The Center for Feminist Futures opened at the Social Sciences & Media Studies Building on International Women’s Day March 8 and aims to provide a space for undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff to research the intersection of gender and social justice, according to Inaugural Director professor Jigna Desai.

In partnership with The UC Santa Barbara Women’s Center and Students for Reproductive Justice, the Center for Feminist Futures will hold its first event on April 22. The event is a discussion on reproductive justice, “Responding to Ongoing Attacks on Reproductive Justice: The Alabama Supreme Court Rulings on IVF and Contested Personhood.”

The Center for Feminist Futures had its grand opening March 8, on International Women’s Day. Courtesy of Jigna Desai

Founded by feminist studies and Asian American studies professor Desai, the Center for Feminist Futures is a place of “research, teaching, creative work, and public engagement in gender, sexuality, and feminist studies from intersectional, interdisciplinary, and global perspectives,” according to their website. The center was a collaboration of faculty, graduate students and staff across UCSB and especially in the feminist studies and Black studies departments over several months, Desai said. 

As the inaugural director, Desai said she wanted this center to be focused on feminist, queer and trans scholarship because there wasn’t a space at UCSB before that addressed these issues.

“UCSB has a long history of incredible scholarship in feminist and queer studies. What’s unique about this place is that not only has it had a feminist bent to so many spaces, there hasn’t been a congregating spot for that. There is no way for people to talk to each other, so a center creates the opportunity to be able to talk with each other,” Desai said.

Desai explained that the idea for the Center for Feminist Futures was partially motivated by “worry for the future.”

“We live in a time when it feels apocalyptic. So to imagine tomorrow, let alone get out of bed today, it feels so hard. I really want this center to have a space where we can have a site to generate knowledge that can give us hope.”

Feminist studies professor Leila Rupp, one of the primary organizers for the Center for Feminist Futures, said that the four goals of the Center for Feminist Futures are to be interdisciplinary, impactful, intersectional and intergenerational. As one of the heads of a 15-member board, she was responsible for developing the vision of the center. 

“The basic idea was that it came of age with second wave feminism,” Rupp said. “I wanted to make sure the project was collaborative, and wanted it to be true.”

Rupp explained that the center would not only focus on bringing speakers, but bringing research to the public sphere. She said that the board wanted the center to be “forward-looking” and to get undergraduate students more involved in the center. 

“Where we are headed, everything has a feminist take,” Rupp said.

The Center for Feminist Futures has created eight research clusters that are focused on feminist, queer and trans research and scholarship. “Responding to Ongoing Attacks on Reproductive Justice: The Alabama Supreme Court Rulings on IVF and Contested Parenthood,” which is the first event since the opening of the Center for Feminist Futures, will focus on the research cluster “Still Our Bodies, Still Our Selves.” This research cluster mimics the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective book, “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”

The speaker event will include two professors from academia, including Laury Oaks, and two members of Planned Parenthood. Oaks invites students, faculty and staff to all be part of the conversation to discuss how to collectively address legal challenges to reproductive justice. 

Oaks said that despite the court rulings on abortion in Alabama and Arizona several months ago, she wants to use the Center for Feminist Futures as a space to bridge scholarship and healthcare provisions. 

“Headlines move so fast, but these events allow us to figure out what is at the center of all of these issues. I find it really important to think about how campuses and the Center for Feminist Futures provide a space where people have discussions without feeling threatened.”

Asian American studies professor Lisa Sun-Hee Park said that the Center for Feminist Futures hopes to focus on organizing on campus, as well as engage in social justice issues on a national platform. By bringing together undergraduates and faculty of all different disciplines, Park said she hopes that it will forefront more issues that have tended to get lost in the past. 

“This center is a place where students take ideas they are learning and becomes a place where we see a place forward, a future,” Park said.