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Performative activism and how to prevent it

We live in an age of performance. To quote Hegel, we all strive for a ‘rational recognition’ to be perceived as the most beautiful, most fun, most moral. 

Social media makes it easy to share posts, threads, like and comment under the guise of education: you see someone share a post, and you feel like you should share one too. But the question is, is this enough? Is it true activism?



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The simple answer is no. But don’t get be wrong, I don’t think it is inherently wrong or intentionally malicious. We just need to take those rose-tinted glasses off and open our eyes to real struggles, the real issues and real activism. 

I am a firm believer in the power of education; by talking and actively listening to those around you, those from different backgrounds, you will naturally gain a wider and more diverse outlook. But when this is all you do, and when partaking in such conversations you are defensive of your own point of view, a wider, more nuanced enhancement of that education is paramount. 

This is where I turn to the Rule of Three to combat the ‘performative.’

  1. Listen - listen to those around you, their views, their stories, their histories. 
  2. Read - read people’s stories of struggle. Read the news from different sources, read human rights blogs and gain an awareness of the wider world. I don’t mean you should know everything because no-one does. But an appreciation for the wealth of struggle is whatever breadth or depth is valuable.
  3. Watch - we are all victims to Netflix. We now live in an age of over-information. Put on a documentary, a film about race, gender, the environment. There is so much out there waiting to be discovered.

Now I turn to activism.


[bf_image id="mvts5j5wj3ghgcrjrq85pbrj"] I’ve recently encountered an array of individuals who went to the Kill the Bill protests in Bristol. I personally, am with the protestors. I think that this bill has gross human rights implications and will threaten liberal democracy as we know it. 

But what I can’t get my head around are those that go to protests for the instagram story, for the likes, for the followers; while holding a completely different view. Some individuals were completely against the protesters yet took pictures at the protest to post. This is not activism. This actually upsets me as it shows gross ignorance of what activists aim to do. Participating in activism is difficult, it is meant to change perspectives, be emotional and incite passion. 

I think performative activism is exacerbated in the digital age. But it is so easy to combat. I don’t necessarily mean become an activist, but try and become a better ally, better friend, better global citizen. Because if we can all do that in some shape or form, surely the only outcome will be positive


Kavya Sharma

Bristol '21

Her Campus Careers Editor. Philosophy and Theology Undergrad. Tea drinker. Culture lover. Remainer. Human rights defender. Feminist.
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