IS OUR ACTIVISM AS ACTIVE AS IT SHOULD BE?
By Ariana Rassouli
To say I was unimpressed with the 2018 Women’s March could be considered an understatement.
Once we arrived at Pershing Square at 8 a.m, the group I was with headed straight for the main stage. Blue Wave was a sign I saw everywhere and, until the numerous speeches I would end up hearing later that morning, I wasn't even aware it was a call for Democratic votes during the upcoming midterm election.
Throughout the morning, an array of speakers, poets, singers, and celebrities made impactful speeches, but it felt like something was missing. It was almost as if the crowd held a mentality of "let's get this over with." It clouded over me all day.
Last year, the March left me feeling empowered and invigorated to create change. But this year, I realized that the entire event for me was a game of mental acrobatics, and I was left attempting to to justify my right to be there by putting the March on social media blast. I saw so many young women showing up for, what I felt, was not the genuine opportunity to have their voices heard, but for the photo-op and a poster. While I cannot speak on behalf of the people who showed up, I couldn't help but wonder ... are we using social media as an easy way out?
There's an importance in taking Instagram photos and reposting articles on Facebook, but what is the way, in this digital age, to publicize important causes and initiate actual change? For some, posting on Facebook and Snapchat makes people feel like they were actually there, and the flooding of posts make people want to talk about the March for those who weren’t able to go. But what is actually effective in getting a message across?
It makes sense as to why I saw many people working to push their political agendas rather than embracing the sisterhood and fighting for women’s rights. People who are avid in learning about politics were aware that there would be a Women’s March 2.0 happening, which made it an easy target for political rhetoric. And there were noticeably less people there this year, most likely due to a lack of publicity for the event. At one point, Trump supporters were cornered off by a barricade of policemen, taunted by liberal marchers on the other side. Yet, this was not why I came to the March. I came to embrace women and womanhood. I came to hear my sisters speak out about their experiences. I felt that my March experience was lackluster and was missing something... so I continued to ask myself in the months following:
Why is our new generation of speakers and sympathizers speaking out? Why do we feel so inclined to go to these marches and protests, and scroll through our newsfeed to share articles and posts about our stances on current events?
Technology is ever-morphing into a hybrid, cyber protest vehicle. More than ever before, and in such clear picture, people are exposed to the anxieties of everyday life. This new generation of activists have all grown up with the internet and understand the capabilities of its depth. By using the internet to their advantage, new-age activists have found it easier than ever to post and share their point of view in the name of activism. Yet it is difficult to draw the line between activist and button pusher. How could someone be categorized as an activist in the name of internet popularity?
People seem inclined to push along recycled information with each like, favorite, and share they receive in response. But personally, it seems like people are taking the easy way out with this one. What was actually done for the cause? There was no donation or rally, rather these performative acts in cyberspace hope to make up a small fraction of an individual’s “duty” to serve for society. Yet, did they actually do anything at all?
In comparison to major protests pre-Internet age, activism was truly grassroots action. Without the connecting world of the internet, people had to take stances that surpassed judgment from their peers. But now, it seems that the younger generation of activists have also sprung up a new version of how all people are portrayed in the media. The people have a power like never before to sway public opinion and rally for or against societal injustices.
"Performative wokeness" is something that has been covered a lot by many media outlets, and though it exists, it should be understood that Generation Z has become accustomed to using media to sympathizing with people who ought to be advocated for. With a more “woke” group of people, this world can (hopefully) become a better place, one share at a time. For right now, let’s start by going to the marches and rallies as well as sharing posts and articles online, and hopefully this can catalyze greater movements for change. We are only on square one.