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Performative Activism is Silence- Here's Why

image credit: @bydivya

In recent weeks we have seen the rise of a few causes that have garnered international attention on social media, but not always for the right reasons. The Black Lives Matter protests and June’s annual pride month have caused another spike in the participation of this type of behaviour, but what is performative activism, and how can it be harmful?

Performative activism is any activism done to increase one’s social standing or public image rather than because of a devotion to a cause. This may be posting about BLM on your Instagram stories but not signing petitions, or sharing pride month posts but being homophobic in your personal life. 

Annual events such as pride month bring a fleeting wave of social media supporters who will post on their social media but do nothing in their personal life to better educate themselves on these issues or try to help these communities in any way. The problem with this type of activism is that purveyors will not actively try to educate themselves on the topic and will not engage in the movement for the right reasons and simply pose for a photo at a protest for ‘clout’ on social media. This happened with Fiona Moriarty-McLaughlin who took time away from a worker attempting to board up windows at a Black Lives Matter protest and posed for a picture with his drill to show her followers that she was ‘doing something’ before immediately leaving in her car. Use her wrongdoings as a template. Is what you’re doing harmful in any way? Are you taking attention away from the voices of these communities? Are you educated strongly enough on the facts?

I cannot deny that social media can be incredibly effective in spreading activism and change, but the problem is that people do not have a sustained interest in these topics and continue to follow them for the wrong reasons, causing the attention on these issues to fizzle out quickly without the change that these communities are so desperately asking for.

There are a few ways you can help be an ally to any movement:

Educate yourself. Google is free, use it. It is important that you know the facts of both sides of the argument to be able to sort the facts from the fake. Spending time to educating yourself and continue to speak to others on the issues communities face and ways you can contribute helps to continue a prolonged interest, even if in a small community.

Listen more than you speak. It is important for allies of any cause to listen more than they speak. If the issue does not directly affect you, it is vital that you leave any protest organising or petition making to someone who is facing the issue or with expressed blessing from that community. It is paramount that you spread the word on these events but that you make sure the correct steps go into their creation

Protest and sign petitions. If you have the ability to attend any protests in your area without risking others or your own safety, it is important that you do so. However, in the absence of this, signing petitions is the best way to go. Signing petitions on the white house (or your respective country’s government) website is the best way to go to ensure that lawmakers receive these petitions. 

Continue to spread the word for causes you care about without any ulterior motives and ensure that your attention does not fade away once it loses ‘popularity.’ The media attention may fizzle out, but the issue does not.


Written By Madeline McFarlane


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