The Hierarchy of Activism

I use social media a lot and incorporate it into my brand of activism. I try to stay “plugged in” and on the pulse of what’s current in the world of disability rights. My interests often tend to pique a bit more at the nexus of race and gender. There are many different brands of activism because the disability community is composed of so many varied experiences. I can’t tell you how much interacting with like-minded folks and folks who may not be in the know at all -locally and across the globe has benefited my activism and helped raise awareness through technology alone.

The internet has revolutionized advocacy efforts for disability community. Many of us who have access and  have basic computer skills can comment, share, “like” and/or “follow” etc all from wherever it is that you have a WiFi or dial-up connection (yes, there are a small number of folks still using dial-up) and for many of us this is right from our homes. Bear in mind that web accessibility is a privilege that is not equally afforded globally.

That’s why when I hear the term “slacktivism” or “hashtag activism” it unnerves me a bit knowing how reductive these labels are. It’s become all too easy to slap labels on someone’s back instead of learning their backstory. As if merely sharing information can’t be used to spark thought, ignite change, and move others to action.

You don’t know why someone might be limited to using social media only nor do you need to really because when you’re focused on your own contributions there’s little time to analyze others so critically. Whether it’s a facet of their brand of advocacy or the only methodology in use is still a contribution. Work/life balance, passion, skills, comfort-level, etc are elements that factor in and fluctuate at various points in one’s life and each person’s set of metrics is prioritized differently.

I recall earlier years as an advocate and how “green” I was to the process when I joined my first board and the assumptions seasoned advocates made about knowledge, life-experience, worldview, sensitivity-levels, and even how meetings are run. I had no idea what the hell “Roberts Rules of Order” were and it felt like a secret that no one bothered to fill me in on. So when I note that quizzical look from newer advocates who might be in a similar state of quandary I try to aid in decreasing the learning curve.

What each person is willing to contribute whether in time, action, experience, skills/knowledge, etc can be transformative and have a radius of impact sometimes immediate and more often measured over time.

So whether you participate in protest marches, petition drives, parent mindfully, practice speaking up, out, and in favor of disability rights, lend moral support to others who do, show up unapologetically , etc realize that they are all brands of activism which serve a purpose.

Do what you have the ability to do when you have the want and spoons to do it because the truth is, there really is no hierarchy in activism and don’t allow others to guilt you in to believing otherwise.

 

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12 thoughts on “The Hierarchy of Activism

  1. You raise some really interesting points. Much of what we think we know about activism and community engagement has changed over the years, as have forms and methods of communication. And social media has only taken these ideas to a whole new level. I think people have assumptions about social media and what it can be used for. It’s primarily thought of as a form of entertainment, however, it is actually an extremely effective tool for exchanging information, particularly in today’s society. Of course you have those in the “old school” who believe the traditional way of doing things is more acceptable. You have that in almost every walk of life. But you offer great insights and encouragement to combat that for those looking to advance through advocacy. Great post!

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    • Thank you, and indeed, in my experience I’ve seen it utilized as part of advocacy and when it might be the only form it could be a very effective campaign that raises awareness and moves people to action. This takes nothing away from the roads paved by our activist forebears who used different and/or traditional methodologies. Thanks again, really appreciate your feedback!

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  2. Reblogged this on troubledwatersofpaincare and commented:
    Not all activists can physically pick up a phone let alone get to protests. Remember that not everyone’s situation is alike and that information alone is very powerful because it gets people thinking and can change attitudes and therefore actions and who gets voted for. Don’t let anyone tell you what you’re doing isn’t enough, as long as you’re at least seeking and sharing information.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for this.

    To have validation, after so much dismissal (of my illness, and of my needs) is incredibly strengthening.

    Until recently, I didn’t even understand about the spoons, much less how to balance my need to improve the planet against my own changing needs due to illness. In an over culture that only values your production, this is an oasis.

    Thank you.

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  4. Ever since I’ve moved to a rural county with no reliable public transportation I’ve been pretty much stuck doing online activism because my partner and I aren’t mobile and our town doesn’t have a bus system and we have to pay 12 dollars a ticket for the para-transit service which we can barely afford. When I lived in a more urban setting getting out to events and protests was a breeze because the bus system was cheap and could take me close enough to where I needed to go. The only outside activism I’ve done since I moved has been on the college campus because I’m there for classes anyway. I think the idea that some forms of activism are more legit than others is both classist and ableist because not everyone is able to afford transportation, and out of those who have access to transportation not everyone is physically capable of leaving the house for extended periods of time. By claiming that some forms of activism are more important than others we are excluding people such as myself who don’t have the resources to be out in the community doing work.

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    • I totally agree, people do what they can do when/if they have the ability, energy, and the means to do it and shouldn’t be looked upon as less than for doing just that. I don’t buy into that bs hierarchy of activism and too busy engaged in my own brand of contributing what I can. Appreciate your feedback, continued best to you and what you do!

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  5. I’m currently working on a social campaign as part of a university assessment, and it is on just this. I am attempting to use online activism to draw attention to, rebrand and then help people understand how they can make contributions to changing problems they encounter in every day life. I love your take on it, and hopefully you won’t mind me referring to your post. I can’t believe how reductive critical assessments of online activism have continued to be. It frustrates me for a wide variety of reasons, but to hear how much the internet has revolutionised the ways in which you are an activist and advocate makes me happy. I have never understood why people can find the time in their day to criticise actions that go towards the bettering of an issue we face, when those critics could put their time into helping with a solution. Thanks again!

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    • Thanks so much for your feedback, much appreciated and by all means feel free to share/ refer as much as you like. It’s such an ableist take and negative worldview that folks like to lob on others right. Thanks again, and glad you enjoyed!

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  6. Pingback: A Small Break in Tradition – Your Slacktivity Feed

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