Performative activism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Performative activism is activism done to increase one's social capital rather than because of one's devotion to a cause.

History and usage[edit]

Early uses of the term[edit]

The term appeared online in a 2015 article by Hyperallergic, but referred to the activism that involved an element of performance art.[1] The article referenced the Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp, and how some women protested nuclear weapons by decorating a fence "with pictures, banners, and other objects," and added that "they blocked the road to the site with dance performances. They even climbed over the fence to dance in the forbidden zone."[1]

In September 2018, Lou Constant-Desportes, the editor-in-chief of resigned, citing "performative 'activism' dipped in consumerism and 'woke' keywords used for marketing purpose."[2]

George Floyd protests and Black Lives Matter[edit]

On June 1, 2020, while expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the George Floyd protests, singer Lorde stated, "One of the things I find most frustrating about social media is performative activism, predominantly by white celebrities (like me). It's hard to strike a balance between self-serving social media displays and true action."[3][4][5]

On June 2, about 28 million Instagram users participated in the "Blackout Tuesday" movement, which involved users posting a completely blacked-out square image in order to show support of the George Floyd protests.[6] Celebrities and general users alike received criticism by other social media users for engaging in "performative activism" via these Blackout Tuesday posts.[7][8]

On June 5, Washington, D.C., mayor Muriel Bowser had the phrase Black Lives Matter painted on 16th Street in front of the White House. Bowser was criticized as an example of a government official creating a "performative distraction".[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Larkin, Daniel (February 6, 2015). "When Women Fought Nukes with Anarchy and Won". Hyperallergic. Retrieved June 2, 2020.
  2. ^ Darville, Jordan (September 5, 2018). "AFROPUNK editor resigns, cites "performative activism," employee mistreatment". The Fader. Retrieved June 2, 2020.
  3. ^ Rettig, James (June 1, 2020). "Lorde Addresses George Floyd Protests, "Performative Activism" In Rare Statement". Stereogum. Retrieved June 2, 2020.
  4. ^ "Lorde speaks out after George Floyd death: 'It's sickening'". The New Zealand Herald. June 2, 2020. Retrieved June 2, 2020.
  5. ^ Kaufman, Gil (June 1, 2020). "Lorde Writes to Fans About George Floyd Protests: 'White Silence Right Now is More Damaging'". Billboard. Retrieved June 2, 2020.
  6. ^ Ahlgrim, Callie (June 2, 2020). "Here's everything you need to know about Blackout Tuesday and #TheShowMustBePaused initiatives". Insider. Retrieved June 2, 2020.
  7. ^ Singh, Olivia (June 2, 2020). "Emma Watson is being criticized for 'performative activism' after altering black squares for Blackout Tuesday to seemingly fit her Instagram aesthetic". Insider. Retrieved June 2, 2020.
  8. ^ Ledbetter, Carly (June 2, 2020). "Emily Ratajkowski Slams People Doing The 'Bare Minimum' By Just Posting Black Squares". HuffPost. Retrieved June 2, 2020.
  9. ^ Nirappil, Fenit; Zuzmer, Julie; Chason, Rachel (June 5, 2020). "D.C. paints 'Black Lives Matter' on street near White House". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 6, 2020.