What Is Performative Activism (and Why Does It Do More Harm Than Good)?

It’s 2020 and you just posted your support for the George Floyd protests with a black square on your Instagram. You pat yourself on the back and close the app for the day, only to discover that your decision (which was also made by many others, including celebrities) has become a topic of controversy. But why?

As social media (and the Internet as a whole) has become a part of our daily lives, the way we address issues has stirred a big debate. Are we using these tools to fight a cause or just show others we are on the same wavelength when it comes to social justice? That’s where performative activism comes in. Here’s everything you need to know.

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What Is Performative Activism?

Performative activism (also known as performative wokeness or allyship) is supporting a cause or issue to garner attention, support or monetization from others rather than actually caring about making a difference in the cause. This behavior often aligns with the good samaritan ideal or, for some, the “white savior complex.” These actions also show little to no effort is being made to learn or take action. It’s more about showing friends and family, “Hey, I’m woke! I’m hip to the latest issues. Please praise me on my latest social issue post of the week.”

What are some examples of performative activism?

Unfortunately, performative activism has been around for decades, but it’s become more obvious since the George Floyd protests. While we can do a whole piece on examples of performative activism (because trust us, there’s a lot), here are a few big ones that will make you sigh (or cringe).

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Chelsea Candelario

Associate Editor, Ultimate Fangirl, Aspiring Beauty Guru

Chelsea Candelario is an Associate Editor at PureWow. She has been covering beauty, culture, fashion and entertainment for over a decade. You'll find her searching the internet...
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