. Maria Puig de la Bellacasa who is an associate professor at the University of Leicester School of Management. This was one of the first books on the ethics of care, that I read, and which was not at all associated with the field of Education, which is where the theory originated.
In her Introduction she says: “But what is care? Is it an affection? A moral obligation? Work? A burden? A joy? Something we can learn or practice? Something we just do? Care means all these things and different things to different people, in different situations. So while ways of caring can be identified, researched, and understood concretely and empirically, care remains ambivalent in significance and ontology.
Embracing these ambivalent grounds, not without tentativeness, this book invites a speculative exploration of the significance of care for thinking and living in more than human worlds. (…) Encompassing this ontological scope is vital as it has become indisputable, if it ever wasn’t, that in times binding techno-sciences with naturecultures, the livelihoods and fates of so many kinds and entities on this planet are unavoidably entangled.” (Bellacasa, M. P., 2017).
The Ethics of care, in my humble opinion, is a progression of consciousness in the Western world as we move away from an individualistic, severed view of ourselves through the progression of technology that has allowed for a more collective understanding of our societies, and how we are all linked in one way or another, and so we must hold ourselves accountable to the spaces we occupy, to the actions we perform, and what ripple effects they may have. I think that it is comparable to the ancient African “Ubuntu” philosophy and wisdom, often translated as “I am because we are.”
The most important thing I’ve learned from care ethics is to consider the relationships and consequences in everything, and how care is often invisible, and so we need to make an effort to make it visible, in order to sustain it. For example, the seemingly simple act of sewing is often seen as a primarily female trait and therefore usually automatically belittled by education systems that were built on often linear and male dominant Western thinking (which usually focuses on, and values detached academic achievement).
In looking at the act of sewing through a lens of care for example, I was able to recognize the complexity of this task, breaking down the actual intellectual components of it and understanding its complexity, sophistication, and affects in the human brain. For instance, sewing is a highly effective strategy to improve fine motor skills, and it also naturally releases oxytocin, becoming a therapeutic activity that can be used as a tool against mental illnesses. It also promotes patience, and an understanding of part-whole relationship, as a sewing project is brought to completion.
I think care ethics allows Western thinking to look at the value of has been considered feminine traits and understand its vital contributions to society, while also educating men about it. Which means that eventually, these traits can become non-gendered and be expected to be present at the very structures of our society as a whole. Once we have theoretical knowledge of care, then we can expect these values to be embraced on a collective level, by men as well.
Additionally, through theory, we can begin to understand and perhaps build a case for the importance of care in many different sectors of society and not simply women-led areas because ultimately care is about co-dependency and how everything has an effect on one another. If care ethics grows beyond the field of education (which it is already growing) it will force people and systems to think of the most vulnerable, such as children and the elderly, and what kind of a world we wish to design as we keep this level of interconnectedness in mind.
Other than school systems here in Ontario and my small non-profit, I don’t know of any organization that consciously has made ‘care’ as a philosophy and ethics its central priority. However, we do see it everywhere, because ultimately, care has always been present so that human beings can thrive even in our human-made systems.
Organizations such as the Humane Society, which cares for animals, or the Women’s Shelter which care for women who need a place to live, or Habitat for Humanity which cares for giving people a fair chance at having safe shelter… All these organizations are performing from an ethics of care perspective, even if they haven’t officially studied, and understood it. Once we begin to learn more about how our systems are related and how care is highly important for a peaceful society to thrive, where human beings can grow with less trauma, then perhaps we may see an increase in funding in the areas of care and a greater appreciation and financial compensation for the professionals that are directly connected to industries of human and non-human care.
Additionally we should always remember that any system, organization or product that we create must be aligned with values of care if they are to exist in this type of society – for instance, in developing less harmful, and less traumatic fire-works we have a positive effect on children, wild life, elders, etc. The Ethics of Care provides a lens with which to look at efficiency, space, impact, intent, and ultimately our human relationship with each other and with our planet. “