Sewing Apart and Together: The Experience of a Mask-Sewing Alliance in Times of COVID-19

Jeanne Dagenais-Lespérance, Roxane Caron

Abstract


Sewing is an act that has been both celebrated and criticized (Katoshevski & Huss, 2020; Parker, 1984; Talwar, 2018, 2019): it has been accused of reinforcing the creation of a “domestic ghetto” (Rogers, 1980, as cited in Guérin, 2017) for “third world women” (Mohanty, 2003), yet its economic potential and cultural significance have also been acknowledged. This article aims at unpacking “epiphanies” (Ellis et al., 2011) by focusing on an experience of sewing masks during the COVID-19 pandemic through a dialogue that fostered interrelational reflexivity (Gilbert & Sliep, 2009). More specifically, the article explores Jeanne’s participation in the creation of an ad hoc sewing alliance with mothers from local elementary schools (and their friends). Inspired by decolonial feminist theories (Mohanty, 2003), it explores how positionalities play out and transform, as Jeanne acts as both a seamstress (insider) and a white social work student (outsider). The article focuses on the following aspects: (a) sewing as a political space questioning the domestic-public dichotomy and (b) building a “pluralist friendship” (Lugones, 1995) in sharing the act of sewing. Through the exploration of this mask-sewing collective during the COVID-19 pandemic—an initiative that was far from being unique (CBC News, 2020)—we hope to open up discussions in social work on the possibilities of the underestimated act of sewing while critically acknowledging its limits.


Keywords


interrelational reflexivity; decolonial feminism; sewing; critical social work; friendship

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