A viral video has surfaced that shows a woman posing as if she is boarding up stores in Santa Monica, before snapping a photo and driving away without further assistance or action. Twitter users were quick to flag this video as just one example of the Performative Activism sweeping social media this week.
The video was originally posted to Twitter by @ewufortheless on June 1st. It shows a woman posing with a drill next to a construction worker, acting as if she is assisting him with boarding up a local business on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica California. After the picture is taken, she thanks the worker while handing back the drill and rushes into her Merchandise SVU with her photographer and leaves the scene. The user filming the incident can be heard yelling “Boyfriends of Instagram” and “Good job guys! BLM!”
Since posting the video, the twitter user @ewufortheless has asked that the women in the video not be “doxxed” or highlighted in the media. They say the focus should be on the broad issue with her action instead of demonizing her as an individual. The owner of the video was quick to point out issues with this woman’s action. Saying quote “the problem is that 1. She’s using this terrible situation to promote herself instead of the man who’s actually helping and 2. Completely insensitive to RACIAL / class tensions. Influencers: Use your platform for ACTUAL good, not the PERCEPTION of good”.
Another user, @ChristianBenveren, replied to the video stating “You realize this is what 90% of the white folks protesting think. It’s more about making themselves feel good than any movement”.
This is a common critique of people using their social media to highlight the protests and the Black Lives Matter Movement – that they are simply posing for photos without taking any action toward change. We don’t know what this woman was going to use the photo for or how she would captioned it, but by posing with the drill and simply handing it back, the woman appears not to have made an effort to help rebuild the community or acknowledge why the protests are happening.
Another twitter user, @BitzOfFitz, replied to the original video with her own. She showed a woman posing in front of a vandalized T-Mobile store for a picture before walking away. She captioned this video “Adding to this thread of white people being a problem”.
However, not everyone saw this photo shoot as inherently wrong or insensitive. One user, @Carlieyeast, wrote “Am I the only one not seeing what’s wrong here? She wants to document what’s going on …”. Another user, @Effyoutrav replies with “You can document something important without making yourself the center and subject of the photo” and another, @Thecatmancat says “cause it’s not about what’s going on … she’s not posting the store … she’s posting HER in front of the store”.
A lot of users see both of these videos as examples of white women using the current protests and riots as backdrops for their instagram feed, instead of elevating the conversations about why these protests and riots are happening. Over the past week, there’s been a big call to end “performative activism”, or posting about an issue on social media without taking action beyond the post. There’s books to read, documentaries to watch, conversations to have and petitions to sign. Many argue that those actions are what real activism should be centered around, instead of snapping a quick picture that makes you the subject of the issue. The Black Lives Matter Movement, the protests and the riots all relate to the buildings these women are posing with – and all represent causes that are larger than a photo opportunity.