The Myth of Slacktivism

A ‘slacktivist’ is someone who chooses to do all or most of their activist work through online mediums such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and so on. These people are often disregarded as lesser and lazy activists when compared to those who are able to do activism work offline. For example, UrbanDictionary.com defines slacktivism as, “The act of participating in obviously pointless activities as an expedient alternative to actually expending effort to fix a problem”. The example given is people signing online petitions as opposed to getting involved in neighborhood watches or other offline activities. The concept of ‘slacktivism’ and that people who focus their ideas online are ‘slacktivists’ is extremely problematic and downplays the importance and reach of online activism.

The idea of slacktivism is rooted in ableism. Not everyone has the ability to mentally or physically engage in activism offline. For example, someone who has to deal with social anxiety may not be able to attend marches or large gatherings. Someone who suffers from a pain disorder may not be able to walk in marches or stand for long periods of time. Implying that people who participate in online activism are inherently lazy, ignores the fact that some of these people may not be able to physically attend activist events, no matter how much they want to. These people do important work in the ways they can, such as online work that is so quickly discredited without thinking about the reasons someone may not be able to attend or do offline work.

The idea of slackitvism is also classist. I live in an area with no public transportation. There is no way for me to attend many meetings, marches, and so one without a ride. The idea that people who participate in online activism have the means to travel or to take time off of work in order to participate in offline work is classist. For example, people may not be able to take off work in order to attend offline events and thus may spend valuable and limited free time doing online work. For people in areas with limited resources, the closest areas that have a large enough resource pool may be hours away. These people may not have the resources in order to set up their own grassroots organizations or the money and time to travel and thus, resort to online activism in order to be a part of events and causes they feel are important to them.

 

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Speak Out, Act Up

“Just ignore them, they will stop”, “Don’t give them attention”, “They’re wrong. People won’t believe that stuff”, are a few of the things I hear when someone in the media does something to spread misinformation about a group I happen to be associated with. Why do we tell each other to ignore this? Why are we forced to ignore potentially harmful information?

I have a feeling it plays into the idea that we most be a model at all times. We must always be on our best behavior and that we must always play the game with a smile and a nod. Yes, we see you being problematic, but don’t worry, we wouldn’t dare call you out in case we lose an ally! This is of course, extremely harmful, dangerous, and can be potentially deadly.

Take for example one of the most recent the Regular Guys show on Atlanta 1005FM. They had a caller call in about Karen Adell Scot, a teacher who recently came out as a transgender woman and will be attending classes from now on as the woman she is. They took this segment to pull the “think about the children” card as well as repeatedly call her transmisogynistic slurs, and violently misgender her.

This comes not too long after the one year anniversary of Lucy Meadows, another trans teacher who was harassed by the Daily Mail and other media outlets to the point she committed suicide. A year after, we are experiencing the same issues of misgendering, transmisogyny, transphobia, and blatant disrespect for the mental well being of another human.

 

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Where Do We Belong?: Gender and Privilege

Privilege is always a sticky discussion. It is something almost everyone experiences in varying degrees in some aspect of their lives whether it is gender, sexuality, race, social status, etc. Privilege and the lack of privilege is something that is extremely important in the discussions about intersectionality and oppression in feminism. However, as someone who presents and IDs as male, I’m left in a weird gray area.

As a trans man, where do I stand in feminism? I’ve experienced misogyny and sexism in the past, especially since I worked in a video game store for most of my working adult life. For 20 years of my life, I presented as female even if my gender identity did not match this, this is how I was perceived by the world. Working in a male dominated area, I experienced sexism and misogyny. I have a history with these things, a very personal history. Transitioning does not erase my history, as my history is part of me. I do not deny being trans* and fully embrace it as part of my identity. I should not be excluded from feminist spaces (not women’s spaces, as a man, I do not belong there). I also must sidestep and let women speak before me. I must acknowledge, accept, and understand how my new privileges affect me in my life. I am seen as a man (most of the time). However, this does not erase my history with sexism and misogyny.

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