The Feminist COVID-19 Collective came together at the start of the pandemic, soon after the 64th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW64) was cancelled. CSW is one of the two oldest United Nations commissions, the biggest policymaking space on women’s rights, and the most highly attended annual United Nations event. Feminist movements have for decades organized around this intergovernmental event, with close ties to feminist organizing in other intergovernmental spaces such as the High Level Political Forum (HLPF), the Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP), and Financing for Development (FfD).
Global feminist movements have relied on these meetings not only to strategize and work together for common goals to advance women’s fundamental human rights, but to find connections, build friendships, and share moments of joy and solidarity together. The unwritten stories behind the climate marches, the women’s strikes, and other more known workshops, conferences and press releases, are of us coming together to be more than just colleagues and allies.
With our organizing driven online, we realized early on that we needed those unrecorded moments that were not work, where we could think, share, and feel, all very much rooted in adrienne maree brown’s idea of pleasure activism, the politics of healing and happiness. We also recognized that our imagining of a feminist future beyond the pandemic must draw from a long hxstory of feminist thinking and imagining around utopias, particularly ideas that exist in science fiction. Enter our idea to initiate the Feminist Sci Fi Book Club, with the tag line: ‘All organizing is science fiction. Join us in imagining and re-membering radical worlds.’ This was inspired by an article on prison abolition by Walidah Imarisha, that states:
“We started the anthology with the belief that all organizing is science fiction. When we talk about a world without prisons; a world without police violence; a world where everyone has food, clothing, shelter, quality education; a world free of white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, heterosexism; we are talking about a world that doesn’t currently exist. But collectively dreaming up one that does means we can begin building it into existence.”
By hosting this book club, we are encouraging collective dreaming and learning from not just feminist organizers, but writers and academics. We knew we badly needed a space of kindness and leisure, where we didn’t have to be working or responsible for delivering something.
Our book club met six times in 2020, and read the following:
- July: ‘Sultana’s Dream’ by Begum Rokeya
- August: Chapter 7, The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin
- September: Chapter 4, ‘How gender structures the Prison System’, Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis
- October: Woman World webcomic by Aminder Dhaliwal
- November: ‘The Evening and the Morning and the Night’ by Octavia Butler (in folder)
- December: Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick
In the process of holding space for Collective members through regular online meetings and the book club, we also ended up developing a Collective playlist based on songs that members shared with us that they found uplifting or inspiring, or simply enjoyed for the political content. We invite you to use the playlist, initiate your own book club, and take these ideas of feminist future building to other creative outlets!