What Are the Dangers of Performative Allyship?
Taking a stand against injustice — whether that looks like supporting the Black Lives Matter movement or championing another cause that seeks to combat or reverse unjust circumstances or treatment of different groups of people — can manifest in various ways. Some people head to the streets to protest, while others make donations to support the cause. There’s no one single way to be an activist and ally.
However, being a true ally and advocating for a marginalized group requires more than posting on social media or expressing anger about an issue. These demonstrations of performative allyship don't assist the movement; in many cases, they hurt it. It’s essential to know what performative allyship entails so you can avoid actively harming the group you’re professing to help.
What Is Performative Allyship?
Before learning how to be a true ally for causes you care about, it's important to first understand what allyship means — and what it doesn't. An ally is someone who advocates for a marginalized group of people that they don’t themselves belong to. An ally is typically from a privileged group and uses their privilege to advocate for groups that don’t have it. People from privileged groups also typically have platforms, meaning they have more resources at their disposal to share and spread their ideas to others. As allies, they may give their platforms over to voices from marginalized groups, allowing members of those groups to access the benefits of the platform and privileges in the process in order to spread a message and fight for justice.
What Performance Allyship Looks Like
There are varying degrees of performance allyship. Some instances are obvious and stem from self-serving purposes. Others are subtler and come from well-intentioned but misinformed people. You may be engaging in performative allyship without even realizing it.
Why Performative Allyship Is Dangerous
Performative allyship isn't just irritating; it's problematic. It's distracting and hampers the progression of a movement by robbing attention from or silencing the voices of people who are marginalized.
How to Be a True Ally for Causes You Care About
Once you understand the dangers of performative allyship, it's easier to recognize what people mean when calling for true allyship. If you're genuinely interested in being a strong ally, there are some key ways you can start.