“Activism” vs. Activism

Truth is, I have labeled myself as an activist for over a year now, but I have only begun participating in actual activism since the fall of last year.Truth is, anyone can label themselves as anything online. I chose a label that I misused, and that is continually misused in spaces that are meant for textbook activism.

Truth is, I was a part of the problem.

I sought out “activists” that were lacking in depth, who foster “only positive vibes” spaces, which are nice and all, until an issue comes up and everyone is scared to speak because somehow having a conversation and communicating valid thoughts and emotions that aren’t positive aren’t allowed.

I sought out “activists” who may think they are doing good, but ultimately don’t use their privilege for good because some will never fully understand just how vital activism is to marginalized people who fall into all sorts of intersections that they themselves have never experienced. For instance, I can’t tell you how many white saviors I see on a daily basis posting to social media. They repost posts that marginalized people originally posted. While I’m sure permission to repost is granted, and while it seems like a nice thing to do —to uplift someone else, who gets all the likes and comments on their account? Who gets all the exposure? Who gets the applause? While finding a solution to this problem may seem impossible, I found my own solution to share posts of marginalized people to my Instagram Stories. I post their photo and their username to my Story so my followers can tap on the username to be redirected to the actual account the story is coming from. I feel like sending people to the story, rather than showcasing it on your personal page, is more authentic and sends a valuable message that the person whom’s story we’re sharing actually matters. Anyone can repost a story or their page; it’s not that hard and that person reposting is almost guaranteed a great amount of exposure. And that exposure ensures that they’ll get the applause, which means the focus is put on the savior, rather than the actual story we should be engaging with.

Truth is, I was left following a lot of “activists” that have visually pleasing accounts and seem to be partaking in activism at first glance, but at their roots, curate content that simply lacks substance.

Truth is, I still want to support these “activists”, but I also don’t. It’s tricky because I have built connections with all sorts of wonderful people through activism. I desperately want to support everyone, but at the end of the day, I can’t go against what I believe in, especially when it was harming the community as a whole.

“Activist” accounts that promote positivity but choose to block out all “negativity”, even when the negativity consists of valid concerns from the community that have evoked negative emotions aren’t for me anymore.

It is up to you who you follow and what you post at the end of the day; however, I need you to know that harm is being done to many communities when certain content is posted under the guise of being “activism”.

Activism is not uplifting your own voice instead of everyone’s voices. Activism is not grabbing the mic from a marginalized person. Activism is not a 24/7 celebration of how great we are. Activism isn’t aesthetically pleasing.

To be very frank, many people don’t even choose to be activists. Many, many, many people have no choice but to fight for themselves and their loved ones because their lives are on the line.

Truth is, as a Body Positive Activist who is fat and wants to create true and meaningful change, I want to be part of the solution.

I am sick of thin people speaking for me. I am sick of acceptably fat bodies speaking for me.

I am fat. I don’t have an hourglass shape. I have a double chin. I have a protruding stomach. I have fire red stretch marks. I have fat rolls that exist when I’m standing and sitting. I don’t have to contort my body or lean over for fat rolls to magically appear; they’re there. I don’t have to stand a certain way or move close to the camera for my cellulite to be captured well; they’re there.

While all bodies are good bodies, “all bodies are good bodies” is not a valid argument when we discuss activism. Your thin body may have been criticized or bullied for, “being too skinny”. You may have been told to, “go eat a burger”. While those are valid struggles and I absolutely hate that someone told you those things, you won’t ever understand being constantly told to lose weight, eat “healthier” and exercise more in this fatphobic, diet-culture driven society. Fat shaming is more complex and more severe than skinny shaming. That doesn’t mean your struggles aren’t valid. It just means that I need this community of Body Positivity. I need this space for my voice to be heard because if us fat people aren’t heard in our fight for human rights, we will continually be berated for simply existing.

My primary marginalization is being fat, so also, imagine how POC feel. Imagine how LGBT people feel. Imagine how disabled people feel.

Truth is, I stayed silent on these issues for much of 2017 out of fear of hurting these “activists” feelings. It’s nice that I thought about protecting them because I love their fierce hearts and beautiful personalities, but truth is, they don’t need me to protect them. They can protect themselves.

Now, let’s talk about the people who can’t walk through life and protect themselves behind layers of privilege that easily. Let’s talk about fat people who are harassed and shamed because of their appearance. Let’s talk about POC who are targeted for their race. Let’s talk about WOC who are solemnly heard when we discuss the wage gap.(Men make significantly more money than women, yes. But also, white women make more money than women of color.) Let’s talk about the LGBT community who are targeted because of how they dress or look or exist. Let’s talk about people with disabilities who live in a world with too many ableist mentalities.

If you read this and you think I sound angry, you are correct!

I am angry.

And frustrated.

And passionate.

Activism simply isn’t 24/7 positivity. Inspirational and positive accounts are just fine. I love them. However, true activism delves deeper than what’s on the surface.

We are here to rage against the machine, fight for true change, and uplift the voices that are never heard.

I may not always say or do the best things as an activist, and as anyone, I can’t promise you that I won’t make mistakes, but I do pledge to grow from my mistakes and misunderstandings of what I thought activism was. I pledge to continue uplifting communities that deserve just as much of the spotlight, if not more. I pledge to do better, even if that means I lose some of those “activist” friends I’ve made. I love those friends dearly, and I’ll understand if they choose to walk out of my life, but I realize that I need to choose the cause as a whole over fearing I will hurt some people’s feelings.

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