“Join our webinar”: Provocations on webinars and feminist ways of knowing

July 22, 2020

22 Jul, 2020

BY Sachini Perera

This is an excerpt. Please find the original post here.

Fully pivoting to online communication during the Covid-19 lockdown has been happening across sectors and industries as well as in our personal lives, with screenshots of Zoom tiles being one of the defining visuals of Covid-19, whether it’s a birthday or a funeral or a classroom or a PhD thesis defense or a team meeting. Feminist and social justice organizations have also understandably found all our work having to move online almost overnight with face to face interactions coming to an almost standstill. This is my reflection on how this shift is affecting feminist ways of knowing and setting precedents for how we might create and share knowledge and use technology to do so in a postpandemic time. With a specific focus on webinars and their platforms.

Everytime I check my email or look at my Twitter feed, there seems to be an onslaught of webinars by nonprofits which makes me wonder who is left to listen. If the lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic began somewhere in late March 2020 for many of us, then by the first week of April there were already a number of organizations and collectives organizing webinars. Some were specifically on Covid-19 while others were just scheduled discussions being shifted online. In addition to outward facing engagements like webinars, many organizations and people are also on regular internal conference calls. While communicating online through webinars and conference calls is not new for a lot of people, many of us are realizing that going fully online is a different experience and one that comes with advantages and opportunities but also with compromise of some of our feminist principles, and fatigue and burnout.

Why webinars?

Covid-19 has exposed deep inequalities in society. Many inequalities that feminists have been raising for decades on income, class, caste, race, etc. and how those impact access to healthcare, education, employment and social protection have come to the forefront. There seems to be more clarity and public consensus that capitalism is a system rigged against those most marginalized in our societies and that there is something very wrong with how our worth is being valued through capitalist standards if essential workers like nurses, sanitation workers and informal workers of the gig economy are amongst the most undervalued and underpaid in the labour force. While feminists have clarity on the injustices of capitalism, there is no denial that capitalist conceptions of work, productivity, efficiency, etc. are embedded in our movements, especially the institutions within our movements like nonprofits and donors. This is inevitable when you’re trying to survive within the very systems you’re trying to challenge and dismantle.