Tough Stuff

What is performative activism and how can you avoid it?

If you've scrolled through Twitter, TikTok or Instagram in the past year, you've most likely heard the controversial term "performative activism." The concept of performative activism is often associated with social justice and political conversations on social media, but what exactly does it mean?

What is performative activism?

Essentially, performative activism is when someone acts like they care about a social cause on social media in order to be viewed in a positive light, without actually contributing to that cause in any constructive way. For example, if someone initially posted harmful claims about the LGTBQ+ community and then made a post saying they support the community, without actually doing anything tangible to support it, that could be seen as performative activism. Performative activism is often counterproductive, but it is easy to avoid. Here's how to make sure your activism isn't performative:

Do your research

When it comes to standing up for social causes, there is nothing more crucial than doing your research. For example, if you retweet a tweet about the Black Lives Matter Movement without actually checking to make sure that what that Tweet says is true, you are actually hurting the cause you are trying to help. Misinformation isn't always spread intentionally, which is why it's so critical to check the facts. No one expects you to know every nuance of every complex movement and there's no shame in waiting to speak about a topic until you've spent some time educating yourself. Next time you post an IG graphic, remember to search up your statistics first on a reputable website. 

RELATED: "Black Lives Matter isn't just a hashtag. It's about real people." 

Use your voice—and listen to others' voices

Once you've done your research, make sure to use your voice! Support causes you care about by signing petitions, volunteering, donating or participating in another way that is accessible to you. When you stand up for yourself and others, you are making an impact—and not a performative one. That being said, sometimes the best thing you can do is amplify others' voices. You are not always going to be an expert on everything, but you can uplift someone who is. This means you should retweet, repost and regram *reliable* information to your heart's content. 

RELATED: How *this* teen girl became a climate activist (and how you can, too)

Stay safe

Supporting movements you care about is important, but so is your mental health and physical safety. If you feel overwhelmed trying to share your experience, then take a step back for a minute. Sometimes, taking a social media break can be a good idea. Additionally, make sure you don't risk your safety. If you are worried about attending a protest that could put you in danger, then don't go. You can always cheer on your allies from a distance. 

How are you getting involved in causes you care about? Let us know on IG @girlslifemag!

All GIFs via GIPHY.


by Delilah Brumer | 8/8/2021