Performative Activism’s Aversion

By Sania Daniyal

People who practice performative activism desire to be validated and accepted by others, but through these actions, they continue to undermine movements. Many advocates send out posts that claim to support a cause but do little to further it. Some commentators have voiced that most of the involvement in movements is “performative,” seeking to seize the moment for social clout rather than genuinely supporting the cause and its demands.

“I don’t think that performative activism makes much progress. What I view as progress is passing laws and having reforms and mass actions taken. I’m not sure where I stand on performative activism, but I think that it makes people aware about problems. However, I don’t really think it helps with what I view as progress,” said freshman Manal Rashid.

“I think the biggest distinction between performative activism and genuine progress is the effect of the action. For example, if a major celebrity donates a copious amount of money to an organization, more often than not it’s for the sake of receiving major praise or after being silent on an issue causing their followers to demand some sort of response. Also, it is dependent from group to group. Teenagers using social media as an outlet for spreading awareness about an issue may be the only outlet of activism available to them. However, if there are other, sometimes more effective, outlets for activism which people refuse to participate in, that is when it becomes performative,” said sophomore Anna Detke.

Last year, celebrities such as Drake, Rihanna and Kylie Jenner posted a black square as part of the Blackout Tuesday campaign in an effort to draw attention to racial inequality in America. Many activists, however, found that saturating Instagram with these posts obscured important information, including petitions to stop racial violence. Some thought that spreading the word was clearly a good thing to do, but wondered if it would immediately and tangibly benefit the cause.

Source by Anna Detke

Many use social media as a way to spread information about social issues.

“I post about certain issues because I feel strongly about them. Like climate change, healthcare, racial injustice, refugees, and the devastation war has on certain places,” said Rashid.

Some public figures, on the other hand, stepped down from their online platform and took to the streets. A smaller number of celebrities, such as Nick Cannon, Ariana Grande and Timothée Chalamet, have marched in support of a campaign. They lost their “celebrity” image when they marched with protesters, joining everyone else.

“The actions that a person can take for an issue that is not directly affecting them varies from movement to movement. Some ways would be through awareness and education, which focuses more on issues which are largely being ignored by society, like the situation in Myanmar. Other issues, which are much more well known to a larger community require different forms of activism to ensure change is being made to the fullest extent. This may involve some form of mutual aid, financial contribution or protesting such as the food insecurity in communities of color. The best way to know what a movement needs, however, is directly promoting and listening to members of the community that are being affected by the issue at hand,” said Detke.