Learning patterns/Slow and spacious: feminist practices of care during Covid-19

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Slow and spacious: feminist practices of care during Covid-19
problemThis pattern aims to help you adapt feminist practices of care to your own context as you navigate the impacts of the pandemic on your own work, organization and communities… or be inspired to create your own.
solutionFeminist practices that see self and collective care as an essential part of community based work.
created on22:57, 31 January 2021 (UTC)

What problem does this solve?[edit]

We have all been collectively if differently impacted by the Covid-19 global pandemic throughout 2020. Within our own team, we had to strengthen our feminist practices of care - and create some ones - to cope with the pandemic’s effects on ourselves, our families and communities. This pattern aims to help you adapt these practices to your own context as you navigate the impacts of the pandemic on your own work, organization and communities… or be inspired to create your own. Let’s be careful and caring, as we live through this challenging and historic time in our lives.

What is the solution?[edit]

Sourdough bread made from a starter created during Covid-19

We leaned heavily on our existing feminist practices that see self and collective care as an essential part of community based work. Here are some of our practices in the past year, and continuing into the next.

  • Slow down and be spacious individually and collectively. As individuals, it means being incredibly intentional about taking breaks and implementing self-care practices that will directly impact how you can participate in the collective. As a team it means that we do our best to support each other to do our work with as much breath and breadth as possible, pushing out timelines, making our check ins longer, giving team members time to recover from their own illnesses, or support as they take care of family (especially young children at home). We also recognize that each person has their own self-care needs and practices; learning from each other while honouring everyone's different needs is critical. As community organizers, it means creating the opportunities for community members to slow down and be spacious as well, as they prioritize their safety and well-being. Most importantly, we need to to do this for ourselves and each other without guilt, shame, or embarrassment.
Example: At Whose Knowledge?, a few weeks into the pandemic and lockdowns for various members of our team across the world, we created an auto response for the organization that is headlined “Slow and Spacious”. The text of this auto response has changed slightly in these past months, but overall, its meaning remains the same: life is not “normal”, and we are not behaving as though it is. As a team, we may take a little longer than before to respond to messages and queries, because we are having to prioritize self and collective care. Interestingly, while the message itself has been warmly received by many in our community, our own team finds it incredibly helpful as a reminder to take a few deep breaths each time they open their email and start their work day, knowing we are sharing in a collective experience like no other.
  • Remember the power inequities at the center of pandemics. Even as we collectively experience a global event like the Covid-19 pandemic, we are all experiencing it differently. Our current and historical inequalities and the intersections of capitalism, colonization, patriarchy and other oppressive systems affect us and our communities at different levels. We need to remember that systemic oppression and exclusions are deepened by such unprecedented events. Black and brown folks, indigenous communities, and the poor and working class from around the world have been disproportionately affected, especially in the Global South. Women are having to bear the burden of caring for children and the elderly disproportionately across the world, whether in health care or at home, while domestic violence has increased exponentially. It means that as we work with marginalized communities, we have had to recognize our own relational privilege and disprivilege, and support those at the heart of the pandemic.
Example: At Whose Knowledge?, we responded to the pandemic by recognizing its intersectional nature, and that those on the frontlines are the ones least affirmed, acknowledged and honored by the rest of us. So we practiced this affirmation first through theming our #VisibleWikiWomen campaign around the infrastructures of care, particularly black, brown and indigenous women on the frontlines of the pandemic. We have continued to remind ourselves and the world of these power dynamics as we have worked, written, and spoken throughout this year, and highlighted and honored those on the frontlines as we have done so. As a team of mostly black and brown women from around the world, most of us living continents away from our families, we have practiced being a collective infrastructure of care for each other, asking after each other’s families, and making sure we are not creating artificial and painful boundaries between work and home at a time when work is at home.
  • Find the joy! It has been a hard year, but through it all, we have also tried our best to find joy where we can. The year has given us and our communities unforeseen opportunities to connect in ways that we could not have imagined. What are the ways in which you can find joy in your day, or connect with someone you haven’t before?
Example: At a personal and team level, we practice sharing little joys with each other via a team communication channel - whether it’s the sourdough bread someone just baked, or the art someone created, or the music someone loves. Cuteness pictures of children and Wikimedia Cuteness Association are always welcome. On a work level, we have always been a remote and distributed team, but this year has meant that we have become even more imaginative about connecting communities across different time zones and interests whether in editathons or in strategy sessions, and it has created significant collective joy as we have done so.
  • Be kind and generous as the first act, not the afterthought. We practice being kind as an intentional act of generosity towards ourselves, each other on our team, and towards our communities. This seems obvious, but it is literally easier said than done! The next time you feel impatient with yourself or someone else who is going through a rough time, take a deep breath, think about the context we are in, and ask yourself: what would a kind and generous response be, rather than a frustrated or angry one? We find that it helps us be better in the present, and to imagine a better world through, and on the other side of, vaccination.
The sky through an oak tree

Things to consider[edit]

The Covid-19 pandemic as well as the anti-Blackness movement have offered us what we call the "brutal gifts" of 2020: hard but deeply meaningful experiences. Consider these brutal gifts as opportunities to continue expanding the most critical, urgent aspects of your work. There is a “great unravelling” of our systems and structures that offer us the possibilities of new ways of imagining and designing our futures, if we can only transform the leadership of our entrenched institutions.

When to use[edit]

When experiencing the impact of a global pandemic as well as facing any major life changing event that feel overwhelming to you, your team, and the communities you serve.


See also[edit]

Related patterns[edit]

External links[edit]