Women across the world are bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis. At the end of 2020, humanitarian agency Care International carried out a survey of more than 10,000 people across 38 countries which highlighted the disproportionate impact coronavirus is having on women.
As life around the world withdrew behind closed doors, gender inequalities and systemic racism were brought to prominence. And while essential debate and action was, for a time, silenced, many people re-emerged in protest and began to reimagine fighting for equality – and what that might look like.
These stark gender inequalities have been hard to swallow and, I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent the majority of my time in lockdown feeling anxious, sad, confused and brimming with white hot rage. And I now recognise it as having been there for a long time.
So, what happens now? Where do we go from here? What matters most during these uncertain times and how can we move forward?
This Is How We Come Back Stronger: Feminist Writers on Turning Crisis into Change is an intersectional feminist collection edited by the Feminist Book Society which explores these questions and attempts to figure out what the future holds for us all. The anthology, published on the one-year anniversary of lockdown by indie press (and Northern Soul award-winner) And Other Stories, contains essays, interviews and fiction from feminist writers on both sides of the Atlantic. Contributors include Laura Bates, Lauren Bravo, Kerry Hudson, Kate Mosse, Yomi Adegoke, Melissa Cummings-Quarry and Natalie Carter (founders of Black Girls Book Club), Layla F. Saad, and many more.
It’s hard-hitting stuff, but it’s not all doom and gloom. On the contrary, it’s an incredibly optimistic read. There’s something potent and galvanising about collective anger and the book left me feeling somewhere in-between extremely pissed off and positive that change can – and will – happen. And it’s because of these writers, women from all backgrounds and experiences, that I can say this and believe it. This Is How We Come Back Stronger is bursting with ideas, experiences, thoughts, creative musings, solutions and empathy and that’s exactly what we’re going to need as we continue to push for progress.
In her opening essay, So Much Racket, critically acclaimed author Sara Collins writes “for days now I’ve been feeling emergency in my bones”, something many people – particularly women – had been feeling prior to the pandemic. This collection harnesses the power of solidarity and shared stories, the importance of supporting one another, especially the most marginalised among us, and looking to and celebrating the work of those who came before us, particularly Black women and femmes who have always been at the forefront of change.
In her interview, Layla F. Saad, author of the ground-breaking education workbook White Supremacy and Me, points out that this particular moment in history has given us no more excuses. Asked about a recommended call to action for readers of the book, Saad says: “The call for me is the same call it would have been before lockdown, which is to look towards the leadership of Black women and Black femmes, of all backgrounds and experiences. Throughout history, we are the people who’ve shown up consistently, for ourselves and for everybody else.”
There are so many parts of this book that I would recommend (my copy is now mostly underlined passages and dog-eared pages), including Amelia Abrahams’ essay Empathy and Echo Chambers, Juli Delagado Lopera’s conversation entitled On Joy, and Laura Bates’ essay, A Matter of Life and Death.
I urge everyone to pick up a copy of this book. It’s an empowering and surprisingly uplifting read, and one that’s integral to the conversation about how we respond to, navigate and find our way out of the current crisis.
By Emma Yates-Badley, Literary Editor