Armchair Activism, sometimes called “Slacktivism” can tend to be put down as “not real activism” That’s bullshit (it’s also ableist and classist AF, but we’ll get to that in a minute.)
The truth is that all kinds of activism are important. And while participating in a big march can help raise awareness, so can signing an online petition, or helping a Tweet against an advertiser go viral, or any of a ton of things we can do from home.
Now, people who are oppressed have the right to deal with it however they choose, and getting involved with activism is an option but never an obligation. One of the ways that those wanting to be allies, as well as more privileged people within a marginalized community, can use their privilege is by being involved in activism.
Armchair activism has plenty of benefits:
A Response To The Double Oppression Of Capitalism and Marginalization
Being part of a marginalized community often means lower pay and longer hours (or more jobs) just to be able to afford the basics of life. That can leave people with fewer options for activism that takes them away from their homes and computers. Black and brown people can be risking their lives at activism events where racist police may become involved. Armchair activism allows people to do what they can, when they can, in ways that may keep them safer.
A Response to Ableism
Far too often, in-person activism events are not made accessible to disabled people. Beyond that, there can be tremendous effort involved in getting to these events and participating in them for some disabled people, people for whom crowds/face-to-face interaction are difficult, and those with chronic illness and pain.
Activism isn’t just about the effect it has on others. In fact, we can never control the outcome of our activism. It’s also about the impact it has on the people doing it. It gives us the chance to take action against oppression, to fight back. That matters.
In a discussion online about what to do about the Bigger Loser Reboot disaster, and people suggested signing the petition against it, and Tweeting at the sponsors. Someone in the thread suggested that people shouldn’t sign online petitions or Tweet, but should rather send hard copy letters. Now, there’s nothing wrong with hard copy letters, but they can be thrown out with nobody being any the wiser. The thing about social media activism is that it’s public and the company perpetuating harm can’t simply throw it in the bin.
By The Numbers
Another benefit of social media activism is that it can grow exponentially. Recently Amtrak tried to charge two disabled passengers $25,000 for what would have been a $16 ticket. The passengers when public on social media, the story went viral, got picked up by the news, and Senator Tammy Duckworth got involved. Amtrack backed down. All driven by armchair activism.
To crib off Teddy Roosevelt, doing what we can, with what we have, where we are, is an important and completely valid type of activism. Vive the armchair!
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