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Overcoming Our Echo Chamber and Expanding Our Debate During the Pandemic

8th June 2020

Written by Gisela Foz, SheDecides 25x25 Young Leader

The internet has been a great ally in the fight for our rights. It’s made it possible for our movements, rallies, and campaigns to travel thousands of kilometers within seconds, as well as to connect activists and organizations, strengthening our network. During the COVID19 pandemic it became even more important as a tool for activism. For those who are social distancing, it might be providing the only way to keep up with their advocacy work throughout this very challenging moment.

But the internet can have its limitations. Have we considered who we are reaching? Are we stuck in an echo chamber? This blog aims to address the lack of feminist representation in many online spaces, as well as the prevalence of misogynist norms. My activism during social distancing is focused on expanding our audience, and I invite you to do the same.

A world that is better, stronger, and safer includes the online world. During social distancing, the internet is a crucial space to share our powerful messages and engage citizens in campaigns. As with offline life, there is no empty space on the internet. The places that the gender equality debate is not present are the places where the misogyny and hate speech can run wild and free.

Where Our Movement Can Grow

For example, the gamer community. Bruna Volkov is the manager of a page in Brazil called “Feminist Nerd”. She attests that when she started playing online games back in 2011 she did not feel safe and was even banned from a game once the server realized she was a girl. She mentions that sexism, homophobia and racism were more common a couple years ago, but now she feels empowered to share her feminist ideas as she sees that she is not alone. These spaces reflect our society. There are ill-informed people, sexist behaviours and, also, women and girls (feminists!). We should support and work with them to tackle the patriarchal narrative that still prevails.

How can we create a better, stronger and safer online space? Simple – by being there! As a movement, we need to occupy all spaces. In order to reach out to different audiences in different formats and strengthen the feminist network, it is crucial to know the dark corners of the internet. Especially because, when it comes to political spaces, there is no emptiness. So even if you are not a proper gamer, you can always empower someone next to you who is part of such a community.

For newcomers, a lot of these spaces might be unsafe. It is important to calculate what our next step will be and take care with the exposure, just like anywhere else, on and offline. The Mexican organisation and website Luchadoras provides examples guidance on how to navigate the internet safely. Knowing how to protect yourself is key! When it comes to social media, a good piece of advice is to understand how the platform works and who the people are that you are trying to reach. The internet has plenty of information on how to reach more people. There are YouTube channels explaining how to create engaging content. It is also good to connect with people who are experts and influencers in the platform you are looking to explore. I enrolled in a free course to improve my writing skills so I could create better scripts for Instagram posts, lives or even Tik Tok videos.

Talking about Tik Tok, use of this social media platform exploded in Brazil during quarantine. In fact, it took me a few days to realize that I should subscribe and navigate through this new neighbourhood. The platform provides tools that allow the user to create fun and engaging content that can then be exported to other social media channels. And that is something we can all make the most of in our advocacy. The profiles @refugees and @unimigration are doing a great job! I am still learning under the name @prexfem.

Call to Action!

There is plenty of space that we can (and must!) occupy. Considering where our messages are delivered is key to informing and engaging more people, especially during these times of ill-information and fake news. It’s also important to take into account that almost half of the world’s population does not have access to the World Wide Web, and it is crucial to consider offline means, such as radio.

I would like to use this space to call upon all of us to ask ourselves the question: where else can I take my activism? Are there any women/girls who may need a support network to feel safer online to be louder? And what are the tools available to reach new spaces?

Gisela Foz is SheDecides 25x25 Young Leader and an activist and lawyer from Brazil. Read more about her here.