These days to keep pace with the ‘social mediaverse’ and the endless debates that rage within it on issues affecting our world is almost an impossibility. The various hashtags and trending stories with newly coined phrases to describe things and make sense of them has accelerated.
Recently, I was surfing the web (is surfing still the right word to use?) when I happened upon the phrase “Performative Allyship”. It was mentioned in a post bashing the content of a certain tweet. From what I could gather, this was based on the need to differentiate between genuine solidarity and pretentious allying to a cause or plight of a set of people.
In essence, performative allyship is doing that minimum bit to gain approval and escape the tag of a silent neutral or a bigot.
The stark truth is that what we call performative allyship now predates social media. It’s just a fancy way to describe hypocrites who want a pat on the back for their actions supporting a cause.
Solidarity in itself doesn’t stem from the need to put up a show but rather it is based on the honesty to stand with a cause to push for changes with or without an audience.
Solidarity is activism. Yet it also involves knowing when it doesn’t require your reaction when an oppressed individual expresses their distaste of the bias and uneven treatment they deal with.
To play a role just for approval suggests at a deep seated self serving interest in one’s pysche. Whether it is based on the need to save face or ride on the wave where the wind blows, it hints at double standards.
In most cases these set of people who project this fake form of allying are likely to be upset when they are told of their actions and its harmful tendencies. These are the people who hop on ‘hot’ topics by sharing or retweeting but never calling out the same act when its done where there is no audience . What they care about is the fifteen minutes in the spotlight and not the issues at hand. Standing with an oppressed group requires listening, engaging and learning about their experiences.
Mostly, performative allies tend to make statements which are counterproductive to the cause of oppressed groups and then feign ignorance. This hints at a either a failure to properly understand these issues and a lack of sincere solidarity. When one stands with a cause, the onus is on you to properly and thoroughly understand and grasp it. To project concern when you don’t really care, just to get off the hook makes your sentiments unhelpful.
There’s a tendency for many people who belong to the oppressive group to think that distancing themselves from acts done to the oppressed groups exempts them from responsibility. Statements like ‘not all’ , ‘some’ , ‘tell us more’ ,’we are on the same side’ are a dead ringer and they do nothing to help groups that are marginalised. Systematic oppression is real and trying to detach yourself from the privileges you benefit from belonging to the oppressive group with these half hearted ‘not all’ phrases reeks of downplaying, diverting and glossing over the realities of the conversation.
I live in a side of the globe where many have still not come to terms with the dangers of oppression. In fact even those who profess to be ‘allies’ still hold some negative views towards those they claim to ally with. I once knew a certain individual who would rant on Facebook about the rights of women but was known to be domestically abusive towards his wife and also held the misogynist view that the place of women was in the kitchen.
Individuals flick on the mask of solidarity as and when it is beneficial to them and their interests.
The bane of hyper masculinity and it’s privileges is soaked in deep in the fabric of Sierra Leone. You are bound to hear statements from males that ‘ a woman’ deserves a back hand once in a while when she steps out of line’ which is followed by gleeful laughter. The brainwash is such that certain women have been so attuned to this brutal idea that they consider it a norm, sadly. Women are mostly not allowed to tell their stories. Incidents of rape are swept under the rug with blame cast on the lady of her ‘improper clothing’, mostly these women are married of to their abusers.
Oppression is a disease to society. If any society utilises the denial route to deflect responsibility and not come to terms with their oppressive mentality towards the oppressed, such a society supports systematic oppression.
Solidarity is paramount and doesn’t equate to only displaying it to get a nod of approval. Doing it to be defined as the ‘new cool’ , or garner more followers/likes for selfish purpose is not solidarity. The singular purpose of standing with the oppressed is for them to achieve equity and equality. Doing the right thing doesn’t mean you deserve to be praised, hailed and then gifted with a bag of goodies.
Solidarity is not for show, it’s a duty.