WEN Book Club SF Discusses the 2020 Ballot
By Dena Emmerson, guest blogger
I took over coordination of the WEN Book Club of San Francisco in early 2020. We managed to host one in-person meetup in March, and even that was pushing it. Events and gatherings were getting cancelled one after the other “in an abundance of caution.” Turns out that caution was well-founded.
Since then we’ve hosted the series on Zoom, which has both pros and cons. It’s been great to be able to open access to those who can’t normally make it in person and other WEN Bay Area Book Clubs — we even had one member join from Australia! On the flip side, “Zoom fatigue” is real. In a book club where we used to gather at each other’s homes to share food and network, a gallery view of faces and muted microphones doesn’t have the same warm feel.
In light of this new format, our members have adapted. Content-heavy books have given way to more approachable video panels, podcasts, and articles. Most notably in this election year, we dug into environmental policy. Starting with the Green New Deal and then moving on to Biden’s Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice, we’ve had great discussions about the policies that matter to us as environmentalists. The evolution of the conversation flowed naturally to the upcoming election: Why don’t we make the next book club meeting about the ballot? The timing was perfect — by early October we would all have our voter information guides and mail-in ballots. We’d get together with a like-minded group of women to discuss the candidates and propositions.
Fresh off the heels of the vice presidential debate, we Zoomed in on October 8, 2020 for the WEN Book Club-turned-Ballot Club. We focused on the [many] local and state propositions, going through each one to understand the aims, review the endorsements, and argue the merits or shortcomings. Each woman brought her own perspective to the measures and was able to contribute information to our collective understanding. For example, one woman had a friend working in dialysis healthcare and was able to speak to California’s Proposition 23. One woman shared a non-citizen’s perspective on removing citizenship requirements for members of city bodies – San Francisco’s Proposition C. Another woman, as both a mother and property owner, gave her voice to Proposition J – a parcel tax to benefit the San Francisco Unified School District. For the propositions lacking a personal connection, we shared resources on where to find more information and trusted endorsements.
I logged out that night feeling more confident in my vote. Moreover, I felt so appreciative to have the consistently welcoming and judgement-free space that is the WEN Book Club. I’m looking forward to hosting more meetups in the future — whatever form they may take — though we decided to wait until after November 3 to schedule our next one.
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Dena Emmerson is the WEN Book Club SF lead. She works at the Public Library of Science (PLOS), an open-access research publisher, where she manages the Editorial Board of PLOS ONE.